Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

(Also known as FRANCISCANS.) This subject may be conveniently considered under the following heads:

I. General History of the Order; A. First Period (1209-1517);
B. Second Period (1517-1909);

II. The Reform Parties;

A. First Period (1226-1517);
B. Second Period (1517-1897); (1) The Discalced ;
(2) The Reformanti;
(3) The Recollects, including a survey of the history of theFranciscans in the North, especially in Great Britain and Ireland (America is treated in a separate article); III. Statistics of the Order (1260-1909);
IV. The Various Names of the Friars Minor;
V. The Habit;
VI. The Constitution of the Order;
VII. General Sphere of the Order's Activity;
VIII. The Preaching Activity of the Order;
IX. Influence of the Order on the Liturgy and Religious Devotions;
X. Franciscan Missions;
XI. Cultivation of the Sciences;
XII. Saints and Beati of the Order.

I. GENERAL HISTORY OF THE ORDER

A. First Period (1209-1517)

Having gathered about twelve disciples around him (1207-08), St. Francis of Assisi appeared before Innocent III, who, after some hesitation, gave verbal sanction to the Franciscan Rule. Thus was legally founded the Order of Friars Minor ( Ordo Fratrum Minorum ), the precise date being, according to an ancient tradition in the order, 16 April, 1209. His friars having rapidly increased in number and spread over various districts of Italy, St. Francis appointed, in 1217, provincial ministers ( ministri provinciales ), and sent his disciples farther afield. At the general chapter of 1219 these missions were renewed and other friars dispatched to the East, to Hungary, to France, and to Spain. Francis himself visited Egypt and the East, but the innovations introduced during his absence by some of the friars caused his speedy return in 1220. In the same year he resigned the office of general of the order, which he entrusted first to Peter of Cattaneo, on whose early death (10 March, 1221) he appointed Elias of Cortona . Francis, however, retained a certain supreme direction of the order until his death on 3 October, 1226.

Elias of Cortona, as the vicar of Francis, summoned the regular Pentecost chapter for the following year, and on 29 May, 1227, Giovanni Parenti, a jurist, was chosen as first successor of St. Francis and first minister-general. He has often been regarded as a native of Florence, but probably came from the neighbourhood of Rome. Gregory IX employed the new general on political missions at Florence and Rome, authorized the Minorites to lay out their own cemeteries (26 July, 1227), and charged them with the direction and maintenance of the Poor Clares (1 December, 1227). In 1228 and the succeeding years, Elias of Cortona laboured zealously at the construction of a church to be dedicated to Francis of Assisi, who was canonized by Gregory IX on 16 July, 1228. On the day following the pope himself laid the foundation stone of this church at Assisi destined to receive the body of St. Francis, and he shortly afterwards entrusted to Thomas of Celano the task of writing the biography of the saint, which he confirmed on 25 February, 1229. The translation of the saint's body from the church of San Giorgio to the new basilica took place on 22 May, 1230, three days before the appointed time, and Elias of Cortona, possibly fearing some disturbance, took possession of the body, with the assistance of the civic authorities, and buried it in the church, where it was discovered in 1818. Elias was censured and punished for this action in the Bull of 16 June, 1230. The usual general chapter was held about the same date, and on 28 September, 1230, the Bull "Quo elongati" was issued, dealing with the Testament of St. Francis and certain points in the Rule of 1223. Elias meanwhile devoted all his energy to the completion of the magnificent church (or rather double church) of S. Francesco, which stands on the slope of a hill in the western portion of Assisi, and of the adjacent monastery with its massive pillars and arcades. His election as general in1232 gave him freer scope, and enabled him to realize the successful issue of his plans. As a politicain, Elias certainly possessed genius. His character, however, was too ostentatious and worldly, and, though under his rule the order developed externally and its missions and studies were promoted, still in consequence of his absolutism, exercised now with haughty bearing and again through reckless visitors, there arose in the order an antagonism to his government, in which the Parisian masters of theology and the German and English provinces played the most prominent part. Unable to stem this opposition, Elias was deposed, with Gregory IX's approval, by the Chapter of Rome (1239), and the hitherto undefined rights and almost absolute authority of the general in matters of income and legislation for the order were considerably restricted. Elias threw in his lot with Frederick II (Hohenstaufen), was excommunicated in consequence, and died on 22 April, 1253. Albert of Pisa, who had previously been provincial of Germany and Hungary, was chosen at the chapter of 1239 to succeed Elias, but died shortly afterwards (23 January, 1240). On All Saints' Day, 1240, the chapter again met and elected Haymo of Faversham, a learned and zealous English Franciscan, who had been sent by Gregory IX (1234) to Constantinople to promote the reunion of the Schismatic Greeks with the Apostolic See. Haymo, who, with Alexander of Hales had taken part in the movement against Elias, was zealous in his visitation of the various houses of the order. He held the Provincial Chapter of Saxonia at Aldenburg on 29 September, 1242, and, at the request of Gregory IX, revised the rubrics to the Roman Breviary and the Missal.

After Haymo's death in 1244 the General Chapter of Genoa elected Crescenzio Grizzi of Jesi (1245-47) to succeed him. Crescenzio instituted an investigation of the life and miracles of St. Francis and other Minorites, and authorized Thomas of Celano to write the "Legenda secunda S. Francisci", based on the information (Legenda trium Sociorum) supplied to the general by three companions of the saint ( Tres Socii , i.e. Leo, Angelus, and Rufinus). From this period also dates the "Dialogus de vistis Sanctorum Fratrum Minorum." This general also opposed vigorously the separationist and particularistric tendencies of some seventy-two of the brothers. The town of Assisi asked for him as its bishop, but the request was not granted by Innocent IV, who, on 29 April, 1252, appointed him Bishop of jesi, in the John of Parma, who succeeded to the generallship (1247-57), belonged to the more rigorous party in the order. He was most diligent in visiting in person the various houses of the order. it was during this period that Thomas of Celano wrote his "Tractatus de Miraculis". On 11 August, 1253, Clare of Assisi died, and was canonized by Alexander IV on 26 September, 1255. On 25 May, 1253, a month after the death of the excommunicated Elias, Innocent consecrated the upper church of S. Francesco, John of Parma unfortunately shared the apocalyptic views and fancies of the Joachimites, or followers of Jeachim of Floris, who had many votaries in the order, and was consequently not a little compromised when Alexander IV (4 November, 1255) solemnly condemned the "Liber introductorius", a collection of the writings of Joachim of Floris with an extravagant introduction, which had been published at Paris. This work has often been falsely ascribed to the general himself. its real author was Gerardo di Borgo S.-Donnino, who thus furnished a very dangerous weapon against the order to the professors of the secular clergy, jealous of the success of the Minorites at the University of Paris. The chapter convened in the Ara Coeli monastery at Rome forced John of Parma to abdicate his office (1257) and, on his recommendation, chose as his successor St. Bonaventure from Bagnorea. John was then summoned to answer for his Joachimism before a court presided over by the new general and the cardinal-protector, and would have been condemned but for the letter of Cardinal Ottoboni, afterwards Adrian V. He subsequently withdrew to the hermitage of Greccio, left it (1289) at the command of the pope to proceed to Greece, but died an aged broken man at Camerino on 20 March, 1289.

St. Bonaventure, learned and zealous religious, devoted all his energy to the government of the order. He strenuously advocated the manifold duties thrust upon the order during its historical development -- the labour in the care of souls, learned pursuits, employment of friars in the service of the popes and temporal rulers, the institution of large monasteries, and the preservation of the privileges of the order -- being convinced that such a direction of the activities of the members would prove most beneficial to the Church and the cause of Christianity. The Spirituals accused Bonaventure of laxity; yet he laboured earnestly to secure the exact observance of the rule, and energetically denounced the abuses which had crept into the order, condemning them repeatedly in his encyclical letters. In accordance with the rule, he held a general chapter every three years: at Narbonne in 1260, at Pisa in 1263, at Paris in 1266, at Assisi in 1269, and at Lyons in 1274, on the occasion of the general council. He made most of the visitations to the different convents in person, and was a zealous preacher. The Chapter of Narbonne (1260) promulgated the statutes of the order known as the "Constitutiones Narbonenses", the letter and spirit of which exercised a deep and enduring influence on the Fransican Order. Although the entire code did not remain long in force, many of the provisions were retained and served as a model for the later constitutions.

Even before the death of Bonaventure, during one of the sessions of the council (15 July, 1274), the Chapter of Lyons had chosen as his successor Jerome of Ascoli, who was expected by the council with the ambassadors of the Greek Church. He arrived, and the reunion of the churches was effected. Jerome was sent back by Innocent V as nuncio to Constantinople In May, 1276, but had only reached Ancona when the pope died (21 July, 1276). John XXI (1276-77) employed Jerome (October, 1276) and John of Vercelli, General of the Dominicans, as mediators in the war between Philip III of France and Alfonso X of Castile. This embassy occupied both genrals till March, 1279, although Jerome was preferred to the cardinalate on 12 march, 1278. When Jerome departed on the embassy to the Greeks, he had appointed Bonagratia of S. Giovanni in Persiceto to represent him at the General Chapter of Padua in 1276. On 20 May, 1279, he convened the General Chapter of Assisi, at which Bonagratia was elected general. Jerome later occupied the Chair of Peter as Nicholas IV (15 February, 1288-4 April, 1292). bonagratia conducted a deputation from the chapter before Nicholas III , who was then staying at Soriano, and petitioned for a cardinal-protector. The pope, who had himself been protector, appointed his nephew Matteo Orsini. The general also asked for a definition of the rule, which the pope, after personal consultation with cardinals and the theologians of the order, issued in the "Exiit qui seminat" of 14 August, 1279. In this the order's complete renunciation of property in communi was again confirmed, and all property given to the brothers was vested in the Holy See, unless the donor wished to retain his title. All moneys were to be held in trust by the nuntii , or spiritual friends, for the friars, who could however raise no claim to them. The purchase of goods could take place only through procurators appointed by the pope, or by the cardinal-protector in his name.

The Bull of Martin IV "Ad fructus uberes" (13 December, 1281) defined the relations of the mendicants to the secular clergy. The mendicant orders had long been exempt from the jurisdiction of the bishop, and enjoyed (as distinguished from the secular clergy ) unrestricted freedom to preach and hear confessions in the churches connected with their monasteries. This had led to endless friction and open quarrels between the two divisions of the clergy, and, although Martin IV granted no new privileges to the mendicants, the strife now broke out with increased violence, chiefly in France and in a particular manner at Paris. Boniface VIII adjusted their relations in the Bull "Super cathedram" of 18 February, 1300, granting the mendicants freedom to preach in their own churches and in public places, but not at the time when the prelate of the district was preaching. For the hearing of confessions, the mendicants were to submit suitable candidates to the bishop in office, and obtain his anction. The faithful were left free in regard to funerals, but, should they take place in the church of a cloister, the quarta funerum was to be given to the parish priest. Benedict XI abrogated this Bull, but Clement V reintroduced it (1312). Especially conspicuous among the later contentions over the privileges of the mendicants were those caused by John of Poliaco, a master of theology of Paris (1320) and by Richard Fitzralph, Archbishop of Armagh (1349). In 1516 the Fifth Council of the Lateran dealt with this question, which was definitively settled by the Council of Trent.

In the Bull "Exultantes" of 18 January, 1283, Martin IV instituted the syndici Apostolici. This was the name given to the men appointed by the ministers and custodians to receive in the name of the Holy See the alms given to the Franciscans, and to pay it out again at their request. The syndici consequently replaced the nuntii and procurators. All these regulations were necessary in consequence of the rule of poverty, the literal and unconditional observance of which was rendered impossible by the great expansion of the order, by its pursuit of learning, and the accumulated property of the large cloisters in the towns. The appointment of these trustees, however, was neither subversive of nor an evasion of the rule, but rather the proper observance of its precepts under the altered conditions of the ime. Under Bonagratia (1279-83) and his immediate successors Arlotto da Prato (1285-86), and Matthew of Acquasparta (1287-89), a learned theologian and philosopher who became cardinal in 1288 and rendered notable service to the Church, the Spiritual movement broke out in the Province of Ancona, under the leadership of Pietro Giovanni Olivi, who, after the General Chapter of Strasburg (1282), caused the order considerable trouble. The general, Raimondo Gaufredi (Geoffrey) of Provence (1289-95), favoured the Spirituals and denounced the lax interpretations of the Community, i.e. the majority of the order who opposed the minority, termed Spirituals or Zelanti. Raimondo even ventured to revise the genral constitutions at the General Chapter of Paris in 1292, whereupon, having refused the Bishopric of Padua offered him by Boniface VIII, he was compelled by the pope to resign his office. Giovanni Minio of Muravalle, in the theology, was elected general by the Chapter of Anangi (1294), and although created Cardinal-Bishop of Porto ( Portuensis ) in 1302, continued to govern the order until Gonzalves of Valleboa (1304-13), Provincial of Santiago, Spain, was elected to succeed him by the Chaper of Assisi.

In his encyclical of 1302, Giovanni Minio had inculcated the rule of poverty, and forbidden both the accumulation of property and vested incomes. Gonzálvez followed the same policy (12 February, 1310), and the Chapter of Padua (1310) made the precept still more rigorous by enoining the "simple use" ( usus pauper ) and withdrawing the right of voting at the chapter from convents which did not adopt it. The usus pauper had indeed been a source of contention from 1290, especially in Provence, where some denied that it was binding on the order. These dissensions led to the Magna Disputatio at Avignon (1310-12), to which Clement V summoned the leaders of the Spirituals and of the Community or Relaxati. Clement laid the strife by his bull and Decretal "Exivi di Paradiso", issued at the third and last session of the Council of Vienne, 5 May, 1312. The prescriptions contained in the Franciscan Rule were divided into those which bound under pain of mortal, and those which bound under pain of venial sin. those enjoining the renunciation of property and the adoption of poverty were retained: the Franciscans were entitled only to the usus (use) of goods given to them, and wherever the rule prescibed it, only to the usus pauper or arctus (simple use). All matters concerning the Franciscan habit, and all the storehouses and cellars allowed in cases of necessity, were referred to the discretion of the superiors of the order.

The Spirituals of Provence and Tuscany, however, were not yet placated. At the General Chapter of Barcelona (1313), a Parisian master of theology, Alexander of Alessandria (Lombardy), was chosen to succeed Gonzálvez, but died in October, 1314. The General Chapter of Naples (1316) elected Michael of Cesena, a moderate Conventual. The commission appointed by this chapter altered the general statutes of the rule of poverty. The Spirituals immediately afterwards rekindled the property strife, but John XXIII interdicted and suppressed their peculiar notions by the Constitution "Quorumdam exigit" (7 October, 1317), thus completely restoring the official unity of the order. In 1321, however, the so-called theoretical discussion on poverty broke out, the inquisitor, John of Belna, a Dominican, having taked exception to the statement that Christ and the Apostles possessed property neither in communi nor in speciali (i.e. neither in common nor individually). The ensuing strife degenerated into a fierce scholastic disputation between the Franciscans and the Dominicans, and, as the pope favoured the views of the latter, a very dangerous crisis seemed to threated the Minorites. By the Constitution "Ad conditorem canonum" (8 December, 1322) John XXII renounced the title of the Church to all the possessions of the friars Minor, and restored the ownership to ther order. This action, contrary to the practice and expressed sentiments of his predecessors, placed the Minorites on exactly the same footing as the other orders, and was a harsh provision for an order which had laboured so untiringly in the interests of the Church. In many other ways, however, John fostered the order. It will thus be readily understood why the members inclined to laxity joined the diaffected party, leaving but few advocated of John's regulations. To the dissenting party belonged Gerardus Odonis (1329-42), the general, whose election at Paris in 1329 John had secured in the place of his powerful opponent Michael of Cesena . Odonis, however, was supported only by the minority of the order in his efforts to effect the abolition of the rule of poverty. The deposed general and his followers, the Michaelites (cf. FRATICELLI), were disavowed by the General Chapter of Paris, and the order remained faithful to the Holy See. The constitutions prescribed by Benedict XII , John's successor, in his Bull of 28 November, 1336, and the name "Constitutiones Catarcenses" or "Benedictinae"), contained not a single reference tot he rule of poverty. Benedict died in 1342, and on the preferment of Gerardus Odonis to the Patriarchate of Antioch, Fortanerio Vassalli was chosen general (1343-47).

Under Guilllaume Farinier (1348-57) the Chapter of Marseilles resolved to revive the old statues, a purpose which was realized in the general constitutions promulgated by the General Chapter of Assisi in 1354 ("Constitutiones Farineriae or guilemi"). This code was based on the "Constitutioners Narboneses" (1260), and the Bulls "Exiit" and "Exivi", but the edicts of John XXII, being promulgated by the pope over and above the chapter, still continued in force. The great majority of the friars accomodated themselves to these regulations and undertook the care and proprietorship of their goods, which they entrusted to fratres procuratores elected from among themselves. The protracted strife of the deposed general (Michael of Cesna) with the pope, in which the general was supported with conspicuous learning by some of the leading members of the order and encouraged by the German emperor Louis IV (the Bavarian ), for reasons of secular and ecclesiastical polity, gave great and irresistible impulse to laxity in the order, and prejudiced the founder's ideal. It was John XXII who had introduced Conventualism is the later sense of the workd, that is, community of goods, income and property as in other religious orders, in contradiction to Observantism or the strict observance of the rule, a movement now strong within the order, acrding to which the members were to hold no property in communi and renounce all vested incomes and accumulation of goods. The Bull "Ad conditorem", so significant in the history of the order, was only withdrawn 1 November, 1428, by Martin V.

Meanwhile the development of Conventualism had been fostered in many ways. In 1348 the Black Death swept devastatingly over Euope, empting town and cloister. The wealth of the order increaded rapidly, and thousands of new brothers were admitted without sufficiently close examination into their eligibility. The liverality of the faithful was also, if not a source of danger for the Minorites, at least a constant incitement ot depart to some extent from the rule of poverty. This liberality showed itself mainly in gifts of real property, for example in endowments for prayers for the dead , which were then usually founded with real estate. In the fourteenth century also began the land wars and feuds (e.g. the Hundred Years War in France ), which relaxed every bond of discipline and good order. The current feelings of anarchic irresponsibility were also encouraged by the Great Wester Schism, during which men quarreled not only concerning obedience to the papacy, to which there were three claimants since the Council of Pisa, but also concerning obedience to the generals of the order, whose number tallied with the number of the popes.

Guillaume Farinier was named cardinal in 1356, but continued to govern the order until the election of Jean Bouchier (de Buco) in 1357. John having died in 1358, mark of Viterbo was chosen to succeed him (1359-66), it being deemed desirable to elect an italian, the preceding four generals having been French, Mark was raised to the cardinalate in 1366, and was succeeded by Thomas of Farignano (1367-72), who became Patriarch of Grado in 1372, and cardinal in 1378. Leonardo Rossi of Giffone (1373-78) succeeded Thomas as general, and supported Clemens VII during the schism. This action gave umbrage to Urban VI, who deposed him and named Ludovico Donato his successor. Ludovico was also chosen in 1379 by the General Chapter of Gran in Hungary at which, however, only twelve provinces were represented, was named cardinal in 1381, but was executed in 1385 with some other cardinals for participating in a conspiracy against Urban VI. His third successor, Enrico Alfieri (1387-1405), could only bewail the privileges subversive of discipline, by means of which the claimants to the papacy sought to bind their supporters more closely to themselves. Alfieri's successor, Antonio de Pireto (1405-21), gave his allegiance to the Council of Pisa and Alexander V (1409-15), a man of no great importance. With the election of Martin V (1417-31) by the Council of Constance, unity was restored in the order, which was then in a state of the greatest confusion.

The Observance ( Regularis Observantia ) had meanwhile prepard the ground for a regeneration of the order. At first no uniform movements, but varying in different lands, it was given a definite character by St. Bernardine of Siena and St. John Capistran. In Italy as early as 1334 Giovanni de Valle had begun at San Bartolomeo de Brugliano, near Forligno, to live in exact accordance with the rule but without that exemption from the order, which was later forbidden by Clement VI in 1343. It is worthy of notice that Clement, in 1350, granted this exemption to the lay brother Gentile da Spoleto, a companion of Giovanni, but Gentile gathered together such a disorderly rabble, including some of the heretical Fraticelli, that the privilege was withdrawn (1354), he was expelled from the order (1355), and cast into prison. Amongst his faithful adherents was Paoluccio Vagnozzi of Trinci, who was allowed by the general to return to Brugliano in 1368. As a protection against the snakes so numerous in the district, wooden slippers ( calepodia, zoccoli ) were worn by the brothers, and, as their use continued in the order the Observants were long known as the Zoccolanti or lignipedes. In 1373 Paoluccio's followers occcupied ten small houses in ubria, to which was soon added San Damiano at Assisi. They were supported by Gregory XI, and also, after some hesitation, by the superiors of the order. In 1388, Enrico Alfineri, the general appointed Paoluccio commissary general of his followers, whom he allowed to be sent into all the districts of italy as an incentive to the rest of the order. Paoluccio died on 17 September, 1390, and was succeeded by John of Stroncone (d. 1418). In 1414, this reform possessed thirty-four houses, to which the Porziuncola was added in 1514.

In the fourteenth centry there were three Spanish provinces: that of Portugal (also called Santiago), that of Castile, and that of Aragon. Although houses of the reformers in which the rule was rididly observed existed in each of these provinces about 1400, there does not appear to have been any connection between the reforms of each province -- much less between these reforms and the Italian Observance -- and consquently the part played by Peter of Villacreces in Silos and Aguilera has been greatly exaggerated.

Independent also was the Reform or Observance in France, which had its inception in 1358 (or more accuratley in 1388) in the cloister at Mirabeau in the province of Touraine, and thence spread through Burgundy, Touraine, and Franconia. In 1407 Benedict XIII exempted them from all jurisdiction of the provincials, and on 13 May, 1408, gave them a vicar-general in the person of Thomas de Curte. In 1414 about two hundred of their number addressed a petition to the Council fo Constance, which thereupon granted to the friars of the stricta observantia regularis a special provincial vicar in every province, and a vicar-general over all, Nicholas Rodolphe being the first to fill the last-mentioned office. Angelo Salvetti, general of the order (1421-24), viewed these changes with marked disfavour, but Martin V's protection prevented him from taking any steps to defeat their aim. Far more opposed was Salvetti's successor, Antonio de Masso (1424-30). The ranks of the Observants increased rapidly in France and Spain in consequence of the exemption. The Italian branch, however, refused to avail themselves of any exemption from the usual superiors, the provincial and the general.

In Germany the Observance appeared about 1420 in the province of Cologne at the monastery of Gouda (1418), in the province of Saxony in the Mark of Brandenburg (1425); in the upper German province first at the Heidelberg monastery (1426). Cloisters of the Observants already existed in Bosnia, Russia, Hungary, and even in Tatary. In 1430 Martin V (1417-31) summoned the whole order, Observants and Conventuals, to the general Chapter of Assisi (1430), "in order that our desire for a general reform of the order may be fulfilled." William of Casale (1430-42) was elected general, but the intellectual leader of Assisi was St. John Capistran. The statues promulgated by this chapter are called the "Constitutiones Martinianae" from the name of the pope. They cancelled the offices of general and provincial vicars of the Observants and introduced a scheme for the general reform of the order. All present at the chapter had bound themselves on oath to carry out its decisions, but six weeks later (27 July, 1430) the general was released from his oath and obtained from Martin V the Brief "Ad statum" (23 August, 1430), which allowed the Conventuals to hold property like all other orders. This Brief constituted the Magna Charta of the Conventuals, and henceforth any reform of the order on the lines of the rule was out of the question.

The strife between the Observants and the Conventuals now broke out with such increased fury that even St. John Capistran laboured for a division of the order which was however still longer opposed by St. Bernadine of Siena. Additional bitterness was lent to the strife when in many instance princes and towns forcibly withdrew the ancient Fraciscan monasteries from the Conventuals and turned them over to the Observants. In 1438 the general of the order named St. Bernardine of Siena, first Vicar-General of the Italian Observants, an office in which Bernardine was succeeded by St. John Capistran in 1441. At the General Chapter of Padua (1443), Albert Berdini of Sarteano, an Observant, would have been chosen general in accordance with the papa; wish had not his election been opposed by St. Bernardine. Antonio de Rusconibus (1443-50) was accordingly elected, and, until the separation in 1517, no Observant held the office of general. In 1443 Antonio appointed two vicars-general to direct the Observants -- for the cismontane family (i.e. for Italy, the East, Austria-Hungary, and Poland ) St. John Capistran, and for the ultramontane (all other countries, including afterwards America) jean Perioche of Maubert. By the so-called Separation bull of Eugene IV, "Ut sacra ordinis minorum" (11 January, 1446), outlined by St. John Capistran, the office of the vicar-general of the Observants was declared permanent, and made practically independent of the minister general of the order, but the Observants might not hold a general chapter seperate from the rest of the order. After the canonization in 1450 of Bernardine of Siena (d. 1444), the first saint of the Observants, John Capistran with the assistance of the zealous cardinal Nicholas of Cusa (d. 1464), extended the Observance so greatly in Germany, that he could henceforth disregard the attacks of the lax and time-serving sections of the order. At the Chapter of Barcelona, in 1451, the so-called "Statuta Barchnionensia" were promulgated. Though somewhat modifies these continued in force for centuries in the ultramontane family.

The compromise essayed by St. James of the March in 1455 was inherently hopeless, although it granted to the vicars of the Observants active voting power at the general chapters . On this compromise was based the "Bulla concordiae" of Callistus III (2 February, 1456), which Pius II withdrew (11 October, 1458). The Chapter of Perugia (1464) elected as general Francesco della rovere (1464-69), who was elevated to the cardinalate in 1468, and later elected pope under the title of Sixtus IV (1471-84). Sixtus granted various privileges to the Fransicans in his Bull "Mare magnum" (1474) and his "Bulla aurea" (1479), but was rather more kindly disposed towards the Conventuals, to whome he had belonged. The generals Francesco Nanni (1475-99), to whom Sixtus gave the sobriquet of Samson to signalize his victory in a disputation on the Immaculate Conception, and Egidio Delfini (1500-06) displayed a strong bias in favour of the reform of the Conventuals, Edigio using as his pleas the so-called "Constitutiones Alexandrinae" sanctioned by Alexander VI in 1501. His zeal was far surpassed in Spain by that of the powerful Minorite, Francisco Ximenes de los Cisneros, who expelled from the cloisters all Conventuals opposed to the reform. At Paris, Delfini won the large house of studies to the side of the reformers. The Capitulum generalissimum at Rome in 1506 was expected to bring about the union of the various branches, but the proposed plan did not find acceptance, and the statutes, drawn up by the chapter and published in 1508 under the title "Statuta Iulii II", could not bridge the chasm separating the parties. After long deliberations had taken place under generals Rainaldo Graziani (1506-09), Philip of Bagnacavallo (1509-11), and Bernardino Prato da Chieri (1513-17), the last general of the united order, Leo X summoned on 11 July, 1516, a capitulum generalissimum to meet at rone onf the feast of Pentecost (31 May), 1517. This chapter first suppressed all the reformed congregations and annexed them to the Observants; declared the Observants an independent order, the true Order of St. Francis, and separated them completely from the Conventuals. The General of the Observants received the title of Minister Generalis totius ordinis Fratrum Minorum , with or without the addition regularis Observantiae , and was entrusted with the ancient seal of the order. His period of office was limited to six years, and he was to be chosen alternately from the familia cismontana and the familia ultramontana -- a regulation which has not not been observed. For the other family a Commissarius generalis is always elected. In processions, etc., the Observants take precedence of the Conventuals.

B. Second period (1517-1909)

Christoforo Numai of Friuli was elected first General of the Reformed Order of Franciscans ( Ordo Fratrum Minorum ), but was raised a month later to the cardinalate. Francesco Lichetto (1518-20) was chosen as his successor by the Chapter of Lyons (1518), where the deliberations centered around the necessary rearrangement of the order in provinces and the promulgation of new general constitutions, which were based on the statutes of Barcelona (1451, cf. supra ). Lichetto and his successors -- Paul of Soncino (1520-23), who died in 1523, and Francisco de Angelis Quiñones (1523-28), a Spaniards, diligently devoted themselves to establishing the Observance on a firm basis. Quinones was named cardinal in 1528, and the new general, Paolo Pisotti (1529-33), unfortunately disregarding the ideal of his predecessors and failing entirely to grasp the significance of the reforms afoot at the time (for example that of the Capuchins ), was deposed in 1533. In 1547 the Chapter of Assisi prescribed gray as the colour of the Franciscan habit, in accordance with the custom of the Observants and forbade the wearing in beards. At the General Chapter of Salamanca (1554), Clemente Dolera of Moneglia, the general in office promulgated new statutes for the cismontane family. On the preferment of clemente to the cardinalate in 1557, Francesco Zamora, his successor (1559-65), defended at the Council of Trent the order's rule of poverty, which was then sanctioned by the council for the Observants and Capuchins. Under Luigi Pozzo (Puteus), the next general (1565-71), the Spanish Conventuals were united with the Observants by command of the pope, and a general reunion of the separated branches of the order seemed imminent. The two succeeding generals, Christophe de Cheffontaines, a Frenchman (1571-79), and Francisco Gonzaga (1579-87), laboured industriously for the rigorous observance and the rule of poverty, which was rather loosely interpreted, especially in France. Gonzaga reformed the great convent of studies at Paris and, in 1581, was appointed, in opposition to his wishes, Bishop of Cefalù (Sicily) and afterwards of Mantua, where he died in the odour of sanctity, in 1620. The process for his beatification is pending at Rome. Francis of Toulouse (1587-93) and Bonaventura Secusi of Caltagirone (Sicily, 1593-1600) were employed frequently on embassies by the popes, and revised the constitutions of the order, in which however, the alterations were too frequent. Finally at the Chapter of Segovia in 1621, the minister general, Benignus of Genoa (1618-25), approved the "Statuta Segoviensia" for the ultramontane family, with suitable additions both for the French and for the German-Belgian nation. Thereafter the latter nation adhered most perseveringly to the principles of these statutes ; that their consistency in this respect has proved a source of prosperity, vigour, and inner strength is universally known.

About this period the so-called Counter-Reformation was bursting into vigorous life in the North and the order entered on a new period of strenuous vitality. The Reformation had dealt a terrible blow to the Franciscans in these parts, annihilating in many instances entire provinces. Supported now by the emperor and the Catholic princes, they advance to regain their old position and to found new cloisters, from which they could minister to their flocks. To bring into subjection the four rather lax French provinces which were known as the Provinciae confaederatae and were thenceforward always too much inclined to shelter themselves behind the government, the general, Bernardine of Sena (Portugal, 1625-33), obtained from Urban VIII the Bull of 1 October, 1625. The French, indeed, justly complained that the general of the order was always chosen from Italy or from Spain. The privilege unsurped by the Spanish kings, of exerting a certain influence in the election and indeed securing that the general should be alternately a Spaniards and an Italian (but one from the Crown lands of Spain ), was in contradiciton to all Fraciscan statutes and laws. The Spanish generals, furthermore resided usually at Madrid, instead of at Rome, and most of the higher offices were occupied by Spaniards -- an anomalous situation which aroused great resentment amongst the friars of other nations, especially France and in Italy, and continued until 1834. This introduction of national politics into the government of the oder proved as noxious to the interests of the Friars Minor as the established churches of the eighteenth century did to the cause of Christianity.

Generals Juan Merinero of Madrid (1639-45), Giovanni Mazzara of Naples (1645-48), and Pedro Mancro (1651-55) tried without success to give definite statutes to the cismontane family, while the "Constitutiones Sambucanae", drawn up by General Michele Buongiorno of Sambuca (1658-64) at the order of the general chapter, did not remain long in force. Ildefonso Salizanes (1664-70) and Francesco Maria Rhini (1670-74) were both raised to the espiscopate. José Ximenes Samaniego (1676-82) zealously eradicated abuses which had crept into the order especially in Spain and France, and died as Bishop of Placencia in Spain (1692). Ildefonso Biezma (1702-16) and José García (1717-23) were appointed by papal Briefs. The next general was the famous Lorenzo Cozza (1723-27) who, as Custos of the Holy Land, had obviated a schism of the Maronites. He was created cardinal by Benedict XIII. At the Chapter of Milan (1729), Juan Soto was elected general (1729-36), and during his period of office had the statutes of the order collected, rearranged, and then published in 1734. Raffaello de Rossi (1744-50) gave the province (otherwise known as the custody) of the Holy Land its definitive constitution. From 1700 to 1723 no general chapter could be held in consequence of the continuous state of unrest caused by the wars and other dissensions. These disputes made their appearance even in the order itself, and were fanned to a flame by the rivalry between the nations and between the different reform branches, the most heated contention being between the Observants and the Reformanti. The domestic discipline of the order thus became very slack in certain districts, although the personale of th


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 14:1-3, 4-5
1 Next in my vision I saw Mount Zion, and standing on ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
1 [Psalm Of David] To Yahweh belong the earth and all ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:1-4
1 Looking up, he saw rich people putting their ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 24th, 2014 Image

St. Andrew Dung Lac
November 24: Through the missionary efforts of various religious families ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter