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Franciscans(frănsĭs`kənz), members of several Roman Catholic religious orders following the rule of St. FrancisFrancis, Saint,
or Saint Francis of Assisi
, 1182?–1226, founder of the Franciscans, one of the greatest Christian saints, b. Assisi, Umbria, Italy. Early Life
..... Click the link for more information. (approved by Honorius III, 1223). There are now three organizations of Franciscan friars: the Friars Minor [Lat. abbr., O.F.M.] (the second largest order in the Roman Catholic Church; only the Jesuit order is larger), formerly called the Observants; the Friars Minor Capuchin (see CapuchinsCapuchins
[Ital.,=hooded ones], Roman Catholic religious order of friars, one of the independent orders of Franciscans, officially the Friars Minor Capuchin [Lat. abbr., O.M.Cap.].
..... Click the link for more information. ), the fourth largest of the great religious orders; and the Friars Minor Conventual [Lat. abbr., O.M.C.]. Within 50 years of St. Francis's foundation, the order had a very strong wing of zealots—the Spirituals, who advocated absolute poverty, thus deploring the convents or any settled life. They allied themselves with the anarchical monks who were preaching the teachings of Joachim of FioreJoachim of Fiore
, c.1132–1202, Italian Cistercian monk. He was abbot of Corazzo, Italy, but withdrew into solitude. He left scriptural commentaries prophesying a new age.
..... Click the link for more information. . St. BonaventureBonaventure or Bonaventura, Saint
, 1221–74, Italian scholastic theologian, cardinal, Doctor of the Church, called the Seraphic Doctor, b. near Viterbo, Italy. His original name was Giovanni di Fidanza.
..... Click the link for more information. tried to reconcile the factions of the order, but the Spirituals grew stronger and saw one of their heroes made pope as St. Celestine VCelestine V, Saint,
1215–96, pope (elected July 5, resigned Dec. 13, 1294), an Italian (b. Isernia) named Pietro del Murrone; successor of Nicholas IV. Celestine's election ended a two-year deadlock among the cardinals over a successor to Nicholas IV.
..... Click the link for more information. . His abdication made their agitation one of the major social and religious problems of Italy. So far as the order was concerned, John XXIIJohn XXII,
1244–1334, pope (1316–34), a Frenchman (b. Cahors) named Jacques Duèse; successor of Clement V. Formerly, he was often called John XXI. He reigned at Avignon. John was celebrated as a canon lawyer under Boniface VIII, whom he supported.
..... Click the link for more information. settled (1322) the matter by putting the Franciscans on a level with every other order with respect to owning property corporately. He also put a stop (1323) to a Franciscan boast that their way was more nearly perfect than any other. However, within the order there still remained a desire for reform, and in the following years a movement developed toward restoring primitive practice. The friars of this tendency (Observants) gained recognition within the order and eventually were made independent (1517) by Leo X. Soon afterward a movement among the Observants established the Capuchins (1525) as a still stricter adherence to the rule. All the Franciscan orders have shared in home and foreign missions; the Franciscans were in many parts of America the dominant missionaries. They have had a continuous role in education and were leaders in medieval university life. They have had a major place in preaching among Catholics: from them come the Stations of the Cross and the Christmas Crib. Since the 15th cent. the Observants have been charged with the care of Roman Catholic interests in the Holy Places in Palestine. Besides the friars, the Franciscans include the Poor Clares, the order of nuns founded by St. ClareClare or Clara, Saint,
1193?–1253, Italian nun of Assisi, devoted from her youth to St. Francis, to whom she took a vow of poverty. She led a life of great austerity.
..... Click the link for more information. , and countless members of the third order (see tertiarytertiary
, in the Roman Catholic Church, member of a third order. The third orders are chiefly supplements of the friars—Franciscans (the most numerous), Dominicans, and Carmelites.
..... Click the link for more information. ), an order consisting of both men and women, some of whom live in communities and many of whom live in the world. There are scores of religious communities of sisters of every sort of charitable mission who are regular Franciscan tertiaries. Of canonized and beatified saints, far more have been Franciscans than members of any other order. The best-known of them is perhaps St. Anthony of Padua. The Franciscans were called Gray Friars. Their habit is now typically brown. For the place of Franciscans among orders, see monasticismmonasticism
, form of religious life, usually conducted in a community under a common rule. Monastic life is bound by ascetical practices expressed typically in the vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience, called the evangelical counsels.
..... Click the link for more information. .
See studies by J. Moorman (1968), K. Esser (tr. 1970), and T. MacVicar (1986).
a Catholic mendicant order founded in Italy by Francis of Assisi between 1207 and 1209 (as the Friars Minor) for the purpose of preaching poverty, asceticism, and love of one’s neighbor among the people. In 1223, Pope Honorius III approved the final rule of the order.
Mendicant orders originated with the Franciscans. Dressed in brown woolen robes girdled with rope and shod only with sandals, the monks wandered around the country preaching. The church used their example to undermine the influence of the heretics who had stigmatized the greediness and lack of discipline of the clergy. As early as the 1220’s the Franciscans gave up the ideal of poverty in practice. Having received donations, gifts from laymen, and bequests of property, the order was transformed into a wealthy proprietor. The enrichment of the Franciscans was legalized in the early 14th century by the papacy, which declared that the order’s property in fact belonged to the church and was only placed at the Franciscans’ disposal. Together with the Dominicans, the Franciscans carried out the work of the Inquisition. In 1256 the papacy granted the order the right to teach at universities.
The Franciscans, together with various other orders, were abolished in many European countries at the time of the French Revolution and the bourgeois revolutions of the 19th century; they were reestablished in the late 19th century, first in Spain and Italy and later in France and other countries. In the epoch of imperialism the Franciscans, like other monastic orders, became an instrument of clericalism.
In the mid-1970’s the Franciscans and their branches had about 40,000 members in such countries as Italy, Spain, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, the USA, Canada, Turkey, Brazil, and Paraguay. They control a number of universities and colleges and have their own publishing houses.
M. A. ZABOROV