General Archivist of the Order

I FRATI CAPPUCCINI. Documenti e Testimonianze del Primo Secolo. A cura di COSTANZO CARGNONI. Roma 1982, 13-56.

(Access digital version of original text in Frati cappuccini here)

Table of Contents

Background and beginning of the Capuchin reform

Approval of the reform – difficult years – confirmation (1528-1536)

Consolidation and evolution – the Tridentine decrees – beyond the Alps (1537-1575)

Defence of one’s identity – new forms of apostolate – primacy of contemplation (1576-1607)

Towards autonomy (1608-1619)

The Capuchins, true Friars Minor and sons of Saint Francis (1620-1628)

Publication of documents

To the highest offices of pontiffs and superiors of the individual institutes of consecrated life belongs the responsible for approving the forms of life, regulating their practice with laws and taking care of their growth and flowering according to the spirit of the founder and the healthy traditions of the institute. In the approval of the Capuchin reform in 1528, Clement VII explicitly mentioned its fundamental form of life: “to lead a eremitical life and observe the Rule of Blessed Francis as much as human frailty permits”; this meant, in the intention of the initiators and then expressed in the first constitutions of 1536 and in the subsequent revisions, to observe it “simply, to the letter and without gloss”, renouncing “all the carnal, useless, harmful and relaxing glosses and expositions”, and accepting as a “singular and lively commentary” on it, the declarations of the supreme pontiffs and the most holy life, doctrine and example of our father Saint Francis. The same constitutions commanded the friars not to ask the Roman curia for “any letter”, and added that the general chapter had renounced “all the privileges which relax the Rule”.[1]

The Capuchin Order was governed by its own constitutions, a spiritual and practical commentary on the Rule and a guide for its strict and complete observance. Precisely because the constitutions were simple particular ecclesiastical laws of the Order, the Holy See did not deem it necessary to approve them explicitly and solemnly or in ordinary form; however, in the confirmatory bulls of the Order of Paul III and Pius IV defined them as “laudable” and in 1608 and 1627 it will explicitly declare that they “contain nothing that does not conform to the Rule of St. Francis”.[2]

From the beginning the Capuchins were very reluctant to ask for the intervention of the Holy See. Although the register of the list of bulls addressed to the Capuchins amounts to about 500 pontifical documents for the first hundred years of the Order, almost all published in the same bullary,[3] only about seventy of them strictly concern the general history of the Order.[4] In these documents the Holy See does not interfere in the life program of the Order and in its evolution and implementation over time: it limits itself to approving, confirming, protecting and conferring validity and obligation on the various choices of the Order, always arising from the primitive charism, that is, the strict and integral observance of the Rule. Moreover, in the particular legislation of the Order there was nothing contrary to the general law of religious then in force. The Order, in the various revisions of its constitutions, took care to accommodate the new decrees which concerned both the general law and the particular law of the Franciscan Order.

However, the pontifical documents, in their meagre juridical formulation, must be read and interpreted as a positive and authoritative testimony of the Holy See on the spirit and life of the Order in its first century.[5] Even the prohibitive documents concerning the reception of the Observants into the Order must be understood and interpreted in the light of the concern of the Holy See to preserve peace within the Franciscan families. Similarly, the documents that forbad other Orders and religious institutes to wear the Capuchin habit, or one similar to it, must not be interpreted as an arrogant pretension of the Order, but as the exercise of its natural right to preserve and to defend one’s own identity, even externally.

We have chosen only twelve papal documents for their publication which we judge to be the most representative and important for the history and life of the Order in its first century. Of them, and of the others, we will then give a review or reading guide in their historical-juridical context.

Background and beginning of the Capuchin reform

The appearance of the Capuchin reform in the third decade of the sixteenth century was nothing new in Franciscan history, in which the temptation of the eremitical life seems endemic, understood as an indispensable condition for a return to the primitive ideal, that is, to the model of life of Saint Francis and of his first companions which was handed down by the Franciscan sources of Leonine inspiration and by the literature of the Spirituals. The new reform had been preceded, after the suppression of the Spirituals in 1317, by various movements[6] which aimed at the literal observance of the Rule: the Italian Observance which began in the third decade of the fourteenth century and consolidated after 1370, and, outside Italy, towards the end of the century, different groups of the same character, but distinct and independent from the regular Observants, to which they will later merge.

The immediate occasion for the appearance of the Capuchin reform was an internal episode of the Franciscan Order. The regular Observants, since the time of Saint Bernardine, had been situated in a via media, characterised by the moderate observance of the Rule according to the papal declarations and by an active life of apostolate. In 1517, already strong with about 30,000 friars and the most powerful and prestigious of all the religious Orders, it obtained from Leo X the bull Ite vos of 29 May, with which it incorporated the various still existing groups of strict observance: amadeiti, clareni, collettani and scalzi.[7] The bull, known as the bull of union, did not please the suppressed groups – some of them survived until 1568 – nor the numerous Observants dissatisfied with the standardized life of their families: they wanted a more radical observance of poverty and greater ease for withdrawal and contemplation. As early as 1518, quite a few zealous Italians began to gather in hermitages, in various places on the peninsula, but they were soon forced, by the general minister Francesco Licheto, to return to the friaries of the city.

In 1523 the new general Francesco Quiñones tried to appease the zealous in Spain by establishing five or more houses of retreat in each province, for a purer observance of the Rule, above all in poverty and prayer.[8] Without waiting for a similar initiative for Italy, where the discontent of the zealous grew day by day – especially in the Marches, hotbed of a strong mystical and intergralist tradition – it was precisely a little friar from the Marches who broke rank: Brother Matteo da Bascio, charismatic itinerant preacher. Wanting to imitate Saint Francis even more closely in his way of dressing, in the first months of 1525 he left the hermitage of Montefalcone to obtain oral permission from Clement VII to be able to wear the pointed hood, live the Rule “ad litteram” and preach anywhere at will. Brother Matteo did not think, then or ever, of starting a reform; but, before November of the same year, he was joined by two other fugitive Observants: the twin brothers Ludovico and Raffaele Tenaglia from Fossombrone, the first a priest, the other not a cleric, also eager to observe the Rule spiritually.[9]

At this moment the first pontifical document arises, unfortunately a negative one. In fact, at the request of their provincial minister, Giovanni Pili da Fano, all three were excommunicated, because they were apostates, with the brief Cum nuper of Clement VII dated 8 March 1526.[10] To escape capture and incarceration, the three fugitives sought refuge at the Camaldolese congregation of Monte Corona, recently founded by Blessed Paolo Giustiniani. On his advice, the three hurried to regulate their canonical position, soliciting and obtaining absolution from the major penitentiary Cardinal Lorenzo Pucci, who, after verbally informing the pope, signed on May 18 the rescript or indult Ex parte vestra; in it the applicants were authorized, among other things, to lead a perpetual eremitical life in the observance of the Rule “as much as human frailty permits”, under the obedience and correction of the ordinary of the place.[11]

On 26 May, also in 1526, the general assembly of the Observants met in Assisi, in which Quiñones promulgated the statutes for the Italian houses of retreat, substantially equal to those of Spain.[12] But due to the opposition of most of the capitulars, concerned to avoid a rupture in the recently achieved monolithic unity of the Order, the statutes were not carried out, to the great bitterness and disappointment of the zealous.

Following the brief rescript of May 18, Brother Matteo returned to his itinerant preaching, while the two Tenaglia brothers took up residence in a rural church near Camerino, attending to prayer, manual work and an occasional ministry in the surroundings. For their charity in assisting the sick during the plague that hit the area in May 1527, they acquired the esteem and protection of the Duchess of Camerino, Caterina Cybo, niece of Clement VII, who will later give decisive help for the approval of the reform promoted by the Tenaglia brothers.

Approval of the reform – difficult years – confirmation (1528-1536)

Faced with the systematic opposition of the Superiors of the Observants to the opening of retreat houses, many zealous Observants asked the Tenaglia brothers to welcome them into their company. It was then that Brother Ludovico seriously thought about starting an eremitical-Franciscan congregation. Since he continued to be an Observant, even if exclaustrated, to start a new reform he needed, according to the bull Ite vos, the explicit permission of the general or the provincial, both of whom certainly would have denied it. But as the Spanish scalzi had already done, precisely in 1517, to separate themselves from the Observants, Ludovico also astutely evaded the prescription, placing himself, together with his brother and Brother Matteo, under the jurisdiction of the Conventuals, after having received the permission of the new Observant provincial of the Marches.

Authorized by the Conventual provincial and the cardinal protector of the Franciscan Order Andrea della Valle to address the pope, Ludovico went with Caterina Cybo to Viterbo, the residence of Clement VII after the trauma of the “sack” of Rome. In the “libellus supplex” Ludovico asked to be able to wear the habit of a beggar and a hermit with a poor square hood, a long beard, to live under the protection of the Conventuals in solitary places suitable for the life of prayer, to elect a custodian with authority similar to that of the provincial ministers, welcome clerics and religious of any Order and lay people.[13] The petition was rejected by the secretariat for briefs because it was not accompanied by the approval of the cardinal protector of the Order, to whom it was either not presented or would not have been acceptable because it would have involved the admission of Observants, which was unacceptable for the superiors of the Observants. In a new petition – the text of which has not survived – the astute Ludovico would substituted the point relating to the admission of religious with the clause of being able to participate in the privileges of the Camaldolese, who had the faculty of accepting religious of any congregation, house or monastery whether Mendicants or not.[14]

On 3 July 1528 the brief Exponi nobis was posted and on the same day converted into a bull entitled Religionis zelus (doc. 1), which is the juridical act of birth of the Capuchin family.[15] On the back of the draft of the brief we read: «Intecedente Ducissa Camer.». In truth, only the very powerful intervention of the noblewoman Caterina Cybo made possible the unusual concession of a bull authorising only two exclaustrated applicants – Brother Matteo is not mentioned – to found a religious congregation, when normally a bull or document of this kind was issued to confirm, or to regulate, a reform that had achieved some development and testing.

To the brothers Ludovico and Raffaele, «of the Order of Friars Minor», who placed themselves under the protection of the Conventuals and wished to lead a eremitical life and observe the Rule insofar as human frailty permitted it, and after a broad acquittal from all censures and canonical impediments that could hinder the validity of the papal document, it was permitted to lead a eremitical life according to the Rule of Saint Francis, to wear the habit with the square hood, to receive in their consortium secular clerics, priests and laymen, to wear the beard, to retire to any hermitage or place with the consent of the owners and reside there, lead a eremitic life and beg anywhere, to enjoy “aeque principaliter” all the privileges, indults and favours granted up to then or bestowed in the future on the Order of Friars Minor and the Camaldolese of Saint Romuald and his hermits. The execution of the bull was entrusted to all the ecclesiastical authorities and, finally, the explicit derogation and abrogation of all the provisions issued by the Church that could have made the legality of the new family or congregation doubtful.[16]

According to the bull, the new congregation, still without a specific name, could juridically be called a reform of the Conventuals, but as we will see later, it will always be considered in pontifical documents as a true and distinct Franciscan family, internally autonomous. However, there was nothing new with respect to the previous reforms of strict observance, the members of which had been authorized to lead an eremitical life and to observe the Rule “ad litteram”, in primitive purity. Brother Ludovico’s programmatic formula, already present in the brief of 18 May 1526, namely “to observe the Rule of Blessed Francis insofar as human frailty allows it”, was even more explicit in the bulls granted to other Franciscan reforms.[17] Even the authorization to wear the square or pyramidal hood, which according to the tradition of the Spirituals was part of the authentic form of the habit of Saint Francis, had already been granted in 1496 to the Spanish scalzi [barefoots] of brother John of Guadalupe, who were appropriately called “friars of the hood” or vulgarly “capuchos [hood or cowl]”. The only new element, beyond the announcements of the privileges of the Camaldolese, would be the use of the beard, perhaps borrowed from the Camaldolese hermits, but even for them the beard was a badge of honesty and of the quality of a hermitic life, as will be expressed in the brief Inter multiplices of Clement VII of 3 September 1529, which amplified and confirmed the privileges of the Order of Saint Romuald.[18] The real difference between the Capuchin reform and the other previous Franciscan reforms of strict observance is to be found in the way in which the Capuchins set out and resolved the problem of the contemplative life combined with the apostolic life, and in their survival, up to today, as an autonomous third family of the first Franciscan Order.

The news of the birth of the new Franciscan reform of strict observance caused a considerable number of Observants to flock to it, including the members of a group of five friars from the Marches led by Brother Matteo da S. Leo, all of whom joined the newly formed congregation after September 1528.[19] At the beginning of 1529 there were already four hermitages with about thirty friars. It was therefore possible to give an internal and external structure to the new family, which happened in the chapter of Albacina, which met in April, or perhaps even earlier, of the same year. After the election of Ludovico as vicar general following the immediate resignation of Brother Matteo from this office, a small commission, or perhaps Ludovico alone, dictated the first ordinations or statutes, improperly called “constitutions” of Albacina. In these statutes, arranged somewhat disorderly, the primacy accorded to contemplation and very strict poverty prevails; moreover, they were a corrective of the various abuses pervading the Observants.[20] As regards the name of the new reform, already in the title of the statutes the followers called themselves “friars minor of the eremitical life”, a name which however did not become official in the pontifical documents, in which only starting from 9 April 1534 is the denomination “capucciati” and later “capuccini [Capuchins]”, the popular name that stuck almost from the beginning for our hermits, because of the hood.

On 16 August 1529, a convention of aggregation was made between Ludovico da Fossombrone and Brother Bernardino da Reggio, head of a group of 12 Calabrian reformed friars, to join them to the Capuchin reform, but the definitive incorporation took place only on 20 May 1532.[21] These negotiations and the continuous flow of zealous Observants, received by the Capuchins on the basis of the aforementioned privilege communicated by the Camaldolese, alarmed the superiors of the regular Observants, obsessed with the unity of the Order. Thus began a series of pontifical briefs at the request of the superiors, forbidding the transit of the Observants to the Capuchins in the name of the disorder, abuses and quarrels that such absconding entailed. General Paolo Pisotti (1529-33) obtained from Clement VII the brief Cum sicut nuper of 14 December 1529, with which all the papal concessions made to the vagabonds and fugitives of the Observants were annulled, and furthermore it was ordered that “new sects” were not permitted, nor that the friars call themselves by a name other than that given by Saint Francis to his Order.[22] The brief, too generic, did not expressly mention the Capuchins and their reform; therefore with a second brief, Cum sicut accepimus of 27 May 1530, addressed to the general and procurator of the Observants Onorio Caiani, who was also the pope’s confessor, Clement VII revoked all the concessions made by the penitentiary to the brothers Ludovico and Raffaele da Fossombrone, to the reformed friars of Calabria and to others; all of them were to be forced to return to their friaries of origin under ecclesiastical penalties and censures and also with the help of the secular arm.[23] Yet another brief, Alias postquam of 2 December 1531, addressed to the same superiors of the Observants, copied the text of the previous one and ordered the Observants, who had passed over to the Capuchins after 27 May of the previous year, to return to the Observants; the Capuchins were warned against receiving Observant candidates. The latter, without any other technicalities, would have been declared apostates and excommunicated.

This brief was renewed again on July 3, 1532 expressly against the group of ex-reformed Calabrians, who had to re-enter the Observants under serious canonical penalties.[24] However, the execution of the brief was suspended because the pope preferred to entrust the dispute to cardinals Antonio del Monte and Andrea della Valle. On the following August 14, they dictated an intimidating decree forbidding the Observants to harass them and for the Capuchins to be able to recieve them until an adequate solution was found.[25]

An immediate solution, even if unfavourable to the Capuchins, would perhaps have arisen from the promulgation of the bull In suprema militantis Ecclesiae of 16 November of the same year, with which Clement VII imposed the reform of the Observants through the establishment, in each province, of four or five friaries for the zealous who aspired to a pure and full observance of the Rule according to the papal declarations and to a more intense life of prayer and contemplation.[26] The bull constituted the founding act of the reform known as the “Reformati” and therefore sought to remove any pretext for opting for the Capuchin family. Consequently, the bull jeopardized the existence and survival of the Capuchin reform, until then nourished almost exclusively by defectors from the Observants.

But the bull was suspended until the next general chapter to be celebrated in 1535. This favoured a general flight of the zealous Observants towards the Capuchins. At the end of 1533 and the beginning of 1534 prestigious figures such as Bernardino d’Asti and Francesco da Jesi, two of the four Observants who had requested the bull In suprema -, two other future vicars general of the Order Bernardino Ochino and Eusebio ‘Ancona, the future chronicler Bernardino da Colpetrazzo and even the bitter persecutor of the Tenaglia brothers, Giovanni Pili da Fano passed to the Capuchin family.

The superiors of the Observants, through the procurator Onorio Caiani, requested a brief for the extinction of the Capuchin reform. During its definitive drafting, it was split in two. With the first, Cum sicut accepimus of 9 April 1534, addressed to Ludovico da Fossombrone “capucciato friar” and companions, it was imposed, under pain of excommunication, not to receive any more Observants nor to accept new places without a special permission from the Holy See.[27] The brief perhaps seemed too bland to the superiors of the Observants, and so they obtained a second one, Pastoralis offici cura on April 15th. In it, the Observants who had become Capuchins were ordered to return to their friaries of origin within 15 days, under pain of excommunication after a threefold individual canonical admonition.[28] We have chosen this brief for publication (doc. 2), because the real underlying reason for the opposition of the Observants to the Capuchin reform is mentioned and, at the same time, a precious testimony is expressed, even if involuntary, of what the chroniclers of the Order define “the most desperate life” of the first Capuchins:[29] they claim to observe the Rule perfectly, not according to the declarations of the Roman pontiffs, but according to its literal sense, and lead such an austere and rigid life, almost inhuman, to cause a very serious crisis of conscience in the friars who were zealous about their own way of observing the Rule and poverty.

At the suggestion of the auditor Girolamo Ghinucci, noted on the cover of the first draft of 9 April, namely, that it did not seem decent for the Holy Father to force a religious to follow a more relaxed lifestyle, the brief was addressed to the cardinal protector of the Order Franciscan Andrea della Valle. However, it seems, he did not enforce it, either because it was a difficult task to indict individual friars with a triple admonition, or because he didn’t feel like proceeding so harshly against the Capuchins, to whom he himself had donated the Generalate friary of S. Eufemia in Rome in 1530.[30]

On 13 October 1534 Paul III ascended the papal throne. With the death of Clement VII (September 25) Caterina Cybo disappeared from the scene, but the defence and protection of the Capuchins will be taken up again by another noblewoman Vittoria Colonna, Marquise of Pescara, closely linked to the pre-Tridentine reform.[31] For their part, the superiors of the Observants returned to lobbying against the Capuchin reform, in the hope of having greater success with the new pontiff. They obtained the brief Accepimus quod of 18 December 1534, in which the Observants were forbidden to transfer to the Capuchins without a special license from the Holy See; the Capuchins were enjoined, under pain of excommunication, not to receive Observant religious and of any other Order nor to open new houses or places until the appropriate remedy had been prepared in the general chapter of the Observants, to be celebrated the following May.[32] But later, with the brief Nuper accepto of 12 January 1535, addressed to “the beloved sons of the friars of the Order of Minors called Capuchins”, the pope hastened to explain that the previous prohibition made to the Capuchins did not concern the reception of religious of other Orders.[33]

The general chapter of the Observants, celebrated in Nice on May 15, granted the erection of houses of retreat for the reformed friars in all the provinces. There was no longer a valid reason for the transfer of the Observants to the Capuchins, and therefore with the brief Pastoralis offici cura of the following August 14, the pope renewed the prohibition for the Capuchins to receive Observants without the special permission of the Holy See or of the minister or general commissioner of the Observants. The latter, however, were asked to charitably receive the friars who had passed to the Capuchins and who wanted to return to their Observant friaries.[34] But the decree of the chapter was not put into practice and therefore the pope, tired of this eternal quarrel, issued the brief Dudum postquam of August 29 of the same year 1535, ordering the superiors of the Observants to erect, within two months, the houses for the reformed friars; otherwise, the prohibition would have been lifted for the Observants to pass over to the Capuchins and for the latter to receive them and to accept new houses and places without incurring the canonical censures and penalties.[35] Nor was this brief executed within the set date. Consequently, the Capuchins considered themselves entitled to continue to receive the Observants. Subsequently, the new general of the Observants Vincenzo Lunel and Cardinal Ouiñones attempted, through the emperor Charles V on a visit to Italy, to suppress the “sect” of the Capuchins by peacefully joining it to the Observants.[36] Again to find a solution, in the month of December, a commission of three cardinals was appointed, later rising to six, but even then nothing new was achieved.

Despite the prohibitive briefs, from 1530 to 1535, the Capuchin hermitages had risen to 60, scattered throughout almost all of Italy, with at least 500 friars. At this point an explanation can be attempted on the evident failure to fulfill the pontifical mandates, above all on the part of the Capuchins, professors of the strictest observance of the Rule in which firm obedience to the supreme pontiffs is imposed. The reason must be sought, first of all, in a reason of conscience based on natural and divine law, in the conviction that no one felt obliged to give up a more perfect life to resume and follow a more relaxed one.[37] Furthermore, in the aforementioned documents, the bull Religionis Zelus, the juridical basis of the existence of the Capuchin family, had never been mentioned or abrogated, nor had the privilege of receiving candidates of any Order, communicated by the Camaldolese, been cancelled. The same succession of repetitive and ineffective briefs indicates their ephemeral obligation. In fact, the pope did not know all the letters dictated in his name by the secretariat for briefs; they carried the approval of the cardinal protector of the Order, and then the auditor confined himself to briefly informing the holy father of the content. But it should not be forgotten that even the Capuchins enjoyed powerful patrons in the Roman Curia, cardinals and other prelates, as well as the noblewomen Caterina Cybo and Vittoria Colonna.

While the hostility of the Observants against the new Capuchin family did not cease, things did not proceed peacefully in the latter. The congregation continued to be led by Ludovico da Fossombrone. In 1532 he should have convened the triennial chapter, required by the statutes of Albacina, for the confirmation of the vicar general. Those coming from the Osservants, many of them qualified by their spirituality and learning, were dissatisfied with Tenaglia’s authoritarian ways and narrow-mindedness; they wanted to clarify the Capuchin identity and give the reform a definitive, spiritual and juridical physiognomy.

Through the good offices of Vittoria Colonna, Paul III authorized the celebration of the general chapter in November 1535.[38] Ludovico expected to be confirmed in the office of vicar general, but already in the first ballot Friar Bernardino d’Asti was elected. He immediately, together with the definitors and other expert friars, proceeded to dictate the first constitutions of the Order. For his part, Ludovico, during the chapter arrogantly opposed any changes to the way of life to be followed. Also annoyed by his failure to be confirmed as superior general, he immediately tried, with pretexts and intrigues, to challenge the election of Brother Bernardino, invoking the invalidity of the chapter not freely convoked by him, as the only legitimate superior under the bull Religionis zelus. Indeed, he would have been ready to place the congregation under the jurisdiction of the Observants. Brother Bernardino d’Asti then asked for a pontifical declaration on the validity of the elections made in the chapter, and the consequent transfer, to him and his successors, of the concessions that Clement VII had made to the Tenaglia brothers in the founding bull. The pope partially agreed to the request with the brief Cum sicut nobis of 29 April 1536 (doc. 3), in which the election of Bernardino d’Asti was confirmed. It also declared that those who refused to pay obedience to Brother Bernardino and his successors were to be expelled from the Order, with the prohibition of wearing the Capuchin habit.[39] It was on the strength of this brief that Matteo da Bascio, who always remained aloof in the formation and organization of the congregation and not being willing to enter community life, put down his dear square hood and returned to the Observants, continuing his itinerant life there of penitential preacher.[40]

Brother Ludovico and his supporters managed to have a second celebration of the general chapter called, in the hope of winning the battle again and then subjecting the reform to the Observants. But in the meantime, Vittoria Colonna had obtained the bull Exponi nobis of 25 August 1536 (doc. 4), with which the pope confirmed “ad litteram” the founding bull of the Order and transferred to the person of Bernardino d’Asti and his successors as Clement VII, in the aforementioned bull, had granted to Brother Ludovico da Fossombrone.[41] Furthermore, to remove any claim on this strict Franciscan reform from the Observants, the pope recognized and specified the jurisdiction over it of the general master of the Conventuals: he had to confirm, within three days, the newly elected vicar general, conferring on him full and free jurisdiction over all the friars of the Order,[42] but without ever intruding on its regime and government; moreover, both the general vicars and the provincial vicars were true ministers, whom the friars had to obey according to the precept of the Rule. In other words: the Capuchin Order was recognized as a true autonomous Franciscan family, at least internally.

The general chapter, repeated in September 1536, ratified unanimously, on the 22nd of the month, the election of Bernardino d’Asti as vicar general.[43] The pope, with the brief Superioribus diebus of the following 10 October, confirmed the work of the chapter and decreed the expulsion of the rebel Ludovico from the Order.[44] Furthermore, in the aforementioned chapter the constitutions that had been ready for months were promulgated. They did not constitute a break with the form of life that Ludovico had inaugurated, but rather a verification and improvement of it. Divided into 12 chapters, corresponding to those of the Rule, they were a spiritual commentary and a practical application of the Rule to be observed literally, without attenuations or relaxing privileges; they established a clearer organization of the fraternity and a greater balance between the contemplative and active life.[45] The text will remain almost unchanged in subsequent revisions, suitably updated due to the natural evolution of the Order and the new canonical-juridical provisions issued by the Holy See.

Consolidation and evolution – the Tridentine decrees – beyond the Alps (1537-1575)

Nevertheless, the year 1537 opened with two restrictive pontifical documents for the Capuchins. The aforementioned commission of cardinals, which since December 1535 had been seeking a solution to the dispute between the Observant and the Capuchins, masked its inefficiency with a compromise that transpires in the brief Regimini universalis Ecclesiae of 4 January, with which Paul III forbade the transit of the Observants to the Capuchins, and from the Capuchins to receive them, without a special license “in writing” from their respective superiors.[46] Again, to satisfy the Observants and the emperor Charles V, the following day, 5 January, the pope issued the brief Dudum siquidem (doc. 5), enjoining the Capuchins, in virtue of holy obedience and under penalty of excommunication “latae sententiae [automatic]”, not to cross the Alps, until the Holy See had taken another provision in the next general chapter of the Observants.[47]

But now the Capuchin family, with the influx of vocations from various origins, will no longer need the defectors of the Observants,[48] and the obligatory geographical limitation will help the consolidation and testing of the Order in its Italian experience. From now on, pontifical documents will rather aim at strengthening and maintaining the various choices of the Order by including them also in the religious-juridical order resulting from the Council of Trent.

The celebration of the general chapter of the Observants, mentioned in the briefs of 4 and 5 January 1537, was postponed, and some Observants, restless because of the failure to reform or perhaps for other reasons, passed over to the Capuchins, among whom, however, they did not always persevere. To remedy these disturbances and scandals, the pope, with the brief Accepimus quod nonnulli of 23 August 1539, unusually addressed to the vicar general “dell’Ordine di san Francesco dell’Osservanza chiamato dei cappuccini [of the Order of Saint Francis of Observants called the Capuchins]”, forbade him to receive any friar “degli Ordini riformati dei Mendicanti dell’Osservanza [of the Reformed Orders of the Mendicants of the Observants]”, who did not carry a special and express license from his general or from the Holy See.[49]

Finally, in June 1541, the Observants held its general chapter in Mantua, but still nothing was decided on its reform and on the passage of the friars to the Capuchins; therefore, believing the previous pontifical prohibition to have ceased, the Capuchins obtained from the pope a “viva vocis oraculo [utterance of an oracle]” which authorized them to receive Observants; but the concession was annulled, at the request of the superiors of the Observants, with the brief Romani pontificis of 5 August of the same year, which reaffirmed that of 4 January 1537.[50]

In the opinion of Bernardino da Colpetrazzo, the period 1533-1541 could have been the most glorious for the Order for the number of learned friars and great preachers.[51] But this glory and esteem took a heavy toll with the apostasy of the vicar general Bernardino Ochino, which took place towards the end of August 1542. According to the chroniclers’ perhaps over-dramatized account,[52] Paul III and other members of the Roman curia were of the opinion of abolishing the Capuchin Order. An in-depth investigation into the Order’s purity of faith, conducted by Cardinal Pio of Carpi, protector of the entire Franciscan Order, assisted by the Capuchin general commissioner Francesco da Jesi, demonstrated its perfect orthodoxy. Furthermore, the preachers, suspended for a certain time from their ministry, were rehabilitated following a dutiful explanation of the 19 doctrinal articles proposed to them.[53]

A sign of regained confidence was the presence of Brother Bernardino d’Asti, on behalf of the vicar general, in the sessions of the first period of the Council of Trent (1545-47). He opposed the union of the Capuchins with the Observants, wanted by the general of the Observants Vincenzo Lunel, and on 14 July 1546 he gave a speech on the first state of justification.

After the death of Paul III (November 10, 1549), the Capuchins believed his briefs on the prohibition to receive the Observants had expired. But at the request of the general of the Observants, and always for the same reasons of scandals, discords and quarrels, Julius III, with the brief Offici nostri of 28 August 1550, renewed the prohibition made by Paul III to the Capuchins, who could not, under pain of excommunication and other censures, receive Observants without the written permission of their superiors; these have to take them back and also with recourse to the secular arm.[54] Furthermore, with the brief Boni Pastoris of the following November 7, he renewed the prohibition against crossing the Alps by the Capuchins and forbade the Observants to wear a habit similar to that of the Capuchins.[55]

The Capuchins considered it absurd or incongruous to prohibit the Observants from passing to the more austere life of the Capuchins and, on the other hand, allowing some of them to embrace the less austere life of the Observants. To avoid similar quarrels and disturbances, Julius III, at the request of the superiors of the Capuchin Order, issued the brief In eminenti of February 15, 1551, cautioning the Observants to receive the Capuchins, and vice versa, without written permission from their respective general or provincial superiors.[56]

Without waiting for the conclusion of the Council of Trent, where the reform of the rules would still be discussed, the general chapter of 3 June 1552 decided to update the constitutions of 1536, in the light of the experiences lived up to now and the reality of the times. Some now impractical prescriptions were expunged, such as the renunciation of exemptions, cells for anchorites, begging for the poor in times of famine, service to the plague-stricken, but this did not mean a relaxation in the service of the poor and the suffering, which will continue to be a characteristic of the Order.[57] Indeed, almost to reassure the most zealous and the most nostalgic friars of the very early days of the reform, in the orders made in the aforementioned chapter, there was this in first place: “Altissima paupertas et Regula serventur ad mentem sancti patris Francisci, ad litteram et sine glossa [Highest poverty and the Rule are to be kept according to the mind of holy father Francis and without gloss”.[58] Moreover, in these constitutions of 1552 the primitive text of 1536 had remained intact, but not the style.

The superiors of the Observants, while continuing to postpone the implementation of the reform imposed on them in 1532, attempted once again to have the Capuchin family made subject to them, making use of Cardinal Carlo Carafa, nephew of Paul IV. It seems that the bull of union had already been prepared, unbeknownst to the Capuchins. Having discovered the manoeuvre, the vicar general of the Order, Tommaso da Città di Castello, managed to parry the blow, obtaining from Pius IV the bull Pastoralis officia of 2 April 1560 (doc. 6), with which the pontiff confirmed “ad litteram” the previous bull of Paul III. Furthermore, to protect the external identity of the Order, he expressly forbade the hermits of Saint Francis, founded by the Sicilian Girolamo Lanza, to wear a habit similar to that of the Capuchins.[59]

In December 1563 the Council of Trent closed. Several Capuchins had intervened as theologians in the second (1551-52) and third period (1562-63). The vicar general Tommaso da Città di Castello was also invited to the latter, who took his place among the generals of the mendicant Orders. Several times in the discussions of the scheme for the reform of the rules, the Capuchin identity was put in danger. Thanks to the defence made by many conciliar fathers, the habit was saved, which according to a canon, later suppressed, should have been that of the Conventuals, to which the Capuchins were juridically subject; moreover, the Capuchins and the Observants were granted the privilege of not owning movable and immovable property in common ownership.[60] Some decisions of the council were immediately included in the ordinances of the general chapter of 1564, among which was the establishment of theological studies in each province.[61]

A sign of benevolence towards the Capuchin Order and a tacit recognition of its quasi-autonomy can be found in the brief Exhibita quidem of 20 April 1564, with which Pius IV, at the request of the vicar general, appoints Cardinal Giulio della Rovere vice protector of the “friars minor of the penance called Capuchins”, with the right of succession upon the death of the then protector of the entire Franciscan Order Rodolfo Pio Leonelli (died 2 May 1564).[62] Instead, the Observants and the Conventuals continued to have the same protector in common, Saint Charles Borromeo.

With the brief In principis Apostolorum of February 17, 1565, Pius IV revoked all the privileges granted to churches and religious orders and which were contrary to the decrees and canons of the recent Council of Trent.[63] Already on the following August 27, the vice protector of the Order, Cardinal Marcantonio Amuli – the protector was absent – declared with a testimonial that the general chapter of 1564 had been remedied as regards the vote contrary to the Tridentine form (elections with secret ballot), and it pressed for the observance of the other decrees of the council.[64] However, in the reform decree of the XXII session, c. 4, there was a provision that would have deprived the Order of its traditional lay character, that is, the denial of the right to vote of clerics “in minor orders” and of lay brothers. In 1566 the Procurator General of the Order Eusebio da Ancora questioned Pius V on the subject who confirmed “vivae vocis oraculo” the ancient practice of the Order.[65] The prerogative will be maintained in all subsequent revisions of the constitutions.[66]

A recurrent return of Capuchins to among the Observants is confirmed by the brief of Julius III already mentioned. For the first time, perhaps, we are also faced with the fact of the passage, sometimes without a license, of Capuchins to the Order of the Minims of Saint Francis of Paola, of a hermitic life, and of the Minims to the Capuchins, with disturbances, anxieties and bad examples in both Orders. With the brief Sedis apostolicae solertia of 6 October 1567 Pius V, “motu proprio” and not at the request of the two parties, forbids that exchange, of both parties, at any time and under any pretext, even with the permission of the superiors.[67]

In the first months of 1569 there were negotiations for the union of the Observers and the Conventuals, carried out by the vice-protector of the two families, Cardinal Alessandro Crivelli, the project however was not appreciated by either Pius V or the cardinal protector Saint Carlo Borromeo. Rumours spread that the Capuchins were also involved in the union, and this caused grave unease in the Order. The pope, when asked by the vicar general Mario da Mercato Saraceno, reassured him by saying that it had never been his intention to let the Capuchins enter such a union.[68]

The constitutions of 1552, as we have already mentioned, abolished the regulation relating to the service to plague victims. This did not mean the interdiction of this heroic act of charity. Indeed, it will be precisely Saint Pius V who will entrust to the Capuchins a new form of apostolate, no less heroic and risky: the military ministry, which involved a danger of death both for the contagion of the plague and from war actions. Having established the Holy League against the Turks, Pius V wanted Fr. Girolamo da Pistoia, his personal theologian and procurator general of the Order, with 26 other brothers, to take care of the spiritual assistance of the papal fleet leaving for Candia, where it landed in August 1570. When the plague broke out, the Capuchin chaplains lent themselves heroically to the comfort and service of the sick, with Fr. Girolamo (October 30) and other of his brothers meeting their death in this service. In the immediate organization of the League, Pius V still wanted the Capuchins as chaplains of his fleet, and the vicar general, Mario da Mercato Saraceno, made 29 friars available, headed by Fr. Anselmo da Pietramolara, appointed guardian and apostolic commissioner. With the brief Cum dilectus filius of 10 March 1571 (doc. 7), the pope granted those chaplains very broad faculties and privileges for the administration of the sacraments and for absolution from censures; he authorized them to collect alms in service of the sick, administered however by an auditor or procurator according to Franciscan law, and ended by recommending to the friars to observe their own Rule in everything and to humbly obey the precepts of the vicar general.[69]

After the victory of Lepanto (October 7, 1571) the supreme pontiffs will continue to make use of the Capuchin military chaplains. Gregory XIII, with the brief Concessimus of 30 May 1572 addressed to Don John of Austria, communicated that he had granted the Capuchins the power to absolve those who had freed or hidden Turkish prisoners.[70] And again, the same supreme pontiff, in the new plan for the campaign against the Turks, with the brief Ut animarum of 1 September 1573, appointed Fathers Vincenzo di Spagna and Antonio da Pisa with the usual faculties and privileges.[71] We will later find the Capuchin chaplains, sent by the popes, in the campaigns against the Turks as far as Hungary, and in those of the Catholic League against the Protestants.[72]

The Italian Capuchins were by now well known and appreciated by high ecclesiastical personalities, including foreign ones, who had come to the Council of Trent and by other civil and military personalities who had seen their heroism up close at Lepanto. No wonder, therefore, if as early as 1562 the Capuchin presence was requested and solicited from many parts of Europe, especially from France. In the general chapter of 1573, it was decided to send some friars to this country to complete the foundation already formally begun in Paris in 1572.[73] Gregory XIII, himself desirous of the European propagation of the Order, already sufficiently tested in the service of the Church and the people in Italy, issued the bull Ex nostri pastoralis offici (doc. 8) on 6 May 1574, with which he abrogated the brief of Paul III of 1537 and authorised the Capuchins to settle freely in France and in other nations of the world, where they could found houses, places, custodies and provinces according to their custom or particular law.[74]

Although some prescriptions of the Council of Trent, specifically the erection of houses of study, were already included in the capitular ordinances of 1564, Gregory XIII, with the brief Cum capitulum generale of 10 May 1575, addressed to the cardinal vice protector Giulio Antonio Santori, he ordered the general chapter of that year to revise the constitutions, which had to fully conform to the canons and decrees of the Council of Trent.[75] The new constitutions, “corrected and reformed”, followed those of 1552; but with the express acceptance of the Tridentine decrees, they expressed an opening and a refinement of the life of the Order inserted into the Catholic reform. Furthermore, with the explicit acceptance of the decretals of Nicholas III and Clement V as a “singular and lively commentary” on the Rule, the Order entered into traditional Franciscan law. It should also be noted that the constitutions of 1575 recalled, in style, the first ones of 1536, a sign of reawakening and sensitivity towards the primitive charism which the Order would carry with it in its expansion in Europe.[76]

Defence of one’s identity – new forms of apostolate – primacy of contemplation (1576-1607)

The Capuchin reform, well established and universally appreciated also in its external identity, will have to undertake a strenuous defence of its habit, a distinctive sign of its strict poverty and austerity. There were also religious groups and congregations who used the Capuchin habit, or one very similar, to more easily steal alms, to the detriment of the Order and above all to the scandal of the seculars who had never seen or believed that a Capuchin, in his complete observance of the Rule, could accept and use money, up until then always totally opposed. A painful question that will drag on for a long time, involving various congregations, Franciscan or not, and with a succession of pontifical briefs that are not always effective.

We have already mentioned the prohibition made by Pius IV on 2 April 1560 to the tertiaries or hermits of Saint Francis of the Sicilian Lanza from wearing a habit similar in cloth and colour to that of the Capuchins. Officially suppressed on March 10, 1562, and mostly merged into the reformed Conventuals, they still continued to wear the forbidden habit. Therefore, Gregory XIII with the brief Regularium personarum of 4 October 1581 repeated, under canonical penalties, the prohibition of using a habit like that of the Capuchins and forced them to wear the habit of the Conventuals.[77] This was followed on 22 June 1582 by an intimation from the apostolic protonotary Girolamo Mattei to the hospitaller friars of San Giovanni di Dio and the reformed Conventuals of Naples, expressly enjoining on them the observance of the bull of 2 April 1560.[78] More reluctant to take off the Capuchin-like habit were the aforementioned Hospitaller brothers (or Fatebenefratelli). New prohibitive decrees will subsequently be addressed to them, with recourse also to the secular arm.[79] Later the various reforms of strict Franciscan observance will also enter this conflict.

Another sign of Gregory XIII’s esteem for the Capuchins will be the entrusting to them, even if only occasionally, of a new form of heroic apostolate, namely the spiritual and material care of Christian slaves in North Africa. In the Barbary raids, very frequent in the second half of the 16th century, some Capuchins had been captured and imprisoned; other confreres, who had reached Algiers to bring spiritual comfort to the Christian slaves, had also been imprisoned. In 1584 the Roman archconfraternity of the Gonfalone for the ransom of Christian slaves decided to send its first mission of redeemers to Algiers; in the group of missionaries there were two Capuchins, Frs Pietro da Piacenza and Filippo da Rocca-contrada. With the brief Cum Algerium of 5 December 1584 Gregory XIII granted Fr Peter and his companion license and ample faculties to carry out the ministry.[80] The two, victims of the plague, met their death the following year, and will receive a moving remembrance and praise from Sixtus V in the brief Cum benigna Mater dated 21 March 1586, addressed to the guardians of the archconfraternity.[81] Later, Clement VIII with the brief Pastoralis offici of 10 June 1600 deputized the Frs Ambrogio da Soncino (or from Milan) and Ignazio da Bologna to preach the jubilee to Christian slaves in Algiers.[82] And again, with the brief Ex omnibus christianae caritatis of 23 April 1624 Urban VIII will give to Fr Angelo da Corleone – already once imprisoned in Africa – the apostolic license to exercise the apostolate and the redemption of Christian slaves in Algiers and other African lands.[83]

On 24 April 1585, the Conventual Sixtus V was elevated to the papal throne, and therefore particularly sensitive to the peace and progress of the entire Franciscan Order. Even if by now the most acute phase of the passage of Observants to the Capuchins had ceased, perhaps because the latter showed themselves more obedient to the pontifical precepts on the matter,[84] there were still cases of illegal passage. To put an end to this odious question, a source of quarrels and scandals, the pope took a drastic measure. Referring to the norms dictated by Paul III and by Julius III, with the brief Pro ea of 28 January 1586 he again forbade the general, provincial and local Capuchin superiors from receiving and retaining the Observants who had come to them without the special license of the Holy See or without that “in scriptis” of the general or provincial ministers; transgressors, both Observant and Capuchin, were inflicted with excommunication and other canonical penalties; moreover, all concessions, faculties and indults were revoked and cancelled for the Capuchins, even those obtained “aeque principaliter [equally important]” for communication of privileges, concerning the admission of Observants.[85]

The confirmation of the Capuchin choice of the apostolate among the infidels is also to be merited to Sixtus V. Even earlier there had been the sporadic case of two missionaries working in Constantinople around 1550: Giovanni Zuazo from Medina del Campo and Giovanni di Puglia (or from Troy), who, imprisoned, died of starvation in Cairo in 1551. But the first official mission was decided in the general chapter of 1587, agreeing to give obedience to some friars eager to go among the infidels, in particular to Constantinople. On 20 June the newly elected vicar general Girolamo da Polizzi Generosa issued the letters of obedience to Frs Pietro della Croce, Egidio from S. Maria and Dionigi from Rome. With the brief Cum vos of the following June 27 (doc. 9), addressed to the three missionaries, Sixtus V gave his blessing and conferred numerous faculties and privileges for carrying out the ministry, and ended with a fervent encouragement to duplicate talents in the service of the Lord.[86] Due to the illness of Fr Egidio, the vicar general added to the obedience a handwritten clause, dated Assisi 1st August, aggregating Fr Giuseppe da Leonessa – the future saint – and Br Giuseppe also da Leonessa.[87] The mission failed due to the death of Frs Pietro and Dionigi, and with the return in 1589 of Fr Joseph – atrociously tortured – and his companion, and will be revived only thirty-five years later, in 1624.[88]

As the fiftieth year of the Order’s life was approaching, which continued the observance of the 1536 constitutions, with their revision of 1575, there appeared some signs of regret for the contemplative origins of the early fathers. During the government of the vicar general Girolamo da Montefiore Conca (1575-81), and with his personal, unofficial encouragement, a sort of secret congregation had arisen in the Roman province, and also at the national level, whose followers were called “Maddalene” or “Magdaleniti” precisely because they advocated an exclusively contemplative life. The group was dissolved by the general chapter of 1581, and the vicar general was penalised for his harshness in correcting the abuses.[89]

However, a clear nostalgia for the early years remained; this is very clear in the reports that Mario da Mercato Saraceno and Bernardino da Colpetrazzo wrote about the origins of the Order between 1579 and 1594.[90] Furthermore, a negative, or at least very restrictive, attitude towards a certain specific form of apostolate flourished in the Order: confession to seculars, which according to the constitutions of 1536, and the subsequent revisions of 1552 and 1575, was to be exercised only in particular cases that is, when charity and necessity demand it. However, this permission had to be granted by the general chapter or by the vicar general.[91] The chapter of 1578 revoked all the licenses granted until then; later they were to be released with the consent of the majority of the definitory. The general chapter of 1581 will further restrict the norm, demanding not to give licenses “except to the general chapter”.[92] But concessions were still far from rare, due to the repeated petitions of generally illustrious personalities both in Italy and abroad, where the friars carried out a truly missionary activity. Under the vicariate of Fr Girolamo da Polizzi Generosa (1587-93), a particularly hard and austere man and in favour of the contemplative party like Fr Girolamo da Montefiore, the problem became particularly intolerable. The vicar general managed to obtain a drastic measure from Gregory XIV. With the Brief Decet Seraphicam Religionem of June 1, 1591 (Doc. 10), given “motu proprio” and valid in perpetuity, the Pope absolutely forbade Capuchins to confess laymen and secular clerics, and revoked any license hitherto granted.[93] The provision later proved to be rather painful and counterproductive, especially in the European regions where the apostolate of the Capuchins was practically missionary, and was later to be attenuated by a decree dated August 2, 1602 of the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, sanctioned with the brief Alias felicis recordationis of 3 February 1603, in which the faculty was granted to the general vicar and his definitory, from chapter to chapter, to deputize friars for this ministry of confessions.[94] But still the constitutions of 1608, and those of 1643, will continue to maintain the absolute ban on confessing seculars, “as is the custom of our Religion, however, respecting the directives of the pontiffs”.[95]

Also in 1591, other provisions were issued to protect the identity and also the external appearance of the Order. With the brief Beati Francisci of 6 July, Gregory XIV renewed the prohibition, already made by his predecessors, of the misappropriate use of the Capuchin habit, and this time expressly aimed at reformed Conventuals and certain acepholous and vagabond hermits.[96] Another sign of the return to the earliest charism concerned the observance of the Rule in all its purity. A «vivae vocis oraculo» was released by Innocent IX on 11 December 1591, at the request of the procurator of the Order, Bonaventura da Montereale, confirming all the previous papal privileges, “quibus tamen Regulae puritas nostrae non relaxatur [by which, however, the purity of our Rule is not relaxed]”.[97]

Towards autonomy (1608-1619)

The general chapter of 1608 decided to update the constitutions of 1575. Some prescriptions of the chapters after 1578 and various new pontifical decrees were inserted into the new constitutions. However, they were a simple link in the legal chain which updated the previous ones, and which will be superseded by the following ones of 1643.[98]

The repeated recognitions by the supreme pontiffs of the Capuchin Order as a true and third Franciscan family, and the continuous defence of its internal and external identity, should have removed any doubts about its juridical-Franciscan legitimacy. But it was not so. A dispute will arise again from some Observants. There was already a precedent. Insinuations and even public calumnies had spread that the reformed friars of the observance, who already in 1579 and again in 1596 had obtained an almost complete autonomy of their custody under the direct dependence of the general of the Observants, were not true friars minor because they observed “a new Rule”. With the brief Ex intuncto nobis of 7 September 1602, Clement VIII declared that they observed the true and only Rule of Saint Francis in its purity and according to the pontifical declarations.[99] A similar smear campaign was carried out, perhaps by the same religious, against the Capuchins. The title of true friars minor was contested as applying to the Capuchins because they had not been instituted at the time of Saint Francis. At this point Paul V, with the brief Ecclesiae militantis of 15 October 1608, closed the mouths of the slanderers by attesting that the Capuchins were also true friars minor who professed the Rule of Saint Francis, to which their constitutions were fully in conformity.[100] A repetition of this brief, with an exhaustive explanation, will be made by Urban VIII in 1627, as we will see later.

With this pontifical declaration and taking into account the growing European development of the Order – which in 1608 included 35 provinces, 808 friaries and 10,708 friars – the Capuchins were in grade to merit their own autonomy and no longer depend juridically on the Conventuals. By now there had been some warning signs. An external sign of legal dependence on the Conventuals was the obligation to walk behind their cross in processions. But already way back in 1587 Sixtus V, with a «vivae vocis oraculo» of 24 April, had allowed the Capuchins to go in procession behind their own cross and immediately before the Observants, if there were no Conventuals.[101] An ordinance of 12 September 1614 by Cardinal Lante della Rovere, regarding the precedence of mendicants and confraternities in processions, established by the brief Exposcit pastoralis of 15 July 1583 by Gregory XIII, declared that the Capuchins were not required to line up behind the cross of the Conventuals both when they went to the procession and when they returned.[102] With the date of 12 September 1616, the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars still determined that the Capuchins, “ubique locorum [in all places]”, could carry their cross in processions,[103] and this was ratified by Paul V with the brief Pastoralis offici of 12 October 1617.[104]

On the eve of autonomy, the Holy See still issued some decrees which put, so to speak, the finishing touches to the spirit of the Order’s structure. Although according to the norms of the constitutions (chap. XI) the friars were not to accept any care of monasteries, confraternitiess and congregations, Paul V with the brief Sacri apostolatus of 11 August 1618, given “motu proprio” and valid in perpetuity, ratified the aforesaid prohibition, exempting the Capuchins from all spiritual and temporal care of the nuns, so that they would have more freedom to devote themselves with greater commitment to the strict observance of the Rule, to fasting, prayers and sacred preaching.[105] The constitutions of 1536, 1552 and 1575 fixed the duration of the office of vicar general, and therefore the celebration of general chapters, at three years, while those of 1608 at five years. To make the government of the Order more prosperous and functional, Paul V, with the brief In suprema Sedis of 29 October, determined that the term of office of the vicar general was to be, in perpetuity, six years.[106]

Even if reduced to the sole confirmation of the general vicars, the juridical dependence on the Conventuals, which lasted 91 years, had always been peaceful and protective, and the superiors of the Capuchin Order had not tried to get rid of it, precisely to be secure against the claims of the Observants. But by now the Order could be considered secure and mature in its development. According to the statistics presented to the chapter of 1618 there were 40 provinces, 1030 friaries, 6819 priests, 2825 clerics and 5202 lay brothers, a total of 14,846 friars, a slightly lower number than that of the Conventuals. Therefore, the superiors of the Order forwarded a plea to the pope asking for complete autonomy. Paul V gladly consented with the brief Alias felicis recordationis of 28 January 1619 (doc. 11). In it the pope said that taking into account the “fecund and sweet fruits” that the Capuchins collect every day in the field of the Lord, he wanted to reward them with favours and special graces: he absolve them from any censure or penalty to obtain the effect of the concession, that is, the perpetual exemption from asking the Conventual master for confirmation of the election of the vicar general. With this concession, the vicar general and the provincial vicars automatically became general minister and provincial ministers, with full authority according to Franciscan law.[107] From now on, the Capuchin Order would be, “pleno iure”, the third family of the first Franciscan Order.

The Capuchins, true Friars Minor and sons of Saint Francis (1620-1628)

Before closing this first century of the Order’s life, we would like to point out other pontifical documents. In 1617 the king of the Congo, Alvaro III, had sent a legation to Rome asking for missionaries. The Holy See forwarded the request to the general chapter of the Capuchins, which, meeting on 1st June 1618, decided to send a visitor general with six Spanish friars to test the waters and verify the possibility of a stable mission in that African kingdom. With the brief In proximis of August 31, 1620, Paul V communicated to the king the forthcoming Capuchin expedition, made up of 12 missionaries, as will later be specified in the brief Mittimus ad Maiestatem of January 13, 1621. After the death of the pope, his successor Gregory XV took care to start the expedition, notifying the king with the brief Sanctae memoriae of 19 March 1621; but for political reasons, created by the king of Spain, the project of the Capuchin mission was abandoned and will only be taken up again in 1640, and made effective in 1645.[108] A more immediate success instead was the Capuchin missions among the Protestants in Valtellina (1575), Thonon (1594) and in Raetia (1621), and those of Candia (1567), Constantinople (1624), Syria (1625) and Persia (1628) among the schismatics. The Congregation of Propaganda Fide, created in 1622, will make extensive use of the availability and missionary zeal of the Capuchins.[109]

Having achieved their autonomy, as we have said, the Capuchins resumed, with an indisputable right, the defence of their external identity, represented by the habit, which continued to be usurped, in one way or another, by Franciscan families or congregations.

In France, a controversy had been going on for some time between the Capuchins and the tertiaries regular of the congregation of strict observance of Vincent Mussart, called “black Capuchins” because they wore a habit similar to that of the Capuchins. A decree of 20 October 1619 of the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars definitively fixed the form of the dress of these tertiaries; the decision was resumed in the brief Ex inuncto nobis of 14 April 1620, with which Paul V ordered the observance of the provision and imposed perpetual silence on the matter on both sides.[110] With another decree dated July 20, 1621, the aforementioned Congregation, at the request of the General Procurator of the Order Girolamo da Castelferretti, ordered the scalzi of Spain and the recollects of France not to usurp the name and habit of the Capuchins. [111] For the greater effectiveness of this decision, and with the hope of definitively stamping out the abuses in question, the procurator general himself obtained from Gregory XV the brief Ex inuncto nobis of 9 December 1621, with which the pope, copying the briefs “ad litteram” Regularium personarum of Gregory XIII of 4 October 1581 and Beati Francisci of Gregory XIV of 6 July 1591, forbade religious of any Order, society or institute to arrogate to themselves the name and habit of the Capuchins and expressly made the ordinaries of Spain, France, Italy and also of the other nations responsible for the execution of these briefs.[112] The pontifical decree encountered resistance and gave rise to subterfuge, for which the intervention of the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars became necessary. A decree dated February 2, 1623 settled the case regarding the colour, quality and shape of the habit between the Capuchins and the reformed Conventuals; the latter were threatened canonical penalties if within a year of the publication of the decree they were not wearing the habit prescribed to them.[113] With another decree dated December 23, 1623, the same Congregation imposed on the recollects of France and others the observance of the norms concerning clogs and the hood,[114] norms which recur in the brief In suprema apostolatus of January 10, 1624, in which Urban VIII, “motu proprio”, strictly ordered the Italian riformati to put aside the sandals and put back on their clogs, and the French recollets to put off the pointed hood and put on the round one with a wider mozetta [short cape], precisely to distinguish themselves from the Capuchins.[115]

The question of sandals and clogs between Capuchins and Reformati was defined in the brief Nuper cum causa of March 31, 1624,[116] but not elsewhere. The execution of the brief In supreme apostolatus of 10 January 1624, as regards the recollects of France, was entrusted by Urban VIII himself to Cardinal Francesco de la Rochefaucould and to the bishop of Senlis Nicola Sanguin with the brief Alias cum causa of 31 July following.[117] The same task was given on 20 September to the nuncio in Belgium Giovanni Francesco Guidi di Bagno, who, on 23 March 1625, signed the executive decree intimated to the Belgian recollects.[118] However, the dispute did not go away so easily, because the French recollects appealed against the executive letters of Cardinal de la Rochefaucould and the Bishop of Senlis dated November 28, 1624. The pope entrusted the solution of the dispute to Cardinal Guido Bentivoglio with the brief Alias cum cause of May 31, 1625, in which any further appeal was forbidden.[119] The sentence was issued on the following 16 September, with a precise description of the shape and measurements of the hood and the mozzetta to be obligatorily worn.[120]

on the 1st October 1625, with the brief In specula, Urban VIII raised Blessed Felix of Cantalice, who died in 1587, to the glory of the altar. His holy life, “illustrated with many outstanding gifts of virtue, graces and miracles”, was the spiritual fruit of the observance of the Capuchin-Franciscan ideal for 44 years. The beatification had been requested not only by the Order, but also by the Prince Elector Maximilian of Bavaria, by the Dukes of Lorraine and by the Benedictines of Remiremont, an eloquent testimony to the esteem that the Capuchin Order enjoyed, even outside Italy.[121] Six other future Capuchin saints and blesseds had died in the first three decades of the 17th century: Saint Serafino of Montegranaro (1604), Saint Joseph of Leonessa (1612), St. Lawrence of Brindisi (1619), St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen (1622),

blessed Jeremiah of Wallachia (1625) and blessed Benedict of Urbino (1625).[122]

In May 1625 the Order included 42 provinces, 1192 friaries, 8394 priests, 2856 clerics and 5717 lay brothers, in all 16,966 religious. Despite this numerical growth, these evident fruits of holiness and apostolate, and the esteem that the Order enjoyed with the Church and the people, the usual denigrators continued to repeat and write that the Capuchin Order was not an authentic Franciscan family.[123] We have already pointed out the brief Ecclesiae militantis of 15 October 1608 with which Paul V refuted these rumours, without being able to silence the slanderers because of the way they twisted the interpretation of the phrase: “notwithstanding they [the Capuchins] were not instituted at the time of blessed Francis”. As early as 1627, the General Procurator Francesco da Genova had filed a protest on this subject with the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, which with a decree dated April 30 of the same year declared that the Capuchins were true sons of Saint Francis.[124] The procurator also wanted the authoritative intervention of Pope Urban VIII. With the brief Salvatoris et Domini of June 28, 1627 (doc. 12), the pope copied and confirmed the aforesaid brief of Paul V, and explaining the misintrepreted sentence of the detractors, he added: “We consider it right and in conformity with reason that those who present themselves, by word and example, as authentic imitators of Saint Francis, must be considered such by all without any objection”. The beginning of the Capuchin friars “must be counted truely and effectively from the time of the primitive and original institution of the Seraphic Rule, the observance of which said Capuchin friars have always continued, without any interruption”. Consequently, “with the present constitution, valid in perpetuity, we decree and declare, by apostolic authority, that the aforementioned Capuchins are true and authentic brothers of the Order of Saint Francis and observers of his Rule, and as such they must be by all and by individuals considered, retained and judged”.[125]

Therefore, the Capuchin reform, like the other reforms of strict observance and also the regular Observants itself, had no real and proper founders; their only founder was Saint Francis, whose spirit and way of life some followers of him, in later times, wanted to restore and imitate.

Comforted by this praise and this official declaration from the Holy See, the Capuchin Order celebrated its first hundred years of life on 3 July 1628. Not in vain had it suffered and struggled to remain faithful to the primitive Franciscan ideal.

Publication of documents

We publish below the Italian version and the original Latin text of the twelve pontifical documents, chosen as milestones that mark the progress of the Order during the first hundred years of its life. The Latin text, at the foot of the Italian version, has been taken from the originals. In the transcription, since it is not a diplomatic edition, we have adopted the modern usage as regards spelling, especially in the use of capital letters and punctuation. For an easier reading, and also for a quick reference to the passages in the Italian version, we have introduced some paragraphs – absent in the original texts -, with their numbering. For the individual Latin documents, we indicate their location in the General Archive, and also a reference to their publication in other bulls or registers for possible comparison and citation. However, we warn that the edition in these collections is not always faithful and precise, especially in the Annali of Boverio and in the bullary of the Order.

As for the Italian version, even if some of the first documents were already translated by the first chroniclers and in the Italian edition of the Annali of Boverio, we preferred to entrust it to a legal expert, Fr. Renato Gastaldi, to whom we extend our sincere thanks. Fr Costanzo Cargnoni has added some notes to facilitate an easier reading and understanding of the text.

  1. Cf. F. Elizondo, Regola francescana presso i primi cappuccini, in IF 53 (1978); in Spanish: Los primeros capuchinos y la observancia de la Regla franciscana, in Estud. Franc. 80 (1979) 1-42; Le prime costituzioni dei Frati Minori Cappuccini. Roma – S. Eufemia 1536, a work of F. A. Catalano – C. Cargnoni – G. Santarelli, Roma 1982, 88-90, 93, also in IF 56 (1981) 538-540, 543.
  2. Cf. Asapito de Sobradillo, Forma en que están aprobadas por la Santa Sede las constituciones de los PP. Capuchinos, in Estud. Franc. 50 (1949) 265-274.
  3. Pius a Langonio [Langogne], Bullari Ordinis Minorum S. Fr. Capuccinorum regestum sive summarium chronologicum, Romae [1897), pubblicato a puntate in AO 8 (1892). 13 (1897); Bullarium Ordinis FF.Minorum S.P. Francisci Capuccinorum seu collectio bullarum, brevium, decretorum, rescriptorum, oraculorum etc. quae a Sede Apostolica pro Ordine capuccino emanarunt … Variis notis et scholis elucubrata a P.F. Michaele a Tugio [Zug], tomi I-VII, Romae 1740-52. In volume I, the documents concerning the whole Order are published in chronological order; some of them, however, have been moved to the following tomes arranged according to the various subjects. It should be kept in mind that the transcription of documents in the bullary is frequently incorrect.
  4. In the General Archive of the Order, the original pontifical documents or their authentic transcript, in parchment, are found in the QA section; printed matter, sometimes authenticated, in QB. In the BA section there are some original or transient documents, on paper, but most are modern copies made of the original minutes kept in the Vatican Secret Archive. All the documents are arranged in chronological order, with the serial number of the various pontiffs, plus the progressive number indicated in the register.
  5. The briefs, sent by the apostolic secretariat at the request of the interested party, or “motu proprio”, are documents in the form of a letter, in white parchment and with a wax seal; the bulls are the same briefs, but drawn up in a more solemn form and with their own form, and with a lead seal attached. The scheme of briefs and bulls is almost identical: introduction, expository or summary part of the petition, concession or disposition by apostolic authority, penalties against transgressors, derogatory clauses and executive mandate.
  6. On the various Franciscana reforms, up until 1528, see the excellent work of D. Nimmo, Reform and division of the medieval Franciscan Order. From Saint Francis to the foundation of the Capuchins, Roma 1987.
  7. On the preparation and redactions of the bull and its critical text cf. J. Meseguer Fernández, La bula «Ite vos» (29 de mayo del 1517) y la reforma cisneriana, in AIA II época 18 (1958) 257-361.
  8. Cf. J. Meseguer Fernández, Programa de gobierno del P. Francisco Quiñones, ministro general O.F.M. (1523-1528), in AIA 21 (1961) 5-51; the Castilian text of the statutes for the house of retreat, ibid. 9 (1918) 264-274; latin version in AM XVI, 193-197 (167-171).
  9. For the history of the first century of the Order see Melchior a Pobladura, Historia generalis Ordinis Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum. Pars prima: 1525-1619; Pars secunda (1619-1761), voll. I-II, Romae 1947-48. For the beginnings and first decades, cf. Eduardus Alenconiensis [de Alençon], De Primordis Ordinis Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum, 1525-1534. Commentarium historcum, Romae 1921, extract of the published notes in AO 34 (1918)-36 (1920); idem, Tribulationes Ordinis Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum primis annis pontificatus Pauli III (1534-1541), Romae 1914, estrato corretto e aumentato delle puntate apparse in AO 29 (1913)-30 (1914); C. Urbanelli, Storia dei cappuccini delle Marche. Parte prima. Volume I: Origini della riforma cappuccina; vol. III: Documenti, 1517-1609, tomo primo, Ancona 1978-84; Isidoro de Villapadierna, I cappuccini tra eremitismo e predicazione, in I Frati Minori tra ‘400 e ‘500. Atti del XII Convegno Internazionale, Assisi, 18-20 ottobre 1984, Assisi 1986, 51-80.
  10. The document, absent in BC, was published in Eduardus Alenc., De primordiis cit. 21s, e ripreso in AM XVI, Addenda, 790s. A fuller review of the pontifical documents of the first years of the Order, in Isidoro de Villapadierna, Documentación del Archivo General de la Orden sobre la Reforma capuchina (1525-1536), in CF 48 (1978) 413-433.
  11. AOG, QA 220, no. 238, authentic transcript made in Ancona on 10 July 1579; critical edition in C. Urbanelli, Storia III/1, 285; with variants in AC I, 64s and in BC I, 1s; more correct text and with analysis, in Eduardus Alenc., De primordis, 27-31; Italian version in MHOC V, 101s and VII, 35s. Of the original brief – now lost – two transcripts were made, one for Brother Raffaele and the other for Caterina Cybo. Cf. MHOC I, 39. It should be noted that this type of rescript or indult was commonly issued, without too many formalities, to religious who for reasons of conscience could not live under the obedience of their superiors.
  12. Latin and Italian text of these statutes in in J. Meseguer Fernández, Constituciones recoletas para Portugal, 1524 e Italia, 1526, in AIA 21 (1961) 459-489.
  13. Il “libellus supplex” in Eduardus., De primordis, 44.46.
  14. Cf. bull Illa quae of Eugenio IV of 24 November 1435, in AC I, 269s; BR V, 17.
  15. The text of the brief in AGO, BA 220, n. 240a, copy, and in Eduardus Alenc., De primordiis, 46s. Text of the bull in AGO, QA 220, n. 240; critical editions in Isidoro de Villapadierna, Bulla «Religionis zelus». (Textus emendatus), in CF 48 (1978) 243-248, or in AO 94 (1978) 303-306; C. Urbanelli, Storia III/1, 30-32. also AC I, 94-96; BC I, 35; AM XVI 294-296 (257s); BR VI, 113-115. Italian version in MHOC V, 120-122; VII, 48-51. There were also two authentic transcripts respectively for Brother Raffaele and for Caterina Cybo. Cf. MHOC I, 210; II, 238s. The original of the bull would have been brought to Fossombrone by Ludovico himself, when he was expelled from the Order in 1536; then it was lost, as well as the two transcripts mentioned. The authentic transcript was produced in Ancona on 10 July 1579, at the request of the chronicler Fr. Mario da Mercato Saraceno.
  16. The historical-juridical examination of the bull in Stanislao Santachiara, La bolla «Religionis zelus», in 450° dell’Ordine cappuccino. Le origini della Riforma cappuccina. Atti del convegno di studi storici, Camerino 18-21 settembre 1978, Ancona 1979, 261-280.
  17. Cf. Isidoro de Villapadierna, Documentación cit., 422s.
  18. AUG, QA 220, no. 243, authentic transcript of 1537, published in AC I, 970-977 and in BC I, 5-10. With the brief Exponi nobis of 31 August 1533, Clement VII extended for 10 years the time already granted to the Camaldolese for the dispatch of the bull confirming the privileges (AGO, QA 220, n. 248a, transcript of 1537). But they pressed for it, and it was sent by Paul III, Rationi congruit, on November 3, 1534 (AGO, QA 221, n. 249a, authentic transcript of 1538; AC I, 977-985; BR VI, 173-182), and confirmed again by Pius IV with the constitution Apostolicae Sedis of 18 June 1560 (AGO, QA 225, n. 279s, authentic transcript of 1560). Note the interest of the Capuchins in procuring and keeping these pontifical documents issued to the Camaldolese, due to the privilege granted to them to receive religious of any Order.
  19. On 11 September 1528 they had obtained a brief or rescript, Ex parte vestra, of exclaustration, very similar to the one received from Ludovico on 18 May 1526. That brief, the third of the authentic transcripts made in Ancona in 1579 (AGO, QA 220, n. 241) was published by C. Urbanelli, Storia III/1, 33-35. also AC I, 987s,AM XVI, 300s (260s); Italian version in MHOC V, 132s. On their passage to the Capuchins cf. Eduardus Alenc., De primordiis, 56-62; C. Urbanelli, Storia I, 239-242.
  20. The juridical study by F. Elizondo, Las constituciones capuchinas del 1529. En el 450° aniversario de su redacción en Albacina, in Laurent. 20 (1979) 384-440. For the editions and other studies on the same constitutions, see the bibliography in Isidoro de Villapadierna, Tra eremitismo cit., 67s. To be added a recent edition: Costituzioni delli Frati Minori detti della vita eremitica. Le prime costituzioni della Congregazione cappuccina. Critical edition edited by Giuseppe Santarelli, in IF 62 (1987) 7-22; see also further on, sect. II, nos. 81-149.
  21. On this group and the vicissitudes of their union with the Capuchins see: Eduardus Alenconiensis, De origine Ordinis Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum chronica Fr. Joannis Romaei de Terranova, Rome 1908, extract from the notes published in AO 23 (1907); idem, De primordis, 67-81; C. Urbanelli, Storia I, 274-278.
  22. AGO, BA 220, n. 243b, emended copy; edited with some in AM XVI, 322-324 (278-281), e in Eduardus Alenc., De primordis, 82-84.
  23. AGO, BA 220, n. 244a, copy; the text is less correct in AM XVI, 336-338 (291-293).
  24. AGO, BA 220, n. 246, copy; publised in AM XVI, 347-350 (300-332); Eduardus Alenc., De primordiis, 93s. The brief of 3 July 1532, in Eduardus Alenc., De prigine cit. 52s, o in AO 23 (1907) 360-363; cf. anche De primordiis, 99s.
  25. AGO, QA 220, n. 247, original; BA 220, n. 247, copy; emended text in Eduardus Alenc., De primordiis, 105-108. Cf. AC I, 172-175.
  26. AGO, QA 220, n. 248, authentic transcripts of 1532, 1579 e 1608; emended texts in Eduardus Alenc., De primordis, 110-113. Cf. aslo in BC I, 988-993; AM XVI, 379-382 (326-311); BR VI, 155-158.
  27. Published in AM XVI, 439 (380s), in BC I, 11s and in Eduardus Alenc., De primordiis, 119s, who believes it to be later than that of the 15th, but the date of 9th is patent in the minute (ASV, Minute of the briefs of Clement VII, Arm. XL, vol. 47, n. 241). The error has also been taken up by other authors.
  28. AUG, BA 220, no. 249a, copy; edited in Eduardus Alenc., De primordiis, 116s and in AM XVI, Addenda, 794-796, according to the original draft or first draft, in which the date VIIII has been deleted. Cf. the aforementioned Minute dei brevi, n. 243.
  29. Cf. MHOC IV, 158; V, 111.
  30. The alleged expulsion of the Capuchins from Rome on 25 April 1534, dramatically recounted by the earliest chroniclers (cf. MHOC I, 388-395; II, 298-305) and by Boverio (AC I, 191-193), should be critically reconsidered. Cf. Eduardus Alenc., De primordis, 117-119.
  31. On this true mother of the Capuchins see ahead, part II, sect. I, docs. 14-30, nn. 2002-2057.
  32. Published in AM XVI, 440 (381); BC 1, 12; Eduardus Alenc., Tribulationes, 2s.
  33. AGO, QA 221, n. 251, two authentic transcipts of 14 February, published in AC I, 993s; AM XVI, 480 (397); BC I, 13.
  34. AM XVI, 459-461 (398s); BC I, 14s.
  35. AGO, QA 221, n. 255, tjree transcripts of 15 July 1536; ACI, 995s; BC I, 15s. AM XVI, 461s (399s) e Edoardo d’Alençon, Tribulationes, 4, they give to the brief the incorrect date of 19 August.
  36. Cf. Melchor de Pobladura, El emperador Carlos V contra los capuchinos. Texto y comentario de una carta inédita: Nápoles, 17 enero 1536, in CF 34 (1964) 373-390; V. Sánchez, Vicente Lunel, ministro general O.F.M. III: Lunel v la reforma de los capuchinos, in AIA 32 (1972) 315-326.
  37. These and other reasons were expressed by Bernardine of Asti in his memorial of 1536. Cf. Eduardus Alenc., Tribulationes, 42-46; text and Italian translation at nn. 1095-1099.
  38. Cf. Eduardus Alenc., Tribulationes, 9-18; C. Urbanelli, Storia I, 329-357. The Master General of the Conventuals, protector and defender of the Capuchin congregation, had also urged Ludovico da Fossombrone to convene the chapter in a letter dated 23 November 1535. Cf. G. Abate, Conferme dei vicari generali cappuccini date dai maestri generali conventuali (1528-1619), in CF 33 (1963) 428.
  39. AUG, QA 221, no. 257, three authentic transcripts: dated 6 May 1536, 22 September 1537 and 27 May 1538. Ediz. in AC I, 212-214, 986s and in BC I, 16s. In the first draft, as requested by Brother Bernardino, the approval of what in the chapter had been done in a wise and commendable way that was good and legitimate and not in contrast with the sacred canons and letters of Clement VII; the replacement of all individual errors of law and of fact, if they had occurred; a declaration of validity and effectiveness, and of observance forever; furthermore, the revocation and annulment of any authority conferred on Brother Ludovico and any other friar by the chapter of Albacina or by Clement VII. Cf., Eduardus Alenc., Tribulationes, 12-14.
  40. On this precursor of the Capuchin reform, see further on, part II, sect. I, doc. 7-8, nos. 1936-1962.
  41. AOG, QA 221, no. 260, authentic transcript of 22 October 1537; AC edition I, 221-225; AM XVI, 471-475(408-411); BC I, 18-20; BR VI, 229-235. At the end of the draft it was noted that the transformation into a bull had been commissioned by the pope out of respect for the Marquise of Pescara. Cf. Eduardus Alenc., Tribulationes, 21.
  42. See the confirming documents in G. Abate, art. cit., 429-441.
  43. Cf. AO 43 (1927) 282-288.
  44. AOG, QA 221, no. 262, original; edited in AC I, 214s and in BC I, 21s. The summons of the brief was made to Ludovico by the apostolic cursor on 13 December. Eduardus Alenc., Tribulationes, 16s. On this questionable initiator of the Capuchin reform, see further on, part II, sect. I, doc. 15, 2; 19-20; 35-36; 38.4 and under the heading, in the analytical index.
  45. For the editions and studies of these constitutions, see Isidoro de Villapadierna, Tra eremitismo cit. 76s. See further on, sect. II, nos. 150-429.
  46. AOG, QA 221, no. 262, original; published in AC I, 996-998; AM XVI, 487-489 (422s); BC I, 23s. The commission of cardinals, then consisting of only three members in favour of the Observants, limited itself to dictating an interlocutory sentence on December 23, 1535, forbidding, under serious canonical penalties, the passage of the Observants to the Capuchins and their reception by the latter, until the Holy See had prepared the appropriate remedy. Edition in AM XVI, 462s (400s). Cf. Eduardus Alenc., Tribulationes, 39 and 42s.
  47. Published in AM XVI, 489 (423s) and in BC I, 22s, which give the wrong date of 3rd. In the draft the brief began: Nuper per nos accepto, and was given «Ad futurom rei memoriam». Cf. Eduardus Alenc., Tribulationes, 51 note 1.
  48. Cf. C. Cargnoni, Le vocazioni all’Ordine cappuccino dagli inizi al 1619, in Le vocazioni all’Ordine francescano dalle origini ad oggi, Napoli 1983, 89-122.
  49. AGO, BA 221, n. 266b, published copy in Eduardus Alenc., Tribulationes, 58s.
  50. AGO, BA 221, n. 267a, published in Eduardus Alenc., Tribulationes, 59.
  51. МНОС II, 259.
  52. Cf. MHOC I, 451-471; II, 439-460; VI, 54-76. Cf. also AC I, 318-323. On Ochino, see infra, part Il, sect. I, docs. 22-25, 27, 29, 33-34; 74, 3 and the respective topics in the analytical index.
  53. See the explanation that Francis of Jesi himself gave to these articles, in MHOC IV, 127-132, with the variants of the text transmitted by Boverio in AC I, 372-376. Ripanti, a profound theologian, in several of these explanations foreshadowed certain indications of the Tridentine Council.
  54. AGO, BA 222, n. 269a, copy from ASV, Dataria Apostolica, Brevi Lateranensi, vol. 50, f. 171.
  55. AGO, BA 222, n. 269b, copied from the cited Brevi Lateranensi, f. 130.
  56. AGO, QA 222, no. 270, original, with the summons made on 29 August to the Commissioner General of the Observants. Published in AC I, 441-443 and in BC I, 24f.
  57. Cf. F. Elizondo, Las constituciones capuchinas del 1552, in Laurent. 21 (1980) 206-250; see also below sect. II, n. 150ss, in the critical aparatus.
  58. AO 5 (1889) 75.The title of the constitutions of 1552 is significant: Costitutioni dei poveri Frati Menori detti Cappuccini. Cf. sect. II, n. 150, note (a).
  59. AOG, QA 225, no. 278, original and two transcriptions of the 28 June follow; plus, one printed copy (QB); AC edition I, 567-574; AM XIX, 615-620 (525-530); in BC I, 25-28. The purpose of the Hermits of Saint Francis, approved by Julius III on March 14, 1550, was to live under the Rule of Saint Francis in the poverty of the Capuchins. Suppressed on March 10, 1562, and invited to join the Capuchins and the Observants, most joined the reformed Conventuals. Cf. DIP III, Rome 1976, 1199-1202; V, Rome 1978, 451s.
  60. On the Capuchin participants at the Council of Trent and the references to the Order made at the various sessions, see: Paolino da Casacalenda, I cappuccini nel Concilio di Trento, in CF 3 (1933) 396-409, 571-583; Constantius ad Aldeaseca, The juridical nature of the poverty of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins from 1528 to 1638, Rome 1943, 9-83; Ilarino da Milano, I Frati Minori Cappuccini e il Concilio di Trento, in IF 19 (1944) 50-70. Testimonies of the Council Fathers on poverty and the strict observance of Capuchin life, infra, part II, sec. 1, doc. 42,1, nos. 2089-2094.
  61. AO 5 (1889) 79. Cf. Melchior a Pobladura, Historia generalis cit. I, 216s.
  62. BC I, 28s; cf. AC I, 609s; Melchior a Pobladura, Historia generalis I, 142s.
  63. Magnum Bullarium Romanum, ed. L. Cherubini, II, Lyon 1673, 135s; BC VI, 253s.
  64. AGO, QA 225, n. 284, originale.
  65. Cf. MHOC VI, 307; AC I, 636.
  66. Another ancient practice, also belonging to the lay character of the Order, namely the precedence between clerics and lay according to the order of religious seniority, was abolished by the General Chapter of 1606, in which, by 99 votes to 5, it was established that in all provinces ‘clerics must precede laymen however older’. Cf. AO 5 (1889) 225. The resolution, a sign of a slow clericalisation of the Order, was not applied in all the provinces; in fact, it was intimated, with special reference to the provinces of the kingdom of Sicily, by a decree signed on 24 September 1608 by Bishop Antonio Seneca, protonotary apostolic (AGO, BA 234, no. 540, two originals; edition in BC I, 56). On the position of the lay brothers in the Order see J.J. Der, The Capuchin Lay Brother. A juridical-historical study, in The New Round Table 37 (1984) 128-192, 38 (1985) 1-67.
  67. AGO, QA 226, no. 292, authentic transcript of 23 September 1573. Published in AC I, 998s; Magnum Bull. Rom. II, 240s; BC I, 21s. The intimation of the brief was made by the prothonotary apostolic on 18 December 1567 (AGO, BA 226, no. 292) and again on 30 August 1588 (AGO, QA 228, no. 392a, original; QB, printed). A decree of the Congregation for the Consultation of the Regulars of 14 June 1588, at the request of the Procurator General of the Capuchins, also ordered the Minims and the Reformed to observe the above-mentioned brief of Pius V, and another decree of 27 May 1591 regulated the juridical situation of the Capuchins who had passed to the Minims, with the prohibition, under various canonical penalties, of any further transit of the Capuchins to the aforesaid Minims (AGO, BA 228, n. 399a, original; BC I, 32 puts the wrong date of 1595).
  68. Cf. AC I, 666; Melchior a Pobladura; Historia generalis I, 59. The rumblings of such a union had not ceased by 1571. On 27 May of the same year, St. Charles Borromeo wrote to Cardinal Crivelli that these rumours were unfounded, and added: “Since the Capuchin fathers are few in number [but they were perhaps 3,000], I do not see what benefit their union could bring to the congregation of the zoccoli fathers, in comparison with the disorder and impediment that would follow to the peace and observance of the Capuchin fathers”. Cf. P.M. Sevesi, S. Carlo Borromeo cardinale protettore dell’Ordine dei Frati Minori (1564-1572), in AFH 31 (1938) 118s, doc. 55. Testimonies on St Charles Borromeo and the Capuchins, infra, part II, sec. I, docs.50-65.
  69. Published by a printer, no longer in the AGO, in AC I, 711-713, BC I, 33s ella, 15s, and in Rocco da Cesinale, Storia delle missioni dei cappuccini I, Paris 1867, 475-477. On the Capuchins at Lepanto, cf. Imerio da Castellanza, I cappuccini a Lepanto (7 ottobre 1571), in IF 8 (1933) 57-76, 190-201, 269-291, 356-369, 492-505. Other accounts of the heroic behaviour of the Capuchin chaplains on that historic occasion, see below, Part III, sect. II.
  70. BC IV, 235.
  71. AM XX, 645s (674s).
  72. With the brief Cum ad salutem of 20 June 1597, Clement VIII sent eight Capuchins and four Observants as chaplains to the papal army in Hungarian lands (AM XXIII, 537). The same pope, with the brief Cum dilecti fili of 25 May 1601, assigned twelve Capuchins and eight Camillians for the spiritual service of the Catholic troops deployed in Hungary (AGO, QA 232, no. 461, original; published in BC I, 48). Nor should we forget the brief Cum tu ad exercitum of 11 October 1610, by which Paul V appointed St Laurence of Brindisi general chaplain of the forces of the Catholic League (AM XXIV 585f; BC II, 289; Arturo M. da Carmignano di Brenta, San Lorenzo da Brindisi dottore della Chiesa universale (1559-1619). IV. Documenti, parte seconda, Venezia-Mestre 1963, …On the Capuchin apostolate in Castellanza cf. Imerio da Castellanza, Gli angeli delle armate. (I cappuccini militari cappellani), Bergamo 1937; Melchior a Pobladura, Historia generalis I, 292-297. For evidence on Saint Lawrence of Brindisi in religious-political and military activities, see below, part III, sect. III.
  73. Cf. AO 5 (1889) 81s.
  74. AGO, QA 227, n, 317, authentic transcript of 3 June; QB, printed; edited in AC I, 765f (wrong date 1575); BC I, 35 and V, 1f (read year II of the pontificate instead of IV). On the expansion of the Order across Europe cf. Mechior a Pobladura, Historia gernalis I, 81-95. Evidence of the reception of the Capuchins and their exemplary lives, see Part IV.
  75. BC I, 35.
  76. F. Elizondo, Constituciones capuchinas del 1575. En torno a un centenario, in Laurent. 16 (1975) 3-52; idem, Contenido de las constituciones capuchinas de 1575 y su relación con la legislación precedente, ibid.225-280.
  77. AGO, QA 227, no. 345, authentic transcript of 23 October; edited in AC II, 943-945; BC I, 36f.
  78. AGO, QA 227, no. 349, two authentic transcripts.
  79. A decree of 10 May 1582, signed by the vicar general of the pope, Card. Giacomo Sabelli, imposed on the Fatebenefratelli a special form of their habit to distinguish them from the Capuchins (AGO, BA 227, no. 348, copy); the decree, intimated twice, was repeated on 31 August 1587 (AGO, BA 228, no. 384a, cp1a). In the meantime, on 22nd June 1582 the Protonotary Apostolic G. Mattei had intimated compliance with the bull of Pius IV of 2nd April 1560 on the question of the Capuchin habit (AGO, QA 227, no. 349, two originals). Against the usurpers a decree of the Congregation for the Consultation of the Regulars was again issued on 16 January 1588, followed on 12 May by executive letters from the Auditor of the Chamber (AGO, QA 228, no. 391a, original; copy in BA), and a new executive mandate on 12 May 1592 equally with the invocation of the secular arm against the Fatebenefratelli and other abusive wearers of the Capuchin habit (AGO, QA 232, no. 407, original). Some of these documents were published in AC II, 945-949, 955-957 and in BC I, 37-39.
  80. BC II, 37-39.
  81. Magnum Bull. Rom. II, 37-39.
  82. Rocco da Cesinale, Storia delle missioni I, 505-508. The same pontiff, in the brief Libenter ex litteris of 24 August 1602, addressed to Fr Ignatius of Bologna, rejoiced at the evangelical fruits he had brought to Algiers and encouraged him to continue ‘the work of God’ (BC VII, 268).
  83. BC III, 147f. On the Capuchin apostolate among the Christian slaves in Africa cf. Rocco da Cesinale, Storia I, 414-428; Melchior a Pobladura, Historia generalis I, 332-335; S. Bono, La missione dei cappuccini ad Algeri per il riscatto degli schiavi cristiani nel 1585, in CF 25 (1955) 149-163, 279-304. See also in part II, sect. III. – Perhaps because they were attracted to this form of apostolate, or for less noble reasons, some Capuchins had switched to the Order of the B. V. M. della Mercede, a transit that Paul V forbade with the breve Nuper ad nos of 7 July 1608, ordering the superiors of that Order to no longer receive Capuchins and other religious with a strict Rule, in Spain and elsewhere. The document in AC II, 977f; BC I, 55f; BR XI, 526f.
  84. After the Spanish Discalced in 1563 had to submit, in spite of themselves, to the jurisdiction of the Observants, a delegation of them came to Rome and asked for their reform to be attached to the Capuchin Order; the general chapter of 1567 rejected the proposal, citing the need to obtain the pope’s and the Catholic king’s permission. Cf. AO 5 (1889) 80: AIA 17 (1922) 167f; Melchior a Pobladura, Historia generalis I, 83. In the Constitutions of 1575 and 1608 the brothers from the Conventuals and the Zoccolanti were required to do a full probationary year with profession, like all the other novices (Chapter II).
  85. BC I, 42f; BR VIII, 657-659. The transfer of religious to the Capuchin Order continued: in the ordinances of the general chapters of 1596, 1602 and 1618 the licence to receive religious of other Orders was reserved to the vicars general only. Cf. AO 5 (1889) 136, 168, 302. Nor was it rare for Capuchins to opt for other Orders. With the brief Cum sicuti of 20 December 1589, Sixtus V suppressed the Discalced monks who had come to Italy and who, without a licence from the Holy See, had received mendicant religious ‘and Capuchins’, non-mendicants and seculars, to the habit and profession, the Discalced friaries were assigned to the reformed Conventuals, to which the suppressed religious could join or return to their own religion or state (AGO, QB 228, no. 395a, printed). The transfer of religious to a laxer Order had been interdicted by the Council of Trent (sess. XXV, De regularibus, c. 19), and Pius V, with the bull Quaecumque personarum of 14 October 1569, revoked the privileges of being able to receive and retain religious of other Orders, even if they were laxer (BC VII, 265f; BR VII, 783-785). We mentioned above (note 83) to the prohibition to receive Capuchins made to the Mercedarians, who believed they could accept them by virtue of their fourth heroic vow. A similar prohibition to them to receive Observants and others of a more recidivist life had been made by Clement VIII with the brief Nuper ad nos of 24 December 1596 (AM XXIII, 522 [462s]; BR X, 319s). Finally, to close this agitated question on the transit of religious to the Capuchins and of these and other Orders, we recall the breve Iniuncto nobis of 9 August 1628, by which Urban VIII, at the request of the procurator of the Order, forbade in perpetuity the Capuchins to pass, under any pretext or cause, to a more lax Order without special permission from the Holy See, or to the more rigid Carthusians or similar Orders without the written permission of the General Minister (AGO, QA 236, no. 826, original; QB, two printed copies; edition in BC I, 79f).
  86. ASV, Reg. Secretariae Brevium, Arm. XLIV, vol. 30, f. 24; published in BC VII, 282-284; AM XXII, 439-441 (410-413); Rocco da Cesinale, Storia delle missioni I, 471-473.
  87. AGO, H 35, I; emended text, infra, parte I, sect. IV, nn. 1654-1655; text is incorrect in AC II, 904s; BC VII, 284; Rocco da Cesinale, Storia I, 474s.
  88. On this mission of St Joseph of Leonessa, cf. La missione cappuccina a Costantinopoli e il martirio di san Giuseppe da Leonessa. IV Centenario 1587-1987. Atti dell’incontro di studi. Leonessa, 2-3 agosto 1987, in Leonessa e il suo Santo 24 (1987) n. 135. Cf. see ahead, sect. IV, nn. 1656-1657.
  89. On the Maddaleniti cf. Melchior a Pobladura, Historia generalis I, 63, 175; C. Cargnoni, Fonti, tendenze e sviluppi della letteratura spirituale cappuccina primitiva, in CF 48 (1978) 391s.109.
  90. AGO, QA 230, n. 400, original and copy; OB, printed; AC II, 953; BC I, 44s.
  91. The decree in AGO, BA 232, n. 477a, copy; the brief in QA 232 n. 488, original; QB, printed; AC II, 974s; BC I,49s.
  92. For the theological-moral preparation of confessors, the general chapter of 1618, will order that in three or four places of the province, cases of conscience are read, at least three times a week and on all feastdays; the lessons will be given by some suitable fathers appointed by the definitory (AO 5 [18891 301). On the question of the confession of seculars cf. De confessione saecularium in Ordine nostro, in AO 19 (1903) 251-255, 279-284, 370-373; 20 (1904) 27-39, 125-128, 150-152; Melchior a Pobladura, Historia generalis I, 277-281; texts and testimonies, cf. nos. 1161-1162.
  93. AGO, QA 230, no. 401, original; QB, printed; AC II, 951f; BC I, 45f; BR IX, 442-444. On the back of the original, the intimation made to the Commissary General of the Conventuals on 2 August 1591. Cf. also BA 230, no. 401, copy. A decree of 16 December 1591 of the Congregation for the Consultation on the Rules obliged the reformed Conventuals to wear the habit assigned to them (AGO, BA 231, n. 405a, copy); the decree was renewed on 2 February 1623 (AGO, QB 235, n. 693). The reformed Conventuals were suppressed – with the exception of a few friaries – with the breve Romanus Pontifex of 6 February 1626, given ‘motu proprio’ by Urban VIII; the religious had, within two months, to choose to remain among the Conventuals or to join the Capuchins, between the reformed and the Observants (AGO, QB 236, n. 750, printed; AM XXVI, 416-418). Cf. DIP III, Rome 1976, 94-106.
  94. AGO, BA 231, no. 405, attestation of the Procurator General; cf. BC I, 47. It should be noted that all “vivae vocis” oracles, not signed by a cardinal, granted to colleges, chapters, religious orders, societies and congregations, would be abrogated by Gregory XV with the brief Romanus Pontifex of 2 July 1622 (Magnum Bull. Rom. III, 424s; BC VI, 3845). But the same pope, questioned by the Procurator General Girolamo da Castelferretti, declared on 6 February 1623, that the aforementioned brief did not concern the Capuchin Order (AGO, BA 235, n. 694, original attestator of the Procurator; published in BC I, 69s).
  95. Cf. F. Elizondo, Las constituciones capuchinas del 1608, in Laurent. 17 (1976) 153-208.
  96. AM XXIV, 435-437 (394s); BR X, 862s.
  97. AGO, QA 234, n. 541, original; printed in AC II, 975s; BC I, 57; BR XI, 552s. Cf. infra, nota 125.
  98. AGO, BA 228, n. 379, a double copy of the attestation of Cardinal Michele Bonelli.
  99. The brief in AGO, QB 227, n. 355, printed; BC VI, 284s; BR VIII, 429 (puts that date of 25th). The ordinance of Cardinal Lante, in AGO, BA 234, n. 591a, original.
  100. AGO, QA 234, no. 616, transcript authenticated by the auditor of the chamber on 16 February 1617. Prior to 1616, the Vicar General Paolo da Cesena, in one of his circular letters, wishing to keep the friars away from quarrels caused by precedence in processions, recalled the Order’s custom of going under the cross of the conventuals, as a sign also of Franciscan humility. Cf. Melchior a Pobladura, Litterae circulares superiorum generalium Ordinis Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum (1548-1803), Rome 1960, 30-32. Cf. also infra, n. 939.
  101. AGO, QA 234, no. 625, original; QB, printed (5 copies); BC I, 60; BR XII, 411f. A decree of the Congregation of Rites of 23 March 1619 specified that the Capuchins, now under their own cross in following the attainment of autonomy, in the processions they had to give way to those who already had precedence (AGO, BA 234, no. 643, original and documented exposition on the matter). Yet another decree of 10 July 1621 of the same Congregation explained the preceding in the sense that this rule was to be applied only in those places where the Capuchins did not first go behind their own cross; in the others they would maintain their place and precedence (AGO, BA 235, no. 660a, original and three copies).
  102. AGO, QA 234, no. 637, original; edited in BC I, 60s. A more accurate edition, infra, Part V, sect. II. The provision will later have quite a few exceptions.
  103. AGO, QA 234, n. 640, original; published in BC I, 61s.
  104. AGO, QA 234, no. 641, original; published in AC II, 978s and III, 283s; BC I, 62s (wrong date 23); AM XXV, 559s (593). To be corrected the date 23 in the register (no. 640), and in Melchior a Pobladura, Historia generalis I, 71, and II/1, 1. The full authority of the minister general “ubique locorum et in utroque foro” was confirmed by Gregory XV’s “vivae vocis oraculo” of 29 October 1621, abrogating certain limitations imposed by the breve In supremo Sedis of 29 October 1618 (AGO, QA 235, no. 666, authentic attestation of Card. Francis de Sourdis; published in BC I, 64). Cf. infra, n. 1109.
  105. The cited briefs in BC VII, 192-194. On this laborious project cf. T. Filesi – I. de Villapadierna, La “Missio antiana” dei cappuccini nel Congo (1645-1835), Rome 1978, 15-18.
  106. On the Capuchin missions in this first century and the following ones, cf. Rocco da Cesinale, Storia delle missioni dei cappuccini, 3 volumes, Paris-Rome 1867-73; Clemente da Terzorio, Le missioni dei Minori Cappuccini. Sunto storico, 10 vols., Roma 1913-38; Idem, Manuale historicum missionum Ordinis Minorum Capuccinorum, Isola del Liri 1926. See also, for the first century, Melchior a Pobldura, Historia generalis I, 298-331.
  107. BC V, 6s.
  108. AGO, BA 235, no. 661, original and copy. The decree was approved by the pope on 31 July. In Spain and Portugal, the scalzi were commonly called ‘capuchos’ and sometimes also ‘capuchinos’.
  109. AGO, QA 235, no. 668, original; QB, three printed copies; published in BC 1, 64-67; BR XII, 647-649. The General Procurator of the Order, Girolamo da Castelferretti, took care to send an authentic transcript of the brief to all the provincials in a circular letter of 22 February 1622, which began: “Caputium, habitus, mantellus, chorda et solea seu sandalia quae nos capuccini portamus, gemmae sunt et reliquiae paupertatis S. P.N. Francisci, quarum semper, ab initio Reformationis usque in hunc diem, fuimus possessores …[The capuch, the habit, the mantle, the cord and the soles or sandals which we Capuchins wear, are the jewels and relics of the poverty of our holy father St Francis, of which we have always, from the beginning of the Reform until this day, been the possessors…]. (BC I, 68). See below, the Italian version, part I, sect. IV, doc. 6 (n. 1110).
  110. AGO, OB 235, n. 693, three printed copies.
  111. AGO, BA 236, no. 703, сорy аn addendum to the decree cited in footnote 111. The decree of 23 December 1623 was issued after a commission of cardinals dealt with the dispute over the habit between the Reformati and Capuchins, listening to both sides. Several votes and testimonials had been presented in favour of the Reformati. See in AM XXVI, 167-173, the shortest testimonial, signed, it seems, by Conventuals, Observants and Reformati. On the true form of the habit of St Francis, and therefore of the Capuchins, see the dissertation, also illustrated with figures, by Boverio in AC 1, 877-968.
  112. AGO, QA 236, n. 704, original; QB, three printed copies; BC I, 71s; AM XXVI, 173-175; BR XIII, 97-99.
  113. AGO, QA 236, no. 709, original; QB, three printed copies; BR XIII, 139f. However, in the brief it was permitted for the Reformati to use sandals of a particular shape in some special cases, thus not equal to the sandals of the Capuchins.
  114. BC V, 9; commissioned by executive letters of 28 November 1624, ibid. 10s.
  115. AGO, BA 236, n. 717a, authentic copy.
  116. BC V, 11s.
  117. AGO, QA 236, no. 722, transcript of the brief with the relevant decree, original; BA 236, no. 729a, copy: BC V, 12f. Again on 20 December 1628, Urban VIII, with the brief Alia a nobis, repeated and enjoined the Reformati in Poland to observe the brief of 10 January 1624 (BC IV, 350f).
  118. AGO, QA 236, no. 740, original, edited in BC I, 75f. and in BR XIII, 371f. Other papal documents on the cult of the new blesseds, in AGO, QB 236, nos. 746a and 756; QA 236, nos. 755 and 816. Cf. BC I, 765, 78f. Testimonies on Blessed Felix, infra, nos. 978, 2103-2105 and excerpts from the canonical process in part III, sec.
  119. Texts and testimonies on them and on other personalities of the Order, illustrious for virtue and holiness, with relative canonical processes, infra, part III, section III.
  120. This is not the place to investigate the authors of this annoying and irresponsible campaign. We limit ourselves to pointing out that Boverio, in his reply to the slanderers (AC I, 953-960), mentions a “public writ” drawn up by Conventuals, Observants and Reformati. Cf. supra, footnote 114.
  121. AGO, BA 236, п. 798, copy.
  122. AGO, QA 236, n. 800, original; QB, three printed copies; printed in BC I, 77s e in BR XIII, 562s.