The first Carmelites lived on Mount Carmel for about a hundred years. They settled near a spring called “the fountain of Elijah” at the entrance to the wadi “ain es-Siah”, which ran about a thousand metres east and west being open to the Mediterranean Sea. At the beginning of the 13th century, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, St Albert (+ 1214) gave the hermits a simple, scriptural-based Rule of Life. Based on this Rule they lived solitary lives in small cells on Mount Carmel where they prayed and contemplated in the spirit of Elijah. They built a chapel amidst their cells and dedicated it to Mary, the Mother of God. The twofold devotion to Mary and Elijah would characterize Carmelite spirituality from this time onwards.
From 1220, the lack of security in the Holy Land caused the Carmelites to begin their migration to Europe, establishing themselves in Cyprus, Sicily, France and England. The mitigation of the Rule, adapting it to the new demands of religious life by Pope Innocent IV in 1247, was the point of departure in adapting the Carmelite Order from its hermit origins to a mendicant lifestyle, allowing Carmelites to found their monasteries in cities and devote themselves to preaching and confessing like the other mendicants. However, it was not until the 2nd Council of Lyons that they were officially considered as mendicants, as well as the Dominicans, Franciscans and the Hermits of Saint Augustine.
Established in Europe and looking for signs of identity by which people could recognize them, they advanced their devotion to the prophet Elijah, presenting him as a model of contemplation and action. At the same time, they also advanced their devotion to Mary and came to be identified under the title: “Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel”. By the fifteenth to sixteenth centuries there was some relaxation of discipline in various communities, a fact greatly opposed by Priors General such as Blessed John Soreth (+1471), Nicholas Audet (+1562) and John Baptist Rossi (+1578), and by some reforms (among others those of Mantua and Monte Oliveti in Italy and of Albi in France) to put a stop to the spread of the abuses and the mitigations. The most famous reform was the one started in Spain by St. Teresa of Jesus for the reform of the nuns and then, helped by St. John of the Cross and Fr. Girolamo Gracian, for the reform of the friars. The most relevant aspect of this reform of Teresa is not so much that she opposed the mitigations introduced in the life of Carmel, but rather her ability to integrate in her project, vital and ecclesial elements of her time. In 1592 this reform, called that of the “Discalced Carmelites” or of the “Teresians”, became independent from the Carmelite Order and grew rapidly in the congregations of Spain and Italy which were then united in 1875. Thus, there are two Orders of Carmelites: “The Carmelites”, also known as of the “Ancient Observance” or “Calced”, and “The Discalced Carmelites” or “Teresians” who consider St. Teresa of Jesus their reformer and foundress.
On the English front, within the same sixteenth century, the Carmelite presence disappeared from Britain in 1538 with the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII. At the Reformation the friars were dispersed, and the houses were either desecrated and destroyed or handed out to private individuals as rewards by the Crown. It was not until the nineteenth century that the Carmelite presence in Britain was successfully restored, but this time it was a presence of both the Calced and the Discalced Carmelites – the Discalced Carmelites arriving earlier (1862) but for the first time in Britain. In that year, at the invitation of Cardinal Wiseman, the Discalced Carmelites established a priory (friary) in the London borough of Kensington and from here built the original Church, which was opened in 1866, and destroyed in the Second World War after which, a new Church was built in the 1950′s. It was from Kensington that the Discalced Carmelites friars spread out into other parts of Britain: Wincanton, 1889 – 1995; Gerrads Cross, 1912; Oxford, 1961; Preston, 1985 – 2017; Glasgow, 1988 – 2005).
In 1927, the English and the Irish provinces of the Discalced Carmelites were merged and formed into the Anglo-Irish province of St. Simon Stock and St. Patrick. Together with other provinces around the world, we belong to the worldwide Order of Discalced Carmelite, governed by the general curia.