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Sylvestrine Congregation
Emblem of the Sylvestrine Congregation of the Benedictine Order
AbbreviationO.S.B. Silv.
Formationc. AD 1231; 791 years ago (1231)
FounderSylvester Gozzolini
TypeCatholic religious order

The Sylvestrines are a congregation of monks of the Order of St. Benedict who form the Sylvestrine Congregation. The Sylvestrines use the post-nominal initials O.S.B. Silv.. The congregation was founded in 1231 by Sylvester Gozzolini. They are members of the Benedictine Confederation. The congregation is similar to others of eremitical origin, in that their houses are not raised to the status of an abbey, which would entangle the monasteries more strongly in the affairs of the world. The congregation, though, is led by an abbot general, the only abbot it has, who supervises all the houses of the congregation.


The founder, Sylvester Gozzolini(1177–1267), was born at Osimo near Ancona, Italy. As a young man he entered a community of Augustinian canons regular, who served Osimo Cathedral,[1] and eventually was professed in that Order and received Holy Orders. About 1227 he left the community to lead an austere, eremitical life. Disciples flocked to him, however, and in 1231 he built a hermitage by the mountain of Montefano in the March of Ancona (near the town of Fabriano).[2] The congregation was approved in 1247 by Pope Innocent IV as the Ordo S. Benedicti de Montefano.[3]

The community that Sylvester founded followed the Rule of St. Benedict, but, as regards poverty in external matters, was far stricter than the general Benedictines of the time. At Sylvester's death in 1267, there were eleven Sylvestrine monasteries.[4] At their peak, there were 56 monasteries in the congregation, mostly in Umbria and Tuscany, as well as in the March of Ancona.[2] The Church of San Marco in Florence belonged to the Sylvestrines, but in 1437 through the efforts of Cosimo de' Medici, they were displaced in favor of the Dominicans, and moved to the smaller San Giorgio alla Costa.[5][6]

Like all religious communities in Europe, the Sylvestrines suffered throughout the 19th century from the upheavals of the French Revolutionary Army and the later unification of Italy. Their principal house was the Monastery of Santo Stefano del Cacco in Rome, dedicated to St. Stephen the Protomartyr, which was founded in 1563 to serve as the motherhouse of the congregation. The community there had about 60 choir monks at that time. By 1907 there were only nine Sylvestrine communities.

Notable Sylvestrine include the founder, Sylvester Gozzolini, Bonfilius of Foligno, Bl. Giovanni del Bastonne, and the Bl. Giuseppe and Ugo di Serra San Quirico.[4]


For most of its history, the Congregation was confined to Italy. The Ceylon Mission was begun in 1845,[7] their first foundation outside Europe. The Sylvestrines provided many of the clergy for that missionary diocese well into the 20th century. Additionally, they have monasteries in the United States, the first being established in Atchison, Kansas, where two monks arrived in 1910 and served the spiritual needs of the many workers in the coal industry there. As that industry faded and the local population began to move away, they looked elsewhere to build a permanent home. They were welcomed into the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1928, where they built their first monastery in the country in 1938, St. Benedict of Oxford Monastery which serves as the orders headquarters in the United States. There is a daughter house Holy Face Monastery in Clifton, New Jersey.[8]

A conventual priory was founded in 1962 in Australia at Arcadia, Sydney, by an Italian monk serving in Sri Lanka. There are now also monasteries in India.[9] In the late 20th century, a foundation was set up in the Philippines[10] and, more recently, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[11]

Present day[edit]

The Sylvestrine monks operated as a completely autonomous congregation for most of their history, until they joined the Benedictine Confederation in 1973. This placed the congregation under the general supervision of the abbot primate of the Benedictine Order, and joined them to the life of the entire Order throughout the world. As of 2020, there are three monasteries in Italy (Montefano, Bassano, and Giulianova).

In September 2007 Dom Michael Kelly, O.S.B., a monk of the Australian monastery, was elected as the 115th abbot general of the congregation. On 28 May 2019, he was succeeded by Father Antony Puthenpurackal OSB of Saint Joseph’s Conventual Priory, Makkiyad, India.[12]


One distinguishing mark of the Sylvestrines continues to be that their habit is dark blue, as opposed to the standard black worn by most other Benedictines. Additionally, they distinguish themselves from other Benedictines by adding the abbreviation "Silv." after the standard postnominal initials of the Order, O.S.B. Since they joined the Benedictine Confederation, however, that practice is seldom followed.


  1. ^ Webster, Douglas Raymund. "St. Sylvester Gozzolini." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 25 April 2020Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Silvestrines". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^ Eder, Manfred, "Sylvestrines", Religion Past and Present. 2006.ISBN 9789004146662
  4. ^ a b Webster, Douglas Raymund. "Sylvestrines." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 30 Jan. 2014
  5. ^ Leader, Anne. The Badia of Florence: Art and Observance in a Renaissance Monastery, Indiana University Press, 2012, p. 95ISBN 9780253355676
  6. ^ Brown, James Wood. The Builders of Florence, E.P. Dutton, 1907, p. 408
  7. ^ Navajeevan Silvestro-Benedictine Monastery, Vijayawada, India
  8. ^ Holy Face Monastery website.[self-published source]
  9. ^ Indian Christian Community website.[self-published source]
  10. ^ "Address of Pope John Paul II to the Sylvestrine Benedictines" (2001)
  11. ^ St. Benedict's Monastery, Arcadia "Community News" Archived 2011-11-13 at the Wayback Machine.[self-published source]
  12. ^ "Sylvestrine Congregation Elects New Abbot General",, May 29th, 2019

External links[edit]