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The “Four Orders’ were (1) the Dominicans or Friars Preachers, often called Black Friars in England and Jacobins in France; (2) the Franciscans or Friars Minor, called in England Grey Friars, in France Cordeliers, and in Germany Barefoot Friars; (3) the Carmelites or Order of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel, or White Friars; (4) the Austin Friars or Order of the Friars Hermits of St Augustine. Many smaller Mendicant Orders also sprang up in the thirteenth century, but were suppressed i.e. forbidden to receive any more novices, by the Second Council of Lyons in 1274.

Each of the four Orders had a separate origin and dis tinct characteristics. All were alike in rejecting more or less completely permanent endowments and living a life of voluntary poverty, in being world-wide and centralised bodies, independent of the local diocesan and parochial organisation, and in including the service of man in the service of God.

The reconciliation of the religious with the secular life, the possibility of which was revealed by the Crusades, found its first expressions in the institution of the Regular Canons and of the Military Orders and was later more fully realised by the Mendicant Friars, who served God in the world, devoting themselves to the saving of souls by their example and preaching.

Many independent movements at the end of the twelfth century show the same characteristics as the Franciscan Order—men and women band together to lead a life of poverty and self-sacrifice and active well-doing in conscious imitation of Christ. Examples will be found in the Beguines and Beghards of the Low Countries, the Humiliati of Italy, the Poor Men of Lyons. Between the latter and the followers of St Francis there is a close similarity; but the Poor Men of Lyons, repudiated by the official Church, were turned into heretics, while the Franciscans, authorised by the official Church, became a religious order.

St Francis was born at Assisi in 1181 or 1182. His name no doubt was suggested by the country with which his father, Pietro Bernardone, a rich cloth-merchant, traded—the country of the fairs of Champagne, of the langue d'oil and the “chansons de geste.” Francis, though associated in his father’s business, had no taste for a merchant’s career. Open-handed and open-hearted, with the gaiety and ambitions of a high- spirited youth and an attractive personality which was later to draw all men to him, he early became the leader of the young men of Assisi. His first idea was, of course, to be a soldier. In one of the little skirmishes between the rival towns of Assisi and Perugia he was taken captive; and an illness contracted in the prison at Perugia seems to have turned his mind in other directions. But his definite “conversion” may be dated from his meeting with the leper, as he was riding through the Umbrian plain. The young gallant, who had been in the habit of holding his nose if he saw the houses of lepers a mile away, dismounted and kissed him. From this day to the end of his life the care of the lepers became a sacred duty. Later, when praying before the crucifix in the ruined chapel of St Damian, he heard a voice saying, “Francis, go and repair my house, which you see is falling into ruins.” Interpreting the command literally, Francis took some goods from his father’s shop, rode to Foligno, sold horse and stuff, and offered the money to the priest of St Damian. This led to the final breach with his father and the renunciation of his home.

For some time he went on with the work of repairing with his own hands the deserted chapels round Assisi—St Damian’s, St Peter’s, St Mary of the Angels or the Portiuncula. He assumed the garb of a hermit and thought no doubt of leading the life of a solitary—a life which always had attractions for him. It was in the church of the Portiuncula —probably on 24 February 1208—that his true vocation was revealed to him in the words of the gospel for the day (Matt, X): “As ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.” “This is what I want,” cried Francis. He followed the gospel precept at once and literally, going barefoot, and preaching repentance in “words that were like fire, penetrating the heart.”

With the language and ideals of the gospel were interwoven in the mind and life of St Francis the language and ideals of chivalry. The Lady Poverty became the mistress of his heart. His friars were sometimes “his Knights of the Round Table,” sometimes “minstrels of the Lord, lifting up the hearts of men and moving them to spiritual gladness.” He himself would often break forth into a French song of joyous exulting. At times he would pick up a stick from the ground and setting it upon his left shoulder would draw another stick after the manner of a bow with his right hand athwart the same as athwart a viol, and making befitting gestures would sing in French of our Lord Jesus Christ. But all this show of joyance would be ended in tears and in pity of Christ’s passion.” “Let the friars,” he said in an Injunction incorporated in the early Rule, “take care not to appear gloomy and sad like hypocrites, but let them be jovial and merry, showing that they rejoice in the Lord, and becomingly courteous.” “Courtesy is one of the qualities of God Himself, who, of His courtesy, giveth His sun and His rain to the just and the unjust: and courtesy is the sister of charity, and quencheth hate and keepeth love alive,Francis himself was courteous to all alike, even to thieves and robbers. He never felt himself superior to others, was never condescending. “More than a saint among saints” says Thomas of Celano, “he was among sinners as one of themselves.

The same sympathy united him with all nature, animate and inanimate, and gave him power over beasts and birds. This sense of kinship with all created things received its highest expression in the Praises of the Creatures, or Song of the Sun, which he composed at the end of his life, with its final verse of praise for “our sister Death”. He loved especially “Brother Fire” for his beauty and strength; the worm because it typified the lowliness of Christ.

The people of Assisi had first hooted Francis as a madman; their scoffing soon turned to veneration, and others began to follow his example. The first to join him was the rich Bernard of Quintavalle, who forthwith gave all his goods to the poor. The second was Peter de Cataneo, canon of the cathedral. A few days later these were joined by Giles, who in his bold adventures in the service of Lady Poverty, as well as in his mystic devotion, remains the ideal of the Franciscan friar. With him Francis made his first missionary journey, tramping through the March of Ancona and preaching repentance. When the number of friars reached eleven, Francis drew up a simple rule of life, consisting apparently of a few passages from the gospels inculcating poverty, and “the penitents of Assisi” set out for Rome in the summer, probably of 1210, to ask for papal approbation. Innocent III raised difficulties: the life was too hard, it was impossible to live without possessions, they would do better to join some existing Order. But, argued the Cardinal John of St Paul, “if anyone says that to observe the gospel and to take a vow to do so is something new or irrational or impossible, he is convicted of blasphemy against Christ, the author of the gospel.” Innocent knew the danger of driving religious men into heresy. He gave a verbal sanction to the rule, and authorised Francis and his companions to preach repentance. He also ordered the Cardinal of St Paul to confer on them the ecclesiastical tonsure. Francis seems to have submitted to this with some misgivings. “Take care,” he used to say to the barber, “that you do not make me a large tonsure. For I want my simple brethren to have a share in my head.”

The friars—now called Friars Minor, either after the minores or lower classes, or in reference to the gospel (Matt. xxv. 40-45)—had as their principal rendezvous, first the old leper-house of Rivo Torto, and then the Portiuncula, where they built a few small huts of wattle, mud, and straw, surrounded by a hedge. Here they assembled every year at Whitsuntide for the general chapter, when new brethren were received into the fraternity by Francis. Here in the Lent of 1212 they were joined by Clara, a young heiress of Assisi, who, moved by the preaching of Francis and by his personal admonitions, left her father’s house in the dead of night and devoted herself to a life of poverty. Francis eventually established her and those who joined her at St Damian’s, giving the Poor Ladies a brief “formula vitae.” Clara (probably in 1916) obtained from Innocent III the “privilegium paupertatis” authorising her and her sisters, or the Poor Ladies of St Damian, to live without possessions; the privilege was without precedent in the Roman Chancery, and the Pope drew up the minute of the document with his own hand. The enforcement of the strict clausura imposed on the nuns of St Damian by the Rule of Ugolino (afterwards Gregory IX) in 1219 made the observance of absolute poverty increasingly difficult, and though St Clare in her own convent maintained her principles till her death in 1953, the Order generally had already by that time become an endowed Order

Jacques de Vitry, writing in October 1916 of what he had seen at the papal court at Perugia in July of that year, says: “One comfort, however, I found in those parts: many people of both sexes—rich people of the world—having left all for Christ, were fleeing from the world, who were called Friars Minor. They were held in great reverence by Pope and cardinals. These people give no heed to temporal things, but with fervent desire and impetuous energy labour every day to withdraw perishing souls from the vanities of the world and lead them with them. And already, by the Grace of God, they have borne much fruit and gained many... They live after the model of the primitive Church... By day they go into cities and villages that they may gain some, living the active life: at night they return to the desert or solitary places, devoting themselves to contemplation. The women live together in different hostels near the cities; they receive nothing, but live by the work of their hands. But they are much grieved and distressed because they are more honoured by clerks and laymen than they would wish. Once a year the men of this religion assemble...at a fixed place to rejoice in God and feast together, and by the advice of good men they make and promulgate their holy institutions, which are confirmed by the Pope. After this for the whole year they are dispersed through Lombardy and Tuscany and Apulia and Italy.”

The chapter of 1217 witnessed the first attempts to organise the great fraternity and to extend its activities beyond Italy. Provinces were instituted and provincial ministers elected, and missions were sent beyond the Alps and overseas to the Saracens, Giles going to Tunis and Elias and others to Syria. Francis himself, who had already made two attempts to reach Mohammedan lands, determined to go to France. Cardinal Ugolino of Ostia, who met him in Florence, forbade him to go and rebuked him for sending his brethren to die of hunger in distant lands. “Do you think, my lord,” replied Francis, “that the Lord has sent the brethren only for these provinces? I tell you in truth that God has chosen the brethren for the profit and salvation of the souls of all mankind, and not only in the lands of the faithful, but also in the lands of the infidel they shall be received and shall save many souls.” Francis, however, remained in Italy and sent to France Brother Pacifico, “the King of Verses”.

In 1219 missions to Christian countries beyond the Alps were organised on a large scale—to France, Germany, Hungary, Spain. The Albigensian crusade was still smouldering, and the friars in France and Germany, though furnished with papal letters of commendation, were taken for heretics, whom they resembled in their way of life; in Hungary they were ill-treated and robbed of their clothes, and thus in most countries the first missions failed and the friars returned to Italy.

Meanwhile, Francis fulfilled his desire of going to the Saracens. With Peter de Cataneo he joined the crusading army before Damietta (August 1219) and preached before the Sultan, who received him courteously and sent him back to the Christian camp under military escort. He afterwards crossed to Palestine, where he received news which called him home.

Daring his absence his vicars had called a chapter of seniores (probably 29 September 1219) and prescribed the observance of further fasts among the friars, while Brother Philip, Visitor of the Poor Ladies, procured a papal bull authorising him to excommunicate their enemies; both these movements were inconsistent with the ideals of Francis: the former tended to change the free wandering life of the friars as strangers and pilgrims, having no fixed abode, living on alms and the work of their hands, into a regular life resembling that of the monastic Orders; the latter was contrary to the Franciscan spirit, which was opposed to the use of force and the authority of the law.

On his arrival at Bologna, early in 1220, Francis found a further development, which contravened the ideal of poverty—a house of the brethren built for permanent occupation. Francis ordered the friars to leave the house. But feeling himself unable alone to cope with the new situation, he appealed to the Pope to appoint Ugolino, Cardinal-bishop of Ostia, as his adviser, “with whom I can discuss my affairs and those of my Order.” That Ugolino was a real admirer both of St Francis and of his ideals there can be no question; but he was above all things a prince of the Church: he would reform the Church by giving to Franciscan friars authority; Francis would reform the world by the power of love and humility.

Ugolino was present at the general chapter in May 1220 and acted as intermediary between Francis and the provincial ministers, The latter urged the cardinal to persuade Francis to let himself be guided by the advice of wise brethren, and instanced as models the rules of St Benedict, St Augustine, and St Bernard. In other words, they demanded a regular constitution and settled way of life. Francis refused in burning words to depart from “the way of humility and simplicity” which the Lord Himself had shown him. Yet some ordered constitution was necessary. United solely by the personality of the founder, the Order could hardly survive his death. Francis was “not minded to become an executioner” and to attempt to enforce his will by punishment; he resigned the government to Peter de Cataneo and the ministers, and henceforth devoted himself to showing by his example what the life of a Friar Minor should be, “and at the end his spirit did therein find rest and comfort.” In August 1224 he retired to La Verna to fast and meditate on the passion of Our Lord; during his sojourn here he beheld the vision of the Seraph, after which there appeared on his body the stigmata or five wounds of Christ “which he had long borne in his heart.”

A change was made in the character of the fraternity by a bull of Honorius III (22 September 1220), which imposed a year’s noviciate on the friars and forbade any to leave the Order after making profession. This decree was incorporated in the Rule at the chapter of 1221, together with other ordinances defining the constitution of the general chapter and the powers of ministers. In this chapter Brother Elias, who had been appointed acting head of the Order, probably by Ugolino, after the death of Peter de Cataneo, presided, and successful missions were sent out to Germany and other parts of Europe. Before the death of St Francis 13 provinces had been formed, the last being England, founded in 1224. These were subsequently increased to 32, and ultimately (before 1272) to 34 provinces, of which 17 were Cisalpine and 17 Transalpine. The chapter of 1221 was probably the last of the great popular chapters, which were attended by thousands of friars encamped in huts of wattle round the church of the Portiuncula. Henceforth the general chapter met every three years and contained normally (besides the minister-general) the provincial ministers, each with his socius, one custom elected by the heads of the custodies in each province, and one discretus elected by the provincial chapter.

It is impossible to determine the exact part which Francis took in drawing up the Rules—the earlier and the later—as we know them. It is clear that some things were omitted, some inserted, against his wish, and also that Ugolino was largely responsible for the final form which was confirmed by Honorius III on 29 November 1223. In substance, the two Rules do not differ in essentials. Both insist on the observance of absolute poverty and on begging. More stress is laid on the duty of labour in the early Rule than in the later; and the care of the lepers which is referred to in the early Rule receives no mention in the later. To both these points St Francis reverts in his Testament, written shortly before his death. The Testament cannot, however, be regarded as a “revocation of the Rule,” but as a protest against the tendencies in the Order to establish permanent houses and to seek or accept papal privileges; the friars “should not dare to ask any letter in the Roman Curia, neither for a church nor for any other place, nor under pretext of preaching nor on account of their bodily persecution, but wherever they are not received, let them flee to another land to do penance, with the blessing of God.” The policy of the Roman Curia in encouraging the Mendicants to have their own churches and in protecting them against local opposition led inevitably to the quarrel between them and the secular clergy; the friars became rivals instead of helpers of the parish priests.

St Francis died at the Portiuncula on 3 October 1226; he was canonised in 1228 by Gregory IX, who in 1230 expounded the Rule and declared the Testament to have no binding force. The Pope modified the Rule by allowing the friars to employ an agent to receive and expend money for their immediate necessities and by permitting them the use of furniture, books, and other movables (though it was not made clear to whom these goods strictly speaking belonged), and of houses and places, which remained the property of the donors. The declaration of Innocent IV in 1245 went further, permitting recourse to money through an agent, not only for necessities but also for the convenience of the brethren, and making the Holy See owner of the lands, houses, and goods used by the friars, where ownership was not expressly reserved for the donors. In England lands and houses were often given to the community of the town for the use of the friars.

The election of Elias as general minister in 1232 was a triumph of the supporters of the new movement, who did not regard poverty as an end in itself, but adhered to it only so far as it served the great practical object of the Order—the conversion of souls—and for this object learning seemed more valuable than simplicity, great houses in the towns more suitable than hermitages in the mountains. Those who upheld the primitive ideals (later known as “spiritual” friars) were forced to withdraw more and more from a life of fruitful activity and to seek refuge in ecstatic contemplation, and were driven to reply to persecution by bitter controversy. Elias, however, soon roused the opposition of others besides the extremists. He lived like a prince. He exercised despotic control over the whole Order; he called no general chapters; he sent visitors armed with absolute powers to the provinces and reduced the authority and prestige of the provincial ministers. While promoting learning, he favoured the lay element against the clerical in the government of the Order. A revolt, led by Haymo of Faversham, was organised in the University of Paris and the provinces of England and Germany. Gregory IX summoned a general chapter to Rome (1239), and, yielding to the universal demand, deposed Elias. The Franciscan Order now adopted with some modifications the form of government set forth in the Dominican constitutions. The general minister was now subordinated to the general chapter. Albert of Pisa, provincial of England, was elected successor to Elias; he was the first priest to hold this position; and under his successor, Haymo of Faversham, the clerical element was further strengthened by a decree excluding laymen from the holding of office in the Order. The declaration of the Rule by Innocent IV led to a division in the Order; the stricter party demanded and were for a time able to secure its rejection. The temporary triumph of this party is shown in the election to the office of general of John of Parma (1247-1257), who set free a number of “zealots” or “spiritual” friars, imprisoned by his predecessor in the March of Ancona. John of Parma, throughout his life a devoted upholder of poverty, did not belong to the extreme section of the spiritual friars; he had been lecturer at Paris and held that “knowledge and good morals were the two walls out of which the Order was built”; on the other hand, like the spirituals and indeed many of the finer minds in the Order, he was powerfully attracted by the mystical doctrines of Joachim of Flora.

Joachim had proclaimed the advent of the Kingdom of the Holy Ghost. “Spiritual men,” who have entered into direct communion with God through poverty, contemplation, and love, will preach to all the world the Gospel of the Spirit, or Eternal Gospel, as it is called, in contradistinction to the Gospel of Christ and the Apostles, which is “transitory and temporal in what touches the form of the sacraments, but eternal for the truths which they symbolise.” A spiritual Church will arise in which the Eastern and Western Churches will be merged, and the religion of Christ, purified by the Spirit and freed from the letter which killeth, be established for ever. The belief that St Francis was the angel of the new revelation was widespread in the Franciscan Order, especially among the spiritual friars. This was proclaimed by Friar Gerard of Borgo San Donnino in his “Introduction to the Eternal Gospel,” issued at Paris in 1254. But with an amazing misunderstanding of Joachim’s teaching, Gerard interpreted the phrase “Eternal Gospel” as meaning not the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but the works of Joachim himself. Whether this misconception was general or confined to a few is not clear. But it placed a powerful weapon in the hands of the University of Paris in their struggle against the Mendicant Orders. Gerard’s book was condemned by the Pope; and the community of the Order freed themselves from the suspicion of heresy by sending the offending brother to perpetual imprisonment and by deposing the general minister, John of Parma. Fra Salimbene, who had been a Joachite, “entirely abandoned that doctrine and resolved to believe only what he saw.”

Bonaventura was now elected general and held office for seventeen years. He made no attempt to return to the primitive conditions; in his Life of St Francis, and in the decree of the general chapter of 1266 that all previous lives of the Founder should be destroyed, an endeavour was made to obliterate the memory of the early traditions so far as these were in conflict with the present ideals of the Community of the Order. Bonaventura accepted and defended the privileges which the Popes had granted to the friars. “If we were never to abide in parishes but by the priest’s will, then we should scarce ever be able to stay long; since, whether of their own motion or at others' instigation, they would eject us from their parishes sooner than heretics or Jews”. He advocated large houses in the towns as better both for discipline and for work, though they were inconsistent with the observance of primitive poverty. And he gloried in the learning of the Order: “I confess before God that it is this which has made me most of all to love the life of St Francis, that it is like the beginning and the consummation of the Church, which first began from simple fishermen and then advanced to the most famous and most learned doctors: this same development you will see in the religion of St Francis”.

On the other hand, he endeavoured with little success to check the acknowledged abuses in the Order. Thus, the friars were in the habit of going about attended by a servant who carried the money-box and collected the coin which the friars might not touch. Begging had become so importunate that people feared to meet a friar as they feared to meet a robber. Magnificence in buildings, luxury in dress, greed for legacies, were among the evils denounced by the general. Some houses in Italy were beginning to acquire permanent revenues and endowments in land; and the observance of poverty was reduced to a legal technicality—the lax brethren enjoying the advantages without the responsibilities of wealth.

When the Council of Lyons, in 1274, was suppressing many of the lesser Mendicant Orders, a rumour spread that the Pope, Gregory X, had decided to compel the Orders that remained to accept property in common. The rumour was the signal for a renewed outbreak of hostilities between the spirituals and the community, which had smouldered during the generalship of Bonaventura. The spirituals in the March of Ancona repudiated the supposed papal decree. The provincial chapter sentenced the recalcitrants to imprisonment, and the following years witnessed a fierce persecution of the spirituals at the hands of their laxer brethren in the March, in Tuscany, and in Provence. In vain Nicholas III, for long Protector of the Order, attempted to restore peace by a stricter definition of poverty in the Decretal Exiit qui seminat (1279), the spirituals wanted the Rule and the Testament, not papal glosses. In vain Celestine V sought an escape from the difficulty by authorising the spirituals to form, a separate Order, in which they might observe to the letter the Rule and Testament of St Francis; Boniface VIII annulled all the acts of his predecessor. At the Council of Vienne a commission of theologians not connected with the Order examined the arguments of both sides (the spirituals being represented by the ex-general Raymund Gaufredi and by Ubertino da Casale); and in 1312 Clement V approved the constitution Exivi de Paradiso, forbidding the holding of lands or permanent endowments andjnsisting on the “usus pauper” in some cases, the “usus moderatus” in others. This neither satisfied the consciences of the spirituals nor stopped their persecution by the community. In Provence the spirituals resisted by force. John XXII, to whom they appealed, ordered them to return to their obedience and handed the recalcitrants over to the Inquisition; four were burnt at Marseilles in 1318 and many more in the next few years throughout southern France. Others in Italy formed a separate Order under Angelo da Clareno as general, and managed to survive in spite of Pope and community; and other groups known under the name of Fraticelli were a constant source of trouble to the ecclesiastical authorities well into the fifteenth century. The community had got rid of the irreconcilable spirituals in 1318, but a new crisis arose in 1322, when the community itself was ranged in battle against the Pope.

In 1322-23 John XXII issued two decretals. The first withdrew from the Franciscans the right of holding property in the name of the Holy See. The second declared the Franciscan doctrine of the poverty of Christ and His Apostles to be heretical. The first showed that the Franciscans were not true to their ideal in practice; the second asserted that the theoretical basis of their ideal was heresy. The revolt of the Order was led by the general minister, Michael of Cesena, who with his followers joined the Emperor Louis of Bavaria in his struggle with the Papacy, and perhaps the most permanent result was the political writings of William of Occam, which took their origin from this theoretical controversy. The majority soon accepted the situation, and many houses made no scruple about owning permanent endowments. The general decline in religious fervour and discipline was accelerated by the great pestilence and the papal schism. The deaths of friars reported in the general chapters of 1351 and 1354 reached the number of 13,883. The loss of so many old members, followed as it was by a rapid accession of new recruits, involved a breach with old traditions; but the old traditions were bad as well as good, and the breach with the past might lead to a spiritual growth, no less than to an increase of worldliness in the Order.

The beginnings of a new movement can be traced from 1334 when Friar Giovanni Valle received from the minister-general permission to found a hermitage near Foligno. The aim of the new reformers was to acquire small houses, generally at first hermitages, in which they could observe the Rule strictly without raising any doctrinal questions; hence their name of Friars of the Strict Observance, while the laxer portion of the community, who lived in larger convents, became known as Conventuals. The movement, originally lay and eremitical, received a great extension and new direction from St Bernardino of Siena (1380-1444), who made the Observant Friars the most influential religious force in Italy. The relations between Conventuals and Observants were a constant source of disputes, until in 1517 Leo X decreed their separation into two distinct Orders. It was natural that the Observant Friars should make most headway in countries where the Conventuals had departed most from the primitive traditions. In England, where few Franciscan houses held landed property, transferences of Conventual houses to the Observants were few, and the new Observant houses established were royal foundations.

The Dominican Order, both in its origin and internal development, offers a strong contrast to the Franciscan; and such conflicts as arose within it were neither so violent, persistent, nor so radical as those which divided the followers of St Francis.


Dominic was born at Caleruega in Old Castile in 1170. His parents were well off, but there is no conclusive evidence that either of them belonged to the noble family of Guzman. Educated first in the household of his maternal uncle, the archpriest of Gumiel de Izan, he was sent at the age of fourteen to the schools of Palencia, where he studied arts and then theology for ten years. In 1191 during a famine he is said to have sold all his goods, including his books, to feed the starving. After finishing his studies he was made Canon of Osma, where the Bishop Martin de Bazan was reforming his chapter according to the Augustinian Rule and with the help of Diego de Azevedo. Diogo, on his election as bishop in 1201, appointed Dominic as sub-prior. Being sent on a royal mission, he took the sub-prior with him, and at Toulouse Dominic had his first controversy with an Albigensian heretic, at whose house he lodged. At Montpellier Diego advised the papal legates and Cistercian abbots who had come to convert the heretics to give up their luxuries and imitate the simple and self-denying life of their opponents. Dominic adopted the life of voluntary poverty and went about on foot preaching and disputing. He found that the daughters of poor noble families were being entrusted by their parents to heretics, who maintained and educated them. He founded in 1206, with the help of Fulk, Bishop of Toulouse, a house at ProuillÉ where such girls could be sent. The institution by degrees changed its character and became the first monastery of Dominican nuns. Dominic remained in the country for ten years (1205-1216) till the death of Simon de Montfort, often in personal danger after the outbreak of the war in 1208. He had no fear: “I have not yet deserved a martyr’s death.” He received from the papal legate the power to reconcile to the Church converted heretics, and all the acts recorded of him at this period are acts of reconciliation. Whether this office also implied the power to hand over obstinate heretics to the secular arm is not clear. Dominic is only once mentioned expressly as present at a burning of heretics, and then according to Theodoric of Apoldia he saved one of the victims from the flames.

Dominic by degrees collected a small band of preachers round him, among the first being Peter Cellani, or Seila, a wealthy citizen of Toulouse, who in 1215 gave his house to Dominic. From Simon de Montfort he received the castle of Cassanel. Bishop Fulk in 1215 granted formal recognition to “Brother Dominic and his companions, as preachers, to extirpate Heresy,” and allotted for their maintenance one-sixth of the tithes of the diocese, together with several churches. In this year Dominic accompanied Fulk to the Lateran Council, and laid before Innocent III his plan for the establishment of an Order of Preachers who should not be confined to any diocese, but should take the whole world as their sphere of action and be subject immediately to the papal see. The Council passed a decree prohibiting the foundation of new Orders. The Pope approved Dominic’s plan, but recommended him to adopt one of the existing Rules. In consultation with his followers, now numbering sixteen, at Prouille, Dominic chose the Rule of St Augustine. It was the Rule under which he had lived as Canon of Osma; it was also so vague that those who adopted it were free to choose any organisation; and the Rule was immediately supplemented by a body of consuetudines, which were mostly borrowed from the constitutions of PremontrÉ and regulated the ascetic and canonical life of the friars. Innocent III and Dominic complied with the letter of the conciliar decree. The Dominicans were nominally Austin Canons; in reality they were a new Order of preachers, attached to no particular house, bound by no vow of stability, and owing obedience to the head of their Order and to the Pope. They were a powerful instrument in making the Pope the universal bishop.

Honorius III, on 22 December 1216, “expecting that the brethren will be champions of the faith and true lights of the world,” solemnly confirmed and took under his government and protection the Order of “Master Dominic and the Friars Preachers,” with all their lands and possessions. Hitherto, the friars had confined their activities to the Albigensian land and their only monastery was at Toulouse. Dominic now dispersed his small band, sending some to Paris, some to Spain, while he himself returned to Italy. The opposition of the bishops to the new preachers was met by a papal bull (11 February 1218), commanding all prelates to assist them. Seven friars reached Paris on 12 September 1217, under Matthew of France, and lived for some months in a house belonging to the hospital of Notre-Dame in great poverty. John de Barastre, dean of St Quentin (who had been appointed by the Pope theological lecturer to the friars), and the University of Paris granted them a house originally founded for poor strangers under the patronage of St James. Here they removed on 6 August 1218, and from this house they derived their popular name of Jacobins. In the same year the friars settled at Bologna, where their rapid success, especially among masters and students of the university, was due to the fiery eloquence of Reginald of Orleans, formerly dean of St Aignan. “All Bologna boiled over.” Proffered endowments, accepted by Reginald, were, however, rejected by Dominic (1219), who wished that his sons should have no property but should live by alms—a decision adopted with some hesitation by the first general chapter of the Order held at Bologna in May 1220. This chapter drew up the constitutions which regulated the organisation of the Order. Dominic had recently met Francis and was probably influenced by the example of the Franciscan Order in adopting the vow of absolute poverty. But while to Francis poverty was essential to personal holiness, Dominic adopted it as a means of increasing the influence of the preacher. Another proposal of Dominic, that the whole temporal administration of the convents should be entrusted to lay brethren, was rejected by the chapter. In the chapter of 1221 Dominic commissioned thirteen friars to establish the province of England.

Dominic died at Bologna on 6 August 1221, exhorting his sons “to have charity, guard humility, and possess voluntary poverty”. He was canonised in 1234. Of his courage, self-confidence, zeal for the salvation of souls, there is no question, nor of his capacity as a ruler. He was willing to learn from his enemies—both his institutions of poor preachers and of nuns being suggested by the example of the heretics. His brethren laid stress on his kindness and gentleness. He had great influence over women and understood their difficulties. He admitted to Jordan of Saxony that he liked talking to young women better than to old women—a passage that was deleted from Jordan’s Life of St Dominic by command of the general chapter in 1242. He made the Dominican nuns an integral part of the Order of Preachers, subject like the friars to the master and the decrees of the general chapters. In the Institutions which he drew up for them, generally called the Rule of St Sixtus, he provided that at least six friars should be attached to every nunnery, as spiritual directors and temporal administrators. The increase ot nunneries made the obligation very onerous. John the German, fourth master-general, secured a bull from Innocent IV in 1252 freeing the friars from the duty of governing the nuns, except those of St Sixtus and Prouille. The sisters, however, agitated against this decree with such success that it was finally abrogated by Clement IV in 1267, and henceforth the Dominican nuns remained incorporated in the Order of Preachers. In Germany, where most of the nunneries were situated, the learned friars who instructed the sisters—such as the famous Master Eckehart—developed strong mystical tendencies, and the Dominican nunneries became the homes of German mysticism.

The Dominicans excelled as organisers. The earliest extant Constitutions of the Order date from 1228 in the generalate of Jordan of Saxony. They are divided into two parts, the first containing the consuetudines of 1216, the second the constitutions of 1220. A re-arrangement on more logical lines was undertaken by the third master-general, Raymond of Penafort (1238-1240), the famous canonist, whose version formed the basis of all subsequent redactions.

The constitutions, though in the main based on the statutes of the Premonstratensian Canons, contain features new to medieval life. The first is the definite statement of the practical object for which the Order was founded: “Our Order was instituted principally for preaching and the salvation of souls.” The second is the importance attached to study. “All the hours in church shall be shortened, lest the friars lose devotion and their study be at all impeded.” The Friars Preachers were the first religious Order to give up manual labour as one of the essential duties of the religious life and to put intellectual work in the forefront. A third feature, closely connected with the first two, was the authority vested in the superior of every convent, “to grant dispensations whenever he may deem it expedient, especially in regard to what may hinder study or preaching or the profit of souls.” This gave a peculiar elasticity to the Order, but was liable to abuse and led to a more or less open division between the active and the ascetic elements in it. The fourth feature is the large share assigned to elected representatives in the government.

The “definitors,” or effective part of the general chapter (which met every year till 1370), consisted for two years out of three of elected representatives of the twelve provinces, with the master-general; in the third year, of the provincial priors. Any proposal, before it became law, had to be approved by the majority in three successive chapters. A “capitulum generalissimum” (a very rare assembly), and a general chapter called expressly for the election of a master-general, contained both the official and the elected elements. The business of the “definitors,” whether elected ad hoc or official, was “to decide all things.” They not only managed the legislative business of the chapter, but could call to account, punish, suspend, and even depose the officers.

In each province a yearly provincial chapter was held; this consisted of the provincial prior, the conventual priors, and one elected representative of each convent, and the general preachers; four definitors were elected by the assembled chapter and had within the province much the same powers which the “definitors” of the general chapter had within the Order. The provincial chapter elected the provincial prior and the visitors; the convent elected the conventual prior. In fact, all adminis­trative officers were elected by a simple majority of authorised electors.

No other Order entrusted to elected representatives so much power. Thus the general chapter of definitors without officers remained a peculiarity of the Dominicans. The Franciscans adopted the definitors, but the definitors of their general chapter were always the provincial ministers with one friar elected ad hoc in each provincial chapter. The general ministers and provincial ministers were elected by their respective chapters. But the custodians (i.e, heads of the groups of houses into which each Franciscan province was divided for administrative purposes) and guardians (i.e. heads of houses) were appointed by the provincial minister and definitors in chapter, after consultation with some of the friars of the custody or house. On the other hand, in the Franciscan Order, custodians and guardians formally tendered their resignations every year in the provincial chapter. The Franciscans generally attached great importance to the temporary character of office, and held that “frequent change of prelates keeps religious Orders in health.” Among the Franciscans the constitution of provincial chapters was not defined by the general chapter, but left to the determination of the different provinces.

In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the Dominican Order was agitated by constitutional and disciplinary controversies. The constitutional problems concerned the relations between the Order and the provinces, the general and provincial chapters, and centred round the rival claims of these bodies to appoint lecturers in the universities. More fundamental was the general decay of discipline and the common life. In the first half of the fourteenth century not only did most Dominican houses own some property in common, but individual friars were allowed to have private incomes for life. It was apparently after the Black Death that the practice was adopted of farming out “termini” or “limites” to individual friars: that is, the friar paid a fixed rent to his convent for the exclusive rights of preaching and hearing confessions and taking the resulting emoluments in a definite area, and kept the surplus revenue for his own requirements. Sometimes these areas were put up to auction; generally the most distinguished members of the convent had first choice. It is clear that a successful preacher could make a very good living out of a wealthy district; he had his private residence and servants and rarely came to his convent. A tentative reform was introduced by Raymond of Capua (master-general, 1380- 1399), who had been confessor of St Catherine of Siena: he established in each province one house (under the direct control of the master­general), in which friars who desired to do so might observe the constitutions; but his authority was limited to that section of the Order which adhered to the “Roman obedience.” After the Great Schism the reform movement spread; and groups of Observant houses were formed under vicars. But the Dominican Observants were not champions of absolute poverty. Among their most famous houses was the convent of San Marco at Florence, which within twenty years of its foundation obtained a papal dispensation to hold property. And the whole Order received with enthusiasm the bull of Sixtus IV in 1475, which authorised every convent to own permanent endowments and expressly abrogated all constitutions, rules, and ordinances to the contrary.


After the first period of intense religious enthusiasm which marked the beginnings of the Orders, there followed a period of about a century in which the Mendicant Friars supplied Europe with most of its leaders of thought and learning. The rise of the friars coincided with the time of great intellectual activity which was called forth by the rediscovery in the Western world of the philosophical works of Aristotle. The Church regarded the new learning with suspicion, the more so as it first reached the West through Arabian commentators; and after an outbreak of heretical teaching at Paris, lecturing on the books of Aristotle on natural philosophy was prohibited in the university by papal decrees (1215, 1231). The reconciliation of Aristotle with Christian theology was the work especially of the Dominicans.

The Dominicans were from their beginning a learned Order : their first houses in Italy, France, and England were founded in places of learning, and it was in the university towns that Jordan of Saxony, that “fisher of men”, made his most successful “catches.” The Jacobin convent in Paris was the intellectual centre of the Order. The number of friars there increased from 30 in 1219 to 120 in 1224. Every province had the right of sending students to Paris; their maintenance soon became a pressing problem. The question of providing for students came in some form or other before every general chapter, and a system was gradually worked out to the minutest details. But the Paris house was heavily in debt in the thirteenth century, and it was probably owing to the financial difficulties that the English Dominicans resisted for many years (1248-1261) the elevation of Oxford to the position of a studium generale in the Order.

At first the Friars Preachers were restricted to the study of theology. “They shall not learn secular sciences or the liberal arts, except by special dispensation.” Though this decree of the early constitution was not abrogated till 1259, the dispensing power was evidently freely used and a more liberal policy soon prevailed. By the middle of the century an elaborate system of schools was being established in the Dominican provinces. While in every convent theological lectures were held which all the friars attended, special provision was made for those who showed aptitude for learning. These were sent, on the report of the visitors, to a studium artium, which served a group of convents; here they studied logic for two years. Thence promising students were passed on to the next grade of school—the studium naturalium, where the course lasted three years and included the works of Aristotle on natural philosophy and ethics. The third grade of school was the studium theologiae, which might be either particulare if it drew its students normally from one province, or generaelif it drew its students from the whole Order. A general school of theology was usually established in connexion with a university, but not always. Thus, there was a Dominican studium generale at Cologne (where both Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas taught) but no university. Great care was taken in the selection of students in the studium generae. Acclording to the statute of 1305, “ No one shall be sent to a studium generale unless he has made adequate progress in logic and natural philosophy, and has attended lectures on the Sentences for two years in a studium particulare

The two greatest thinkers of the Dominican Order had, however, passed their student days before this elaborate system of schools was developed. They were Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas. Albert (c. 1200- 1280), who belonged to a noble Swabian family, entered the Order c. 1223, lectured in the principal Dominican schools from 1228 to 1245, and became their regent master in Paris, 1245-6; the latter part of his ife, except some eight years devoted to administrative work as provincial of Germany and Bishop of Ratisbon, was spent in teaching, writing, and preaching at Cologne. He was the most learned man of his age, and his knowledge extended to the natural sciences, in which he made independent investigations. His chief aim was “to make Aristotle intelligible to the Latins.” He wrote paraphrases and commentaries on all Aristotle’s works, and was probably all the more stimulating in that he often advanced and defended inconsistent views, and failed to evolve a coherent system of philosophy. This was the work of his pupil Thomas Aquinas.

Thomas, a son of the Count of Aquino, was bom about 1225, and went to Frederick II's university at Naples, where he joined the Dominican Order in 1244, He studied under Albert at Paris and Cologne from 1245 to 1252, when he was recalled to Paris to lecture as bachelor and then as master of theology, being finally admitted as master in 1257; about 1260 he became master of the schools at the papal court, and was again lecturing in Paris from 1268 to 1272; he died in 1274 at the age of forty-nine. He had not the vast range of interests which marked Albert, but was far above him in clearness of thinking. He was recognised by his contemporaries as an innovator; the fundamental change which he introduced into scholastic philosophy was the assertion of the primacy of the intellect over the will, of the true over the good, in opposition to the hitherto accepted Augustinian doctrines. He probably came nearer than any other thinker before or after him to establishing harmony between reason and religion and reconciling the rival claims of philosophy and theology.

Even in his lifetime he was accepted as an “authority” in the schools, and the Dominican general chapter in 1286 ordered all the friars to promote and defend his doctrine, and decreed suspension from office for any lecturers who did the contrary. This did not encourage intellectual freedom. The Friars Preachers were distinguished by industry and learning, not originality. They produced about the middle of the thirteenth century a number of co-operative works—in the preparation of which groups of friars collaborated; the chief of them were the revision of the text of the Vulgate, the Biblical Concordances (especially that compiled by the English Dominicans), and the great encyclopaedia, or Speculum maius, edited by Vincent of Beauvais.

St Francis opposed the forces which made the Franciscans a “student Order.” “Tantum homo habet de scientia quantum operatur.” Learning, he held, would be destructive of the simplicity and poverty of the friars and his only concession to the new movement was a somewhat grudging authorisation which he gave to Anthony of Padua to lecture on theology “provided that the brethren do not, owing to this study, extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotion.” The same view was taken by his immediate disciples such as Giles, to whom Paris seemed like the Jerusalem which destroyed the prophets: “Paris, Paris, thou that destroyest Assisi!” Yet the development was inevitable and rapid. It was necessary that the friars as teachers and preachers should take part in the intellectual life of the time; and the example of the Dominicans, the settlement of Franciscans in university towns, the entry of learned men into the Order, the policy of Elias as general minister, and the consistent encouragement of the Papacy, all helped to hasten the change.

Two events of decisive importance in the intellectual history of the Order occurred in 1231: Alexander of Hales entered the Order at Paris; Robert Grosseteste became lecturer to the Franciscans of Oxford.

The first Parisian house of the Friars Minor was at St Denis and had no direct connexion with the university; but the increase of their numbers, and the accession of students and masters, such as the great theologian, Haymo of Faversham, c. 1223, led them to seek a home in the university quarter. The great convent which they built at “Vauvart” (Jardin du Luxembourg) fell (1229), apparently before it was finished, and the friars moved subsequently to their famous convent of the Cordeliers. The importance of the accession of Alexander of Hales to the Order was two-fold: he was perhaps the most distinguished professor at Paris, and he was at the time regent master in theology. As he continued his courses in the Franciscan convent, the Franciscan school became one of the public schools of the university, and the friars obtained the right to have one of their members among the regent masters in theology.

The fame of Alexander of Hales, “the master and father” of the Franciscan School, as Bonavcntura calls him, rests on his Summa, which, based in general on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, was the first attempt on a large scale to incorporate in Christian theology the newly-discovcred Aristotelian philosophy. The work, which Bacon describes as a “horse­load”,was unfinished at his death (1245), and was soon superseded by the works of later theologians, who built on the foundations which he had laid.

Grosseteste, who was undoubtedly the most influential man at Oxford, and probably the greatest scholar of his time, was induced by Agnellus, provincial minister of England, to lecture to the Franciscans at Oxford. He was a whole-hearted supporter of the movement in favour of learning in the Order, and used to say that “unless the brethren devoted themselves to study, the same fate would befall us as had befallen the other religious, whom we see, alas, walking in the darkness of ignorance.” He exercised a profound influence on Franciscan learning, and became the founder of a new school of thought, whose chief representatives were Adam Marsh, the first Minorite to become regent master at Oxford (c. 1248), and Roger Bacon.


The characteristics of this school were independence of judgment, the use of the experimental method, the study of mathematics and physics, of languages, and of the text of the Scriptures in preference to the Sentences. Dependence on authority is placed by Bacon first ajnong the obstacles to the progress of true philosophy, which is defined as the effort to “arrive at a knowledge of the Creator through knowledge of the created world.” For dependence on authority he would substitute first-hand knowledge derived from direct observation and experiment. Especially he insists on this in two departments of knowledge—grammar (including the study of languages and textual criticism) and physics. In order to understand the Scriptures and Aristotle a thorough knowledge of Hebrew and Greek was necessary, and Bacon himself compiled grammars of these two languages. The basis of physics he shows to be mathematics. His theory is that all natural phenomena are the result of force acting on matter, and force is invariably subject to mathematical law. It follows that the method of investigation in natural philosophy is essentially deductive; but he is never weary of insisting on the necessity of what he calls “experimental science”, “the queen of all the sciences,” which is in truth a method rather than a science. The results arrived at “by argument” must always be tested and verified by observation and experiment.

It is important to realise that the more fruitful of the ideas advocated by Roger Bacon were not peculiar to a more or less isolated and suspected genius, but were derived from Grosseteste and were taught to several generations of students in the Franciscan house at Oxford; and during this period the Oxford house supplied teachers to Franciscan schools not only throughout England but in France, Germany, and Italy. Survivals of the Grosseteste-Bacon tradition may be traced into the fourteenth century, but on the whole the attempt to remedy the great defect of scholasticism by widening the bases of knowledge was a failure. On the other hand, the Oxford Franciscan school continued to be prolific of new ideas; and the diversity of views represented by Roger Bacon, Duns Scotus, and William of Occam is evidence of a spirit of liberty. No single teacher in the Franciscan Order acquired the oppressive intellectual predominance which was accorded to Thomas Aquinas among the Dominicans.


Duns Scotus (who was a Scot, not an Irishman) was born about 1270, and studied and taught chiefly at Oxford till 1302. Here he lectured as B.D. on the Sentences; from 1302 to 1308 he was at Paris, where he became master of theology; in 1308 he was sent to Cologne and died the same year at the age of about thirty-eight. The “subtle doctor” was rather critical than constructive, and was the destroyer of systems. He attacked especially the system of Thomas Aquinas. It has been well said that while “Aquinas takes the doctrines which are to be proved, Duns takes the proofs of those doctrines, as the peculiar subject of study.” And proofs when they are arranged to lead up to a preconceived conclusion seem much more convincing than when they are examined for themselves and followed out to their natural conclusion. Hence Duns showed that the harmony between theology and philosophy established by Aquinas was largely illusory. The Franciscan was more of a Realist than the Dominican, and attributed some measure of objective reality to the concepts of the mind. This produced an inevitable reaction, which was led by Occam.


William of Occam lectured as B.D. at Oxford, c. 1320-1324, when his academic career was suddenly cut short by a summons to Avignon to answer charges of heresy. While at Avignon he turned his attention to the controversy on evangelical poverty; he escaped to the court of the Emperor in 1328 and wrote the great scries of treatises against the papal power. The charges of heresy in 1324 had nothing to do with his later anti-papal attitude, and probably arose out of his teaching at Oxford. He went even farther than Duns in emphasising the gulf between philosophy and theology, between reason and revelation, but he distrusted abstractions and brought philosophy down from its speculative heights to common sense, direct observation, and induction. To him “everything that exists by the mere fact of its existence is individual.” Occam’s influence lasted long after his death in 1348, but he left no successors, and may indeed be said to have given the death-blow to scholasticism.

The materials for the history of education among the Franciscans are far less complete than among the Dominicans. It is probable that the educational organisation of the former was less uniform, and that considerable variety and latitude were allowed in the various provinces. England, which produced more original thinkers and probably more men of learning than any other province, had the most fully developed system of schools, and the credit for establishing this system on a wide and lasting basis belongs above all to William of Nottingham, provincial minister from 1240 to 1254. Later on we find an advanced school of theology in each of the seven custodies into which the English province was divided, and there is evidence of the existence of schools of arts and philosophy.

The schools of the Mendicant Orders were intended mainly for the training of their own members, but they were open to, and during the thirteenth century frequented by, seculars. Thus Innocent IV granted license for non-residence with the right to receive the full income of their benefices to any clerks of the province of Lyons who studied theology in the Dominican and Franciscan houses at Dijon. The University of Paris in 1254 attributed the scarcity of theological students there to the fact that theology was now being taught by the friars in every city, and Roger Bacon bears testimony to the number and popularity of the new schools. Friars were often chosen as lecturers in the schools of secular cathedrals and in Benedictine monasteries; the Cistercians later protected themselves against this tendency by prohibiting the appointment of Mendicant Friars as lecturers in any of their studia.

In the universities the friars came into contact and often into collision with a strongly-organised corporation. At Paris the Chancellor of Notre-Dame had the right of conferring the licentia docendi or degree of master. But the masters had limited his powers by forming themselves into a union (society or university) and refusing to admit into it any person of whom they disapproved. This union also enabled them to assert their privileges and resist any encroachment whether by lay or ecclesiastical authority; they could in the last resort decree a suspension of lectures and a dispersal of the university: in other words, they could go on strike. A tavern brawl in 1229 led to a violent conflict between the university and the combined civic and cathedral authorities, as a result of which the masters ordered a suspension of lectures and finally the dispersal of the university. The Mendicant Friars were not directly involved in this decree, except that they were no longer able to attend the lectures of the masters and were confined to the private courses delivered in their own convents. But the Chancellor now conferred the licentia docendi on the theological lecturer in the Dominican convent, and hence his school became a public school of the university. This was an infringement of the customary rights of the masters and threatened to undermine their union. The point seems to have been passed over in 1231 when peace was made—on terms favourable to the university—and masters and students returned to Paris. But in 1231 two regent masters in theology, John of St Giles and Alexander of Hales, entered the Dominican and Franciscan Orders respectively, and continued as friars the courses of lectures which they had begun as seculars. The Dominicans now had two public schools and the Franciscans one. The latter soon opened a second and there was a prospect of more being added. In 1250 the Pope definitely ordered the Chancellor to confer the license to teach on as many religious as he should consider qualified. The right of the other doctors of divinity to a voice in their admission was ignored; the university was losing all control over the granting of degrees to the friars.

To the constitutional question, which affected the whole university, was added a very practical consideration which affected the theological faculty. The friars were the most popular lecturers; their lecture halls were crowded, while the secular masters complained that they were left sitting at their desks “like sparrows alone upon the house-tops.’’ The secular masters of theology tried to protect themselves by passing a statute that each religious house should be restricted to one master and one school—a provision accepted by John of Parma on behalf of the Franciscans, for the sake of peace. But this nei ther settled the constitutional question (though it diminished its importance) nor helped to fill the empty lecture­rooms of the secular masters. One need not accept the Dominicans' taunt that the secular masters were stupid and lazy from eating and drinking too much, but it is certain that the Mendicant Orders attracted the finest minds of the time. Among the Mendicant licentiates in theology whom the faculty refused to admit to the Society of Masters in 1256 were Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventura.

The controversy was carried to the papal court, and the leader of the secular masters, William of St Amour, showed great ability in connecting— or confusing—the university question with the grievances of the secular clergy against the friars, and thus enlisting the support of bishops and parish priests throughout Europe. So powerful was this combination that Innocent IV seemed on the point of yielding to it, when he died. His sudden death in 1254 was attributed to the prayers of the Dominicans. His .successor, Alexander IV, was a strenuous supporter of the friars; in the bull Quasi lignum vitae (1255) he asserted the right of the Chancellor to license any regulars whom he considered fit, and ordered the university to admit all such to the privileges of their society. After a prolonged struggle the university was compelled to submit, protesting that the bull was to them a lignum mortis.

There was no faculty of theology at Bologna, and at Toulouse theological teaching was entirely in the hands of the Dominicans. A difficulty arose at Oxford in 1253, owing to a conflict between a statute of the university which demanded that none should be admitted to a degree in theology unless he had previously taken a degree in arts, and the custom of the friars which forbade a friar to take the M.A. degree. An agreement was soon come to that the faculty of theology should grant dispensations to properly trained candidates, but it was held that the vote of the faculty must be unanimous; it was thus within the power of a single regent master to prevent a friar from proceeding to a theological degree. A long and bitter struggle ensued at the beginning of the fourteenth century between the university and the friars, especially the Dominicans, who demanded the application of the Parisian customs to Oxford. They failed to secure this; the university retained its control over the granting of degrees to the friars, but accepted the provision that a majority of the votes of the faculty—not a single adverse vote—should be required for the withholding of a dispensation.


The relations of the friars to the secular clergy and the diocesan organisation opened out wider questions. Gregory IX in 1231 exempted the two Orders from episcopal visitation and jurisdiction, and assured to them full rights of self-government. If the friars were free from the control of the bishops, it became all the more necessary to define their relations to the parish priests.

The controversies centred round the claims of the friars to preach, to hear confessions, to receive offerings and legacies, and to bury in their churches persons not belonging to the Orders. The last privilege was peculiarly unfortunate; it led to iudecent squabbles over corpses between the friars and rectors of churches and greatly embittered the struggle. It was granted to the Dominicans in 1227, to the Franciscans in 1250. The latter with a sure instinct had hitherto resisted it, “from love of the clergy, desiring to live at peace with them.”

The policy of the Papacy between 1250 and 1300 showed a curious vacillation. In 1300 Boniface VIII issued the bull Super cathedram, which remained the law of the Church for the rest of the Middle Ages. The bull provided that: (1) The friars should have full right of preaching to clergy and people in their own churches and in public places—except at certain times. In parish churches they should only preach by invitation of the parish priest or by command of the bishop. (2) They should choose from their members suitable persons to hear confessions and humbly present these to the bishop of the diocese, who should license them—the number of confessions being regulated by the needs of the population. (3) They should have the right to bury in their churches those who desired, it. (4) They should give to the parish priest a quarter of all offerings and legacies. Some minor points at issue were left undecided; and the friars persistently declared that they could not live if they gave up the canonical quarter, while rectors of churches were continually bringing actions to enforce their rights. But on the whole the bull provided a statesmanlike and working settlement.

The Lateran Council of 1215 made confession at least once a year to the parish priest compulsory on all Christians. But the parish priests in the greater part of Europe were neither morally nor intellectually fitted for the task imposed on them; the objections to confessing to them were so widespread and so well-founded that it is probable that the habit of making frequent confessions would never have been established without the assistance of the friars. Bishops and clergy at first welcomed their help. Many handbooks for the instruction of confessors were in the thirteenth century issued either by the friars themselves or by bishops who were closely in touch with the friars; bishops employed them as confessors on their visitations, and parish priests referred difficult questions to their judgment. Popes and kings, as well as humbler folk, had friars as their confessors. All the English kings from Henry III to Richard II had Dominican confessors, while their queens favoured the Franciscans. Occasionally, but rarely, it is possible to trace direct influence of the confessional in public affairs. Raymond of Pehafort, the Dominican confessor of Gregory IX, imposed on the Pope as penance the duty of accelerating the causes of poor litigants at the Roman court. But Nicholas de Carbio, the Franciscan confessor and biographer of Innocent IV, gives in his life of the Pope no hint of his influence over his august penitent. St Louis had a Dominican confessor; Philip the Fair had two. Friars were, however, frequently employed both by the Papacy and by the secular governments in diplomatic negotiations.

From the middle of the thirteenth century onwards complaints were loud and persistent about the demoralising influence of the friar confessors. They destroyed the authority of the parish priests; they granted absolution on such easy terms that the confessional became an avenue to sin; any offence could be compounded by an alms to the friars. Plenty of evidence could be found in support of such charges, which were made by secular clergy and are found in contemporary popular literature. There was also another side. In 1290 a conference of French bishops and masters was held at Paris under Cardinal Gaetani, papal legate, afterwards Boniface VIII, to consider the excessive privileges, especially the unrestricted right to hear confessions, granted to the friars by Martin IV. The Bishop of Therouanne (a secular) vigorously defended the privileges, and the cardinal upheld them on the ground that “we have to consider not what is agreeable to the clergy but what is useful to the world,” and that “ we have found the friars the only healthy member” of the Church. The report of the conference comes from a Dominican chronicler, but is probably substantially true. English bishops often recommended nunneries to choose mendicants as their confessors in the fourteenth century, and licensed additional friar confessors in times of pestilence. But no secular clerks seem to have defended the Orders against the attacks of Armachanus and Wyclif.

With the coming of the friars popular preaching acquired a new importance, and their churches were designed on a new and simple plan, suitable rather for holding large congregations who came to hear sermons than for liturgical processions. Francis in his Rule exhorted his brethren to make their sermons .short, “announcing to the people vices and virtues, punishment and glory.” Of his own methods some interesting details have been preserved. Thus, one who saw him preaching in the public piazza at Bologna in 1222 says: “Almost the whole city had assembled there. His text was ‘Angels, men, devils.’...His style was not that of a preacher, but of a public speaker. The whole matter of his discourse was an appeal to extinguish enmities and make lasting peace....God lent such power to his words that many bands of nobles were brought back from the savage fury of family feuds to the way of peace.” Another auditor—a learned philosopher—stated that, while he could remember every word of the sermons of others, “ the words uttered by the holy Francis alone escape me; and if I commit any of them to memory, they do not seem to be the same that he had spoken.”

Many books were issued by friars on the training of preachers, such as the elaborate and illuminating work of Humbert de Romans. Still more numerous were the collections of notes for sermons, with illustrative anecdotes or “exempla” to arrest the attention and point the moral. Among the earlier ones which enjoyed a wide popularity may be mentioned the anecdotes of Stephen of Bourbon and the virtues and vices of William Perault, both Dominicans. The earliest extant collection by an English Dominican (e. 1250-1260) is notable for the number of exempla derived from the personal experience of the writer and for the absence of references to the Virgin. The earliest collection by an English Franciscan (c. 1275) is also drawn to a considerable extent from personal experience and is full of stories inculcating devotion to the Virgin—some of which carry the implication that the performance of religious exercises compensates for an immoral life. The Dominican compilers—such as Robert Holcot—make great use of exempla taken from classical and semi-classical literature; it was remarked that the governing classes were more apt to be influenced by stories of Alexander or Caesar than by the lives of Christian saints. The Franciscans were more in the habit of taking illustrations from the common things of daily life.

Berthold of Ratisbon: St Bernardino

The most instructive sources of information which we possess on the popular preaching of the friars arc the sermons of the Franciscans, Berthold of Ratisbon and Bernardino of Siena, because their sermons are preserved more or less as they were delivered.

Berthold died in 1272; he was already famous as a preacher in Germany in 1250, and Roger Bacon declared in 1267 that “he is doing alone greater work in preaching than almost all the other friars of both Orders put together.” In these German sermons the elements of the faith are set forth, but the common people are not to probe into the mysteries; that way lies heresy. The theology is of a popular type; the Blessed Virgin intercedes with her Son for men, but though the first of the Saints she is immeasurably below God. The terrors of hell are very present and very real. But the greater part of the sermons is occupied with the duties and sins of ordinary life. The sin which Berthold hated and denounced most is avarice—or we might say, from the wide meaning he gives to the word, selfishness; it is this that makes men most like devils. The style is dramatic. Berthold needs no anecdotes to keep the attention of his hearers. His words are inspired by a moral fervour which still retains its glowing vitality.

Bernardino of Siena began to preach in 1405; by degrees he found preaching to be his special vocation, and concentrated on it to the exclusion, as far as possible, of all other duties. The value he attached to preaching may be estimated from the advice he gave to those who could not come to both mass and sermon, to “let the mass go rather than the sermon....There is less peril to your soul in not hearing mass than in not hearing the sermon.” His sermons fall into two classes: written and reported sermons. The written sermons are mostly in Latin and form theological treatises on which the spoken sermons were based. The reported sermons (in Italian) are courses of daily sermons taken down in shorthand as they were delivered in Lent 1424 and 1425 at Florence, and in 1427 in the Campo at Siena. Much of the sermons is occupied with expository matter, and Bernardino’s allegorical interpretation of Scripture is as fanciful as any. He observed also the elaborate system of divisions and subdivisions current at the time. But in spite of this, the style is essentially colloquial, and the most interesting and effective sermons are those which deal with the problems of daily life. When he went to a new place to preach, he was careful to make himself acquainted with every­thing that was going on there, and even to learn up local expressions. He was very sensitive to the moods of his audience, and made full use of exempla to keep their attention alert. He shews an intimate knowledge of many sides of life—children’s games, fashions in dress, tricks of trade, and business methods. He was the uncompromising foe of usury (which included almost all forms of interest), and was merciless to witches. For the honest doubter in matters of faith he had respect, pity, and hope. “If God does not see fit to give them back their faith, we must take it that the palm of martyrdom is reserved for them in heaven, since such mental distress is among the most terrible afflictions of this life.” The charities which he specially commended to the Sienese were the maintenance of the hospital and the care of prisoners. He often made definite suggestions for the improvement of civic life—some of which were adopted as laws. Like many of the Italian friars, he laboured unceasingly, with only temporary success, to allay the constant quarrels between families, parties, and cities, and endeavoured to substitute for the party emblems, which sym­bolised and encouraged strife, the sacred monogram (which was primarily intended as an external aid to devotion) as the symbol of peace and unity.

The friars used their influence as confessors and preachers not only to secure benefactions for themselves and their houses, but to promote works of public utility. Franciscans had a share in the foundation of Balliol College, Oxford, and Pembroke College, Cambridge; and not a few English towns owed their first water-supplies to the enterprise of the friars. Franciscans established a hospital for leper women at Lubeck, c. 1.258, the Foundling Hospital at Venice, c. 1335, and the Monti di Pieta in many Italian cities in the latter part of the fifteenth century.

When Gregory IX was developing the Papal Inquisition, he found in the Dominicans his first and most efficient agents. In 1237 he associated with the Dominican inquisitors of Toulouse a Franciscan colleague, who might “mitigate their severity by his gentleness.” The desired result was not achieved, and after the massacre of the inquisitors in 1242, the Dominicans prayed the Pope to release them from the dangerous office. Innocent IV refused, but in 1244 he granted to the master and provincial priors full power to remove and supersede all Dominican inquisitors. This privilege was not effective; for not only did the Popes constantly override it in individual cases, but the inquisitors did not scruple to threaten their superiors with accusations of heresy if they tried to interfere with them. The Franciscans tried to keep control over inquisitors of their Order by issuing commissions for a limited period. The practice of employing Dominicans and Franciscans together led to quarrels and scandals, and Clement IV had to forbid the inquisitors to prosecute each other. It was found wiser to define the boundaries of their jurisdictions; thus in Italy the north was assigned to Dominicans, the centre to Franciscans. Both Orders seem to have carried out their duties in the same spirit, but the Dominicans perhaps displayed greater thoroughness and persistence. The best handbook on inquisitorial procedure was compiled by a Dominican, and it was chiefly against Dominicans that outbursts of popular fury were directed.

The Franciscans and Dominicans were active missionaries to lands outside the Roman Church. The conversion of the Saracens was one of the aims of St Francis, and each of the two Franciscan Rules contains a chapter: “On those who go among the Saracens and other infidels.” The first Franciscans who volunteered for this dangerous service were probably inspired rather by the desire for martyrdom than by the hope of converting souls, and the story of the five martyrs of Morocco in 1220 (which induced Anthony of Padua to join the Franciscans) was one of the most popular and stirring legends of the Order. The Dominicans, who entered the field somewhat later, adopted more rational methods. About 1250 Raymond of Peñafort established schools for the study of Hebrew and Arabic in which missionaries could be trained, and before the end of the century Raymond Lull instituted a similar school for the Franciscans. In Mohammedan lands the friars could point to a long line of martyrs but to few successful conversions. Their failure does not seem to have been due to lack of intelligence or insufficient preparation. It may be noted that the itinerary of the Irish Franciscan, Simon Simeonis, proves that the writer—a mere pilgrim or tourist rather than a trained missionary—had considerable knowledge of the Koran.

In Prussia and Lithuania the friars came into collision with the political aims of the Teutonic Knights, who opposed the Christianisation of their Slav subjects. The Far East offered a more fruitful field. The Mongol power threatened Europe in 1240, and Gregory IX ordered the friars to preach a Crusade against the barbarians. But the Crusade soon gave way to missions, which had the double object of converting the heathen and of forming an alliance between Christendom and the Mongols against Islam. The Franciscans, John de Plano Carpinis, an Italian, sent by Innocent IV in 1245, and William of Rubruquis, a Fleming, sent by Louis IX in 1253, visited the court of the Great Khan at Karakorum, and gave to the Western world its first knowledge of the Mongol Empire. While the Italian friar gives the more orderly and complete account of the manners, customs, and history of the Mongols, Rubruquis' work shows a power of observation, an insight into the principles of philology and ethnology, and an interest in strange forms of life, which were new to the Middle Ages. Their journeys formed the beginning of a Franciscan mission to China, which endured at least till the overthrow of the Mongols and establishment of the Ming Dynasty in 1368. Chief among the missionaries was John of Monte Corvino (in Apulia), who laboured in the Far East from 1289 to 1328. He was the first Archbishop of Pekin and founder of a number of bishoprics and monasteries in China; he also translated into the Tartar language the New Testament and Psalter, and apparently the Latin Office. Among the friars who joined him was Odoric of Pordenone, who has also left an account of his journeys. The representation of Odoric on his tomb in the cathedral of Udine, clad in Tartar garments and wearing his hair in Tartar fashion, suggests that the Franciscan missionaries (like the Dominicans, according to a licence granted by the Pope in 1226) adopted the way of life of the people among whom they worked. The Great Khan treated John of Monte Corvino as a trusted councillor, and the policy of the Mongol rulers generally was one of toleration. “For they hold this opinion, or rather error”, writes Andrew of Perugia, Bishop of Zaitun, in 1326, “that everyone can find salvation in his own religion. And we are at liberty to preach without let or hindrance. Of the Jews, indeed, and Saracens, no one is converted, but a great multitude of the idolaters are baptised, though many of the baptised walk not rightly in the way of Christianity.”

The Dominicans were no less active. At the beginning of the fourteenth century their eastern missionaries were organised into a self-governing community (under a vicar, subject to the general control of the master of the Order), known as the Societas Peregrinantium propter Christum. This was not, as generally supposed, a joint society of Dominicans and Franciscans. There is little trace of regular co-operation between the two Orders in the mission field, though their relations seem to have been friendly. John XXII in 1318 allocated to them different spheres of influence by assigning southern Asia-—including Greater Armenia, Persia, and India—to Dominican bishops, and northern Asia to Franciscan bishops. But Franciscan missions continued to operate in the Dominican sphere, and Dominican missions in the Franciscan sphere. The Dominicans achieved their most permanent results among the Armenian “schismatics,” where they did something towards founding a native pastorate.

The cessation of missionary enterprise in the latter part of the fourteenth century was due partly to political and religious movements in Asia—such as the fall of the Mongols and the rise of the Ottoman Turks—partly to the Black Death, which disorganised the mission stations in the East and dried up the stream of recruits from the West.

No modus vivendi between the Latin and Greek Churches was found or sought for. A Dominican missionary, when laying before Philip VI of France a plan for a new crusade against the Muslims, urged him to begin by burning any Latins who had joined the Greek Church, suppressing the Greek monasteries, and forcibly compelling the people to adopt the Catholic faith.

The friars sought to secure lasting results from the enthusiasm which their preaching and example evoked, by encouraging the formation of fraternities of penitence. Such fraternities came into existence in many Italian cities in the early years of the Franciscan movement. They differed from the fraternity or Order of Friars Minor in that their members continued to live in their own houses, did not renounce private or corporate property, and had at first no common or central organisation: they were local religious gilds. The earliest document on the subject dates from 1221, when Francis had already retired from the active government of the Minorite Order ; it is a Rule drawn up by Cardinal Ugolino, probably in consultation with Francis and perhaps with Elias. It provides that brethren and sisters of penitence living in their own houses should dress plainly, eat and drink with moderation, avoid dances and plays, keep certain fasts, observe the canonical hours at home or in church, confess thrice a year, pay their debts and restore any goods which belonged to others, live peaceably, not bear arms, abstain from oaths, contribute to the support of poor or sick members and other poor people, and attend the funerals of deceased members. The general management was in the hands of two ministers, who held office for one year and chose their successors with the advice of the brethren. Disciplinary power was exercised by a visitor who acted on the report of the ministers; but no indication is given as to the status or method of appointment of the visitor. New members were admitted by the ministers, with the approval of some discreet brethren, after promising to observe the conditions and after a year’s probation; once admitted, no one might withdraw from the fraternity except to join a religious Order. The defence of the privileges of the brethren against the city authorities—e.g. in the question of exemption from military service—was entrusted to the bishop of the diocese. The fraternity met once a month in a church selected by the ministers, and should on these occasions, if it was convenient, be instructed by a religious.

The Rule is remarkable for its omissions: it contains no reference to St Francis or to the Franciscan Order. But Gregory IX in 1230 refers to these fraternities as the “Third Order of St Francis,” though in 1235 he implies that the power of visitation and correction was vested in the bishop. The local fraternities claimed and exercised the right of supplementing the Rule, and used their powers sometimes to establish the closest relations with the neighbouring Minorite houses. But it is clear on the one hand that some fraternities were jealous of ecclesiastical influence, and on the other that some sections of the Minorite Order were averse from any close connexion with the Penitents. Thus there was room for much variety in different places, and recent historians have added to the obscurity of the early history of the Third Order by mistaking one of these local variations for a general rule. In 1247, when the “spiritual” John of Parma became minister-general, Innocent IV, acceding to the prayers of the ministers and Brethren of Penitence in Italy and the kingdom of Sicily, entrusted to the Minorite Order the duty of “visiting them, instructing them in regular discipline, correcting and reforming them in head and members”; but in 1248, in answer to a protest from the community of Brethren of Penitence in the province of Lombardy, he rescinded this order so far as the Lombard brethren were concerned and left them under episcopal control. Bonaventura, on behalf of the Minorite Order, repudiated any special responsibility for the Penitents. These reasons are curious. Not only would the demands of the Penitents be too exacting, and bring the friars into conflict with the civic authorities, but the Penitents despised the clergy and had lay teachers like the heretics, and close alliance with them would lay the friars open to charges of heresy. This pusillanimous attitude seems to have been maintained till 1289, when the Franciscan Pope Nicholas IV issued a revised version of the Rule of 1221. In several respects ecclesiastical control over the lay fraternities was now strengthened: thus the Rule of 1221 admitted persons suspected of heresy who had duly purged themselves before the bishop; the Rule of 1289 excluded all persons suspected of heresy, and decreed that, if any such had been admitted inadvertently, they were to be handed over to the Inquisition; further, the Rule of 1289 stipulated that the visitor must in all cases be a priest. The most important addition was the clause that “whereas the present form of living was instituted by St Francis, we advise that visitors and instructors be chosen from the Order of Friars Minor.”

The circumstances and motives which led to this change of policy are obscure. Probably the growth of lay fraternities with a strong anti-ecclesiastical bias was the chief reason. It may also be noted that the bull of 1289 was issued during the generalate of Raymond Gaufredi, who as a representative of the “spiritual” friars would be in sympathy with a closer connexion between the Minorites and the Penitents. But, the movement was not confined to the Franciscans. The Dominicans about the same time adopted a similar policy. The master-general, Muño de Zamora, 1285-1291, issued a Rule for “the brethren and sisters of Penitence of St Dominic,” ordering every such fraternity to accept as “master and director” a Dominican friar priest approved by the master-general or by the provincial prior. This Rule is generally ascribed to 1285, but the date is uncertain, and until it is established it is impossible to determine the relation between the Dominican Rule and the bull of Nicholas IV. Muño’s Rule was generally adopted by the Dominican Tertiaries, and was finally approved, with modifications, by the holy see in 1405.

The Tertiaries suffered much persecution at the hands of the inquisitors during the fourteenth century, and the fear of suspicion of heresy probably helped to popularise among them a form of life more closely resembling that of the regular Orders. Houses of Tertiaries were established where they lived the common life—men and women in separate houses—and eventually took the three solemn vows. So far as this tendency prevailed, the Third Order lost its original character.

Our estimate of the influence of the Third Order must depend partly on our estimate of the number of its members. A letter included in the register of Peter della Vigna, the minister of Frederick II, declared that there was hardly a man or woman who did not belong to one of the fraternities called into being by the Dominicans and Franciscans. But recent research has shown that this letter was not written by Peter, but emanated from the secular clergy in the north of France, c. 1245; it is merely the statement of an excited controversialist and so loses much of the importance hitherto ascribed to it. At Bologna the number of men Tertiaries in 1252 was 57, in 1288, 79. At Siena in 1352 a list of women Tertiaries of the Dominican Order contains 100 names. The fraternities seem to have been most numerous in Umbria and Tuscany, but representatives from 24 cities of Northern Italy assembled in 1289 in a general chapter of Tertiaries at Bologna. The Third Order was established in the thirteenth century in many of the Rhenish cities, while in England, on the other hand, it has left few traces. It is probable that in most centres of industry and commerce there were to be found groups of men and women pledged to live an honest, strict, peaceable, charitable, and devout life. Many famous men—among them Louis IX and Dante—have been claimed as members of the Third Order, but the evidence for these claims is rarely conclusive. It must be remembered that membership of the Third Order normally exempted aman not only from military service, but from the duty of undertaking many public offices; the institution, though its conditions were too severe to attract the shirker, appealed rather to retiring natures than to those fitted to play a leading part in human affairs. The most notable members of the Third Order were women, such as Elizabeth of Hungary, Angela of Foligno, Catherine of Siena.


The Carmelites, who claimed Elijah as their founder, took their origin from a small group of hermits established on Mount Carmel about 1155 by a priest named Berthold, probably a native of Limoges. The Order received an eremitical Rule, based on that of St Basil, from the Patriarch of Jerusalem about 1210, and new communities were soon established at Acre, Tyre, Jerusalem, and elsewhere, but most of these lasted only a few years. Owing to the growth of Mohammedan power the brethren resolved to leave the Holy Land, and colonies of them migrated about 1238 to Cyprus, Sicily, Marseilles, and Valenciennes. In 1241-2 William de Vesey and Richard of Ciidnor returning from the crusade brought some of them to England, which became for some years the centre of gravity of the Order. The first houses were built in thinly populated districts, but a change was made by the general chapter at Aylesford in 1247, when Simon Stock was elected general prior. The chapter prayed the Pope to modify the Rule, and accordingly Innocent IV in the same year confirmed to the friars of St Mary of Mount Carmel their Rule as revised by two Dominicans; this substituted the community life for the solitary life, mitigated the strictness of fasts and silence, permitted the friars to found houses elsewhere than in eremo, and to beg, though they were still allowed to hold property in common. The right to preach and hear confessions was granted to them in 1253.

Simon Stock was successful in founding houses of the Order in cities and especially in university towns, at Cambridge in 1249, Oxford and London in 1253, York in 1255, Paris in 1259, and Bologna in 1260. But in the Order itself his policy roused strong opposition, and on his death in 1265 the upholders of the old tradition were successful in electing as general Nicholas Gallicus, who denounced the dangerous operations of preaching and hearing confessions, and strove to bring back the Order to a purely contemplative life. The reaction was only temporary, and the recognition of the Carmelites by the Council of Lyons in 1274 as one of the four approved Mendicant Orders marks the triumph of the principles of Simon Stock. In 1287 the friars exchanged their mantle of black and white stripes (from which they were known as Fraires barrati or de pica) for a mantle of white wool, which gave them the popular name of White Friars.

The earliest extant constitutions date from 1324; they are based partly on decrees by which from about 1256 the general chapters supplemented the Rule, but show Dominican influence. The Order in 1324 was divided into 15 provinces, including those of Ireland and Scotland, which had till 1305 formed part of the English province. At the head of the Order was the prior-general elected by the general chapter, which had power to depose him; at each succcessive chapter he had to resign his seal of office to the definitors and to render an account of his administration; if no serious complaints were made, he was generally confirmed in his office until his death or resignation. He could depose provincial and conventual priors, but the consent of the provincial or conventual chapter was required for the election of their successors. He could send visitors to a province only at the request of the provincial prior or chapter. The general chapter assembled every third year, each province being represented by the provincial prior and two companions elected by the provincial chapter. The provincial chapter chose one of these three representatives to act as definitor in the general chapter—an interesting variation on the Dominican plan. Except in certain circumstances no one could act as definitor in two successive chapters. While all the representatives took part in the election of a general prior, the ordinary business was conducted by the definitors. They received reports from the provinces, decided whether the general prior should be confirmed or released from office, and had the right of deposing provincial priors and appointing others in their place.

The provincial chapter met every year, and consisted of the provincial prior, the local priors, and one elected representative from each house. Each local prior brought with him a report on his convent; the definitors combined the reports into a single document, which the provincial prior took with him on his visitations. The four definitors were elected by the chapter; with the provincial prior they conducted the general business and had full power to depose and appoint local priors. The definitors could depose the provincial only with the consent of the majority of the chapter. The provincial chapter normally elected the provincial, unless he was appointed in general chapter; and the local chaptef normally elected the local prior, unless he was appointed in provincial chapter. There was no time-limit to the holding of their offices until the fifteenth century. In England the masters of theology were ex officio members of the provincial chapter. England was the largest province and had statutes of its own, especially in regard to academic matters.

The Carmelite constitutions include elaborate arrangements for the organisation of studies. Every convent, except those in which studia generalia were established, was bound to set aside a tenth of its total income from all sources, for scholastic purposes; this tenth formed a central fund in each province which was administered by the provincial prior and the definitors of the provincial chapter, and applied primarily to the support of scholars at studia generalia, the residue being distributed among the masters, bachelors, lectors, and students within the province. The allowances—estimated in grossi antiqui of Tours—ranged from 400 for the regent master at Paris, and 100 for other regent masters, to 30 or 40 for students at universities. Certain provinces were bound to send one or two students to Paris and to pay for each 150 grossi, plus 70 grossi pro vestiario; these sums were exacted even if the province failed to send its due quota of students.

The studia recognised as generalia in the Order were Paris, Toulouse, Bologna, Florence, Montpellier, Cologne, London, and the Roman Curia. The absence of Oxford and Cambridge is remarkable. It would appear, however, that the English province kept the control of appointments to lectureships in these universities in its own hands, and chose candidates for degrees in turn from the four “distinctions'” into which England was divided. The statutes of the English province, to which allusion is often made and which would probably have thrown light on the subject, are unfortunately lost.

In every university the regent master in theology appointed two friars bachelors to lecture on moral and natural philosophy. And in each pro­vince the provincial prior and definitors of the chapter had to provide schools and lecturers for grammar, logic, natural philosophy, and theology. The insistence on the grammar schools suggests that the Carmelite Order admitted younger or less educated persons than the other Orders.

The most notable product of the Carmelite schools was John of Baconthorpe (oA 1346), who was master of Paris and provincial of England, 1329-1333. He appears to have defended the orthodoxy of Averroes and his teaching, and to have maintained the superiority of the kingly to the priestly power in secular affairs—a view which brings him into touch with Occam, Armachanus, and Wyclif. It is remarkable that a man holding such opinions should have become the great glory of the Carmelite Order. Another of the most prominent Carmelites in medieval history was Thomas Netter of Walden, who at Pisa in 1409 defended the rights of the Council, was confessor to Henry V and Henry VI, provincial of England, ambassador to the King of Poland, and strenuous opponent of Lollards and Hussites, against whom he directed his chief works—the Doctrinale Fidei Ecclesiae Catholicae and Fasciculi Zizaniorum. It is singular that the Carmelites, in spite of their connexion with the East, took little part in missionary enterprises during the Middle Ages.


The Friars Hermits of the Order of St Augustine, unlike the other Mendicant Orders, sprang from the union of a number of already existing and hitherto independent groups of hermits. Many such groups came into being in Italy during the last half of the twelfth and the first half of the thirteenth century. The first step towards union was made by Innocent IV, who in December 1243 appointed the Benedictine Cardinal Richard Anibaldi protector of certain hermits in Tuscany, with the object of forming them into one body under the Rule of St Augustine. During the next twelve years the cardinal gradually extended his operations, and succeeded in bringing together early in 1256 a general chapter containing representatives of many groups of hermits, namely (1) the Order of St William of Malevale near Pisa (or rather that section of the Williamites who did not follow the Benedictine Rule), (2) the Order of St Augustine, probably the Tuscan hermits, (3) the friars of John Bonus or Jamboniti, who were founded about 1209, near Cesena, and are probably identical with the Friars Hermits of St Augustine “in Lombardia et Romaniola,” the friars of Fabali or Favali, apparently a branch of the Williamites, the hermits of the desert of Brittini in the March of Ancona. Of these, the Jamboniti seem to have been the most numerous and progressive; they had already begun to abandon the eremitical life and to live in cities, and the early settlements of Austin Friars north of the Alps (eg. in England in 1249) probably proceeded from this congregation; from it, too, was elected the first general prior of the united Order, Lanfranc of Milan, formerly prior of Bologna. The difficulties accompanying the union are illustrated by the action of the hermits of Brittini, who resisted the introduction of the common life and the practice of pastoral duties, and eventually seceded from the Order and obtained a bull from Alexander IV in 1260 guaranteeing their eremitical life for ever. Some of the Williamite houses also succeeded in maintaining their independence, and it appears that no attempt was made at this time to include various other Orders in the Order of Austin Friars. The most important of these was the Order of Friars of the Sack, but they were not founded until 1251, when the negotiations for the formation of the Order of Austin Friars had already made some progress, and they took their origin in Provence while the congregations included in the union were all of Italian origin. Ou the other hand the Austin Friars soon received notable accessions, the most important perhaps being that of the Order of Poor Catholics, founded by orthodox Waldensians.

The arrangements made by Cardinal Richard were confirmed by a bull of Alexander IV, dated 9 April 1256: the Friars Hermits were authorised to live as a Mendicant Order and to cease to carry the staff, the sign of the hermit’s life. From this time they were hermits only in name. In 1257 they were exempted from episcopal jurisdiction; and in 1274 they received like the Carmelites a provisional authorisation in the Council of Lyons. The order is said to have been divided at first into four provinces—Italy, Spain, France, and Germany; it eventually numbered 42 provinces. England was probably a separate province by 1261, certainly before 1289. The earliest extant constitutions of the Order—extant in manuscript only—date from 1290. Both in their form and matter they shew Dominican influence. The organisation, with annual provincial chapters and triennial general chapters, closely resembled that of the other Mendicant Orders. The general prior and the provincial priors were elected by their respective chapters; they resigned the seals of office at each chapter, and the definitors determined whether they should be continued or a new election be held. The definitors of the general chapter were chosen on the same method as that already described in the account of the Carmelite Order. New constitutions had to be approved by two successive general chapters. The conventual priors were normally elected by the convent, but the convent might ask the four definitors of the provincial chapter to depose its prior and appoint another, and might submit the names of several suitable candidates.

The provisions made for study should be noticed. Every province had to send one student, chosen by the provincial and definitors of the provincial chapter after due examination, to Paris to study theology for five years. At the end of this time, the province had to supply him with “books, lest owing to lack of books when he returns to his province his studies should be impeded”. The general prior had to institute four studia generalia in Italy and a suitable number in the other provinces, and provide lecturers in theology and philosophy, the text of the Scriptures having the most honoured place. “To these studia each province shall send one student sufficiently instructed in grammar, so that after five years in such a studium he may be found fit to lecture.” Priors of convents where such studia were founded were bound to promote and not hinder studies, but might in case of need send out students to beg two or three times a month. The provincial prior and definitors appointed lecturers in convents and had to establish schools of logic and grammar for the instruction of “rudes scolares” of the province. If they could not find a friar to teach them, they were to appoint other masters at a competent salary. The Austin Friars made more provision than the other Orders for giving elementary instruction to their ignorant members, and there is some evidence that they taught in secular schools or admitted seculars to their classes. The inhabitants of Breisach are said to have welcomed them to their town (c. 1270) in the expectation that they would give goochand cheap education to their children. The tradition, however, that the Austin Friars monopolised the teaching of grammar at Oxford rests solely on a misunderstanding of a university statute.

The Austin Friars seem to have been more interested in practical than in speculative questions. Their greatest doctor was Giles of Colonna (or Aegidius Romanos), whom they tried to place on a level with Thomas Aquinas; but the work on which his fame chiefly rested even in the Middle Ages was his De Regimine Principium (written for the instruction of Philip the Fair of France)—a treatise on politics or rather on morals. The best known English Augustinian was the historian John Capgrave. The Austin Friars shewed themselves more open to the influences of the Renaissance and the Reformation than any of the other Orders, though no proof has been adduced that they were in any special way devoted to Pauline or Augustinian doctrines before the time of Staupitz and Luther.