Declaration regarding Capuchin clothing





(early 16th Century – 1614)




Introduction by


from I Frati Cappuccini, a work of Costanzo Cargnoni, Edizioni Frate Indovino, Perugia, 1991, volume I, pages 747-751.

Prepared by Gary Devery OFM Cap

Here for a digital version of in Italian


This text takes us back to the heroic period of the Order when the mystical fervour proper to the initiators of the Capuchin reform revived the zeal for a literal observance of the Rule. Bernardino d’Asti offers here an insight into how he, as a reformer, read and interpreted the Rule, always with the aim of pointing out in the most precise way the intention of Saint Francis, revealed not only by the Rule, but by the sayings and facts of his own life and that of his first companions.

The autobiographical hint that recalls the arduous journeys on foot that he, as Vicar General of the nascent reform, had to undertake to visit the friars in the various Italian provinces, equipped with the minimum necessary, is moving.

But the fire of the love of God that smouldered in his contemplative heart always defended him, like the blessed Egidio, from the cold and frost, and warms even our coldness.

Source: Messina, APC: Declarationi del P. fra Bernardino d’Asti circa il vestire, in [Giovanni Pili da Fano], Dialogo de la salute [emendato], ff. 105r-106r. – Cod. cart., acefalo, sec. XVI, senza segnatura, numerato per fogli recentemente, di una sola mano, 27/30 righe al foglio, 15 x 11 cm., 106 ff. Questo testo corrisponde sostanzialmente a quello riportato da Mattia da Salò (MHOC VI, 32-34) e da Paolo da Foligno (MHOC VII, 361-64) e anche alla copia conservata in AGO, EA.


1. [Introduction]
705 For the preservation of gratum faciente [habitual grace], the integral observance of the natural, divine and ecclesiastical precepts is necessary, and to us Capuchin friars even more necessary is the integral observance of the whole of the promised Rule, and especially of most holy poverty. And because many of the friars desire to observe fully what they have promised, and to know how the precept of the Rule regarding dress is to be understood, I therefore say what I think is necessary, always submitting myself to the benign correction of the Supreme Pontiffs and all [the] catholic prelates.

2. [The friar who without real necessity wears more than two tunics is gravely sinning]
706 In primis I say that the Capuchin friar who wears more than two tunics sins mortally.

Clement V expressly says:[1] According to the aforesaid Rule, by granting two tunics, it forbids the wearing of any other garment with them, because otherwise the habits would be worn in vain, and one could wear a gippone [vest?] or saione [jacket/cloak] and mantle without true necessity.

The aforesaid Rule implicitly concedes two tunics, therefore, such as one single tunic and a mantle, which is lacking in a tunic.

The Capuchin friar, wearing two tunics, simple or lined, without any other garment and without any other padding, fully observes the precept of dress.

The Capuchin friar, wearing a simple or lined habit and mantle without another tunic, more perfectly and securely observes the said precept.

Of those Capuchin friars who wear two tunics, there are very few who sometimes do not contravene the Rule, because they wear their mantle at home, or even on journeys when it does not rain, or even when it is just a little bit chilly.

3. [The true necessities for carrying three items of clothing]
707 The true necessities for being able to carry three items of clothing, that is, two tunics and the mantle, are these:

The first, when it rains while the friars are travelling.

The second, when the friar has tried[2] to wear two lined tunics, and he cannot remain in good health, being troubled by sickness or infirmity, and otherwise when suffering too much from the cold or in fact he cannot remain at the office and prayer and cannot do the other spiritual exercises and those of the community.

The third necessity is, according to some, when the friars walk through countries of excessive cold; but I and my companions have experimented with this, with whom I went about for ten winters or so,[3] and we passed through countries of excessive cold, through very rough mountains, over slopes and woods, through snow and ice, always wearing only our habit and mantle; and therefore I have said above that the purity of the Rule is observed most safely by wearing only the mantle with the habit, because inside the house, or while travelling with any form of cold, rain or ice, we always found ourselves with two items of clothing.

4. [The use of the mantle]
708 That the mantle is permitted to the Capuchin friar is proved, first of all by the sources, which is: in the “Legend of Three Companions” it is found how Saint Francis, and his companions wore mantles with their habit without another tunic. Likewise, in the same source it is read that our Lord Jesus Christ, appearing to Saint Francis, told him that all the time of his life, as a light traveller, he had walked with only one tunic and a vile mantle.[4]

Secondly, in one searching out and finding the antique paintings, I have seen Saint Francis antiquely portrayed with the mantle.

Thirdly, one can seek out the mantle of Saint Francis, which is used as a relic in the city of Zevole and where it is held in great reverence by the people, and which I have many times held in my hands and carried it around that city.[5]

But the compassionate Lord wanted to put the second tunic in the Rule as more useful to the body, in order that the weak friars or those who suffer much from the cold can with secure conscience carry with them two tunics. This would not be safe if the Rule had placed the mantle in place of the second tunic.

5. [The intention of Saint Francis]
709 And the intention of the Rule and of Saint Francis is that his true brothers should wear no more than two pieces of clothing; the author of the Rule of Conformity has also testified to this, who in Conformity XVI says these words: Execrabatur beatus Franciscus fratres triplicibus indutos [The brothers who wears three garments are thrice execrated by blessed Francis]. I do not know what word can be given or placed here: it is not licit to execrate anyone, except for mortal sin, and in the same place it says: Nolebat beatus Franciscus fratres suos habere plusquam duas tunichas, quas tantum pecciis sustulere[6] [Blessed Francis did not want his brothers to have more than two tunics…]. Those brothers who wear the habit with the mantle, do not wear more than the two tunics, but would rather go without anything else.

6. [It is not forbidden to line clothes]
710 By the above words, it has been made very clear for the true brothers of Saint Francis it is not permitted to wear three items of clothing, and that it is permitted to wear two that are lined. Our Rule does not forbid lining in any way, and this is not more convenient for the poor than for the rich, and, as Ugo says, the lined clothing is no more than one piece of clothing, but one is not to put more than one lining per piece of clothing, and it is more convenient not to line new tunics with new cloth, except in case of necessity, when the tunic is made of very thin and pliant cloth.[7]

7. [Example of Brother Egidio, companion of Saint Francis]
711 We should not be concerned about those who laugh at us, because the same ones still laugh at many things for which they should weep. And it is of no wonder, because when Blessed Egidio went barefoot to the hermitage in his only habit, and a certain man rebuffed him, saying that if he could enter paradise immediately, he would not go there dressed like Blessed Egidio, who was the third companion of Saint Francis. At which words the ancient host, being envious of such asperity, sent so frigid a a wind upon the blessed Egidio that he almost froze to death. But turning his mind to Christ and considering how the Creator of the world went naked and barefoot, he immediately warmed up, and he praised the Most High who had so suddenly with his fire warmed and consoled him.[8]

Laus Deo optimo maximoque. Amen.

  1. Cf. Clemente V, Exivi de paradiso, in BC VI, 855.
  2. It is the criterion already suggested by the ordinances of Albacina, cf. Alb. nn. 14-15 and especially 20 and 23 (nn. 95-96, 101, 103), and particularly applied during the year of novitiate to experience all the austerities of the Order.
  3. This is a moving autobiographical witness. As Vicar General Bernardino d’Asti for around then years, from 1536 to 1538 and then again from 1546 to 1552, visited the various provinces, aloway on foot.
  4. This is taken from the Hist.7 trib. and from the Expositio of A. Clareno. See the notes 86-87 on the commentary on the Rule with the title: L’amore evangelico 9 n. 481).
  5. That is, Tivoli, in the Church of S. Maria Maggiore where this mantle is still conserved.
  6. Conf. V, 104.
  7. Hugh of Digne, Expositio, in Spec. Minorum, pars III, f. 36r.
  8. Cf. Conf. IV, 207. – This episode of Blessed Egidio is not reported in the transcript of Mario da Mercato Saraceno (Mhoc I, 251-54) and in the Latin version of Zaccaria Boverio (AC I, year 1550, n. IV-XII, p. 426-28).