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


Friar (Lat. frater, I tai. frate, French frere) means "brother," and has been generally used of members of religious brotherhoods. Strictly speaking, friars were members of an order under the rank of priest, the latter being called "father." They are distinguished from monks, who belonged to older foundations, and did not travel about and preach among the people as the friars did. The 13th century saw the rise of the Grey Friars or Franciscans, the Black Friars or Dominicans, and the White Friars or Carmelites, as well as of the Augustinians or Austin Friars. Later also there were the Crutched (Ital. crociati) Friars, or Trinitarians. In England the friars were not only founders of schools of theology, but also the leaders of the people in political matters during the Barons' War. Their political songs are the first rough expression of democratic theory in English literature. In the 14th century, however, they became rich, and soon i lost their influence. Their principle of mendicancy and interference with the parish priest were attacked by the monks and regular clergy; and Wyclif, while agreeing with them in these matters, was opposed to the orthodoxy of their doctrine. They in return became the enemies of the Lollards. The degeneracy into which the friars had fallen appears from the description given of them in the Vision of Piers Plowman (end of 14th century) and in the Canterbury Tales (Prologue). Dr. Jessopp's Coming of the Friars gives an interesting account of them.