A religious order of men, founded by St. Peter Nolasco about 1220, and also called Nolascans. Its two fold purpose was originally to tend the sick and to rescue Christians who had been captured by the Moslems. Their rule derives from St. Raymond Peñafort (1175-1275). In addition to taking the usual three vows, they pledge themselves to become hostages if needed for the deliverance of Christian captives. A corresponding order of nuns was established at Seville, Spain, in 1568. The Mercedarians took their present name from their traditional devotion to Our Lady of Mercy. Hence their official name, Orden de Nuestra Señora de la Merced. They are currently engaged in preaching, in hospital and pastoral work.