Joachim of Fiore

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Joachim of Fiore

(jō`əkĭm), c.1132–1202, Italian Cistercian monk. He was abbot of Corazzo, Italy, but withdrew into solitude. He left scriptural commentaries prophesying a new age. In his "Age of the Spirit" the hierarchy of the church would be unnecessary and infidels would unite with Christians. Joachim's works had a vogue in the 13th and the 14th cent.; many, especially the extremist Spiritual Franciscans, acclaimed him as a prophet. Dante places him in Paradise.


See study by D. C. West (1983).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Joachim of Fiore


Born circa 1132; died 1202. Italian thinker.

An ascetic and monk of the Cistercian order, Joachim was elected in 1177 to the position of abbot and in about 1191 founded the monastery of San Giovanni in Fiore as the center for a new religious community, hence his title.

He was the originator of a mystical-dialectical conception of the historical process that clearly expressed the great crisis of the medieval world view. This conception, developed as a symbolic interpretation of the Bible in such works as The Harmony of the New and Old Testaments (1519) and An Exposition of the Apocalypse (1527), was based on the division of all world history into three “states of the world,” or eras, corresponding to the three persons of the Christian trinity—the father, son, and holy spirit. During the Old Testament age of the father, god appeared to man as a powerful lord and man was subordinated to him like a fearful slave. In the New Testament age of the son this relationship had been changed into that of father and child. Finally, the approaching age of the holy spirit was to establish full intimacy between god and man. Each age allegedly passed through the same sequence of stages, which made possible deductions about the future based on past events. The age of the holy spirit was to begin about 1260. After a period of struggle and temptations, love of poverty and the principle of spiritual freedom would triumph. The powerful and pretentious church of Peter would then give way to the church of John, which would renounce the unnecessary burden of earthly power and be led by gentle, disinterested ascetics. The ambitious popes of the day would be replaced by an “angelic pope,” drawn from the common people. A literal understanding of the Bible would no longer be necessary but would be replaced by the proclamation of the “Eternal Gospel.” Finally, there was to be a reconciliation between Catholics and Orthodox, and even the Jews would find a place in this reborn universal community. The spirit of freedom, love, and peace would defeat violence and would even make its existence impossible. The transformation of mankind was to take place still in this world. It was this point that made Joachim’s teaching a link between ancient chiliasm and the plebeian heresies of the late Middle Ages.

The destiny of Joachim’s legacy in the late 13th and early 14th centuries was closely related to the Franciscan movement, which similarly espoused “holy poverty.” At the same time, there arose a vast body of pseudo-Joachimite literature. Dolcino, for example, transformed these teachings into a program for rebellion. Joachimite ideas later influenced Cola di Rienzi and, through him, the whole spirit of modern European political messianism. During the Reformation these ideas influenced the thinking of T. Münzer. One can also find echoes of Joachim’s point of view in later efforts to construct philosophic interpretations of history in the writings of G. Hegel, F. von Schelling, and especially the Russian religious philosopher V.S. Solov’ev.


Liber figurarum, 2nd ed., vols. 1–2. Turin, 1953.


Stam, S.M. “Uchenie Ioakhima Kalabriiskogo”. In Voprosy religii i ateizma, vol. 7. Moscow, 1959.
Grundmann, H. Studien über Joachim von Floris. Leipzig, 1927.
Grundmann, H. Neue Forschungen über Joachim von Fiore. Marburg, 1950.
Huck, J.C. Joachim von Floris und die Joachimitische Literatur. Freiburg, 1938.
Russo, F. Bibliografia gioachimita. Florence, 1954.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.