PIARISTS, pai'a-rists: A Roman-Catholic order of men having as its aim the giving of free juvenile instruction especially to poor boys. The members are variously known by other names, such as Piarians, Scolopians, and Paulinists. Their beginning was an independent brotherhood founded at Rome in 1597 by the Spanish nobleman José Calasanze; they received their constitution as a congregation for their present function in 1617, and were promoted to an order by Gregory XV. in 1621, with the title, Congregatio Paulina clericorum regularium pauperum matris Dei scholarum piarum. The order ranks second in importance as a religious brotherhood for the instruction of boys.
José Calasanze (Josephus a Matre Dei) was born in the Castle Calasanze near Petralta de la Sal in Aragon Sept. 11, 1556; and died at Rome Aug. 25, 1648. He studied law at Lerida and theology at Alcala and became a priest in 1583. In 1592 he went to Rome, where as a strict ascetic and a member of four religious brotherhoods he devoted himself to the care of the sick and the instruction of youth. In 1612, the number of scholars was 1,200. Soon a division into popular and higher schools was required; in 1630 Calasanze established the Nazarene College at Rome for noble youths; and in 1632 Pope Urban VIII. made him general for life. The order extended its work from Italy, so that after 1631 it had spread over Germany, Poland, Hungary, and other lands; but on account of its pedagogical results it aroused the jealousy of the Jesuits, which led to Calasanze's downfall. In 1646 the order was reduced to a secular brotherhood without vows. Alexander VII. restored it in 1660 to a congregation, yet without its fourth vow; Clement IX. granted this in 1669, and raised it to a formal order; and Innocent XII. in 1698 restored its mendicant privileges. Calasanze was canonized by Clement XIII. in 1767. The order, distributed in nine provinces, consists of 121 houses and 2,100 members and is strongest in Spain.