Franciscan Spirituals

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Strict observers of the rule and testament of St. francis of assisi. Their centers were hermitages in central Italy, where leo of assisi and many of the first companions of Francis survived, and in Provence. They accepted the doctrines of joachim of fiore on the approaching "age of the Holy Spirit," which was to be preceded by the coming of antichrist, and inaugurated by a barefooted order of contemplatives, which they identified with themselves. The breach between them and the Franciscan Conventuals was widened by the condemnation of Gerard of Borgo San Donnino's Introduction to the Eternal Gospel (1254), an edition of Joachim's works, which Gerard regarded as the Bible of the new age, and by the resignation of the Joachimite minister general, (Bl.) John of Parma (1257). It was completed by relaxations of the rule of poverty after St. bonaventure's death (1274).

The views on poverty and some of the theological and philosophical theories of the Provençal Spiritual peter john olivi were condemned in 1283, but his subsequent appointments as lector at Florence and Montpellier were vindications of his orthodoxy. Although a Joachimite, Olivi was a moderate, condemning the excesses of the Spirituals and accepting the legitimacy of the resignation of celestine v, whom many Spirituals identified with the "angel pope" of pseudo-Joachimite prophecy. The ardent Spiritual jacopone da todi witnessed the colonna manifesto against boniface viii. Olivi's disciples were persecuted before and after his death (1298). He was venerated as a saint, and his lay followers, the Provençal beguines, gave considerable trouble to the inquisition.

In the March of Ancona a number of Spirituals, among them angelus clarenus, author of the Historia septem tribulationum, an account of the Spirituals from the end of the life of St. Francis, were imprisoned in 1275 for 15 years. After a stay in Armenia, they returned to Italy and were formed by Celestine V into a hermit order called the celestines. They retired to Greece at the election of Boniface VIII but returned because of the persecutions of the Conventuals. During the pontificate of clement v, Angelus, now their general, was at the Curia seeking papal recognition for his order.

From 1309 to 1312 there was a papal inquiry into the state of the order and the doctrines of Olivi, representatives of both parties being summoned to the Curia. The case of the Spirituals and the defense of Olivi were undertaken by Olivi's disciple, ubertino of casale. Four of Olivi's doctrines were condemned, and Ubertino's plea for the separation of the Spirituals was rejected. After Clement's death the Tuscan Spirituals seized three hermitages; those of Provence took the convents of Narbonne and Beziers, electing their own superiors and adopting a special short and skimpy habit. Upon the election of john xxii (1316), a delegation sent by them to Avignon was refused a hearing and its members imprisoned. Three bulls were issued against the Tuscan Spirituals, who had taken refuge in Sicily, and against those of Provence, four of whom were burned at Marseilles (1318) for refusing to abandon their peculiar habits. Olivi's Lectura super Apocalipsim was condemned in 1320.

The ideals of the Spirituals were revived by the Observants, whose founder, John de Valle, was almost certainly a disciple of Angelus Clarenus. Their aspirations are reflected in such works as the Speculum perfectionis and the fioretti (see fraticelli).

Bibliography: e. gleason, "Sixteenth Century Italian Spirituali and the Papacy," in Anticlericalism in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Leiden 1993) 299307. s. brufani, "Angela da Foligno e gli Spirituali," in Angela da Foligno, Terziaria Francescana (Spoleto, Italy 1992) 83104. t. macvicar, The Franciscan Spirituals and the Capuchin Reform (St. Bonaventure, N.Y. 1986). r. manselli, Spirituels et Beguins du Midi, trans. j. duvernoy (Toulouse 1989). b. mcginn, trans., Apocalyptic Spirituality: Treatises and Letters of Lactanius, Adso of Montier-en-Der, Joachim of Fiore, the Franciscan Spirituals, and Savonarola (New York 1976), bibliography. j. paul, "Les Spirituels, l'Eglise et la Papaute," in Chi erano gli Spirituali (Assisi 1976) 221262. r. g. musto, "Queen Sancia of Naples and the Spiritual Franciscans," in Women of the Medieval World (Oxford 1985). r. lerner, Heresy and Literacy, 10001530 (Cambridge 1994) 186204.

[d. l. douie]

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Franciscan Spirituals

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Franciscan Spirituals