Joachimites, Spiritual Franciscans, or Fraticelli

St. Francis receiving the stigmata

Joachim of Fiore(1132-1202) was a contemporary of St. Francis. Like Francis, Joachim was inspired by particular sections of the New Testament which promised a new age for humankind. He expected that after the "Age of the Father," or the Old Testament era, and the "Age of the Son," or that of the New Testament; there would follow an "Age of the Holy Spirit." This age would be superior to those of the Father and of the Son; it would be something beyond the prophecy of Jesus Christ. "As the standards of the Age of the Father ("an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth") gave way to those of the the Age of the Son ("turn the other cheek"), so must those of the Age of the Son give way to those of the dawning new age--the egalitarian, communal life of mutual love" (Ozment, 106). Many of Joachim's followers saw Francis as the messiah of the third age, a label that troubled many Church authorities. Some popular stories collected and circulated in the late 13th century by these Franciscan Spirituals called Fioretti or Little Flowers of St. Francis, made direct comparisons between Francis and his followers and Christ and his Apostles. (See Fioretti )

Spiritual Franciscans also felt that the Testament of St. Francis, written by Francis on his deathbed, which prescribed poverty and mendicancy for the Franciscan order, was to be taken literally. After Francis' death, the Order eventually modified its rules on poverty so that the Order as a whole could possess material goods. The Spiritual Franciscans were vehemently opposed to this modification. Because of their continued criticism of the papacy and the Order, they were condemned as a heretical sect. However, the Spiritual Franciscans saw themselves as orthodox followers of St. Francis, and believed the Catholic Church was heretical in abandoning Francis' ideas. "The Rule," as set by Pope Honorius III's decretal Solet annuere in 1223 dictates:

The Spiritual Franciscans hoped to live in the manner set for them by St. Francis. They were condemned as heretical for not complying with the pope's ruling that Francis' Testament not be binding.

Documents and Links

Thomas of Celano: First and Second Lives of St. Francis Official account of Francis' life. Deals with Francis generally rather than with his testament and the conflict it caused. From the On Line Reference Book Encyclopedia

Testament of St. Francis The document at the center of the Spiritual controversy. Also from the On Line Reference Book Encyclopedia.

Petrus Iohannis Olivi A much later Franciscan heretic who drew heavily from Joachim of Fiore's theory of historical eras. From the Medieval Sourcebook

An example of the Fioretti or Little Flowers.

Umbertino da Casale 's 1312 "Violations of dominium and usus," excerpt.

Bonaventure A biography of the Minister General of the Friars Minor in the 13th century who was accused by Spiritual Franciscans of suppressing the "true Francis."

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