Heretical leader of the Apostolici; b. Diocese of Novara, Italy; d. Vercelli, June 1, 1307. The son of a priest or hermit, he was raised by a priest from Vercelli who obtained a good education for him. Dolcino ran away in 1291 and joined the sect of the apostolici or Pseudo-Apostles founded by Segalelli. Upon the latter's execution (July 18, 1300), Dolcino succeeded as leader. His eloquence, agreeable manners, and skillful interpretation of Scripture won him nearly 4,000 disciples. Assuring provisions for his followers, who practiced strict poverty, became a great problem. He was forced to seek refuge in the mountains to escape the pursuers organized by the bishop of Vercelli. The sect's plundering led Pope clem ent v to assist the people of Novara to organize a crusade, and on March 23, 1307, Dolcino was captured by the crusaders. He was executed by the civil authority, and his body was cut into pieces and burned. The Pseudo-Apostles practiced absolute poverty and obeyed God alone, allowing the Roman Church no authority because of the wickedness of its prelates. Two of Dolcino's letters (August 1300 and December 1303) outlined his doctrines. He awaited the return of the Church to evangelical poverty and to virtue under the leadership of his disciples. He predicted that after the inevitable extermination of contemporary popes and cardinals, God would then choose the sovereign pontiff.
Bibliography: bernard gui, Manuel de l'inquisiteur, ed. and tr. g. mollat (Paris 1926–27) 1:84–107; 2:75–103, for letters. s.d. skazkin, Le condizioni storiche della rivolta di Dolcino (Moscow 1955), a biased account. Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912–) 14:574.