The Order of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross was founded in Portugal in the year 1131 by Dom Tello and St. Theotonius . St. Theotonius, the first prior in the Order, is celebrated in the liturgy as the reformer of religious life in Portugal. Eventually all canons regular in Portugal came to be united in the Order, which for centuries was a major center for liturgy, theology and the intellectual life in Portugal. It was due to the Marian spirituality of the Order that Portugal was the first nation to be consecrated to the Immaculate Conception in the 18th century. The Order sent missionaries to India, Africa and Latin America, but only established houses in Portugal. In 1834, when the civil government of Portugal became anti-Catholic the Order was violently suppressed.
The restoration of the Order was undertaken in 1977 by members of the spiritual movement called the Work of the Holy Angels (Opus Sanctorum Angelorum). In 1979 the Congregation for Religious and St. Pope John Paul II formalized the restoration by Decree. Due to the remarkable correspondence between the legacy of the old Order and the spirituality of the Opus Angelorum, the Church granted the privilege to introduce into the Order a "special devotion to the holy angels according to the proven tradition of the Church."
Currently, the Order is established in Austria (where the Motherhouse of the restored Order is), Italy (where the Generalite of the Order is), Germany, Portugal, Brazil, Mexico, India, the Philippines, and the United States. The philosophical and theological studies for the priesthood, offered by the Order through the centuries in its Pontifical Institutum Sapientiae, was transferred to Anápolis, Brazil in 1984.
Connected with the Order are various groups with the same spirituality: a congregation of religious sisters called the Sisters of the Holy Cross, diocesan associations of priests, and a lay organization for both men and women, which is similar to a secular institute.