Observantists (or OBSERVANT FRANCISCANS) are a class of monastics much noted for the extreme conservatism which marks their adherence to Franciscan rule as established by the founder of that order. In the article on FRANCISCANS has been detailed the earlier history of the controversy in that order as to the interpretation of the original rule and practice established by St. Francis for the brethren, and the separate organization of thle'two: parties at the- time of Leo X. The advocates of the primitive rigor were called Observantes, or Strictioris Observantice; but both bodies, although each free to practice its own rule in its own separate houses, were still reputed subject to the general administrator of the order, who, as the rigorists were by far the more numerous, was a member of that school. By degrees a second reform arose among a party in the order, whose zeal the rigor of the Observantists was insufficient to satisfy, and Clement VII permitted two Spanish friars, Stephen Molena and Martin Guzman, to carry out in Spain these views in a distinct branch of the order, who take the name of Reformati, or Reformed. This body has in later times been incorporated with the Observantists under one head. Before the French Revolution they are said to have numbered above 70,000, distributed over more than 3000 convents. Since that time their. number has, of course, been much diminished; but they are still a very powerful and widespread body, as well. in Europe as in the New World, and in the missionary districts of the East. In Ireland and England, and for a considerable time in Scot-land, they maintained themselves throughout all the rigor of the penal times. Several communities. are still found in the first-named kingdom. See Chambers's Cyclopaedia, s.v., and the references to literature in art. FRANCISCANS; also Mrs. Jameson, Monast. Leg. (see Index); Burnet, Hist. of the Reformation (see Index).

Definition of observant

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