Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Franciscans, The, a religious order founded in 1208 by Francis of Assisi (q.v.), and finally established by Pope Honorius III. in 1223. It rapidly grew in numbers, there being in fifty years nearly 200,000 monks and over 7,000 convents. At present there are about 100,000 Franciscans, who are governed by a general at Rome, "provincials" or heads of provinces, and heads of convents, who are called custodes. All these officers are elective. Novices are called "scholars;" priests are known as "fathers;" and the rest are "brothers." Besides the regular monks, there are members of the Franciscan Institute, who are called Tertiaries (members of the Third Order). These are not bound by the letter of the vows. They need not be celibate, and may hold property, but they must restore ill-gotten goods, and must not be extravagant or luxurious, and are bound to hear mass daily, to be reconciled to their enemies, and to devote some of their time to the sick and the ignorant. The vow of poverty has been something of a stumbling-block in the history of the Franciscans. One party observed the traditions of St. Francis in the letter, and, under the name of "Observantists," obtained a separate organisation from Leo X. The "Conventuals" or unorthodox section allow ornaments in their churches, and are permitted to hold property in the name of the Order. The Capuchins, another branch of the stricter section, deriving their name from their capuche or hood, were formed at the time of the Reformation, and increased rapidly after the Council of Trent. The "Barefooted Franciscans" sprang up in Spain under Peter of Alcantara, and obtained a new rule in 1555. There are also several orders of Franciscan nuns, one of which, the Clarissines, was founded by St. Clara, sister of Francis, in 1212, and is the second Order of St. Francis. As missionaries, the Franciscans have been very active from the first; they have convents all over the world. As theologians, they upheld free-will against the Dominicans, and in metaphysics they were Realists. Among their great names are St. Bonaventure, Cardinal Ximenes, Duns Scotus, and Roger Bacon. Lope de Vega was a tertiary. Sixtus V, Clement XIV., and other Popes belonged to the Order, as likewise did the authors of the Dies Iroe and Stabat Mater. In England the Franciscans, known as Grey Friars were very active in the reign of Henry III., and founded monasteries at Canterbury and Northampton. At the dissolution of the monasteries they had 65 houses; there are now five, and fourteen in Ireland, besides Capuchin convents in both. Luke Wadding, an Irish monk, was the historian of the Order of St. Francis, and his work has been largely supplemented since his death (1657). The Grey Friars are sometimes called Minorites and Seraphic Brethren.