Dulcinists followers of Dolcino, or Dulcinus, a priest and native of Novara, Italy, who followed Segarelli (q.v.) as leader of the Apostolici (q.v.), about AD 1300. He and his followers, being put under the ban, fortified a mountain in Novara, where they were taken prisoners. "He was charged with contempt of the Catholic hierarchy; also with asserting a succession of three theocracies — that those under the Father and the Son were already passed; that the third, under the Holy Spirit, was then in operation. His followers called themselves 'The Spiritual Congregation and the Order of the Apostles.' 'We alone (they said) are in the perfection in which the apostles were, and in the liberty which proceeds immediately from Jesus Christ. Wherefore we acknowledge obedience neither to the pope nor to any other human being; nor has he any power to excommunicate us . . . The pope can give no absolution from sins unless he be as holy as St. Peter, living in entire poverty and humility . . . so that all the popes and prelates since St. Sylvester, having deviated from that original holiness, are prevaricators and seducers, with the single exception of pope Celestine, Pietro di Morone, etc.' (See Fleury, 54:91, sec. 23) Lastly, to consummate his odium, his followers, who were not very numerous, were assailed with the primitive and accustomed calumny of promiscuous prostitution" (Waddington, Church History, chapter 22). Extracts from two of the writings of Dolcino are given in the Historia Dulcini, and in the Additamentum ad Historiam Dulcini in Muratori, Script. Rer. Ital. 9:425 sq., cited in Herzog, Real-Ecyklop. 3:468 sq., from which we condense the following statements.
After strongly asserting his orthodoxy, Dolcino predicted that in the year 1303 his opponents should be destroyed; that he and his followers should then, without molestation, preach publicly, and in these last days all Christians should embrace his doctrines. As this prophecy was not fulfilled in 1303, he postponed its fulfillment to 1304, under the pretense that God had especially called him, and made known to him the import of the Bible prophecies. He distinguished four epochs in the history of the divine life, each of which was good in the first instance, but had been superseded as it became degenerate. The patriarchs of the old covenant belonged to the first epoch. In the second, Christ appeared with his apostles, to supersede the degenerated Judaism by new virtues, especially celibacy, poverty, and the giving up of earthly goods. The third epoch began with pope Sylvester and the emperor Constantine, when the Christians, in order to educate the newly-converted masses of heathen in Christian life and duty, were obliged to accept riches, and show the heathen how to apply the goods of this world to the honor of God. But zeal waxed cold, and the love of the world increased, until a reaction appeared in the Order of St Benedict. As this effort to induce self-denial in the clergy and the monks failed, the more stringent rules of the Dominicans and Franciscans followed. But these also were of no effect. The fourth epoch, according to Dolcino, was the renewal of apostolic life by Segarelli and himself, to continue to the end of the world. This apostolical life demands self-denial and renunciation of earthly possessions, and consists in the unity of the brethren in the love of the Holy Ghost, without external forms, usages, or regulations. From these doctrines it would appear that the teachings of the abbot Joachim (q.v.) had had a certain effect upon Dolcino, and that the views which Joachim cherished in ie rard to the era of the Holy Ghost were embraced by Dolcino, although this is generally denied. Aside from the apocalyptical prophecies, the doctrines of Dolcino seem to be penetrated by a mysticism which repudiated external things, considering them as the cause of evil. Love, in its perfection, was to be realized as the inner bond of souls, supreme over all law. All human relations, especially that of man and wife, were to be founded upon a merely spiritual union; all law, as well as all right of property, were to be removed, so that nothing should prevent man from enjoying the highest state of perfection. Dolcino lived himself with a former nun, Margaretha, whom he called his diletissima soror, in voluntary poverty. The dangerous tendency of such doctrines is obvious. That Dolcino perceived the true nature and causes of certain abuses in the Church, and that he honestly desired to correct them can hardly be questioned. His memory was long cherished by the common people; to them he seemed a hero and martyr, while to the armies which persecuted him he seemed a false prophet, punished by the powerful arm of God. Dante compares Dolcino to Mohammed (Inferno, 28:55, etc.). Dolcino was tortured to death at Vercelli by order of Clement V. See Mosheim (Murdoch's ed.), Church History, book 3, c. 13, part 2, chapter 5, § 14; Krone, Fra Dolcino und d'e Patarener (Leips; l,844); Mariotti, Frad Doelcino and his Times (London. 1853); Gieseler, Church History, 2, § 87; and APOSTOLICI SEE APOSTOLICI ; SEGARELLI SEE SEGARELLI .