Franciscans

Franciscans

the name of several monastic orders which follow the rule of Francis ofAssisi (q.v.). Francis himself founded three orders: an order of friars, called Minorites (Fratres Miinores), an order of nuns, SEE CLARISSES, and an order of Tertiaries (q.v.). These orders split into a large number of divisions, some of which even assumed other names, and became entirely independent of the original Franciscans. SEE MINIMS; SEE CAPUCHINS.

1. Franciscan Friars. — This order was founded in 1210; in that year, at least, Francis gave the rule which united his followers into a monastic community. As, however, their life in common commenced before that period, some historians assume the year 1208 or 1206 as the year of foundation. The origin of the Franciscans marks a turningpoint in the history of monasticism, for they were the first andfmost prominent representatives, of the mendicant (q.v.) orders. Francis with some difficulty obtained the papal approbation of his order, SEE FRANCIS OF ASSISI, in 1210, and in 1215 he received also the sanction of the Council of Lateran. The growth of the order was astonishingly rapid. At the first General Chapter, held in 1219, more than 5000 friars assembled, and it weas resolved to send out preachers of repentance to Germsany, France, Spain, England, Hungary, and Greece. In 1223 the rules of the order was written down, and at the same time the order received extensive privileges from Honorus III. Francis resigned the burden of the generalship in 1220. His first successors, Peter of Carbons, and Elias, assumed, however, only the title of ministers general, regarding Francis, notwithstanding his resignation, as the chief superior. Elias introduced various changes; the monks assumed a less coarse garb, built beautiful churches and convents, and commenced to cultivate science. Francis had severely censured these mitigations, but after his resignation they soon began to prevail. The advocates of the primitive rigor, at their head Anthony (q.v.) of Padua, succeeded, however, in enlisting the sympathy of pope Gregory IX, by whom Elias was deposed. But a few years later (1236) Elias was re- elected general, and returned to his old principles of mitigation. The rigorous party, and especially their leader, Caesarius (q.v.) of Spires (hence their name, Caesarius), were subjected to a cruel persecution, by which Caesarius even lost his life (1239). This, however, caused the second deposition of Elias, and the first two of his saecessors favored the strict party. But Crescentius of Jesi, elected in 1244, followed the footsteps of Elias, and the Caesarines were again persecuted until Bonaventura (q.v.) ewas elected general in 1256. He gradually restored the strict discipline, and raised the order to a degree of prosperity which it had never enjoyed before. The ascendency of the strict party lasted until the generalship of Matheo di Aquas Spartas, who again sided with the other party, which henceforth remained predominant until the whole order permanently split into, two parties. The advocates of the primitive rigor sought to form themselves into independent congregations, such as the Celastines, the Minorites of Narbonne, and the Spirituals [SEE DISCALCEATI, 13], but they suffered from their opponents an almost uninterrupted persecution. The Celestines (established in 1294) were condemned by the Inquisition as heretics in 1307, the Miinorites of Narbonne and the Spirituals in 1318. The Minorite Clarenines, founded in 1302 by the ex-Celestine Angelo di Cordona, obtained toleration as an independent congregation, and existed as such until 1517, when they united with the Observants. Two other congregations, the Minorites of the Congregation of Philip of Majorca, and the Minorites of John of Valees and Gentile of Spoleto, were of very short duration. In 1368 Paoletto di Foligno founded a new congregation, which followed the unaltered rule of Francis, spread rapidly, was approved by the popes, and thus caused the order of Franciscan friars to split into two main branches, the Conventuals, who followed the mitigated rule, and the Observants who adhered to the primitive strict rules. The efforts of the Conventuals to suppress their opponents failed, for the latter were confirmed by the Council of Constance in 1415, received the permission to hold General Chapters, and obtained possession of the church of Portiuncula, the celebrated birthplace of the order. From both the Observants and Conventuals other congregations branched off. The consequent confusions in the order induced pope Julius II to command by a bull all congregations to unite either with the Observants or Conventuals. The former received also, in 1517, from Leo X, the right to elect the general of the whole order, while the Conventuals could only elect a minister general, whose election had to be ratified by the general. Thee following independent congregations joined the Observants in consequence of the measures of Julius II and Leo X: the Minorites of Peter of Villacrezes, founded in 1390 upon Mount Celia; the Minorite Colettans, founded by the Clarisse Colette of Corbie, in Savoy; the Minorite Amadeists, founded by the Spaniard Amadeo in 1457. Some congregations became extinct before the sixteenth century; thus the Minorites of Philip of Berbegal (Minorites of the Little Cowl, della Capucciola) existed only from 1426-1434, the Minorites Caperolans from 1475 to 1481, the Minorites of Anthony of Castel St. Jean, who were suppressed soon after their foundation in 1475. The Minorites of Mathias of Timol, founded in 1495, were united with the Conventuals. The Minorites of Juan de la Puebla, founded in Spain in 1489, joined in 1566, when they counted fourteen convents, the Observants, but continued to remain a separate province with a number of peculiarities. The Minorites of John of Guadeloupe (a disciple of Juan de la Puebla), also called Discalceate Minorites of the Cowl, or Minorites of the Holy Gospel, were founded in Spain in 1494, and united with the Observants in 1517; but they assumed the name. Reformed Observants, and formed two separate provisces, which gradually increased to twelve (is Spain, Portugal, Italy, and America). They still have a procurator general at Rome. An Italians Congregation of the Strict Observance (Riformati) was founded in 1525, and still exists; a French Congregation, called Recollets, by the Duke of Nevers in 1592. The most rigorous among the congregations of Reformed Observants was that founded by Peter of Alcantara in 1540. It spread especially in Italy and Spain, was joined by the Paschasites, or Reformed Minorites of St. Paschasius, and then formed into a province, which was afterwards divided into several. This branch of the Reformed Observants had also in Rome a procurator general. At present it has only a small number of convents. In 1852 some Observants of Westphalia received papal permission to erect convents of this congregation in Germany, but they soon fell out with the bishops, and, then also with the pope and at the request of the bishops the incipient organization was suppressed by the Prussian government. The Franciscan friars have always been, and still are, very numerous. In the eighteenth century they counted more than 180,000 members, in 9000 convents.'' The Conventuals, by far the less numerous, bad in 1789 about 30 provinces, with about 15,000 monks.

"As a literary order, the Franciscans have chiefly been eminent in the theological sciences. The great school of the Scotists takes its name from John Duns Scotus SEE SCOTUS, a Franciscan. friar, and it has been the pride of this order to maintain his distinctive doctrines both is philosophy and in theology against the rival school of the Thomists, to which the Dominican order gave its allegiance. SEE THOMISTS. In the Nominalistic controversy the Thomists were for the most part Conceptualists; the Franciscans adhered to the rigid Realism. SEE NOMINALISM. In the Freewill question the Franciscans strenuously resisted the Thomist doctrine of 'predetermining decrees.' Indeed, all the greatest names of the early Scotist school are the Franciscans, St. Bonaventure, Alexander de Hales, and Ockham. The single name of Roger Bacon, the marvel of mediaeval letters, the divine, the philosopher, the linguist, the experimentalist, the practical mechanician, would in itself have sufficed to make the reputation of his order, had his contemporaries not failed to appreciate his merit. Two centuries later the great cardinal Ximenes was a member of this order. The popes Nicholas IV, Alexander V, Sixtus IV, the still more celebrated Sixtus V, and the well-known Ganganelli, Clement XIV, also belonged to the institute of St. Francis. In history this order is less distinguished; but its own annalist, Luke Wadding, an Irish Franciscan, bears a deservedly high reputation as a historian. In lighter literature, and particularly poetry, we have already named the founder himself as a sacred poet. Jacopone da'Todi, a Franciscan, is one of the most characteristic of the mediaeval hymn-writers; and in later times the celebrated Lope de Vega closed his eventful career as a member of the third order of St. Francis. We may add that in the revival of art the Franciscan order bore an active, and, it must be confessed, a liberal and enlightened part." No order of monks, save the Benedictines, has had so many members as that of the Franciscans. About fifty years after its foundation it reckoned no fewer than 33 "provinces," the aggregate number of convents in which exceeded 8000, while the members fell little, if at all, short of 200,000. Some idea, indeed, of the extraordinary extension of this remarkable institute may be formed from the startling fact that, in the dreadful plague of the Black Death in the following century, no fewer than 124,000 Franciscans are said to have fallen victims to their zeal for the care of the sick, and for the spiritual ministration to the dying! The Reformation destroyed a large number of its convents; but, on the other hand, it spread so rapidly that at the beginning of the 18th century it still numbered 115,000 monks in 7000 monasteries, and 28,000 nuns in 1000 convents.

"The supreme government of the Franciscan order, which is commonly said to be the especial embodiment of the democratic element in the Roman Catholic Church, is vested in an elective general, who resides at Rome. The subordinate superiors are, first, the 'provincial,' who presides over all the brethren in a province; and, secondly, the 'guardian,' who is the head of a single convent or community. These officers are elected only for two years. The provincial alone has power to admit candidates, who are subjected to a probation of two years, SEE NOVITIATE, after which they are, if approved, permitted to take the vows of the order. Those of the members who are advanced to holy orders undergo a preparatory course of study, during which they are called 'scholars;' and if eventually promoted to the priesthood they are styled 'fathers' of the order, the title of the other members being 'brother' or 'lay brother."'

2. Statistics. — At present the number of Frarciscans is much smaller than it was in former times. It exists in Italy, France, Austria, Belgium, England, Ireland, Holland, Switzerland, Prussia, Bavaria, Poland (54 convents in 1843), Russia, Turkey, Ionian Isles, Greece, Mexico (60 convents in 1843), in most of the states of Central and South America, China, India, Egypt, Tripoli, Tunis, Morocco, in Australia, and Polynesia. In the United States of America there are Observants in the dioceses of New York, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Alton, Cincinnati, and Louisville. The principal convent of the Regular Observants is Ara Coeli; that of the Reformed, St. Francisco a Ripa — both at Rome. The Conventuals have convents in Italy, Austria (45 convents and 455 members in 1843), Bavaria, Switzerland, Poland, and the United States of America (in Philadelphia). Their principal convent is at Rome (the Twelve Apostles'). The superiors now residing in Rome are a general of the Observants, a minister general of the Conventuals, a procurator general of the Reformed Franciscans, a procurator general of the Alcantarines, a general of the Capuchins, and a general of the Tertiaries. Together, all these branches of Franciscans had in 1862 about 3600 houses and 50,000 members.

See Herzog, Real-Encyklopadie, 4:466; Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen- Lexikon, 4:126; Henrion-Fehr, Gesch der Monchsorden, volume 1; Helyot, Odres Religieux, s.v.; Wadding, Annales Minorum (Rome, 1731-41, volume 1-17, reaching to 1540; continued by De Luca to the year 1553); Dom. de Gubernatis, Orbis Seraphicus, s. historia de tribus ordin. a S. Francisco institutis (Romans 1682); Ozanam, Les Poetes Franciscains en Italic au 13e siecle (Paris, 1852); P. Karl vom heil. Aloys, Jahrbuck der Kirche (Ratisbon, 1862), gives an alphabetical list of all the convents. (A.J.S.)

 
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