What is the order of Carmel?

Carmel is a contemplative religious order composed of three branches: the Carmelite brothers, the Carmelite sisters, and the laity.

History of the Carmel

The order of Carmel was born in the thirteenth century with the Carmelite brothers. In the fifteenth century, the first Carmelite convents were founded. The third order was born in the fifteenth century, made up of secular carmels. In the 16th century in Spain, Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross were at the origin of a revival that led to the separation between the new brothers, known as the Discalced Brothers (Order of the Discalced Carmelites) and those who continued the old observance known as the Great Carmels (Order of the Carmelites).

Spirituality of Carmel

The spirituality of Carmel is centered on prayer, which is a heart-to-heart with God. This life in the presence of God is then prolonged in fraternal love.   Carmel proposes to walk towards a deep and real communion with God, nothing less than to become friends with Jesus.

Carmel Rule

The rule of Carmel is simple and sober. The primitive rule was given around 1207 by Patriarch Albert of Jerusalem. The main thrust of the rule is as follows: “To live in the dependence on Jesus Christ and to serve him faithfully with a pure heart”. The key points of the rule are summarized as follows:

  • Oraison in solitude and silence
  • Eucharist
  • Community prayer and fraternal love
  • Work

Particular attention is paid to spiritual combat, which will absolutely be felt. The relationship between Carmelites and their prayers is an aid to progress in holiness.

Origin of Carmel

Mount Carmel

The Carmel is first of all a mountain, in the Bible, the mountain is a privileged place of encounter with God. Mount Carmel is located near present-day Haifa, Palestine. In the 13th century, a few hermits gathered near the source of Elijah and founded an oratory dedicated to Our Lady. This place is marked by the presence of the prophet Elijah, whose story is told in the Book of Kings. The prophet Elijah embodying the monastic ideal became the guide and Father of Carmel.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

The patronal feast of the Order had always been a great Marian feast. In the fourteenth century, it is definitively fixed to the feast of “Our Lady of Mount Carmel”. From its origins, Carmel had a privileged relationship with the Virgin Mary. The first Carmelites have a special tenderness for the mother of God and wish to be called "the brothers of the Virgin". The conviction that it is necessary to belong to Mary to go to Jesus is well established and the Carmel had constantly deepened its Marian vocation over the centuries. Consecration to the Blessed Virgin is fundamental to all Carmelites.

What is the order of Carmel?

In 1274, Saint Simon Stock, the Prior General of Carmel, received the scapular from the Virgin Mary as a sign of his protection on the Order. Being the sign of a Marian grace of prime importance, the wearing of the scapular is imposed throughout the Order. It is a piece of brown fabric that is part of the religious habit. It is called the habit of the Virgin and means consecration to Mary in the same way as the religious habit means consecration to Christ. The laity also adopt the scapular and are then attached to the order in a flexible manner.

Discalced Carmelites


The Carmelite Brothers are contemplative and apostolic monks. They divide their time between silent prayer and their mission to proclaim the Gospel through the word. In all their activities, the Carmelites seek to stand in the presence of God.

The Carmelites

The Carmelites live in isolation, and union with Jesus through prayer is at the heart of their lives. Silence and solitude allow them to find God's presence. The nuns divide their time between prayer, convent life and work.

The Carmelite family

Over time, religious congregations and institutes wishing to make a living from Carmelite spirituality have gathered around the Carmelite Order. Various associations and communities also transmit the teachings of the Carmelite Saints.

Together, they now form the great Carmelite family.

The great saints of Carmel

The Carmel had given the Church great saints who have always radiated their spiritual light. Three of them were proclaimed doctors of the Church: Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus. Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) and Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity have left a rich spiritual heritage. More recently, new great Carmelite figures have been canonized: Mariam of Bethlehem (Mariam Baouardy) and Raphaël Kalinowski.

Praying with Carmelites on Hozana

Want to discover Carmel, get to know its great figures, or pray with Carmelites? Thanks to Hozana, you can choose the prayer community that suits you: