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The Spiritual Franciscans

From Protest to Persecution in the Century After Saint Francis

David Burr

Publication Year: 2003

Winner of the 2002 John Gilmary Shea Prize and the 2002 Howard R. Marraro Prize of the American Catholic Historical Association. When Saint Francis of Assisi died in 1226, he left behind an order already struggling to maintain its identity. As the Church called upon Franciscans to be bishops, professors, and inquisitors, their style of life began to change. Some in the order lamented this change and insisted on observing the strict poverty practiced by Francis himself. Others were more open to compromise. Over time, this division evolved into a genuine rift, as those who argued for strict poverty were marginalized within the order. In this book, David Burr offers the first comprehensive history of the so-called Spiritual Franciscans, a protest movement within the Franciscan order. Burr shows that the movement existed more or less as a loyal opposition in the late thirteenth century, but by 1318 Pope John XXII and leaders of the order had combined to force it beyond the boundaries of legitimacy. At that point the loyal opposition turned into a heretical movement and recalcitrant friars were sent to the stake. Although much has been written about individual Spiritual Franciscan leaders, there has been no general history of the movement since 1932. Few people are equipped to tackle the voluminous documentary record and digest the sheer mass of research generated by Franciscan scholars in the last century. Burr, one of the world's leading authorities on the Franciscans, has given us a book that will define the field for years to come.

Published by: Penn State University Press

Front Cover

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Copyright Page

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pp. v

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pp. vii-xii

DURING THE LAST FEW DECADES, scholars have shown substantial interest in the spiritual Franciscans. The result has been a number of books and articles, most of them on specific problems or figures. A single volume covering the entire movement now seems desirable. ...

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1 The Franciscan Dilemma

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pp. 1-10

IN THE SPRING OF 1317, the Franciscans at Narbonne received a letter from Pope John XXII. It was not the sort of message that they would have wanted to read. John ordered them to appear at the papal court in Avignon within ten days and explain why they had violently seized control of their house, ...

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2 Protospirituals

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pp. 11-42

IF FRANCISCAN LIFE WAS CHANGING, Franciscans had to decide how they should react to that change. Historians often paint the picture of an order torn between two alternatives. Most friars chose to embrace the changes and accept the inevitable compromise of Franciscan poverty necessitated by them, ...

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3 The Birth of the Usus Pauper Controversy: 1274–1290

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pp. 43-66

HOWEVER UNCERTAIN THE SITUATION might appear up to this point, once we move beyond Bonaventure’s generalate, we seem to enter a new world. Suddenly we have some hope of identifying battles with definable issues and contestants. Our use of the plural is justified. ...

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4 Opposition in High Places: 1290–1309

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pp. 67-110

IN 1290 THINGS SEEMED to be looking up for rigorists throughout the order. Raymond Geoffroi, sympathetic toward advocates of strict observance, was minister general; Angelo and his zealot companions, released from prison in Ancona, were off to Armenia; Olivi, after his rehabilitation and two-year stint in Florence, ...

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5 The Council of Vienne: The Spiritual Franciscan Position

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pp. 111-136

WHAT EVIDENCE WE HAVE SUGGESTS that the first decade of the fourteenth century was a bad time for those in southern France who adhered to Olivi’s position on usus pauper, but their travail ended when Pope Clement V intervened in 1309. Why he did so is not entirely clear, but Angelo Clareno may provide part of the answer: ...

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6 The Council of Vienne: The Community and the Pope

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pp. 137-158

The answer is that to a point they were, despite their occasional attempts to suggest that the controversy was limited to southern France and was merely a battle over terms, hence not worth arguing about at all.1 They were not disputing directly with Olivi, and thus one occasionally finds them discussing some issue he never raised. ...

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7 The Collapse of the Clementine Settlement

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pp. 159-178

WE SAW IN THE LAST CHAPTER that Clement V’s settlement at Vienne conceded some points to the spirituals and denied others. Clement took their complaints seriously, acknowledged grave abuses, and told Franciscan leaders to reform. Yet he refused to divide the order and let the spirituals go their own way. ...

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8 John Acts

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pp. 179-190

JOHN DID NOT INHERIT A SINGLE spiritual Franciscan problem. Rather, he fell heir to a series of them: the Tuscan rebels, the Narbonne and Béziers rebels, Angelo’s associates, and miscellaneous others, such as Ubertino, who fit within none of these groups. The whole matter required thought. ...

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9 Censure and Condemnation

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pp. 191-212


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10 Southern France: Four Case Histories

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pp. 213-238

BY THE END OF 1318, the spirituals’ situation had changed dramatically. The pope had decided, and he had done so in a way that made further resistance equivalent to heresy. Since this turn of events meant triumph for the community and defeat for the spirituals, one might consider it the end of our story. ...

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11 Southern France: Some Generalizations

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pp. 239-260

WHILE IT WOULD BE AN OVERSTATEMENT to say that the four cases examined in the last chapter present spiritual and beguin life after 1318 in all its complexity, they at least give us a start in that direction. We are now in a position to make some generalizations. ...

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12 Ubertino da Casale and the Controversy over Christ’s Poverty

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pp. 261-287

We last encountered Ubertino at Avignon in 1317, telling the pope that he would willingly speak for the spirituals if asked to do so. He was, we remember, informed that no such request would be forthcoming. If John wanted to keep Ubertino from testifying, it was obviously because the pope wanted to get on with the task ...

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13 Angelo Clareno and Beyond

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pp. 279-304

WHILE UBERTINO DA CASALE was working out his destiny with the aid of John XXII and a hostile Franciscan leadership, Angelo Clareno was following a much different path. In 1317, the year in which the spirituals were flattened by a first wave of bulls from John’s chancery, ...

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pp. 305-314

WE HAVE FOLLOWED THE STORY of the spiritual Franciscans through a series of phases. Up to the 1270s, we can only point to isolated cases that seem to anticipate what we see emerging in that decade. From the 1270s to around 1290, we see a genuine movement begin, but in separate dramas whose diverse plots ...

Appendix: Spirituals and Mystics

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pp. 315-346


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pp. 347-394


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pp. 395-408


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pp. 409-427

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780271052656
E-ISBN-10: 0271052651
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271023090
Print-ISBN-10: 0271023090

Page Count: 440
Publication Year: 2003