1. Bull “Religionis zelus” of Clement VII



Translation and notes by

I FRATI CAPPUCCINI. Documenti e Testimonianze del Primo Secolo. A cura di COSTANZO CARGNONI. Roma 1982, 61-69.


Viterbo, 3 July 1528. – The brothers Ludovico and Raffaele da Fossombrone, who are already Observant, under the protection of the Conventuals so as to lead a eremitical life and observe the Rule in its entirety, are granted: absolution from all censure and ecclesiastical penalties; to wear a habit with a square hood; to receive candidates; to wear a beard; to retire to hermitages, and beg everywhere; to enjoy “aeque principaliter” the privileges, indults and graces granted and to be granted to the Order of Friars Minor and the Camaldolese hermits. This is followed by the penalties against violators, the derogation clauses and the executive mandate.

Source: AGO, QA 220, h. 240, authentic transcript of 10 July 1579; critical edition in CF 48 (1978) 243-248 and in AO 94 (1978) 303-306; C. Urbanelli, Storia III/1, 30-32. Cf. AC I, 94-96; BC I, 3f; AM XVI, 294-296 (257f); BR VI, 113-115. See supra, note 15.

1 Clement, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to the beloved sons Ludovico and Raffaele da Fossombrone, professed members of the Order of Friars Minor, health and apostolic blessing.

2 1. Zeal for religion, goodness of life and customs and other praiseworthy merits of honesty and virtue, because of which you are recommended to us by persons worthy of belief,[1] urge us to comply favourably with your desires, in so far as this is possible for us in the Lord, especially those things regarding the salvation of souls and the spread of religion.

3 2. The petition that you have presented to us recently affirms that you, in the past, moved by the desire to serve the Most High, entered the Order of Friars Minor called the Observance, in which, having made profession, you have lived for some time. Having obtained then the permission of your superior at the time,[2] in conformity with the apostolic letters regarding the union and concord among the said friars and those called Conventuals,[3] you joined them, welcomed kindly by the provincial master of the Marches,[4] joining the friars and circumscription of that province.

Afterwards, since for the salvation of your souls and the glory of God, you desired to lead an eremitical life and observe the Rule of blessed Francis, in so far as human frailty permits, the aforesaid provincial master gave you permission to approach the Roman Curia in petition from us and from the Apostolic See what seemed appropriate to ask and obtain for the salvation of your souls and the glory of God.

4 3. Also our beloved son Andrea, cardinal priest and of the title of Saint Prisca, protector of the aforesaid Order,[5] authorised you to present the said petition, in such a way however that one of your group must present himself each year, as a sign of submission in the name of you all, to the provincial master or to the chapter of the province of Conventual Friars where you live. Further, that the said provincial master may visit you, if he considers it opportune, once a year but not more often. And whenever he finds that you do not observe the said Rule, to admonish you so that you may observe it more perfectly, obliging you in the necessary ways. Apart from this, however, he may not transfer you from place to place, nor can he order or oblige you in anything. Rather he is obliged to protect and defend you so that in peace you may serve the Most High in divine matters, as is said to be clearly expressed in the patent letters of the same cardinal protector and of the provincial master.

5 4. Therefore the petition has been humbly addressed to us, which we deign to grant you, from apostolic favour, to lead this type of eremitical life, and we provide for the matters already mentioned in the appropriate way.

6 5. Therefore we, desiring the salvation of souls, absolve each of you and regard each of you absolved from any censure, penalty or other church sentence of excommunication, suspension or interdict,[6] in whatever incurred, whether a iure or ab homine, exclusively in order to the effect of this letter. Considering the aforesaid letters and their content as sufficiently explicit, by apostolic authority we grant you in virtue of this present letter: to lead the eremitical life according to the aforesaid Rule;[7]

to wear the habit with the square cowl;[8]

to receive anyone into your community whether secular cleric or priest, or layman;[9]

to wear the beard, both for them and for you;[10]

to withdraw to any hermitage or place, given the consent of the owners of the said places, and there to dwell, to lead an austere and eremitical art and to beg anywhere.

And we grant you permission and full and free faculty to use, possess and enjoy æque principaliter, freely and legally, and each and every privilege, indult and favour granted to the Order of Friars Minor and to the Hermitage of the Camaldolese of blessed Romuald and his hermits to this day or in the future, both in general or in particular, in the same way in which they use, possess and enjoy them and will enjoy them in the future.[11]

7 6. Furthermore with these apostolic writings we order all archbishops, bishops, abbots, ecclesiastic dignitaries, canons of metropolitan churches or other cathedral churches, vicars general of the aforesaid archbishops, bishops and abbots, to lend you effective defence either personally or by other means, and to make it possible for each and everyone of you to use and enjoy in peace all of the aforesaid faculties, and permit any one of you to be ill-treated, impeded or disturbed by contravening this letter. Rather they are to prosecute at their discretion any dissident or rebel by means of censures or penalties or other lawful provisions, without right of appeal and, if necessary, having recourse to the secular arm.

8 7. The apostolic constitution of Boniface VIII, of happy memory and our predecessor, issued in a synod, a general council, and then in two other synods;[12] nor other papal constitutions or rulings; no statutes or customs of the said Order, even if they were confirmed by oath or approved by the Apostolic See or reinforced by other bonds; nor privileges, indults or apostolic letters granted by any of predecessor Roman pontiff or by ourselves or by the Apostolic See, whether with the vigour of general law or perpetual statute, or by motu proprio, with full knowledge and the fullness of our authority; with any kind of clause – whether invalidating, abrogating, annulling, revoking, preserving, limiting, rehabilitating, declarative – or attestations, repeals of abrogations, or other more effective measures, or other very valid and extraordinary clauses granted, confirmed and renewed, even many times, in whatever way, in the consistory.

In a special way we expressly depart from all these, for this one time only, while leaving their vigour otherwise intact, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, also in the cases where in order to obtain a valid repeal specific verbatim reference to them and their contents is necessary; and those general clauses, even if equivalent, may be insufficient, but express mention must be made, or a specially determined form must be observed and be expressly affirmed that cannot be absolutely derogated to them. In this letter we consider their content to be sufficiently expressed, as reproduced word for word, and all the modalities and forms specifically established in the matter are observed.

9 8. Therefore it is not permissible for anyone among men to infringe this document of our absolution, concession, ruling and repeal, or with daring boldness to go against these.

If anyone will presume to attempt this, let him know that he will incur the indignation of almighty God and the blessed apostles Peter and Paul.

Given in Viterbo,[13] in 1528 year of the Incarnation of the Lord, 3 July, in the fifth year of our pontificate.



Dilectis filiis Ludovico et Raphaeli de Foro Sempronii Ordinis fratrum minorum professoribus, salutem et apostolicam benedictionem.

1. Religionis zelus, vitae ac morum honestas aliaque laudabilia probitatis et virtutum merita, super quibus apud nos fide digno commendamini testimonio, nos inducunt ut votis vestris, praesertim guae animarum salutem et religionis propagationem respiciunt, quantum cum De possumus favorabiliter annuamus.

2. Sane pro parte vestra nobis nuper exhibita petitio continebat quod vos, olim fervore serviendi Altissimo ducti, Ordinem fratrum minorum de Observantia nuncupatorum ingressi, in eo, professionem emissi, per certum tempus permansistis, et deinde de licentia vestri tunc superioris, iuta formam litterarum apostolicarum super unione et concordia inter praedictos et conventuales nuncupatos fratres dicti Ordinis edita confectarum, ad ipsorum fratrum conventualium consortium vos transtulistis, et a tunc magistro provinciali provinciae Marchiae dictorum fratrum conventualium benigne recepti, ac aliorum fratrum conventualium eusdem provinciae numero et consortio aggregati fuistis; et deinde, vobis desiderantibus, pro animarum vestrarum salute ac Dei gloria, eremiticam vitam ducere, et, quantum humana patitur fragilitas, Regulam beati Francisci observare, dictus magister provincialis licentiam ad romanam curiam accedendi, et a nobis ac Sede Apostolica quaecumque ad animarum vestrarum salutem ac Dei gloriam opportuna vobis viderentur petendi et impetrandi, concessit.

3. Ac etiam dilectus filius noster Andreas, tituli Sanctae Priscae presbyter cardinalis, dicti Ordinis protector, vobis ut similem impetrationem faceretis indulsit, ita tamen quod unus ex consortio vestro, omnium vestrorum nomine, magistro provinciali seu capitulo provincia dictorum fratrum conventualium, in qua habitaretis, singulis annis se presentare in signum subiectionis teneretur, et ipse magister, si sibi videretur, semel in anno, et non ultra, vos visitare, et, si inveniret vos Regulam praedictam non observare, ad eamplenius observandam vos admonere ac debitis modis compellere posset; praeter haec autem, nec vos de loco ad locum transferre nec aliquid aliud vobis iniungere aut a vobis exigere valeret, sed potius vos tueri et defendere tenere-

tur, ut in pace possetis Altissimo in divinis famulari, prout in litteris patentibus eorundem cardinalis protectoris et magistri provincialis desuper confectis plenius dicitur contineri.

4. Quare, pro parte vestra, nobis fuit humiliter supplicatum ut vobis vitam eremiticam huiusmodi ducendi facultatem concedere aliasque in praemissis opportune providere de benignitate apostolica dignaremur.

5. Nos igitur, qui salutem cupimus animarum, vestrum quemlibet a quibusvis excommunicationis, suspensionis et interdicti alisque eclesiasticis sententiis, censuris et poenis, a iure vel ab homine quavis occasione vel causa latis, si quibus quomodolibet innodatus exsistit, ad effectum presentium dumtaxat consequendum, harum serie absolventes et absolutum fore censentes, ac litteras praedictas et in eis contenta quaecumque praesentibus pro sufficienter expressis habentes, huiusmodi supplicationibus inclinati, auctoritate apostolica, tenore presentium, vobis ut secundum Regulam praedictam vitam eremiticam ducere, et habitum cum caputio quadrato gestare, necnon omnes, tam clericos saeculares et presbyteros quam laicos, ad vestrum consortium recipere, ac tam illi quam vos barbam deferre,

et ad eremitoria seu loca quaecumque, cum consensu dominorum eorundem locorum, vos conferre, et in eis habitare vitamque austeram et eremiticam inibi agere, et in quibuscumque lois mendicare,

necnon omnibus et singulis privilegis, indultis et gratis Ordini fratrum minorum huiusmodi ac eremo camaldulensi beati Romualdi illiusque eremitis in genere vel in specie hactenus concessis et in posterum concedendis, et quibus ipsi quomodolibet utuntur, potiuntur et gaudent, ac uti, potiri et gaudere poterunt in futurum, vos quoque aeque principaliter, sicut ipsi, uti, potiri et gaudere libere et licite valeatis, plenam et liberam licentiam ac facultatem concedimus.

6. Et nihilominus universis et singulis archiepiscopis, episcopis et abbatibus alisque in dignitate ecclesiastica constitutis personis, necnon canonicis metropolitanarum vel aliarum cathedralium ecclesiarum ipsorumque archiepiscoporum, episcoporum et abbatum vicaris in spiritualibus generalibus per apostolica scripta mandamus quatenus eorum quilibet, per se vel alium seu alios, vois et vestrum cuilibet in praemissis efficacis defensionis praesidio assistat, et faciat vos et vestrum quemlibet praemissis omnibus et singulis pacifice frui et gaudere, nec permittat vestrum quemlibet contra tenorem praesentium modo aliquo molestari, impediri, aut inquietari. Contradictores quoslibet et rebelles, etiam per quascumque, de quibus sibi placuerit, censuras et poenas et alia iuris remedia, appellationes postposita, compescendo, invocato etiam ad hoc, si opus fuerit, auxilio brachii saecularis.

7. Non obstantibus felicis recordationis Bonifatii Papae VIII, praedecessoris nostri, etiam de una et in concilio generali de duabus dietis edita, ac alis constitutionibus et ordinationibus apostolicis necnon dicti Ordinis statutis et consuetudinibus etiam iuramento, confirmatione apostolica vel quavis firmitate alia roboratis, privilegis quoque, indultis ac litteris apostolicis per quoscumque romanos pontifices praedecessores nostros ac nos et Sedem praenidictam, etiam per vim generalis legis et statuti perpetui, ac motu proprio et ex certa scientia ac de apostolicae potestatis plenitudine, et cum quibusvis irritativis, annullativis, cassativis, revocativis, preservativis, exceptivis, restitutivis, declarativis, mentis attestativis a derogatoriarum derogatoris aliisque efficacioribus, efficacissimis et insolitis clausulis et consistorialiter quomodolibet etiam pluries concessis, confirmatis et innovatis. Quibus omnibus, etiamsi pro illorum sufficienti derogatione, de illis eorumque totis tenoribus specialis, individua ac de verbo ad verbum, non autem per clausulas generales idem importantes, mentio seu quaevis alia expressio habenda aut certa exquisita forma servanda foret et in eis caveatur expresse quod illis nullatenus derogari possit, illorum etiam tenores presentibus pro sufficienter expressis ac de verbo ad verbum insertis, necnon modos et formas ad id servandas pro individuo servatis habentes, hac vice dumtaxat, illis alias in suo robore permansuris, harum serie specialiter et expresse derogamus, ceterisque contrariis quibuscumque.

8. Nulli ergo omnino hominum licear hanc paginam nostrae absolutionis, concessionis, mandati et derogationis infringere vel ei aus temerario contraire. Si quis autem hoc attentare praesumpserit, indignationem omnipotentis Dei et beatorum Petri et Pauli apostolorum eius se noverit incursurum.

Datum Viterbii, anno Incarnationis Dominicae millesimo quingentesimo vigesimo octavo, quinto nonas iuli, pontificatus nostri anno quinto.

  1. These persons are Caterina Cybo, the cardinal protector Andrea della Valle, Ludovico’s major superiors and the bishop of Camerino Giangiacomo Bongiovanni with their letters of recommendation, cardinal Lorenzo Pucci (major penitentiary) and protector of the Camaldolese, and Giacomo Simonetta. Cardinals Ercole Gonzaga and Egidio Caniso of Viterbo were also probably involved.
  2. In 1527, that superior was Giovanni Pili da Fano. His successor was Paolo da San Severino. Cf. MF 32 (1932) 79.
  3. Ite vos, 29 May 1517, of Leo X. However, with apostolic authority, the general statutes promulgated in the Chapter of 1526 granted provincial ministers to allow their friars to transfer to the Conventuals. Cf. Statuta generalia a. 1526, n. 13: SF 58 (1961) 296.
  4. Ludovico Santoni da San Leo was provincial minister of the Conventuals 1527-1530.
  5. Card. Andrea della Valle (1463-1534), a Roman, was elected regent of the Apostolic Chancellery by Leo X. Bishop of Crotone and Miletus, he participated in the Lateran Council V in 1512 and suffered serious injury during the ‘sack of Rome’ in 1527. In 1532, he was commissioned by Clement VII to study the controversy between Observants and Capuchins, together with Cardinal del Monte. Finally, he was bishop of Albano and Palestrina.
  6. On July 3, 1982, on the fourth centenary of the bull Religionis zelus, General Minister Flavio Carraro remarked to the Capuchin capitulars gathered in Assisi on pilgrimage, that “the Church, through the mouth of Clement VII, has given us absolution from our sins, before approving the Capuchin life. Just as Jesus did to the sinner (cf. Lk 7:47). Capuchin life is a great love for Christ, for the Church, for Francis, born of an abundant grace of reconciliation”. Cf. AO 98 (1982) 2596.
  7. This is the qualifying point of the new reform: a Franciscan hermitism that not only does not exclude the apostolic life, but demands a presence of the brothers in the most urgent places for organised expansion.
  8. For the Franciscan sources that inspired this choice, cf. 3 Cel. 2,2; Leg. maior, Miracli 1,1 (FF nn. 826 and 1256); A. Clareno, Hist. 7 trib. (ed. A. Ghinato), 222; Conf. V, 104.
  9. So as not to offend the Observants faculty is granted only to receive clerics and laymen, and not religious. However, Ludovico took advantage of the privileges of the Camaldolese that allowed them to receive religious.
  10. Cf. in this regard S. Santachiara, La bolla “Religionis zelus” (supra, footnote 16), 273 ff. When Clement VII returned to Rome on 6 October 1528, he wore “a long and wispy beard”, as Sanuto writes in his Diarii.
  11. The privileges granted the Camaldolese are found in the bull of Eugene IV, Illa quae of 24 November 1435. – On the relationship of the first Capuchins with the Camaldolese see Part II, sect. I, docs. 35-36 and 99, nos. 2074-77 and 2254-58.
  12. It is refering to the constitutions of Bonfiace VIII Tenerem cuiusdan constitutionis, 5 May 1298,(cf. BF IV, 999) confirmed by Religionum diversitatem constitution n.23 of the second council of Lyon which prohibits the foundation of new religious Orders. This was echoed by constitution n.13, Ne nimia religionum of Lateran IV (ivi, 242) Cf. C. Urbanelli, Storia I/3, t. I, 32 note 24a.
  13. In Viterbo, the pope and his court were in considerable difficulty after the ‘sack of Rome’, from which he had escaped first by taking refuge in Castel S. Angelo and then in Orvieto.