History

Click to read the Dictionary of Basilian Biography online

The Basilian community was born in a time of state persecution and terrorism in revolutionary France, directly targeting the Church and its priests. The Congregation was bravely founded by the First Ten Basilians who came together based on their strong Catholic convictions and to respond to the chronic need for balanced Christian education.

The patrons of the order, including St. Basil, embody the common values of education, prayer, life in community and service.

The Basilians have willingly and repeatedly taken risks that put the future of the order in peril in order to meet the needs of those they serve.

The community has been resilient and successful for almost two centuries: growing, changing and adapting. The Basilians have made courageous choices throughout their history and as a result this small-but-persistent order now serves students and parishes in five countries on two continents. The values and traditions of the Basilians position them well to serve the needs of an increasingly diverse global community that is hungry for both of the foundations of the balanced Basilian way of life: education and prayer.

The Founding of the Congregation of St. Basil

Collège Privé Sacré-Coeur in Annonay, France

Collège Privé Sacré-Coeur in Annonay, France

Amid the turmoil and persecution of the Catholic Church during the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror, a clandestine school was established by Joseph Lapierre in Saint-Symphorien-de-Mahun in the department of Ardèche, in the south-central part of France. Following several years of operation, the congregation was founded in 1822 by a group of ten priests in order to ensure the continuation of the schools operating in and around Annonay, a town of about 5,000 at the time.

The schools became known for their range of teaching including humanities, rhetoric, philosophy, mathematics, physics and chemistry. The members of the new group devoted themselves to Christian education, preaching, and life in community.

On November 21, 1822, during the feast of the Presentation of Our Lady, the ten founders chose Joseph Lapierre as the first Superior General and St. Basil as the patron for the order.

The ten founding priests were:

  • Pierre Tourvieille who received covert education during the French Revolution from his older brother, a priest. Tourvieille became the second Basilian Superior General in 1838.
  • Julien Tracol was a teacher, librarian, record keeper and first unofficial historian of the Congregation of St. Basil.
  • Joseph Lapierre was a priest who fled persecution during the Revolution and secretly celebrated Mass and provided clandestine Christian education. Lapierre became the first Superior General and prepared and submitted the first draft Constitutions of the Basilians to Rome.
  • Jacques Duret was born in Annonay, the son of a physician. He studied in Paris and was a classmate of the revolutionary enemy of the Catholic Church, Maximilien Robespierre.
  • Augustin Payan attended the clandestine seminary college at Saint-Symphorien-de-Mahun, becoming a teacher and studying theology.
  • Jean-Baptiste Polly was mayor of Saint-Symphorien-de-Mahun (then called Mahun Libre by the revolutionaries) and hid priests to protect them. He attended the clandestine seminary college where he studied theology, and was secretly ordained.
  • Andre Fayolle, nephew of Pierre Tourvieille, was a teacher before he was ordained.
  • Henri Martinesche was ordained in 1822 and was a teacher and chaplain.
  • Jean Antoine Vallon was ordained around 1800 and was a teacher at Saint-Symphorien-de-Mahun and later at Annonay.
  • Jean Francois Pagès studied philosophy and theology and was ordained in 1818. The following year, he began teaching in Annonay.

For more on the Congregation’s founding, read The Ten Founders by Father Kevin Kirley, CSB

When I Think of Annonay Documentary

Salt and Light’s documentary, When I Think Of Annonay: Remembering the Origins of the Basilian Fathers, delves deeper into the rich history of the Basilian Fathers and their journey from a small town in the hills of Southern France, across the Atlantic to the establishment of their headquarters in North America.

As the French branch of this religious congregation enters into the sunset of its existence, view this special documentary filmed on location in France and Toronto, listen to moving testimonies of Basilian Fathers, and discover the history and contributions of this important religious community in the Church in North America.