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Piarists

A Roman Catholic order which provided for the free education of the young, especially boys. The name is based on the last word of its formal title, Regulares pauperes Matris Dei scholarum piarum, used when recognized as an order by Gregory XV in 1621. Its founder was Jose Calasanze (Joseph Calasanctius), a Spanish nobleman who was ordained in Rome in 1593 after studying law and theology at Lerida and Alcalá. In 1597 he opened the first free elementary school in Europe to educate the children from the streets of Rome. By 1612 he and his helpers were looking after 1,200 children. Following Gregory's recognition of the group as an order, it gained in 1622 the privileges of the Mendicant orders (e.g., the right of members to work or beg for their living). By 1631 the order was working in Italy, Germany, Poland, Hungary, and other places. Its success aroused the jealousy of the Jesuits. From 1645 to 1698 its status was unstable. First reduced to an association or secular brotherhood in 1646, it was restored to an order in 1669 and then to its full mendicant privileges in 1698. It flourished in the seventeenth century in Europe, especially in Spain and its empire. Calasanze was canonized in 1767 by Clement XIII. The order is now governed by a general with four assistant generals.