O.Carm. ChroniclesFirst appearance of Carmelites in Literature

May 10, 2012

De Vitry (Jacques de Vitry, bishop of Acre from 1216 to 1228 and wrote of the hermits in Palestine) would seem to indicate that western hermits settled on Mount Carmel from the beginning of the Frankish conquest of Palestine, yet indisputable evidence occurs only in the 13th century.

Seal of Jacques de Vitry

Two earlier references must be discarded. In 1163, the Spanish rabbi, Benjamin of Tudela, saw near the cave of Elijah a church built by two Christians and dedicated to the prophet. About the year 1174, John Phocas, a Greek monk from Patmos, found a group of monks near the same cave. The cave of Elijah, known as el-chadr (the “Green One”) situated at the northernmost tip of the promontory at the base of the mountain, is quite distinct from the fountain of Elijah mentioned by De Vitry. Moreover, it is not even certain that Benjamin is referring to religious. The monks noted by Phocas were probably Greeks.

The first appearance of western hermits on Mt. Carmel was in 13th century literature but the fact that other eremitical locations were now under Muslim control, suggest that refugees from other parts of Palestine found a haven on Carmel. Perhaps it is not all imagination that leads the early chroniclers of the Carmelite Order to claim for Carmel the other deserts in Palestine and Antioch.

From The Mirror of Carmel by Joachim Smet, O. Carm.

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