Founded in 1012, in Italy, by Saint Romuald, the Camaldolese Order is the fruit of one of the strictest monastic reforms of the tenth century. Known by its full title as the Congregation of the Monk Hermits of Camaldoli, the order promotes a very austere form of common life with strict hermetical asceticism. While newer members reside in a stern monastic setting, the more advanced live in the associated hermitage.
Since Saint Romuald never instituted a written rule, in the early years there existed several variations of the Camaldolese life, each differing from the other in organization and type. For example, some monasteries lived more as a community, while others more as hermits. In 1523, this lead to the founding of a reform group called the Congregation of Monte Corona.
Since its beginning, the Camaldolese Order has been revolutionary in its ability to successfully combine aspects of the hermitic life of Eastern monks with the community life of Western monasticism. Even though the monks live and pray alone, they join each other for community prayers. Their daily diets are quite severe: they never eat meat; they abstain from everything except bread and water on Fridays. During Lent, products such as milk, cheese, eggs, and butter are forbidden. Each monk has his own room, workshop, and garden, where he labors alone, yet he still maintains a connection with the other monks for the upkeep of the community.