John Capistran, St.

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Franciscan theologian, preacher, and papal diplomat;b. Capestrano, Abruzzi Province, Italy, June 24, 1386; d. Ilok, Yugoslavia, Oct. 23, 1456. He was the son of a baron named Anthony, who came across the Alps in 1382 with the army of Louis I of Anjou; his mother was of the Amici family in Abruzzi. He was assigned a tutor at the age of six. His father and his brothers were killed during the struggle between the partisans of Louis II of Anjou (d. 1399) and of Ladislas of Naples (d. 1414). In 1401 he went to perugia, where he studied civil and canon law from c. 1406, becoming in 1411 the adviser to the rector of the Sapienza, and in 1413, judge for the quarter of Santa Susanna (Archivum Franciscanum historicum 55:3977), in which position he dealt severely with the fraticelli. When he sided with the populace, he was imprisoned by Braccio of Montone (d. 1424) after the battle of San Egidio. As a result of this event a religious crisis arose in this worldly man, who was already married to the daughter of the Count of San Valentino, although the marriage had not yet been consummated.

Religious Vocation. Once out of the Brufa prison, he joined the Observant franciscans at Perugia on Oct. 4, 1415, and became a humble and unpretentious novice under the direction of his master, the lay brother Onuphrius of Seggiano. Professed on Oct. 5, 1416, he studied theology and was admitted to Holy Orders c. Nov. 14, 1418 (Archivum Franciscanum historicum 49:7782), after which he preached against the Fraticelli. In 1422 he was in Rome for the jubilee, and martin v authorized him on November 11 to establish five residences. He preached during Lent of 1423 at siena, and he spent 1425 working with bernardine of siena, hearing confessions while Bernardine preached. In 1426 Bernardine was accused of heresy for his devotion to the name of Jesus, and Capistran came from Aquila and successfully defended him before Martin V. He continued to preach against the Fraticelli and returned to Rome in 1429 to represent the Franciscan Observants, who looked to him for leadership when the papacy called a general chapter to resolve the split in the order. After being appointed assistant (1430) to the new minister general William of Casale (d. 1442), Capistran saw his Constitutiones Martinianae approved by the chapter of Assisi in June 1430; but when the Conventual franciscans obtained the bull Ad statum in August, the attempted reform and unification failed. By 1431 the Observants were granted their own provincial vicars, and in 1433 the care of the holy places in Palestine was entrusted to them. Capistran opposed events in Ferrara in 1434, defended in vain the Angevin cause in Naples as papal legate from 1435 to 1436, and in December of 1436 obtained for the members of the Third Order the right to live in common. In 1437 he assisted with the Colettine reform of the poor clares at Ferrara, defended the Venetian jesuati, and preached during Advent and the following Lent at Verona, as well as completing three valuable treatises. He visited the Holy Land at the end of 1439, and the years from 1440 to 1442 were spent in Milan preaching and writing. In late 1442 and early 1443 he was Franciscan visitor in Burgundy and in Flanders, where he worked to prevent Philip the Good from joining the antipope Felix V (Amadeus VIII of Savoy) ; he also tried in vain to attract St. colette and her followers to the Observants and deposed two unworthy provincial ministers (Archivum Franciscanum historicum 35:113132, 254295).

Franciscan Administrator. The Padua chapter of 1443 saw the final failure of the attempted unification of the Order, and Capistran became, for the first time, vicar general of the Cismontane family of the Observants, promulgating on Sept. 23, 1443, his Ordinationes montis Alverniae. He reconciled Aquila with Alphonse V of Aragon, drew up a course of studies dated Feb. 6, 1444, preached the crusade in Sicily, and after Easter 1445 obtained the Ara Coeli as the main house for the Observants. The bull Ut sacra (Jan. 11, 1446) sanctioned the independence, which was already an accomplished fact, of the two Observant groups within the order.

Appointed to the Ara Coeli community by the next vicar-general, James Primadicci (d. 1460), Capistran became vicar provincial of Abruzzi and worked for the canonization of Bernardine of Siena. In that same period he founded several convents and monasteries, reformed the Poor Clares of Perugia, wrote a Vita s. Bernardini, and received into the Third Order James Franchi, whose writings provide valuable insights into Capistran's career.

When once again elected vicar general at Bosco di Mugello, Florence, in 1449, he ousted the Fraticelli from Sinalunga and from Massa Fermana. In Rome on May 24, 1450, he saw the canonization of St. Bernardine, and late that same year he visited the Province of Liguria. He preached in Venetia during the early months of 1450 and at Venice during Lent.

Apostolate to Central Europe. In 1451 Pope nicho las v, at the request of Emperor Frederick III and the urging of Enea Silvo Piccolomini, the future pius ii, sent Capistran to Austria to preach against the hussites. He left on April 28 with 12 confreres, and on May 30 he received Wiener Neustadt as his mission. His efforts at conversion of the Jews, reform of the Franciscan Conventuals, and propagation of the Observants met with success, but although he spared no effort by word and pen to convert the Hussites, he could not enter Prague. On May 27, 1452, his commissioner general, Mark Fantuzzi of Bologna, succeeded him as vicar general, and he himself was promoted to commissioner general for Austria, Styria, Hungary, and Bohemia. He continued to correspond with Rome in order to prevent any attack on the bulls of eugene iv in favor of the Observants, especially after callistus iii succeeded Nicholas V in 1455.

On Crusade. The critical situation on the Turkish front led Piccolomini in July 1454 to urge that Capistran be given the additional mission of preaching the crusade, and at the end of May the following year Capistran proceeded to Hungary, where plans were prepared for battles at Györ and at Budapest. In January 1456 he undertook an energetic campaign to win back the schismatics, and during the following months he recruited crusaders whom he led to Belgrade at the beginning of July. If the naval attack on the 14th must be credited to John Hunyadi, Capistran alone was responsible for the victory of the 21st, thanks to his courage and his devotion to the name of Jesus. Hunyadi died of the plague at Zemun on Aug. 11, 1456, and Capistran was ill when he left for Slankemen (letters to the pope, dated July 23 and Aug. 27). He arrived at Ilok on Sept. 1, 1456; he remained there until his death. A last missive dated Oct. 21 prescribed that all his books and personal possessions be returned to Capestrano.

Cult. Popular veneration began soon after his death, as is evidenced by the paintings of Bartolomeo Vivarini in 1459 (Louvre and oratory of Gagliano-Aterno) and of Sebastian of Casentino (Museum of Aquila). The process of canonization began as early as 1457, but his cause, promoted by the zealous james of the marches and John of Tagliacozzo, was opposed by Cardinal John of carvajal (d. 1469). Biographies of Capistran were numerous from 1459 to 1463 (Studi francescani 53:299344). In 1514 his cultus was permitted in the Diocese of Sulmona, and in 1622 was extended to the Franciscan Order. The canonization proceedings begun in 1625 were resumed in 1649 and were continued until Capistran was finally canonized with paschal baylon and three others by alexander viii on Oct. 16, 1690. In 1880 his feast was extended to the universal Church. He is honored with the title "apostle of Europe" (Studi francescani 53:252274), and the West is his debtor for his efforts in delaying the Turkish advance in the mid15th century.

Feast: March 28; Oct. 23 in Abruzzi, Austria, and Hungary).

Bibliography: a. stanko, The Miracles of St. John Capistran (New York 2000) 429441, bib. f. banfi, "Le fonti per la storia di S. Giovanni da Capestrano" Studi francescani 53 (1956), 299344. s. damian and f. de marchis, "Giovanni da Capestrano, 13861456: Il mistero delle sue reliquie: Contributo per una ricerca di storia francescana con le ultime acquisizioni documentali, " Vita Minorum 64 (1993) 22641, 33149. p. petrecca, San Giovanni da Capestrano (Florence 1992).

[j. cambell]

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John Capistran, St.

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