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Joachim of Fiore

Joachim of Fiore

The Italian mystic Joachim of Fiore (ca. 1132-1202) developed a philosophy of history based on his interpretation of the Trinity.

Joachim was born at Celico near Cosenza in Calabria. While on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he decided to enter the monastic life. Returning to Sicily, he entered the Cistercian abbey of Sambucina. At the Cistercian monastery of Corazzo Joachim was ordained a priest in 1168 and elected abbot in 1177.

Preferring a solitary life of meditation and writing, about 1185 Joachim retired to the Benedictine monastery of Casamari, where he began to write his commentary on the Book of Revelation. In 1191 he left the Cistercian order and moved to Fiore (Flora), in Calabria, where he founded a hermitage and later, as disciples were attracted, a monastery. This group, eventually organized into the order of San Giovanni in Fiore, was a strict, reformed branch of the Cistercians; it was approved in 1196, and its members came to be known as the Florensians.

In his later years Joachim came increasingly to feel that he possessed special insights into Christian Scriptures and doctrine and was perhaps subject to a special revelation. Through the encouragement of Pope Innocent III, Joachim wrote down his interpretations and visions and submitted them to the papacy for consideration and approval shortly before his death in 1202. Although Joachim had no intention of disseminating heretical doctrines, ideas drawn from his writings influenced heterodox thinkers and caused problems for the Church and society for the next 200 years.

Joachim's thought centers on his concept of the Trinity and its implications for the understanding of human history. In his Liber figurarum and in several other works, Joachim divided history into two dispensations, or eras: the dispensation of the Old Testament, or former covenant, which culminated in the first coming of Christ, and the second dispensation, or new covenant, of the Christian Church, which would culminate in the second coming of Christ. Joachim believed that he was living near the end of his second age and that only two generations remained before the second advent of Christ.

A slightly different view of history was extracted from Joachim's writings after his death. According to the view with which his name increasingly became associated, history is divided into three periods, the ages of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each of the first two being composed of 42 generations. The third age, which was supposed to dawn about 1260, was to be the age of the Spirit, an age of love, liberty, and freedom in which the principal institution in the world would be monasticism and in which the visible, hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church would be superseded by the Spiritual Church.

One such eschatological movement that founded its doctrine in the writings of Joachim was led by the Franciscan Gerardo of Borgo San Donnino, who was condemned along with the teaching of Joachim in 1256 by Pope Alexander IV. However, the ideas of Joachim, especially the concept of a golden age of the Spirit and the threefold division of history, remained influential in Western thought from the 13th century on.

Further Reading

Major works on Joachim are in German. In English, a popular treatment of medieval heterodox movements that includes Joachim is Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium (1957).

Additional Sources

Bett, Henry, Joachim of Flora, Merrick, N.Y.: Richwood Pub. Co., 1976. □

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Joachim of Fiore

Joachim of Fiore (c.1132–1202). Christian mystic and prophetic visionary. As a young man he became a Cistercian, but later left and eventually founded his own monastery at Fiore in Calabria. He saw history divided into three ages: the age of the Father, in the Old Testament; the age of the Son, the period of the Church; and the shortly-to-be-inaugurated age of the Spirit, in which new religious orders would convert the world and usher in the ‘Spiritual Church’. His views were influential among the new orders of the 13th cent., especially the Spiritual Franciscans. He wrote a harmony of the Old and New Testaments, a commentary on the Apocalypse, and The Psalter with Ten Strings.

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"Joachim of Fiore." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Joachim of Fiore." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/joachim-fiore

"Joachim of Fiore." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved April 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/joachim-fiore

Joachim of Fiore

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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"Joachim of Fiore." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Joachim of Fiore." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved April 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/joachim-fiore