Mendicant Orders

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Mendicant Orders

 

Catholic monastic orders whose members had to take a vow of poverty and renounce all worldly goods.

Most of the mendicant orders were formed in the 13th century, at a time when anticlerical heretical teachings were fairly widespread. The first of the mendicant orders was the Franciscan Order, founded by Francis of Assisi. Noting the popularity of the ideals of “evangelical poverty,” the papacy sought to use mendicant orders as a means of discouraging the masses of believers from participation in heretical movements and as a means of consolidating its influence and political stature. In 1210, Pope Innocent III approved the founding of the Franciscan Order. In 1216 the mendicant order of the Dominicans was approved; in 1245 (or 1247) the Carmelites, who had been active since the second half of the 12th century, were reorganized into a mendicant order. In 1256 small monastic congregations were united into the mendicant order of the Augustinians. Other mendicant orders, including the Brothers of Charity and the Servants of St. Mary, were formed later. In the 13th century the Dominicans and, to a certain extent, the Franciscans were placed in charge of the Inquisition. In the late 13th century members of mendicant orders undertook missionary work.

By placing the process of establishing mendicant orders under its control, the papacy, as it were, sanctioned certain ideas advanced by popular heresies. The charters of the mendicant orders provided for the renunciation of any personal property or permanent residence; members of the orders were obliged to live solely on alms. However, the principle of mendicancy was systematically violated from the earliest days of the mendicant orders. By the 13th century the mendicant orders were hardly distinguishable from other monastic orders.