They lived in caves on Mt, Carmel for about a century, when they were forced to leave, in 1235, due to persecution by the Saracens. At the time they did not view anyone in particular as their founder but saw Elijah as one of the founders of monastic life.
At their request, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Albert Avogadro wrote a formula of life (between 1206-1214) for the lay hermits to follow. This formula of life was approved by various Popes until the group was transformed into a Religious Order, when in 1247 Pope Innocent IV approved the text as a Rule.
There are really two branches of Carmelites: the Ancient Observance" or "Calced" Carmelites, and the "Discalced Carmelites" or "Teresians" (established in 1592 in Spain) who followed the ways of their founder and reformer, St. Teresa of Avila. St. Teresa believed that the Order should be dedicated to poverty, so the Discalced Order (Discalced indicates a reformed religious order) became known as Discalced (or shoeless) Order of Carmelites. Today, the difference between the two Orders is insignificant, according to Fr. Anthony Cilia, Director of the International Carmelite Information Center, Carmelite General Curia.
To learn more about the Carmelites:
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