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. Saint Clare, under Francis's guidance, founded the Poor Clares in 1212, which remains a Second Order of the Franciscans. 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 devote himself wholly 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]

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, may here be mentioned:


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. It maintained the principles of Olivi, and, outside of Umbria, spread also in the kingdom of Naples, where Angelo died in 1337. Like several other smaller congregations, it was obliged in 1568 under Pope Pius V to unite with the general body of Observantists.

Minorites of Narbonne

As a separate congregation, this 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.

Reform of Johannes de Vallibus

Franciscan convent at Lopud in Croatia

This was founded in the hermitage of St. Bartholomew at Brugliano near Foligno in 1334. The congregation was suppressed by the Franciscan general chapter in 1354; reestablished in 1368 by Paolo de' Trinci of Foligno; confirmed by Gregory XI. in 1373, and spread rapidly from Central Italy to France, Spain, Hungary and elsewhere. Most of the Observantist houses joined this congregation by degrees, so that it became known simply as the "brothers of the regular Observance." It acquired the favor of the popes by its energetic opposition to the heretical Fraticelli, and was expressly recognized by the Council of Constance (1415). It was allowed to have a special vicar-general of its own and legislate for its members without reference to the conventual part of the order. Through the work of such men as Bernardino of Siena, Giovanni da Capistrano, and Dietrich Coelde (b. 1435? at Munster; was a member of the Brethren of the Common Life, died December 11, 1515), it gained great prominence during the 15th century. By the end of the Middle Ages, the Observantists, with 1,400 houses, comprised nearly half of the entire order. Their influence brought about attempts at reform even among the Conventuals, including 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; the Amadeists, founded by the noble Portuguese Amadeo, who entered the Franciscan order at Assisi in 1452, gathered around him a number of adherents to his fairly strict principles (numbering finally twenty-six houses) and, died in the odor of sanctity in 1482.


Franciscan Church from 15th century in Przeworsk, Poland

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. At Capistrano's request Eugenius IV put forth a bull (Ut sacra minorum, 1446) looking to the same result, but again nothing was accomplished. 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. 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.

See also



  • 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. 
  • Arnald of Sarrant (2010). Chronicle of the Twenty-Four Generals of the Order of Friars Minor. Translated by Noel Muscat. Malta: TAU Franciscan Communications. Retrieved 31 May 2016. 
  • Burr, David (2010). Spiritual Franciscans: From Protest to Persecution in the Century After Saint Francis. University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 0-271-04138-2. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  • Camps, Arnulf; McCloskey, Patrick (1995). The Friars Minor in China (1294-1955): Especially the Years 1925-55, Based on the Research of Friars Bernward Willeke and Domenico Gandolfi, OFM. History series. 10. Franciscan Institute Publications. ISBN 978-1-57659-002-7. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  • Carmody, Maurice (1994). The Leonine Union of the Order of Friars Minor: 1897. History series. 8. Franciscan Institute Publications. ISBN 978-1-57659-084-3. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  • Carmody, Maurice (2008). The Franciscan Story. Athena Press. ISBN 978-1-84748-141-2. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  • Cotter, Francis J. (1994). Roberta A. McKelvie, ed. The Friars Minor in Ireland from their arrival to 1400. History series. 7. Franciscan Institute Publications. ISBN 978-1-57659-083-6. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  • Couturier, David B. (2007). The Fraternal Economy: A Pastoral Psychology of Franciscan Economics. Cloverdale Books. ISBN 978-1-929569-23-6. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  • Daniel, E. Randolph (1992). The Franciscan Concept of Mission in the High Middle Ages. Franciscan Pathways Series. Franciscan Institute Publications. ISBN 978-1-57659-065-2. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  • Esser, Kajetan (1970). Origins of the Franciscan Order. Franciscan Herald Press. ISBN 978-0-8199-0408-9. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  • Flood, David; Matura, Thaddée (1975). The Birth of a Movement: A Study of the First Rule of St. Francis. Franciscan Herald Press. ISBN 978-0-8199-0567-3. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  • Francis of Assisi (1982). Francis and Clare: The Complete Works. Classics of Western spirituality. Translated by Regis J. Armstrong and Ignatius C. Brady. New York: Paulist Press. ISBN 0809124467. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  • Francis of Assisi. Armstrong, Regis J.; Hellmann, J. A. Wayne; Short, William J., eds. Francis of Assisi: Early Documents. —4 volumes
    • The Saint. Francis of Assisi: Early Documents. 1 (2nd ed.). New City Press. 1999. ISBN 978-0-904287-62-2. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
    • The Founder. Francis of Assisi: Early Documents. 2 (Illustrated ed.). New City Press. 2000. ISBN 978-1-56548-113-8. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
    • The Prophet. Francis of Assisi: Early Documents. 3 (Annotated ed.). New City Press. 2001. ISBN 978-1-56548-114-5. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
    • Index. Francis of Assisi: Early Documents. 4 (Annotated ed.). New City Press. 2002. ISBN 978-1-56548-172-5. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  • Gilliat-Smith, Ernest (1914). Saint Clare of Assisi: her life and legislation. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, Ltd. ISBN 0665656319. Retrieved 31 May 2016. 
  • Lawrence, C.H. (2015). Medieval Monasticism: Forms of Religious Life in Western Europe in the Middle Ages. Medieval World Series (4th ed.). Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-50467-2. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  • Lynch, Cyprian J. (1988). A Poor Man's Legacy: An Anthology of Franciscan Poverty. Franciscan Pathways Series. Franciscan Institute. ISBN 978-1-57659-069-0. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  • MacVicar, Thaddeus (1963). The Franciscan Spirituals and the Capuchin Reform. History series. 5. Franciscan Institute Publications. ISBN 978-1-57659-086-7. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  • Merlo, Grado Giovanni (2009). In the Name of St. Francis: A History of the Friars Minor and Franciscanism until the Early Sixteenth Century. Translated by Robert J. Karris and Raphael Bonanno. Franciscan Institute Publications. ISBN 978-1-57659-155-0. 
  • Moorman, John Richard Humpidge (1983). Medieval Franciscan houses. History series. 4. Franciscan Institute Publications. ISBN 978-1-57659-079-9. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  • Moorman, John Richard Humpidge (1988). A History of the Franciscan Order: From Its Origins to the Year 1517. Franciscan Herald Press. ISBN 978-0-8199-0921-3. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  • Osborne, Kenan B. (1994). The History of Franciscan Theology. Franciscan Institute Publications. ISBN 978-1-57659-032-4. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  • Senocak, Neslihan (2012). The Poor and the Perfect: the rise of learning in the Franciscan order, 1209-1310. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-6471-4. Retrieved 30 May 2016. —Shows how Franciscans shifted away from an early emphasis on poverty and humility and instead emphasized educational roles
  • Sharp, Dorothea Elizabeth (1966). Franciscan Philosophy at Oxford in the Thirteenth Century. British Society of Franciscan Studies. 16. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-576-99216-X. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 
  • Thomson, Williell R. (1975). Friars in the Cathedral: The First Franciscan Bishops 1226-1261. Studies and texts. 33. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. ISBN 9780888440334. ISSN 0082-5328. Retrieved 31 May 2016. 
  • White, Joseph M. (2004). Peace and good in America: a history of Holy Name Province Order of Friars Minor, 1850's to the present (Illustrated ed.). Holy Name Province O.F.M. ISBN 978-1-57659-196-3. Retrieved 30 May 2016. 


  • 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)). 
  • Schmucki, Oktavian (2000). "Die Regel des Johannes von Matha und die Regel des Franziskus von Assisi. Ähnlichkeiten und Eigenheiten. Neue Beziehungen zum Islam". In Cipollone, Giulio. La Liberazione dei 'Captivi' tra Cristianità e Islam: Oltre la Crociata e il Gihad: Tolleranza e Servizio Umanitario. Collectanea Archivi Vaticani. 46. Vatican City: Archivio Segreto Vaticano. pp. 219–244. 


  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. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Bihl, Michael (1913). "Order of Friars Minor". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 
  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. 

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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