The name Ignorantine was given from a clause in the rules of the order forbidding the admission of priests with a theological education. Other popular names applied to the order are Frères de Saint-Yon, from the house at Rouen, which was their headquarters from 1705 until 1770, Frères a quatre bras, from their hanging sleeves, and Frères Fouetteurs, from their former use of the whip (fouet) in punishments.
The order, approved by Pope Benedict XIII in 1724, rapidly spread over France, and although dissolved by the National Assembly's decree in February 1790, was recalled by Napoleon I in 1804 and formally recognized by the French government in 1808. Since then its members have penetrated into nearly every country of Europe, and into America, Asia and Africa. They numbered about 14,000 members at the beginning of the 20th century and have over 2000 schools, and are the strongest Roman Catholic male order. Though not officially connected with the Jesuits, their organization and discipline are very similar.