FIOR (Franciscan Institute Outreach - Malta)

7. History of the Franciscan Movement (2)

2) The beginnings of the Capuchin reform (1525-1619)

7.8. Matteo da Bascio (+ 1552) was a priest and preacher of the Franciscan Observant province of the Marches of Ancona. His earnest desire was to be able to live the Franciscan Rule according to the most strict observance. In 1525 he left his friary at Montefalcone and went to Rome and asked permission from Clement VII (1523-1534) to be able to carry out his wish, and to wear a habit with a pointed capuche according to the model St. Francis himself had shown him in a vision. Matteo was protected by the Duchess of Camerino, Caterina Cibo, who was a niece of the Pope.

7.9. During the Provincial Chapter in Jesi, Giovanni da Fano, Minister Provincial, ordered Matteo to go to the friary of Fano, where he placed him under guard, until the Duchess of Camerino demanded his freedom. Soon other Brothers went to join him. Ludovico and Raffaele da Fossombrone asked the Minister Provincial to let them live in a hermitage with Matteo. The Minister refused. Therefore these brothers found refuge in the Conventual friary of Cingoli. When Paolo da Chioggia joined the group, they began to live in Fossombrone, under the protection of the Duchess of Camerino and the obedience of the Friars Minor Conventuals.

7.10. On 3 July 1528 Pope Clement VII gave them the Bull "Religionis zelus", with permission to live the Franciscan Rule according to the most strict observance, to live in hermitages, grow a long beard, wear a narrow habit with a pointed capuche, preach to the people and accept novices. They were to remain under the obedience of the Friars Minor Conventuals.

7.11. Ludovico da Fossombrone became the leader of the new family. In 1529 a set of new Constitutions were formed, called the Constitutions of Albacina. This legislation prescribed two hours of meditation daily; the divine office at night; penitential practices in food accompanied with begging for the daily needs of the friars; one habit with a short mantle for the sick and aged; no procurators; friaries outside cities, remaining the property of the benefactors; poor churches; itinerant preaching without remuneration; few books. When the first friars went to preach in Camerino in 1534, the locals called them "Scapuccini" and "Romiti". They soon became known as Friars Minor Capuchins.

7.12. In the meantime Matteo da Bascio left this new fraternity in 1537, to return to the ranks of the Observants, where he died in 1552.

7.13. The Minister General Paolo Pisotti tried to suppress the new movement. Cardinal Quinones was of the opinion that it would have been wiser to try to call the new reformers within the family of the Observance, as he had tried to do in Spain with the eremitical Franciscan reforms. Ludovico da Fossombrone, however, held fast to the "Religionis zelus". The Pope ordered the Observants not to molest the Capuchins, and prohibited the Capuchins from receiving Observants within their ranks.

7.14. The new family was led by prominent figures, such as Bernardino d'Asti, Francesco da Jesi, doctor in law, and Bernardino Ochino, a famous preacher.

7.15. In 1535 Bernardino d'Asti was elected Vicar General. Ludovico da Fossombrone left the new Franciscan family. Although the Minister General Lunello tried to unite the Capuchins with the Order of Friars Minor in 1542, Bernardino d'Asti and Bernardino Ochino refused. Ochino was unfortunately to end up an apostate in 1542. The new Order was saved by Francesco da Jesi, who became Vicar General in 1543.

7.16. The new Order progressed rapidly. In 1608 Pope Paul V declared that the Capuchins were true Friars Minor and sons of St. Francis. On 23 January 1619 the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins was given autonomous status and separated from the nominal obedience of the Friars Minor Conventuals, with the Papal Brief "Alias felicis recordationis".

7.17. During the first century of its existence, the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins was also a school of sanctity for many friars. Among its prominent figures during this period we mention St. Felice of Cantalice (+ 1587), St. Laurence of Brindisi, Doctor of the Church (+ 1619) and St. Fedele of Sigmaringen (+ 1622), the first Martyr of Propaganda Fide.

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


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