This ancient order of hermetic scholars traces its roots back to the Middle Ages. Over the centuries, they have invested wisely, spent frugally, and amassed an untold fortune that holds them in good stead even in today's secular society. The organization has close ties to many of Europe's royal families as well as good standing relationships with the heads of most major western religions. They seem to be a group that is universally respected and genuinely liked.
The Order is dedicated to collecting and preserving knowledge of paranormal abilities in otherwise mundane people. Because of this, many within the Shadow community refer to them as the "psychic monks," but the brothers don't seem to mind at all. In fact, they believe that this dismissive attitude makes it easier for them to go about their business of gathering and protecting dangerous information.
The Order owns the most exhaustive known collection of banned, suppressed, and otherwise anathema literature. It contains descriptions of and dissertations on every known psychic, magical, and otherwise unexplained phenomenon ever chronicled by mundane man. This collection is known as the Black Library, but it is not a library in the conventional sense. People, the Order believes, were not meant to know these secrets. It is important that the information be preserved in case it is needed to combat some great threat, but it is not meant to be used in a frivolous manner. Therefore, the Order has broken up the information into discreet, incomplete portions and given one portion to each of its monasteries to safeguard. In this way, the information is preserved, but none of their monks are ever tempted by too much knowledge. But each monastery is still a resource for information (albeit incomplete information) on the entire spectrum of paranormal abilities.
Although the world considers them to be a bit eccentric, the monks of St. Bartholomew are a good lot, interested in the well being of all creatures. It would be perfectly fitting for a retiring hero to join the order (particularly if he or she has some sort of psychic abilities or knowledge).
The Order eschews worldly goods, so it is very difficult to convince them to requisition anything for anyone. However, if the heroes do convince them of the necessity of buying particular nonviolent items, the Order provides a +3 bonus on related level checks.
The Black Library
The total knowledge held by the Order of Bartholomew is split up among the various monasteries. Visiting one will provide insight into a mystical question, but visiting others will provide deeper and deeper understanding.
Gaining the cooperation of one monastery provides a +3 insight bonus on Knowledge (arcane lore) or Research checks pertaining to appropriate subjects. For each subsequent monastery that agrees to cooperate, raise the bonus by +2. However, it is notoriously difficult to get the Order to cooperate, especially if they know that a person has already gained the aid of another monastery. The Order broke their knowledge into distinct pieces because they believe it is dangerous to
gather too much of it in any one mind.