Order of Friars Minor

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Order of Friars Minor
Ordo Fratrum Minorum
Coat of Arms of the Order of Friars Minor.svg
Coat of arms of the General Minister of the Order of Friars Minor
Abbreviation O.F.M., Franciscan
Motto Pax et bonum
("Peace and the good")
Formation February 24, 1209; 808 years ago (1209-02-24)
Founder Francis of Assisi
Type Mendicant Catholic religious order
Legal status Religious institute
Headquarters Porziuncola
Michael A. Perry
Main organ
General Curia
Parent organization
Catholic Church
Subsidiaries Secular Franciscan Order (1221)
Third Order of Saint Francis (1447)
Secessions Order of Friars Minor Conventual (1517)
Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (1520)
Affiliations Order of Saint Clare (1212)
Website ofm.org
Francis of Assisi, founder of the Order of Friars Minor; oldest known portrait in existence of the saint, dating back to St. Francis' retreat to Subiaco (1223–1224)

The Order of Friars Minor (also called the Franciscans, the Franciscan Order, or the Seraphic Order;[1] postnominal abbreviation O.F.M.) is a mendicant Catholic religious order, founded in 1209 by Francis of Assisi. The order adheres to the teachings and spiritual disciplines of the founder and of his main associates and followers, such as Clare of Assisi, Anthony of Padua, and Elizabeth of Hungary, among many others. The Order of Friars Minor is considered to the successor to the original Franciscan Order within the Catholic Church, and is the largest of the contemporary First Orders within the Franciscan movement.

Francis began preaching around 1207 and traveled to Rome to seek approval of his order from Pope Innocent III in 1209. The original Rule of Saint Francis approved by the pope disallowed ownership of property, requiring members of the order to beg for food while preaching. The austerity was meant to emulate the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Franciscans traveled and preached in the streets, while boarding in church properties. The extreme poverty required of members was relaxed in final revision of the Rule in 1223. The degree of observance required of members remained a major source of conflict within the order, resulting in numerous secessions.[2][3]

The Order of Friars Minor, previously known as the Observant branch, is one of the three Franciscan First Orders within the Catholic Church, the others being the Capuchins and Conventuals. The Order of Friars Minor, in its current form, is the result of an amalgamation of several smaller orders completed in 1897 by Pope Leo XIII.[4] The latter two, the Capuchin and Conventual, remain distinct religious institutes within the Catholic Church, observing the Rule of Saint Francis with different emphases. Franciscans are sometimes referred to as minorites or greyfriars because of their habit. In Poland and Lithuania they are known as Bernardines, after Bernardino of Siena, although the term elsewhere refers to Cistercians instead.

Name and demographics

The "Order of Friars Minor" are commonly called simply the "Franciscans". This Order is a mendicant religious order of men that traces its origin to Francis of Assisi.[5] Their official Latin name is the Ordo Fratrum Minorum.[6]

The modern organization of the Friars Minor comprises three separate family or groups, each considered a religious order in its own right under its own minister General and with particular type of governance. They all live according to a body of regulations known as the Rule of St Francis.[5] These are

  • The Order of Friars Minor, known as the "Observants", most commonly simply called Franciscan friars,[5] official name: "Friars Minor" (OFM).[7]
  • The Order of Friars Minor Capuchin or simply Capuchins,[5] official name: "Friars Minor Capuchin" (OFM Cap).[7]
  • The Conventual Franciscans or Minorites,[5] official name: "Friars Minor Conventual" (OFM Conv).[7]

The 2013 Annuario Pontificio gave the following figures for the membership of the principal male Franciscan orders:.[8]

  • Order of Friars Minor (O.F.M.): 2,212 communities; 14,123 members; 9,735 priests
  • Franciscan Order of Friars Minor Conventual (O.F.M.Conv.): 667 communities; 4,289 members; 2,921 priests
  • Franciscan Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (O.F.M.Cap.): 1,633 communities; 10,786 members; 7,057 priests
  • Third Order Regular of Saint Francis (T.O.R.): 176 communities; 870 members; 576 priests



A sermon which Francis heard in 1209 on Mt 10:9 made such an impression on him that he decided to fully devote himself to a life of apostolic poverty. Clad in a rough garment, barefoot, and, after the Evangelical precept, without staff or scrip, he began to preach repentance.[9]

The mendicant orders had long been exempt from the jurisdiction of the bishop, and enjoyed (as distinguished from the secular clergy) unrestricted freedom to preach and hear confessions in the churches connected with their monasteries. This had led to endless friction and open quarrels between the two divisions of the clergy. This question was definitively settled by the Council of Trent.[4]

Franciscan convent at Lopud in Croatia

Separate congregations

Amid numerous dissensions in the 14th century sprang a number of separate congregations, almost of sects. To say nothing of the heretical parties of the Beghards and Fraticelli, some of which developed within the order on both hermit and cenobitic principles.

  • The Clareni or Clarenini, an association of hermits established on the river Clareno in the march of Ancona by Angelo da Clareno after the suppression of the Franciscan Celestines by Boniface VIII. Like several other smaller congregations, it was obliged in 1568 under Pope Pius V to unite with the general body of Observantists.
  • The Minorites of Narbonne originated through the union of a number of houses which followed Olivi after 1308. It was limited to southwestern France and, its members being accused of the heresy of the Beghards, was suppressed by the Inquisition during the controversies under John XXII.
  • The quasi-Observantist brothers living under the rule of the Conventual ministers (Martinianists or "Observantes sub ministris"), such as the male Colletans, later led by Boniface de Ceva in his reform attempts principally in France and Germany;
  • The reformed congregation founded in 1426 by the Spaniard Philip de Berbegal and distinguished by the special importance they attached to the little hood (cappuciola);
  • The Neutri, a group of reformers originating about 1463 in Italy, who tried to take a middle ground between the Conventuals and Observantists, but refused to obey the heads of either, until they were compelled by the pope to affiliate with the regular Observantists, or with those of the Common Life;
  • The Caperolani, a congregation founded about 1470 in North Italy by Peter Caperolo, but dissolved again on the death of its founder in 1481;
Franciscan Church from 15th century in Przeworsk, Poland.

A difference of opinion developed in the community concerning the interpretation of the rule regarding property. The Observants held to a strict interpretation that the friars may not hold any property neither individually nor communally. The literal and unconditional observance of this was rendered impracticable by the great expansion of the order, its pursuit of learning, and the accumulated property of the large cloisters in the towns. Regulations were drafted by which all alms donated were held by custodians appointed by the Holy See, who would make distributions upon request. It was John XXII who had introduced Conventualism in the sense of community of goods, income and property as in other religious orders, in contradiction to Observantism or the strict observance of the rule. Pope Martin V, in the Brief "Ad statum" of 23 August, 1430, allowed the Conventuals to hold property like all other orders.

Projects for a union between the two main branches of the order were put forth not only by the Council of Constance but by several popes, without any positive result. By direction of Pope Martin V, John of Capistrano drew up statutes which were to serve as a basis for reunion, and they were actually accepted by a general chapter at Assisi in 1430; but the majority of the Conventual houses refused to agree to them, and they remained without effect. Equally unsuccessful were the attempts of the Franciscan Pope Sixtus IV, who bestowed a vast number of privileges on both the original mendicant orders, but by this very fact lost the favor of the Observants and failed in his plans for reunion. Julius II succeeded in doing away with some of the smaller branches, but left the division of the two great parties untouched. This division was finally legalized by Leo X, after a general chapter held in Rome in 1517, in connection with the reform-movement of the Fifth Lateran Council, had once more declared the impossibility of reunion. Leo X summoned On 11 July, 1516, a capitulum generalissimum to meet at Rome on the feast of Pentecost (31 May), 1517. This chapter first suppressed all the reformed congregations and annexed them to the Observants; declared the Observants an independent order, and separated them completely from the Conventuals.[4] The less strict principles of the Conventuals, permitting the possession of real estate and the enjoyment of fixed revenues, were recognized as tolerable, while the Observants, in contrast to this usus moderatus, were held strictly to their own usus arctus or pauper.


All of the groups that followed the Franciscan Rule literally were united to the Observants and the right to elect the Minister General of the Order, together with the seal of the order, was given to this united grouping. This grouping, since it adhered more closely to the rule of the founder, was allowed to claim a certain superiority over the Conventuals. The Observant general (elected now for six years, not for life) inherited the title of "Minister-General of the Whole Order of St. Francis" and was granted the right to confirm the choice of a head for the Conventuals, who was known as "Master-General of the Friars Minor Conventual"—although this privilege never became practically operative.

In 1875, the Kulturkampf expelled the majority of the German Franciscans, most of whom settled in North America.


The habit has been gradually changed in colour and certain other details. Its colour, which was at first grey or a medium brown, is now a dark brown. The dress, which consists of a loose sleeved gown, is confined by a white cord, from which is hung, since the fifteenth century, the Seraphic rosary with its seven decades. Sandals are substituted for shoes. Around the neck and over the shoulders hangs the cowl.

Saints and Beati



See also



  1. ^ "Seraphic Order", New Catholic Dictionary. 4 September 2006. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  2. ^ "Franciscans, Religious Order". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 26 February 2013. Retrieved 7 January 2017. 
  3. ^ "Saint Francis of Assisi, Italian Saint". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 26 February 2013. Retrieved 7 January 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c Bihl, Michael. "Order of Friars Minor". The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 21 December 2017
  5. ^ a b c d e "The rule of the Franciscan Order from the Medieval Sourcebook". Fordham.edu. 1999-09-22. Retrieved 2013-06-16. 
  6. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Paschal Robinson (1913). "Order of Friars Minor". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 
  7. ^ a b c Wikisource-logo.svg Paschal Robinson (1913). "Franciscan Order". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 
  8. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 1422
  9. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Paschal Robinson (1913). "St. Francis of Assisi". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Order of Friars Minor". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton. 


  • Aguiar de Castro, José Acácio (1997). O simbolismo da natureza em Santo António de Lisboa. Biblioteca humanística e teológica (in Portuguese). 11. Porto: Universidade Católica Portugesa, Fundação Eng António de Almeida. ISBN 9728386036. Retrieved 31 May 2016. 
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  • Halevi, Masha (2012). "Between Faith and Science: Franciscan Archaeology in the Service of the Holy Places". Middle Eastern Studies. Routledge. 48 (2): 249–267. doi:10.1080/00263206.2012.653139. Retrieved 31 May 2016. (Registration required (help)). 
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External links

  • Order of Friars Minor (Official website)
  • Online guide to the Academy of American Franciscan History Microfilm Collection, 1526–1972, The Bancroft Library
  • Franciscan authors, 13th – 18th century
  • Digital Franciscans - Extensive list of Franciscan internet resources
  • Luke Wadding Papers: correspondence relating to Fr Luke Wadding OFM and the Irish Friars Minor at St. Isidore’s College, Rome, on ecclesiastical and political matters; and concerning his interests as historian of the Franciscan Order. A UCD Digital Library Collection.
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