FIOR (Franciscan Institute Outreach - Malta)

6. History of the Franciscan Movement (2)

The Franciscans in the Universities

2.21. By the middle of the 13th century, the Franciscan Order had become one of the most learned institutions in the world. By this time the office of "lector" was one of the established offices in the Order. Whole convents were dedicated to be study houses for the friars, especially in the university cities of Europe.

The Life of St. Francis: The gift of the mantle
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2.22. In England the friars had arrived in 1224. By 1229 they already had their own school in Oxford. In Paris the friars had arrived in 1219. By 1229 they had an independent school of their own. In both places they soon came into contact with the secular masters of the universities, who saw in the mendicant Dominicans and Franciscans a threat to their own advancement. The mendicants, in fact, possessed a kind of "universitas" of their own, with proper lectors and students, lectures, disputations. The Friars Preachers and Friars Minor soon acquired chairs in the university, when some of the secular masters, such as John of St. Giles and Alexander of Hales became, respectively, a Dominican and a Franciscan. In 1250 Pope Innocent IV ordered the university of Paris to give the "licentia docendi" upon qualified friars, who could become regent masters. There were various instances of refusal to obey on the part of the secular masters, who were dismayed at the way the Dominicans and Franciscans were attracting students to their schools. Giovanni da Parma had tried to calm the situation in 1254. But the question of the Joachimite tendencies in the Franciscan Order was a blow to his efforts, especially after Gerard from Borgo San Donnino published his "Liber introductorius". William of Saint Amour attacked the mendicants, and was answered by both Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure. Gerard of Abbeville did the same in 1269, to be answered by Bonaventure with the "Apologia pauperum", and by John Peckham with the "Tractatus pauperis" (1269-1270). Nicholas of Lisieux renewed the controversy in 1271, to be answered by Peckham. These secular masters refuted voluntary poverty as being a dangerous choice, contrary to what Christ and the apostles taught. They attacked the mendicants, saying that they did not possess goods, but made use of them just the same.

The Life of St. Francis: The death of chevalier of Celano
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2.23. Haymo of Faversham had joined the Franciscan Order in the early years of its presence in Paris. When Alexander of Hales became a Franciscan in 1235 he took with him a number of students, among whom Jean de la Rochelle, Eudes Rigaud, William of Melitona and Bonaventure. These eventually succeeded him as masters. The friars were at St. Denis in 1228, but in 1231 they moved in the university quarters and built the Grand Couvent des Cordeliers.

2.24.The Franciscan masters of Paris gained important positions in the Church and Order. John Peckham became archbishop of Canterbury and Bonaventure, Matteo d'Aquasparta, Arlotto da Prato and Giovanni da Murrovalle, became Minister Generals, Pierre Jean Olieu was one of the leaders of the Spirituals.

2.25. In Oxford the Franciscan school progressed with the personal interest of Alberto da Pisa, Minister Provincial of England, and with the learned experience of Robert Grossatesta, future bishop of Lincoln, who presided over the Franciscan school from 1229 to 1235 and left his rich library to the friars. Among the famous Franciscan masters of Oxford we mention Adam Marsh, Thomas of York, John Peckham, Richard of Middletown, William of Ockham, Roger Bacon. In Cambridge the friars had arrived in 1225, and there started a school in 1230.

2.26. Anthony of Padua taught theology to the friars at the university of Bologna. Haymo of Faversham and Giovanni da Parma were also lectors at this student house, which was always independent of the university, which did not possess a faculty of theology. Other scholars were in the university of Padua in 1222.

2.27. In Köln also the Franciscans had a student house, in which John Duns Scotus taught for some time before his death on 8 November 1308. John was born in Scotland in 1266 and joined the Franciscans in Dumfries. He studied in Oxford, and was ordained on 17 March 1291 by the bishop Oliver Sutton in Northampton. He went to Paris to continue his studies in 1293-1297. He lectured in Oxford, Paris and Cambridge. While in Paris he failed to sign a "libellus" against Pope Boniface VIII in favour of the French king. Thus he had to leave the university, but returned in 1304 upon recommendation of Gonsalvus of Spain, Minister General, who had been his master. In 1308 he was transferred to Köln, where he died. His cult as blessed was confirmed "ab immemorabile" by John Paul II on 6 July 1991. Scotus is known for his doctrine regarding the universal predestination of Christ and the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.

© copyright FIOR-Malta
Text by Fr. Noel Muscat ofm


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