Apostolici is a term applied at various times, generally in a pejorative sense, to reformers wishing to return to the primitive Church, poor, humble, simple, and penitential, through close imitation of the Apostles. Some Gnostic communities (see gnosticism) in Asia Minor from the 2nd to the 4th centuries were called "apostolici" by epiphanius (Panarion 2.1,61; Patrologia Graeca ed. j. p. migne, 161 v. (Paris 1857–66) 41: 1040–52). Extremely austere, they renounced property, marriage, and religious practices, which they considered mere outward forms. In the 12th century, alongside such Wander-prediger as Robert of Arbrissel and norbert of xanten, whose orthodoxy was never impugned, were other itinerant barefoot preachers, near Cologne, in Périgueux, and in Brittany, who were infected with the spreading Manichaeism. Their presence in the Rhineland about 1143 induced Everwin, prior of Steinfeld (Patrologia Latina 182:676–680), to enlist the services of bernard of clairvaux in combatting them. In refutation Bernard wrote his Sermones in Canticum Canticorum 65–66 (Patrologia Latina 183:1088–110). Sharper identification may be found in the sect begun at Parma in 1260 by Gerard Segarelli, who emphasized penance and apostolic poverty (see poverty movement), and was indebted to Joachimite ideas (see joachim of fiore) and Franciscan example. These apostolici (ordo apostolorum ), described by contemporaries as pseudo-apostles or hypocrites, were condemned by Pope Honorius IV in 1286 (a. potthast, Regesta pontinficum romanorum inde ab a. 1198 ad a 1304 22391) and by Nicholas IV in 1291 for violating the decree of the Second Council of lyons (1274) regulating the mendicant orders. In 1287 the council of Würzburg proscribed them as vagabonds (c.34; j. d. mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio 24:863). But shortly after Segarelli was sent to the stake in 1300, the movement was revived by Fra dolcino, who elaborated apocalyptic doctrines (see apocalyptic movements) and a theology of history derived from Joachimism. Imitation of apostolic life and absolute poverty, mitigated only by alms, constituted the basis of the new order. In the early modern period the term was assigned to branches of anabaptists who observed poverty and interpreted Scripture literally.
Bibliography: salimbene, Cronica fratris Salimbene de Adam, ed. o. holder-egger in Monumenta Germaniae Historica Scriptores 32 (Berlin 1905–13) 255–293, 389, 563, 619. Historia fratris Dulcini haeresiarchae, in l. a. muratori, Rerum italicarum scriptores, 500–1500, 25 v. in 28, ed. g. garducci and v. fiorini (2d, new ed. Città di Castello 1900–) 9:427–460. b. gui, Manuel de l'inquisiteur, ed. and tr. g. mollat, 2 v. (Paris 1926–27). e. vacandard, Vie de saint Bernard (4th ed. Paris 1910). m. bodet and j. m. vidal, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912–) 3:1037–48. a. mens, Oorsprong en betekenis van de Nederlandse Begijnen en Begardenbeweging (Louvain 1947) 23–36. l. spÄtling, De apostolicis, pseudoapostolicis, apostolinis (Munich 1947). e. anagnine, Dolcino e il movimento ereticale all'inizio del trecento (Florence 1964).
[e. w. mcdonnell]