Quo elongati

A detailed summary of

Quo elongati: the attempt at a dual fidelity

by Felice Accrocca

Quo elongati: tentativo di una doppia fedelità in Frate Francesco vol. 81 (2015) 133-166

Prepared by Gary Devery OFM Cap

Table of Contents

After a difficult beginning, the Franciscan family experienced a phase of progressive growth, at times even tumultuous. Chroniclers such as Giordano da Giano and Thomas of Eccleston, and sources such as The Assisi Compilation and A Mirror of the Perfection,[1] attest to its development and the many problems connected with it.

Problems of growth

In the Chapter of 1217, “the number of brothers had increased, ministers were elected and sent with some of the brothers throughout almost all the provinces of the world where the Catholic faith was practiced”.[2] On that occasion Brother Elias was “instituted by Blessed Francis as Minister Provincial of the overseas lands”.[3] In the same years the first missions beyond the Alps were attempted, in France, Spain, Germany and Hungary (the dates reported by Giordano da Giano, a source of primary importance for the history of these missions, are not always certain). The initial attempts were rather clumsy: the friars set out without a precise plan or adequate preparation, unaware of the language and customs of the places where they were to go.[4]

However, they learnt from their failures, so much so that the group in charge of the second mission to Germany included brothers capable of acting as interpreters, as well as preaching to priests and the people: in Trent “on the feast of St Michael, Brother Cesario preached a sermon to the clergy and Brother Barnabas preached another to the people”,[5] earning with their preaching a first vocation, that of a local citizen, Pellegrino, also an expert in the Lombard and German languages.

On the ecclesiastical-institutional level, being forced to defend the Franciscan family in front of the bishops and prelates of the Church of France, in the letter Pro dilectis of 29 May 1220 Honorius III guaranteed the orthodoxy of the friars and changed the terminology to qualify it: no longer “religion and life”, as the same pontiff had expressed the previous year in the letter Cum dilecti,[6] but “Order of Friars Minor”.[7] In addition, on 22 September 1220, in the letter Cum secundum consilium, the pontiff established as obligatory the year of novitiate.[8]

Francis’ resignation (end of September 1220) coincided with a difficult moment and cannot be explained only as a gesture of humility.[9] On the other hand, the path to the final approval of the text of the Rule was remarkably bumpy; there are too many hints indicated by the sources for one to doubt it.

The letters written by Francis in the last years of his life[10] and, above all, the Testament,[11] attest in an unquestionable way that the progressive growth of the new religious family posed considerable problems regarding its organisation, which also required an increasing involvement of the Apostolic See. On November 29, 1223, with the approval of the Rule by Honorius III, the Order reached a clear and defined institutional stability. At the same time, the new religious family consolidated its autonomy, as evidenced by the promulgation of the letter Quia populares tumultus, with which in response to a specific request of the friars – on December 3, 1224 Pope Savelli granted the Friars Minor to celebrate Mass and the divine offices in their own places and oratories “without prejudice to the rights of parochial churches”;[12] The reactions of the bishops were immediate, but the clear position taken by Honorius III, unequivocally testified by the bull,[13] attest not only the decisive support of the papacy (and we should wonder what part the Cardinal of Ostia played in this), but also the resolute will with which various sectors of the Order showed themselves inclined to characterise their own physiognomy also through an ever stronger autonomy from the prerogatives of the secular clergy. A few months after the death of Francis, in March 1227, Cardinal Ugo ascended the Chair of Peter, taking the name of Gregory IX. Significantly, his first pronouncement regarding the Order of Friars Minor was the reiteration of Quia populares tumultus (4 May 1227): just a month and a half after his election, the pontiff did not hesitate to confirm a concession made by his predecessor that had aroused so much controversy among the secular clergy.

The Friars Minor and their complex identity

The comparative reading of the bulls of the two great mendicant Orders helps us to understand that Gregory IX was the first pope to wager with determination on the new religious congregations. One has the clear impression that Honorius III ended up adapting to the different personalities of the two founders, being open to the particular directions they were taking, but without giving his own acceleration to events: until 1221 the pontiff promulgated a considerable number of letters, and of considerable commitment, in favour of the Preaching Friars; after the death of Dominic, however, the documents issued by the papal chancery underwent a radical decrease.[14] With regard to the Friars Minor, the number and importance of the letters were certainly less: we know that the friars – who insisted (some groups, at least) on Francis to ask the pope for the privileges necessary to ensure their pastoral action – had to struggle until the end with the rigid resistance of the founder.[15]

On the other hand, with the advent of Gregory IX there was a growing increase in the number of documents concerning the two Orders. The fact that this cannot be explained only by the widespread growth of the new religious families is shown not only by the rapid acceleration in the issuing of documents, which in any case marks a difference compared to the previous production of the papal chancery, but also by the first pronouncements issued by the new pontiff in favour of the Preaching Friars and the Friars Minor.[16]

It is true, however, that sources, in many ways unexpected – such as the Quo elongati of Gregory IX himself and in the chronicle of Thomas of Eccleston – attest to the fact that despite the resistance expressed by Francis on more than one occasion, some legislative activity was progressing within the Order while he was still alive.[17]

The different conditions in which they operated from region to region also presented the brothers with different problems to deal with. The brothers who arrived in England, after the warm welcome they received from the London Preachers to whom they had initially gone, lived in a house in Cornhill:[18] how could they obtain that dwelling? What is certain is that the English friars appeared from the beginning to be preoccupied with debt. Thus it happened that at the time when Brother Solomon was guardian of London (he certainly was around in 1231),[19] the first provincial minister, Brother Agnello, judging that despite their modest standard of living the friars had spent too much, threw the registers they had brought him to the ground, bursting into painful outbursts and slapping his face because he thought he had been deceived.[20] It was therefore obvious that the brothers had to deal with money, which was contrary to the Rule.

On the other hand, interventions and concessions of Gregory IX followed the requests of the friars, as can be seen, without excessive doubts, from reading the Bulls: it could be, at times, individual communities; but in some cases the pope responded to precise requests of the friar ministers[21] or of the general minister and of the Order as a whole.[22] There is not too much doubt that this regime of requests ended up generating doubts and discussions among the brothers, also because it was in direct contrast to the Testament.

Different ways of understanding one’s own vocation were therefore progressively manifesting themselves, as the Order grew in numbers, in visibility and therefore also in material wealth: the eccentricities of Friar Juniper as recounted in the Chronica XXIV generalium cannot be taken as pure fact, but neither can they be dismissed out of hand, and I believe that the episode, dated to the time of the generalate of Giovanni Parenti (1227-1232/33),[23] which tells of the charity given by Friar Juniper on Christmas Day to a poor old woman who asked him for help inside the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, is not entirely untrue. When Juniper saw some silver bells hanging from a frontal of the high altar, he detached them with a knife and gave them to the woman. “What are these bells except indulgence?”, thought the holy friar in the very moment he made his decision, without considering for a moment what would come of it….[24] Such doubts, of course, were not only troubling the candid and simple soul of Brother Juniper. Again, the author of the Chronica XXIV generalium reports that in a sermon (unfortunately not found) Bonaventure of Bagnoregio stated that at the time of the generalate of Giovanni Parenti “many doubts arose among the brothers concerning the things contained in the Rule. The Minister General, in truth, carried the Rule in his hands, asserting that it was clear and could be observed by all to the letter”.[25]

The Friars Minor had to deal with their identity, which by its very nature was “complex”.[26] Precisely the clarification of this complex identity constituted one of the objectives that – in my opinion – Gregory IX set out to achieve with the privilege granted in Is qui ecclesiam issued on 22 April 1230, in which he established that the church of St. Francis in Assisi was subject only to the Roman Pontiff and should be considered by the Friars Minor “head and mother” of their Order.[27]

I believe that great importance should be attached to this last statement. From the beginning, Cistercian abbeys were linked to one another by a relationship of motherhood and sonship. In the same way, to elect the Prior General of the Order of Montefano, the delegated monks – it is written in the oldest surviving Sylvester constitutions – had to meet in the monastery of St Benedict “heremi et ordinis Montisfani”, “quod monasterium capud et matrem recognoscimus ordinis universi”.[28] Well, looking now at the basilica in which the body of Francis was buried as the head and mother of the Order, for the friars did not mean only turning to their founder and father, but also looking at the church that kept his remains as their own model, with all the consequences that would derive from this. However, while the Sylvestrian monks did not seem to have doubts about their ideal reference (“recognoscimus”, as it is stated in the dictates of their constitutions), for the Friars Minor the operation did not have an equally obvious outcome.

In the same year, 1230, they gathered for the General Chapter and the debate on the Rule became heated. Confirmed by Honorius III on 29 November 1223, it appeared as a “closed” text that, to some extent, definitively enucleated the charism, making permanent some intuitions and basic choices and putting an end to the process that until then had progressively enriched and updated a rule “open” to further developments. Francis himself – according to Thomas of Celano in a precious account transmitted to us only by the Remembrance – seemed to perceive the reality of that approved text as a limitation.[29] Rapid and continuous changes, as well as ill-appeased tensions, finally led him to intervene and dictate the Testament which, according to his own words, had the precise objective of encouraging the brothers to observe the Rule “in a more catholic way”, as promised to the Lord.

Francis was well aware that his Testament did not have the same juridical force as the Rule: precisely for this reason, in the first part of the text, he insisted on the divine initiative that had guided him along a path that, at least at first, he would not have wanted to take; and since it was the Lord who had revealed to him that form of life that had found a definitive codification, his dictate and his form of life could not be distorted with impunity. The Rule was authentic and true because it was inspired by God and confirmed, once and for all, by the Church that had authenticated it.

It is evident that we are faced with an unresolved tension. On the one hand, Francis expressly differentiated the Testament from the Rule: the brothers should not make inferences by calling that writing another Rule, since it was “a remembrance, admonition, exhortation and [his] testament”; on the other hand, he united the two texts, placing them on the same level: “the General Minister and all other ministers and custodians” were “bound through obedience not to add or take away” from the Testament, indeed, to “have this writing with them together with the Rule” and to read it in all Chapters with the Rule.[30] Whether he wanted to or not, while forcefully reaffirming some ways of the primitive experience that were considered by now at risk, Francis ended up by re-appropriating a way of life that had characterised his fraternity until 1223, introducing new additions, such as the prohibition – resolutely firm – to ask for “any letter from the Roman Curia” and the prohibition – equally clear – to insert “any gloss upon the Rule” as well as in the Testament.[31] He therefore considered closed, once and for all, the problem not only of the authenticity of the Rule, but also its authentication; at the same time, however, he ended up juxtaposing it by dictating new prescriptions that were not contained therein previously by way of the Testament.

In any case, contrary to his intentions, history was pressing in a different direction. The rapid growth of the new religious family posed many problems for the friars: already between 1210 and 1220 they were forced to integrate and update the text of their rule of life several times. The multiplication of the fraternities, also due to new missionary campaigns, further expansion into the universities, and the various fields of action assigned to the Friars Minor by the Apostolic See made it urgent to “adapt” the Rule to changing conditions, to allow the friars a “possible” fidelity to the intentions and precepts of the founder.

The long wait for the papal response

According to Gregory IX, which we have no reason to doubt, the friars sent their delegation headed by Giovanni Parenti to the papal court during the General Chapter, in late spring, and the pope did not reply until several months later, until the beginning of autumn (28 September). Why such a long delay between the friars’ request and the pontiff’s determination? A possible answer can be attempted starting from the composition of the commission sent to settle the matter. As Antonio Rigon[32] pointed out several years ago, it is indeed possible that the decision to ask for the pontiff’s intervention was not unequivocal and that different factions of friars ended up clashing in the General Chapter. It is also probable that tensions and discussions continued well beyond the chapter assembly, so much so that it does not seem absurd to hypothesise that the official delegation was not the only one sent to the pope, but that others at least tried to reach him, in one way or another, to make their voices heard, thus trying to set a different course for events. This may have prolonged the time needed for Gregory IX to put an end to the dispute.

At the end of September, the pope promulgated his reply, addressed “to his beloved sons, minister general, provincial ministers and custodians, and to the other brothers of the Order of Friars Minor”.

The loftiness of the Franciscan vocation

It is certain that Gregory IX intervened at the request of the Friars Minor to clarify “some doubtful and obscure passages as well as certain phrases which are difficult to comprehend” and taking into consideration that Francis in his Testament expressly stated that “his Rule should not be glossed”. In giving his response, the pope presents the friars dedicated to contemplation: they, as if they had “taken wing like a dove”, have risen high enough to be able to foresee the enemy’s moves; from those heights “the eye of their heart scrutinises those things which [they] recognise to be obstacles on the road to salvation”, making them capable of seeing what remains hidden to many others. “Still, because the darkness of human weakness beclouds the splendor of spiritual understanding, occasionally the anxiety of doubt presents itself, and thus difficulties that are almost insurmountable begin to pile up”.[33]

The antithesis, therefore, is between the loftiness of the vocation to which the brothers have responded and the human weakness of those called that creates a state of spiritual anxiety, preventing them from advancing on the path of salvation. Certainly, the scruple arose from the fact that more and more requests were forwarded by the brothers to the Apostolic See, despite the prohibition of Francis, who had commanded them not to address any request to the Roman Curia;[34] on the other hand, by its very nature, the Rule itself was lacking in its concrete applications with which the brothers had to deal on a daily basis. How could the use of money be avoided when the Order now comprised thousands of brothers and their premises were no longer – as they had been a few years before – just huts made of mats? Houses require maintenance and maintenance costs money. The same basilica that was being erected in Assisi in honour of the Saint could certainly not be completed with wishful thinking. How could one regulate this when the Rule imposed on the friars not to receive money in any way?

What was the very content of Franciscan profession? In essence, what did those opting for the divine call to religious life in the Order of Friars Minor oblige themselves to? The text of the Rule opens and closes with the arduous affirmation that the brothers are bound to observe the Gospel: “The Rule and life of the Lesser Brothers is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”; “[…] so that […] we may observe poverty, humility and the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as we have firmly promised”.[35] The whole text therefore seems to be a great inclusion, which finds in this commitment the hermeneutic key to understand its authentic meaning. On the other hand, one of the “Leonine” texts revealed by the Assisi Compilation refers to a logion of Francis, in which the Assisian, in contrast with the ministers, is said to have said: “Indeed, that all the brothers may know that they are bound to observe the perfection of the holy Gospel, I want it written at the beginning and at the end of the Rule that the brothers are bound to observe the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”.[36] If one wanted to consider – which is not so obvious – such a logion as an invention of Leo, one would still have to admit that the thirteenth-century friars were well aware of the importance of the words at the beginning and end of the text of the Rule. What, then, were the brothers obliged to do by their profession? To the observance of the whole Gospel? Or, more specifically, to live “in obedience, without anything of one’s own and in chastity”?[37]

The situation was objectively complex. Edith Pásztor judges the pontiff’s affirmations to be the fruit of “a very skilful approach, in which the exaltation of the spiritual commitment of the friars creates the state of necessity to set aside Francis’ prohibition”.[38] There are certainly no reasons to doubt the ability of Gregory IX; it is equally true, however, that the scenario he reconstructed does not appear at all artificial. Doubts and contrasts, which in turn generate new perplexities, must not have been lacking, with the result of creating not only a state of unease, but also tension among the friars.

The pontiff explains that the friars had turned to him because of the “fuller” knowledge he had of the intentions of Francis and because he himself had participated in the drafting of the Rule, following its path in the Curia until its approval.[39] The friars therefore had recourse not so much to papal authority – to which they could (and should) have turned through the cardinal protector – but directly to the one who had had a “long familiarity” with Francis. In the Rule they could read that “Brother Francis promises obedience and reverence to our Lord Pope Honorius and his successors canonically elected and to the Roman Church” and that the friars themselves liked to declare that they were “subjects at the feet of the same holy Church and steadfast in the Catholic faith”.[40] Yet, it was not obedience to the Church that motivated their step, but rather the fact that the man called by Providence to sit on the throne of Peter was the same one who had woven with Francis relationships of sincere friendship. So, at least, the Pope writes.

It may also be – as Edith Pásztor suggests – that this was part of a strategy to circumvent Francis’ prohibitions. For me, however, I do not believe that this was just a tactical choice, since for a man like Gregory IX it was no small thing to give up arguments of authority: after all, to legitimise his intervention, he could have appealed with full reason to the commitment of obedience to the Church of Rome and to the Vicar of Christ that Francis himself wanted to include in the Rule.

The obligatory nature of the Testament and the observance of the evangelical counsels

The first questions that the pope addresses are therefore related to the juridical validity of the Testament and the observance of the evangelical counsels, that is, whether the brothers were to consider themselves obliged, in the form of a vow, to the observance of the whole Gospel or only to the admonitions expressly named in the first chapter of the Rule, then traditionally referred to as the three vows: this triad of evangelical counsels had already been structured in the profession formulas of the canonical world since the 12th century and was then also adopted by the rules of new religious Orders that had received their approval at the beginning of the pontificate of Innocent III, as can be seen in the Rule of the Trinitarians or in that of the Hospitaller Order of the Holy Spirit in Saxia.[41]

On both aspects the decisions formalised in Quo elongati constituted a point of no return: Gregory IX declared that the Testament had no binding value for the friars because Francis could not, “without the consent of the brothers, and especially of the ministers” – since it concerned everyone – oblige anyone; nor, certainly, did it bind his successor, “because an equal has no authority over his equal”;[42] the friars, moreover, were required to observe only those counsels of the Gospel “expressly contained in the Rule“.[43] Two issues that would prove to be of perennial relevance in the subsequent history of the Franciscan Order!

Use of money, possession and of goods

The Pontiff then examined the relationship of the brothers with money and movable and immovable property, focusing on chapters IV and VI of the Rule. It is immediately clear that these were crucial questions, closely related to the previous ones. Ultimately, the brothers asked whether they could, without any scruples of conscience, have recourse to people they trusted and present them to the faithful as intermediaries: the faithful could entrust their offerings to them; furthermore, the brothers would have recourse to them in case of need, with the precise clause that they “have no intention of causing to be held or demanding from them”.[44]

Obviously, the question of handling money became more complex from day to day, because as the family grew, the difficulties in complying with the dictates of the Rule automatically increased.[45] Even a superficial glance at the hagiographic sources written up to the beginning of John of Parma’s generalate (1247) is sufficient to get a precise idea: if in the First Life of Thomas of Celano (1228-1229) and in the Life of St Francis of Julian of Speyer (1232-1235) there does not appear any episode relating to money, except, of course, for the period preceding the conversion of Francis and the first steps of the new religious path, the author of the Anonymous of Perugia (who wrote during the thirties), in addition to specifying that the first friars did not possess either gold or silver, but above all they trampled money underfoot,[46] narrates the episode of the friar who, after having gathered up some money left by somebody on the altar of the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, and then threw it on the windowsill, was ordered by Francis to pick it up with his mouth and to go and lay it on some donkey dung.[47] In the Remembrance of Thomas of Celano, the oldest edition of which dates back to 1247, we find an entire chapter entitled “Examples against money”.[48] It is clear that, as the years passed, more money began to circulate in the Order and therefore – inevitably – the urgency to reiterate the will and teaching of Francis in this regard became more pressing.

It is in this context that the response of Gregory IX must also be interpreted, who finally determined that in order to buy or pay with money what they needed, the brothers should use a mediator (nuntius) who was not a member of the Order: the mediator could otherwise deposit the offering given to him with some spiritual or family friend of the brothers, who would then be responsible for providing for their needs at the most appropriate time and place.[49]

The cumbersome nature of both the request and the solution devised by Gregory IX highlights the difficulty of the issue. The new conditions of life could not exclude the use of money, but it was also clear that the Rule expressly forbade it: hence this grasping at straws to somehow save the letter of the text. Gregory IX could not – and perhaps did not even want to – slavishly reaffirm the wording of the Rule, nor did he intend to ignore it. Herein lies the drama, which was already inherent in the development of things: the way of life of the first friars, recalled with nostalgic tones in the Testament, could be maintained as long as the friars were few, but with the increase in numbers, the Order was faced with obvious problems of which the last writing of Francis is an effective attestation.

The founder’s position was clear and the Testament – I agree with Miccoli – clearly demonstrates how he “believed that full fidelity to his original vocation was possible even within the institutional context of an Order”.[50] Gregory IX took a clearly more nuanced position, meeting the concrete needs of the Order, which – obviously – was not appreciated by all the friars. It is true, however – as Grundmann already pointed out -, that at least in the beginning there does not seem to have been any dispute about this, even if we do not have too much information about those years.[51]

Certainly, the construction of the Assisian basilica required a considerable financial effort that the Order could not ignore. On 29 April 1228, Gregory IX, in his letter Recolentes, exhorted the whole of Christendom to donate “pious alms” and “subsidies dictated by the gratitude of charity”, promising an indulgence of forty days to those who would respond to the invitation.[52] As I said, however, it was very difficult for the Order to remain uninvolved. According to Giordano da Giano, in order to cope with the undertaking Brother Elias “made collections throughout the Order to complete the work begun”:[53] however, the discontent that grew against the Minister General until his deposition was not motivated by financial issues, but by a different conception of the exercise of government and a different awareness of the vocation of the Lesser brothers.[54]

It is worth mentioning the position taken by the author of Anonymous of Perugia, who, although he does not speak at all about the new basilica and underlines the refusal of the use of money by the brothers,[55] does not express a clear dissent with either the papal pronouncement nor with the governance by Elias; Thomas of Celano, on the other hand, had a completely different position, and a few years later he distanced himself – albeit in a subtle way – from the decisions promulgated by Innocent IV in Ordinem vestrum and showing himself to be very severe in confronting some of the positions of other friars.[56]

Many feared that with the passage of time poverty would disappear, also because – the pontiff reported – “especially since some people have been maintaining that moveable property belongs to the brotherhood in common”.[57] In the Testament Francis had clearly enjoined the brothers “not to receive in any way churches or poor dwellings or anything else built for them unless they are according to the holy poverty we have promised in the RuleAs pilgrims and strangers, let them always be guests there”.[58] Precisely in accordance with this prescription, they affirmed that in continuity with the precedent set by monastic tradition, the Order as such did not own immovable property – for which the question was already closed – but movable property (utensils, furniture, books and other)?

Gregory IX, who had been asked to provide for the dangers to souls and the purity of the whole Order, formulated what would later become the official position of the Friars Minor, defended to the bitter end by the friars. Quo elongati establishes that “property may be possessed neither individually nor in common. However, the brotherhood may have the use of equipment or books and such other moveable property as is permitted […]. Nor may the brothers sell or exchange or alienate moveable goods outside the Order in any way, unless the Cardinal of the Roman Church who is the governor of the brotherhood authorizes the transaction or gives approval for it to the general or provincial ministers”.[59]

The determination of Gregory IX, according to which the Friars Minor were not to possess anything, “neither individually nor in common”, would be constantly reiterated by the brothers in the debate that they had to sustain with the secular masters and then with the other religious Orders, to the point that they would base their institutional conscience on it. At the same time, the Friars Minor drew reasons from the papal formulation to affirm their superiority within the other religious families: following in the footsteps of Francis, they in fact achieved the highest poverty, individually and in common, thus living the fullness of perfection.[60]

Emblematic is the testimony that we can draw from a sermon on Saint Anthony (Perfectus autem omnis erit, si sit sicut magister eius) by John de la Rochelle († 1245). Impossible to date, but certainly postdating 1232, the year of Anthony’s canonisation, the sermon is nevertheless chronologically very close to the letter Quo elongati and therefore extraordinarily significant. In tracing the qualities of that perfect disciple of Christ, John states that he “possessed extraordinary poverty”: there is a poverty that all Christians must observe, but which does not require the abandonment of earthly goods; then there is the poverty of religious who possess nothing of their own, but dispose of it in a communal manner (“possessing nothing in common”); finally, there is a final degree of poverty, of those who have nothing and can have nothing, and this is the poverty of the Friars Minor.

Minoritic poverty, therefore, was not like that of other religious, since it was on a higher level, requiring complete renunciation, not only personal, but collective. It is difficult to be clearer: for John de La Rochelle the option of becoming a lesser brother was not a choice among those possible within religious families, but rather an eminent degree, which placed the Order of Friars Minor in a condition of excellence compared to others.[61] The clear position of the Parisian master allows us to understand how profound was the impact of the Gregorian affirmation, which became the shared heritage of the whole Order.

It returns in the work of Thomas of Celano, who was assisted in the drafting of the Remembrance by the Companions of Francis, who also assumed the moral responsibility. The hagiographer was generally faithful to the sources and, above all, was very respectful of what was reported to him as the words of Francis himself, although in some passages it is still possible to detect his revisionary intervention. Well, in one of these rare cases, Thomas seems to take up the Gregorian affirmation with its distinction between poverty and use.

Celano narrates how Francis, on hearing that a friar had given a cell his name, considering it almost as Francis’ own property, the saint immediately said: “When the Lord stayed in a cell where he prayed and fasted for forty days, he did not have a cell made for him or any kind of house, but stayed beneath a rock on the mountainside. We can follow him in the way prescribed: holding nothing as our own property, even though we cannot live without the use of houses”.[62] Now, if it does not seem illogical to believe that the first part of the discourse – taken verbatim from the testimony of the Companions – is substantially authentic, it is certainly risky to attribute to Francis the distinction between ownership and use, as Raoul Manselli has already pointed out.[63]

The internal life and governance of the Order

Other doubts were put to the pope about the internal life and the way the Order was governed. Firstly, the question of reserved sins, mentioned in the Rule in chapter VII, for which recourse had to be made only to the provincial ministers. The brothers asked whether the Rule intended to refer only to “public sins” or also to “private” ones. The Pontiff replied that the chapter concerned “only manifest public sins” and therefore asked the General Minister to identify in the individual provinces some priests “among the more mature and discreet” to hear the private sins of the brothers, without prejudice to their freedom to continue to confess to ministers and custodians when they were passing through different places.[64]

While going beyond the requests of the brothers, Gregory IX’s reply took note of a changed situation. He not only answered the question put to him, but at the same time asked the General Minister to make it easier for the brothers to turn to confessors for their private sins. The increase in the number of brothers and the multiplication of the foundations made it more difficult for them to approach confession. In this sense, he also showed that, despite the wishes expressed by Francis in the Testament, the dictate of the Rule appeared to be in constant need of updating, precisely because the changing situations ended up making it inadequate for new needs.

The doubts concerning the preaching, if on the one hand, related to internal life and the methods of government, on the other hand, directly affected relations with the secular clergy, which had progressively deteriorated. It must be borne in mind that while the Regula non bullata gave the provincial ministers the faculty to grant the licence to preach, the Regula bullata granted this faculty only to the general minister once the candidate had passed a specific examination. Moreover, while the Regula non bullata forbade the brothers to preach “against the form and dispositions of the holy Church” – which meant, according to Constitution 10 of Lateran IV, not to preach against the will of the bishops – the Regula bullata expressly asked the brothers not to preach “in the diocese of any bishop, if they have been forbidden to do so by the bishop himself”: This is a clear sign that over the years tensions with the bishops over preaching had increased rather than decreased.[65]

In my opinion, the implications of the prescription enshrined in the Regula bullata have not always been sufficiently noted: by granting only the general minister the task of issuing the due licence to preachers,[66] the Rule made the procedure extremely more complicated, thus ending up causing a drastic decrease in the number of preachers. By considerably hindering the action of the friars, the prescription thus ended up by facilitating the bishops in the dispute already underway. The Order realised this and tried to circumvent the obstacle; the reasons for the request, reported by Gregory IX, highlight just such an intention: “You wish to know”, the Pontiff specifies, “whether, in order to assist the work of the brothers and for the sake of avoiding hazardous travels, the general minister may delegate to other discreet brothers the said examination, approval, and authorisation for the office of preaching, and if so, whether he may delegate universally for examining brothers assigned to the provinces or delegate on for certain brothers in particular”. And it is worth noting that, unlike the other requests addressed to him, here it was not so much a question of resolving a doubt as of satisfying an explicit request.

However, if from the juridical point of view the pontiff had had an easy job in clarifying the non-compulsory nature of the Testament, now the path proved to be bumpy, because the text of the Rule – quite explicit on the subject – had been confirmed only a few years earlier by his immediate predecessor. To deviate from the precept established therein would have meant to disavow not only Francis, but also Honorius III. On the other hand, Gregory IX himself realised the extent of the difficulties reported and had no interest in reinforcing them, nor – given the situation in which he found himself (the conflict with Emperor Frederick II required him to recruit all the forces at his disposal) – could he afford to do so. His response was therefore a model of diplomacy: on the one hand he solemnly emphasised a principle (the letter of the Rule), on the other hand he outlined the way to overcome it. The solution to the problems would be offered by the General Chapter, since on that occasion the General Minister – who could not entrust the task of examining, approving and assigning the office of preaching “to any brother in his absence” – could delegate to someone else the task of examining the candidates.[67]

A further doubt arose concerning the suitability of the vicars of the provincial ministers to accept new members into the Order or to dismiss others who had been accepted while their superiors had gone to Assisi to take part in the General Chapter, a commitment that for the more distant provinces could require several months of absence. The Pontiff made it clear that the vicars did not possess this faculty, for the simple reason that the ministers did not have it either but exercised it by special permission of the general minister, who could grant it, but could also deny it. In this case, the position of Gregory IX was very restrictive with respect to the request of the brothers.[68]

In later times, the friars would aim to reiterate that only at the beginning Francis himself welcomed the friars into the Order, but such statements seem rather to be the echo of a polemic against an indiscriminate policy of increasing numbers, in which many saw one of the causes of relaxation in following the Rule. We have the testimony of the author of the Anonymous of Perugia about the reality of the origins, who, after referring to the Florentine experience of Brother Bernard and another disciple, tells of the patience shown by the first friars in the hardships they suffered and the persecutions they were subjected to, to the point that people began to admire them. ” Some asked them to receive them into their society. And they accepted many of them, for, at this time, because of the small number of the brothers, each one had received from blessed Francis authority to admit whomever he wished”.[69] Further on, the same author clarifies that “those whom the brothers accepted, they brought to the blessed Francis to invest them”.[70] If we accept this version – but there are no valid reasons to deny it – from the earliest times entry into the new religious family was characterised by a double step, namely the reception and then the investiture, the latter reserved for Francis alone.

When did this procedure change? John of Perugia reports that after the Cardinal of Ostia had been appointed protector of the Order, he wrote letters to many prelates recommending the friars to them, and so did other cardinals. Then he continues: ” And so, in another chapter in which blessed Francis gave the ministers permission to receive brothers into the Order”.[71] This decision seems to be placed after 1220, that is, after the appointment of Cardinal Ugo di Ostia, therefore coinciding with the Chapter of 1221, when the Regula non bullata was completed, whose prescription is clear in this regard: the friars had the task of presenting “to their minister” anyone who appeared willing to share their life; in turn, the minister was to welcome “with kindness” any newcomer, comfort him and “diligently expose him to the tenor” of the minoritic life.[72]

In asking the friars to send to the provincial ministers all those who showed themselves willing to undertake the way of life, the Regula bullata took up the wording of the previous legislation, but added that only the provincial ministers, “and not others”, were “granted permission granted to receive the friars”.[73] Why this restrictive clarification? It seems logical to suppose that some irregularities had occurred, or that there may have been an “enlargement” with respect to the decision sanctioned in the text of 1221, perhaps due to problems that we do not know about now. It is difficult to say, however, who was responsible for the initiative that led to this decision – Francis himself, the cardinal, the ministers? – and whether it was shared by all. What is certain is that in their petition of 1230, the friars seemed to postulate a different solution from the one later determined by Gregory IX. A century later, in his commentary on the Rule, Angelo Clareno – who saw in the increase in the number of friars one of the main causes of the decline and in the Liber chronicarum blamed the ministers, who multiplied the numbers, but did not increase the joy[74] – fully endorsed the decision of Gregory IX,[75] expressly stating that it was the will of Francis that the general minister should grant only to the provincials the faculty to receive the friars into the Order.[76] The doubt concerning the presence of custodians at the General Chapter also reflects the growth crisis of the Order. The Rule established that on the death of the General Minister the election of a successor was to be carried out “by the provincial ministers and the custodians in the Chapter of Pentecost”.[77] The numerical growth of the friars and the multiplication of their foundations, however, required an increasingly efficient organisation, able to manage and govern their forces in the best possible way, which also required a greater number of custodies within the individual provinces.[78] The friars asked the pope whether all the custodians should attend the General Chapter indiscriminately, as the Rule seemed to impose, or whether, in order to “deal with everything with greater tranquillity”, it was sufficient for only a few to attend, who would also be the bearers of the opinion of others. Even in this case, Gregory IX’s reply derogated from the letter of the Rule, taking note of the new situation imposed by the expansion of the Order. The friars themselves, on the other hand, seemed to advocate – at least according to what the pontiff wrote – a reduction in numbers, when they put forward the hypothesis that a reduction would allow “to conduct business with greater tranquillity”. The pontiff went beyond the requests of the friars; while he was asked if it was not sufficient that “from each province a few attend who know the minds of the others”, Gregory IX opted for an even more restrictive formula: ” let the custodians of each province designate one of themselves to send together with their provincial minister to represent them at the general chapter, advising him of their views. Once you yourselves shall have passed this statute, we consider it approved”.[79]

The relationship of the friars with women’s monasteries

Finally, the Pope addressed the question of the interpretation of the prescriptions issued in Chapter XI of the Rule, which forbade the friars to “enter the monasteries of nuns, excepting those brothers to whom special permission has been granted by the Apostolic See”.[80] It is not too difficult to ascribe to the same pontiff, at that time Cardinal of Ostia and protector of the Order, the paternity of this command of the Regula bullata, since it was already present, to the letter, in the formulary Prudentibus Virginibus, “used by Ugolino for the recognition or the foundation of the female communities of the Spoleto congregation”.[81]

The pontiff reports: “Up to now the brothers have interpreted this passage as referring to the monasteries of the Poor Cloistered Nuns for whom the Apostolic See exercises a special concern. This interpretation is believed to have been handed down by the provincial ministers in general chapter through a statute at the time when the Rule was approved and blessed Francis was still alive”.[82] Gregory IX is not the only one to give news of constitutions and statutes issued by the friars while Francis was still alive; Thomas of Eccleston, recalls that the first friars in England enjoyed the “first fruits of the Spirit”, “content with the Rule alone and very few other statutes that had been issued in the same year, after the confirmation of the Rule“.[83] Now, if the text of the English chronicler – written after the middle of the thirteenth century, when it had become a habit for the friars to refer to the norms established by the legislative activity within the Order – may have been distorted, the same can be said with more difficulty for the news given by the pontiff in 1230, when it would have been impossible to report such a statement without being publicly contradicted if it did not correspond with a truth at least in substance.

The friars asked whether by prohibition was to be understood “all monasteries without exception”, or “only to the monasteries of the aforesaid [Poor Cloistered] Nuns”. Gregory IX reiterated that the prohibition was to be understood as referring to “communities of nuns of every description”, meaning by this term every cloister, house, internal workshop; the friars would be able to enter the other parts, to which seculars were also admitted, “in order to preach or beg alms”, except however “the monasteries of the aforesaid Cloistered Nuns”, which no one could enter without special permission from the Apostolic See. Mature and suitable brothers could enter other monasteries (or at least some of their premises), but not those of the Cloistered Nuns: a position that aimed to establish even clearer boundaries between the different realities.[84]

According to Grundmann, what was at stake was the Order’s relationship with the female monasteries that wanted to associate with it, a relationship that had already become problematic in Francis’ time.[85] Although Miccoli does not mention it, he expressly disagrees with him, preferring to think that in this case Gregory IX aimed rather to break the original ties that existed between the primitive fraternity and the poor sisters, a bond “so tenacious, so difficult to cancel, as to impose again, after not a few years, the use of a very special prohibition”.[86] On the same wavelength are the Poor Clares of the Federation of Umbria-Sardinia,[87] Maria Pia Alberzoni,[88] Marco Guida,[89] to mention only a few of the authors who in recent years have focused more on Clarian studies. It seems to me that we can adhere without too much hesitation to this second proposal of reading, given the truly decisive reaction that Clare had towards the papal letter and that the author of the Legenda dedicated to her did not scruple to report.

Grundmann – to whom we owe excellent considerations on the role played by Elias in the affair and, more generally, on the personality of the ancient vicar of Francis,[90] considerations that historiography was able to put to good use a few decades later – stresses that at the beginning there were no objections or oppositions to the papal letter, nor were there any on the part of the Spirituals.[91] The great German scholar does not realise, however, that there was a reaction, and a very harsh one, on the part of the one whom ten years earlier the Pope himself had greeted as “dearest sister in Christ and mother of his salvation”, namely Clare, by then abbess of the monastery of San Damiano in Assisi.[92] On hearing the papal decision, Clare sighed and said that the pope may as well now withdrawn all the brothers, even those who were collecting alms, since he had taken away from the nuns those who gave them essential spiritual nourishment. She immediately sent all the brothers back to the minister, as she did not want to have any more questors either. The author of the Legend of Saint Clare – in all probability Thomas of Celano – assures us that Gregory IX, having been informed of the matter, put the matter back in the hands of the General Minister.[93]

A word to conclude

Gregory IX, therefore, in Quo elongati tried to move with a double fidelity: to Francis and to history. At the very moment, however, in which he took note of the change – a change in some way desired by a good part of the friars – he actually accelerated the evolution underway. Not everything, however, went smoothly, because the evolutionary line would undergo a reversal of trend with the ascension to the generalate, two years later, of Brother Elias, the one whom Francis “had chosen as mother to himself and had made a father of the other brothers”.[94] From an overall reading of the Bull it emerges that during the generalate of Elias there were no requests for privileges from the General Minister, nor significant concessions to the Order as a whole. Requests for explanations concerning doubtful passages of the Rule or its exceptions were made before and after, but not during Elias’s generalate. He was not among those who went to Gregory IX in 1230, nor can it be asserted that he pleaded with the pontiff for the construction of the basilica in honour of the new Saint, to which Gregory IX had decreed the title of “caput et mater Ordinis”.[95]

From 1233 to 1239, the pontiff certainly continued to support the Friars Minor, but it cannot be said that such an action was carried out in agreement with the leaders of the Order nor – even less – that it was favoured by Elias. There is no shortage of evidence, however, to suggest a different picture, one in which the general minister was tenaciously attached to an outmoded model of Franciscan life that was long gone, a model that Elias did not want to abdicate. However, history was moving in a different direction and Elias would soon realise this to his cost.

In this sense, the letter Quo elongati constituted – as we have said – a point of no return: unlike Elias, Gregory IX took note of the direction of the march of history imprinted by events, a direction that he himself contributed to determining in a relevant way; while he acknowledged the need to adapt to change, invoked by a good part of the friars, he laid the foundations for a new development, which would soon lead the Order of Friars Minor to play a leading role in the life of the Church and of medieval society.

  1. [CapDox: the sources will be quoted from the English versions found on franciscantradition.org: the three volume series, Francis of Assisi: Early Documents (FA:ED), edited by Regis Armstrong, OFM Cap., Wayne Hellmann, OFM Conv., and William J Short, OFM, published between 1999-2001 and in Clare of Assisi: Early Documents (CA:ED), edited by Regis Armstrong, OFM Cap., and published in 2006]. 
  2. Anonymous of Perugia, 44.1.
  3. Chronicle of Giordano da Giano, 36.9 (Ff 2331).
  4. Cfr. F. Dal Pino, Giordano da Giano e le prime missioni oltralpe dei Frati Minori, in I compagni di Francesco e la prima generazione minoritica. Atti del XIX Convegno internazionale (Assisi, 17-19 ottobre 1991), Spoleto 1992, 201-257.
  5. Chronicle of Giordano da Giano, 43.20 (Ff 2346).
  6. [Cum dilecti] Cfr. Bullarium Franciscanum, t. I, ed. J. H. Sbaraleae, Romae 1759 (= BF), 2 (FF 2708): the letter was issued by the pope on the 11 June 1219 [cf. R. Rusconi, «Clerici secundum alios clericos»: Francesco d’Assisi e l’istituzione ecclesiastica, in Frate Francesco d’Assisi. Atti del XXI Convegno internazionale (Assisi, 14-15-16 ottobre 1993), Spoleto 1994, 88, nota 3].
  7. [Pro dilectis] BF I, 5 (FF 2709): however, while Francis – who was in the Holy Land at the time – is never mentioned, the term Order appears four times in the letter.
  8. [Cum secundum] BF I, 6 (FF 2714).
  9. C. schmitt, I Vicari dell’Ordine francescano da Pietro Cattani a frate Elia, in Francesco d’Assisi e francescanesimo dal 1216 al 1226. Atti del IV Convegno internazionale (Assisi, 15-17 ottobre 1976), Assisi, 1977, 235-263: 242-243; see also the discussion at pages 48-49; Rusconi, «Clerici secundum alios clericos», 89-90.
  10. As I think Filippo Sedda has managed to show, in writing the so-called Epistola toti Ordini missa, Francis’ aim was to convey to the friars his wishes on matters that were dear to him, but which had not found a place in the Regula bullata: F. Sedda, Sulla datazione e circostanza della Epistola toti Ordini missa di frate Francesco: in margine a due recenti contributi, in Studi Francescani 106 (2009) 5-32.
  11. On the Testament of Francis, see the critical review of L. Lehmann, Studi sul Testamento di Francesco d’Assisi a partire dall’edizione di Kajetan Esser del 1949, in Frate Francesco 80 (2014) 331-374.
  12. [Quia populares tumultus] BF I, 20 (FF 2717).
  13. In his letter In hiis (28 August 1225), to the Bishop of Paris (in BF I, 21-22), days later (30 August) reiterated to the Bishop of Reims (ibid. 22); letter Non deberent (18 September 1225), again to the Bishop of Paris (ibid. 22-23).
  14. In addition to the Bull, the documents issued during the life of St. Dominic have been published again first by M.-H. Laurent: Historia diplomatica S. Dominici (Monumenta Ordinis Fratrum Praedicatorum Historica 15), Paris 1933, then by V. J. Koudelka, with the help of R. J. Loenertz: Monumenta diplomatica S. Dominici (Monumenta Ordinis Fratrum Praedicatorum Historica 25), Romae 1966.
  15. This different “acceleration” between the two Orders, with reference to the issue of papal documents in their favour, had already been pointed out by Paul Sabatier: G. Miccoli, La storia religiosa, in Storia d’Italia. II/1. Dalla caduta dell’Impero romano al secolo XVIII, Turin 1974, 765; see also the observations of Miccoli himself, ibid. 765-767.
  16. V. J. Koudelka, Notes sur le Cartulaire de S. Dominique. Third Series: Bulle de de recommandation, in Archivum Fratrum Praedicatorum 34 (1964) 5-44: 5-7 highlights the different approaches of the two founders but does not note the different quantity in documents produced by the individual pontiffs.
  17. See below, in the last part of this study. A more correct text of Quo elongati, compared to those published previously (cf., for example, BF I, 68-70), has been given to us by H. Grundmann, Die Bulle “Quo elongati” Papst Gregors IX, in Archivum Franciscanum Historicum 54 (1961) 5-25: 20-25 (text): on this is based the translation of the FF, from which I draw my quotations. C. Cenci, De Fratrum Minorum Constitutionibus Praenarbonensibus, in idem, L’Ordine francescano e il diritto. Testi legislativi dei secoli XIII-XV (Bibliotheca Eruditorum 15), Goldbach 1998, 313-315, offers a picture of the statutes issued by the ministers general up to 1239 [Cenci’s essay was originally published in Archivum Franciscanum Historicum 83 (1990) 50-95]: the scholar, however, does not mention this passage from Quo elongati].
  18. Tractatus fr. Thomae vulgo dicti de eccleston De adventu fratrum minorum in Angliam, 11-12 (FF 2423).
  19. This is clear from the statements of the chronicler, who says that during the time of brother Solomon’s guardianship, because of pressure from the bishop of London, Roger, brother Agnello obtained the letter Nimis iniqua for the brothers: cf. ibid. 75 (FF 2497).
  20. Cf. Tractatus fr. Thomae commoly called by E ccleston, De adventu fratrum minorum in Angliam, 9-10 (FF 2421). Other mentions highlight the fear of the brothers in the face of possible debts: ibid, 44, 46, 128-129 (FF 2466, 1470, 2573).
  21. Cf. BF I, 28, num. 3: on 13 May 1227 Gregory IX concedes to the ministers the faculty to absolve their brothers from excommunication. As Gratian of Paris said, “in a time of struggle between the Church and the Empire, when it was so easy to incur this penalty, this was an important concession which dispensed the friars from having to go before the bishop’s tribunal”, Gratian of Paris, Histoire de la fondation et de l’évolution de l’Ordre des Frères Mineurs au XIII e siècle, bibliography updated by M. D’Alatri and S. Gieben (Bibliotheca seraphico-capuccina 29), Roma 1982, 113; cf. more widely 113-114.
  22. See, for example, BF I, 31, num. 8-9; 41-42, num. 23-24. In contrast, in the letter Quoties cordis (BF I, 36-37, num. 16) in which the pontiff entrusted the Order with the care of poor enclosed nuns – a letter certainly not wanted by the friars -, without any mention of specific requests Gregory IX enjoined: “Propter quod attendentes, Religionem Fratrum Minorum gratam Deo inter alias, et acceptam, Tibi, et successoribus tuis curam committimus Monialium praedictarum in virtute obedientiae districte praecipiendo mandantes, quatenus de illis tamquam de ovibus custodiae vestrae commissis curam, et solicitudinem habeatis” (36-37).
  23. The date of the beginning of the generalate of Elias is not certain: cf. F. Accrocca, Frate Elias ministro generale, in Elia di Cortona tra realtà e mito. Atti dell’Incontro di studio (Cortona, 12-13 luglio 2013), (Figure e temi francescani 2), Spoleto 2014, 61-90: 64-66.
  24. Cf. Chronica XXIV generalium ordinis minorum (Analecta Franciscana III), Quaracchi, Florence 1897, 58-59; see, on the work as a whole, M. T. Dolso, La “Chronica XXIV generalium”: il difficile percorso dell’unità nella storia francescana (Centro Studi Antoniani 40), Padova 2003.
  25. Chronica XXIV generalium, 213, rr. 18-20. Grundmann, Die Bulle “Quo elongati“, 9-10: Grundmann too does not see the late editing of the work as an obstacle, as he recognises the constant faithfulness to the sources (cf. 10, note 1).
  26. Cfr. F. Accrocca, L’identità complessa. Percorsi francescani fra Due e Trecento (Centro Studi Antoniani 53), Padova 2014.
  27. Cf. Is qui ecclesiam, 22 April 1230: BF I, 60-62.
  28. Distinctio IIII, chap. 1, in B. Serpilli, Le più antiche constitzioni sylvestrine, in Benedictina 10 (1956) 211-258: 237. The hierarchical relationship between “mother abbey” and “daughter abbey” – the foundation of the Cistercian structure itself – is stated in the very first constitutions of the Order of Cîteaux, the Carta caritatis prior and the Summa Cartae caritatis: Narrative and Legislative Texts from Early Cîteaux. Latin Text in Dual Edition with English Translation and Notes, edited by Ch. Waddell (Studia et Documenta 9) Cîteaux 1999.
  29. [Remembrance CXLV.193] Cf. Mem 167 (Q 193: FF 779): in this regard refer to F. Accrocca, Un santo di carta. Le fonti biografiche di san Francesco d’Assisi (Biblioteca di Frate Francesco 13), Milano 2013, 286-289.
  30. Cf. Test 34-37 (FF 127-129).
  31. Test 25, 38. Interesting observations are offered by A. Tabarroni, La regola francescana tra authenticità e autenticazione, in Dalla “sequela Christi” di Francesco d’Assisi all’apologia della povertà. Atti del XVIII Convegno internazionale (Assisi, 1820 ottobre 1990), Spoleto 1992, 90.
  32. The commission, according to what we know from Thomas of Eccleston (Tractatus fr. Thomae vulgo dicti de Eccleston De adventu fratrum minorum in Angliam, 81: FF 2503), in addition to the General Minister Giovanni Parenti, included Anthony of Padua, Gerard Rossignol, papal penitentiary, Aimon of Faversham, preacher and professor, Leo of Perego, preacher, then bishop of Milan, Gerard of Modena, preacher, active in the Alleluia movement, and Peter of Brescia: all friars “belonging to international circles, to papal circles, to the northern area of Italy; men of law, learned theologians, famous preachers; no Umbrian friar”, A. Rigon, Antonio da Padova e il minoritismo padano, in I compagni di Francesco, 189.
  33. Cf. Quo elongati 1.
  34. “I strictly command all the brothers through obedience, wherever they may be, not to dare to ask any letter from the Roman Curia, either personally or through an intermediary, whether for a church or another place or under the pretext of preaching or the persecution of their bodies. But, wherever they have not been received, let them flee into another country to do penance with the blessing of God” Test 25-26 (FF 123).
  35. Rb I,1; XII,4. (FF 75, 109).
  36. CAss 102, 13 (FF 1645).
  37. Rb I,1 (FF 75).
  38. E. Pásztor, Francescanesimo e papato, in idem, Francesco e la «questione francescana», a cura di A. Marini, prefazione di G. G. Merlo (Medioevo Francescano. Saggi 5), S. Maria degli Angeli-Assisi 2000, 329.
  39. Gregory IX declared: “For as a result of the long-standing friendship between the holy confessor and ourselves, we know his mind more fully. Furthermore, while we held a lesser rank, we stood by him both as he composed the aforesaid Rule and obtained its confirmation from the Apostolic See. And so you have petitioned us for a clarification of the doubtful and obscure points in the Rule, together with a response to the difficulties” Quo elongati 3. On these statements of Gregory IX, see the reflections of Pásztor, Francescanesimo e papato, 329-330.
  40. Rb I, 2; XII, 4 (FF 76, 109).
  41. Cfr. Federazione s. Chiara di Assisi delle Clarisse di Umbria-Sardegna, Il Vangelo come forma di vita. In ascolto di Chiara nella sua Regola (Secundum perfectionem sancti Evangelii. La forma di vita dell’Ordine delle Sorelle povere, 3), Padova 2007, 97 e note 88-89.
  42. “[…] Nevertheless, we are aware of the danger to your souls and of the difficulties you could incur because of this. And so, wishing to remove all anxiety from your hearts, we declare that you are not bound by the Testament. For without the consent of the brothers, and especially of the ministers, Francis could not make obligatory a matter that touches everyone. Nor could he in any way whatsoever bind his successor because an equal has no authority over his equal” Quo elangati 3.
  43. “So the brothers want to know: are they bound to the other Gospel counsels besides those which are expressly contained in the Rule by way of precept or prohibition? This question is of special moment since they did not intend to oblige themselves in this way; furthermore, it is only with great difficulty, if at all, that they can observe all of the counsels literally. Our answer is brief: you are not bound by the Rule to observe the counsels of the Gospel, other than those explicitly contained in the Rule to which you have committed yourselves. As for the rest of them, you are bound in the same way as other Christians, although even more so by virtue of the goodness and integrity with which you offered to the Lord a total holocaust by your contempt of all that pertains to this world” Ibid. 4.
  44. “Likewise, in the same Rule the brothers are forbidden to “in any way receive coins or money, either personally or through an intermediary.” Since they desire to observe this prohibition always, they seek a clarification. Dare they, without violating the Rule, present to God-fearing people some of the faithful through whom the former might relieve the needs of the brothers? Furthermore, dare they with a sound conscience have recourse to these same faithful for their necessities, even though they know these faithful have accepted coins or money—coins or money, to be sure, which on their own authority the brothers have no intention of causing to be held or demanding from them—in the name of the donor?” Ibid. 5.
  45. Grundmann had made the same observation (cf. Grundmann, Die Bulle «Quo elongati», 5).
  46. Cf. Anonymous Perugia 29,4 (FF 1521): “it was money especially that they trampled under foot”. This passage and that cited in the following note are compounded in 3Soc 45,4 (FF 454): “Above all, they trampled upon money as if it were dirt under their feet, and, as they had been taught by the saint, considered it as equal in worth and weight to the dung of an ass”; in 3Soc the allusion to Rnb VIII,6 is much more explicit: “If we find coins anywhere, let us pay no more attention to them than to the dust we trample underfoot, for vanity of vanities and all is vanity” (FF 28) On the hagiographical sources and the many problems connected to these see Accrocca, Un santo di carta.
  47. Cf. De inceptione 30,1-10 (FF 1522).
  48. Cfr. Mem 57-60 (Q 65-68: FF 651-654).
  49. “We are led to respond to this matter as follows. If the brothers want to buy something necessary or make payment for something already purchased, they may present to those persons who wish to give them a [monetary] alms either an agent of the person from whom the purchase is being made or someone else, unless perchance these donors prefer to make payment themselves or through agents of their own. The one presented by the brothers in this way is not their agent, even though he may have been designated by them; rather, he is the agent of the person on whose authority he makes the payment, or of the one receiving it. Such an agent must promptly make payment, so that none of the donated money remains with him. If, however, this same agent is presented for other imminent necessities, he may deposit the alms committed to him, as though they were his own, with a spiritual friend or familiar acquaintance of the brothers, and through such a one, dispense the alms as he judges expedient according to the circumstances and time of the brothers’ needs. The brothers may also have recourse to this agent for necessities of this kind, especially if he is negligent of or simply unaware of such needs” Quo elongati 5.
  50. G. Miccoli, Dall’intuizione all’istituzione: un passaggio non tutto scontato, in idem, Francesco d’Assisi. Realtà e memoria di un’esperienza cristiana (Einaudi Paperbacks 217), Torino 1991, 108.
  51. Cf. Grundmann, Die Bulle «Quo elongati», 7.
  52. The text of the letter is in BF I, 40-41 (FF 2719). Cfr. R. Paciocco, «Sublimia negotia». Le canonizzazioni dei santi nella curia papale e il nuovo Ordine dei frati Minori (Centro Studi Antoniani 22), Padova 1996, 87-88.
  53. Schlageter, Die Chronica des Bruders Jordan von Giano, 58, num. 61 (FF 2392).
  54. Cf. Accrocca, Frate Elia ministro generale.
  55. Cf. Anonymous of Perugia 24, 1 (FF 1513); 29, 3-4 (FF 1521).
  56. Cf. Accrocca, Un santo di carta, respectively, 275-278; 205-208, 274-275.
  57. Quo elongati 6.
  58. Test. 24 (FF 122).
  59. Quo elongati 6.
  60. Cfr. R. lambertini, Apologia e crescita dell’identità francescana (1255-1279) (Nuovi Studi Storici 4), Roma 1990; idem, La povertà pensata. Evoluzione storica della definizione dell’identità minoritica da Bonaventura ad Ockham (Collana di Storia Medievale 1), Modena 2000; A. Tabarroni, «Paupertas Christi et apostolorum». L’ideale francescano in discussione (1322-1324) (Nuovi Studi Storici 5), Roma 1990.
  61. See the text in Balduinus ab Amsterdam, Tres sermones inediti Joannis de Rupella in honore S. Antonii Patavini, in Collectanea Franciscana 28 (1958) 55-56. I refer you to F. Accrocca, Giovanni de La Rochelle, Gilberto di Tournai e l’esaltazione della povertà Francescana in Religioni et doctrinae. Miscellanea di studi offerti a Bernardino de Armellada in occasione del suo 80° compleanno, edited by A. Horowski (Bibliotheca seraphico-capuccina 89), Rome 2009, 129-140.
  62. Cf. Remembrance XXIX,59. The episode is also related by the Companions (cf. CAss 57, 10-16: FF 1581-1582).
  63. Cf. R. Manselli, «Nos qui cum eo fuimus». Contributo alla questione francescana (Bibliotheca seraphico-capuccina 28), Roma 1980, 110-111. In CAss 57, 14 (FF 1582) the companions attribute these words to Francis: “When the Lord stayed in solitude where he prayed and fasted for forty days and forty nights, He did not have a cell or a house built there, but He sheltered under the rocks of the mountain”, this was textually taken up by Thomas of Celano [cf . CAss 57, 10-16].
  64. “Another chapter of the same Rule says: “If any of the brothers, at the instigation of the enemy, sin mortally in regard to those sins about which it may have been decreed among the brothers to have recourse only to the provincial ministers, such brothers must have recourse to them as soon as possible, without delay.” The brothers conscientiously question whether this means only public sins or both public and private sins. We therefore reply that the chapter in question refers only to manifest public sins. We wish that the general minister appoint, or have appointed, from among the more mature and discreet priests, as many confessors as the ministers deem suitable for the provinces. Let these priests hear the confessions for private sins, unless the brothers choose instead to confess to their ministers or custodians who happen to be visiting their places” Quo elongati 7.
  65. Rnb XVII, 1-2; Rb IX, 1 (FF 46, 98). See Accrocca, L’identità complessa, 51-66.
  66. Rb IX, 2 (FF 98).
  67. “Furthermore, the Rule forbids any of the brothers to preach to the people “unless he has been examined and approved by the general minister and received from him the office of preaching.” You wish to know whether, in order to assist the work of the brothers and for the sake of avoiding hazardous travel, the general minister may delegate to other discreet brothers the said examination, approval, and authorization for the office of preaching, and if so, whether he may delegate universally for examining brothers assigned to the provinces or delegate only for certain brothers in particular. To this we respond as follows. The general minister may not delegate these matters to any brother in his absence. Let the brothers who are judged ready for examination be sent to him; or let them accompany their provincial ministers to the general chapter for this purpose. Now, if they do not require an examination, on the basis of having had training both at a school of theology and in the office of preaching, and if they are of mature age, and if they possess all those other qualities that are expected of such men, then they may preach to the people in the approved manner, unless the provincial minister decides otherwise” Quo elongati 8.
  68. “Furthermore, the brothers are wondering whether the vicars of the provincial minister, whom these latter appoint to act in their stead when they are traveling to the general chapter, may receive postulants into the brotherhood or dismiss them once they have been received. We declare that they may not. Even the ministers themselves may not do this unless they have been specially authorized. And just as the general minister has power to authorize them, so may he deny the authorization. According to the Rule, the reception of brothers may not be delegated to others besides the provincial ministers. Much less, then, do these ministers have the power to subdelegate. For this authority has been entrusted to them alone, not to others” Quo elongati 9.
  69. Anonymous Perugia, 24, 4.
  70. Ibid. 41, 8.
  71. Ibid. 45, 5.
  72. Rnb II, 2-3.
  73. Rb II, 1.
  74. This statement was a plagiarism of the well-known expressions of the book of Isaiah 9:3: cf. F. Accrocca, Un ribelle tranquillo. Angelo Clareno e gli Spirituali francescani fra Due e Trecento (Collana Viator 8), S. Maria degli Angeli-Assisi 2009, 214-215.
  75. Cf. II, 10-11, in Expositio super Regulam Fratrum Minorum of Frate Angelo Clareno, edited by G. Boccali, introduction by F. Accrocca and Italian translation by M. Bigaroni (Pubblicazioni della Biblioteca Francescana Chiesa Nuova – Assisi 7), Assisi 1995, 234, 236.
  76. Expositio super Regulam II, 39: ibidem 246.
  77. Rb VIII,2.
  78. For example, Thomas of Eccleston writes: “The brethren having increased from day to day both in merits and in numbers, and their houses being consequently multiplied, it seemed expedient that the province should be divided into custodies. This, therefore, was done at the first Provincial Chapter in London. Now each custody was remarkable for some singular note of sanctity”, The Friars and how they came to England being a translation of Thomas of Eccleston’s “De Adventu F.F. Minorum in Angliam (transl. Father Cuthbert of the Order of St. Francis, Capuchin) Chapter VI, St Louis, Mo. B. Herder London: Sands & Co. 1903 page 169.
  79. Quo elongati 10.
  80. Rb XI, 2.
  81. Federazione S. Chiara di Assisi delle Clarisse di Umbria-Sardegna, Chiara di Assisi. Una vita prende forma. Iter storico (Secundum perfectionem sancti Evangelii. La forma di vita dell’Ordine delle Sorelle povere 2), Padova 2005, 57-58.
  82. Quo elongati 11.
  83. Tractatus fr. Thomae vulgo dicti de Eccleston De adventu fratrum minorum in Angliam, 30-31 (FF 2444).
  84. Quo elongati 11.
  85. Cf. Grundmann, Die Bulle «Quo elongati», 7.
  86. Miccoli repeats the same statements several years later: he wrote them for the first time in the Afterword to a volume by Jacques Dalarun [see J. Dalarun, Francesco: un passaggio. Donna e donne negli scritti e nelle leggende di Francesco d’Assisi. Postfazione di G. miccoli (I libri di Viella 2), Roma 1994]; he repeated them in the paper given at the Conference held in Rome from 10 to 12 April 2002, 25 years after the edition of the writings of Francis by Kaietan Esser. The two texts are now gathered in G. Miccoli, Francesco d’Assisi: memoria, storia e storiografia, postfazione di G. G. Merlo (Tau 13), Milano 2010, respectively, 239-258, 57-80; the quotations are on pages 70, 252.
  87. Analysing Clare’s reaction to the papal decision, the Poor Clares state: “Clare saw her original relationship with the Friars Minor compromised and San Damiano conformed to the other monasteries of moniales reclusae, with the restrictions that Quo elongati confirmed, but which now, belonging to the moniales reclusae, also concerned her and her community. At the time of the constitution of the provincial ministers there could be no danger of confusion between the monasteries of the poor cloistered nuns and San Damiano, which could count on the still living Francis and was still searching for a precise juridical configuration within the ongoing process of institutionalisation. By 1230 this process had been completed, including San Damiano among the cloistered nuns and thus forcing Clare to reaffirm her proprium/belonging with respect to the Friars Minor” Federation S. Chiara di Assisi delle Clarisse di Umbria-Sardegna, Chiara di Assisi. Una vita prende forma, 72.
  88. Cf. M. P. Alberzoni, Chiara e San Damiano tra Ordine minoritico e Curia papale, in «Clara claris praeclara». L’esperienza cristiana e la memoria di Chiara d’Assisi in occasione del 750° anniversario della morte. Atti del Convegno internazionale (Assisi, 20-22 novembre 2003), S. Maria degli Angeli 2004 [= Convivium Assisiense 6 (2004)], 27-70: 50.
  89. Cf. M. Guida, Una leggenda in cerca d’autore: la Vita di santa Chiara d’Assisi. Studio delle fonti e sinossi intertestuale, préface de J. Dalarun (Subsidia Hagiographica 90), Bruxelles 2010, 174-175.
  90. Cf. Grundmann, Die Bulle «Quo elongati», 7-15.
  91. Cf. ibid., respectively, 7, 11-13.
  92. The text of the letter, reproduced in Federazione S. Chiara di Assisi delle Clarisse di Umbria-Sardegna, Chiara di Assisi. Una vita prende forma, 127-128, has come down to us thanks to us thanks to the Chronica XXIV Generalium, 183. There are no good reasons to doubt its content and there are very good reasons to consider it authentic. The cardinal did not yet give Clare the title of abbess; it was only later, therefore, with the acceptance by the monastery of San Damiano of the forma vitae composed by the cardinal himself for women’s monasteries, that she assumed that title, certainly not in 1215 as was customarily thought until recently. See, in this regard, the works of Maria Pia Alberzoni, especially, among the last: M. P. AlBerzoni, Chiara e San Damiano tra Ordine minoritico e Curia papale; idem, Curia romana e regolamentazione delle damianite e delle domenicane, in Regulae – Consuetudines – Statuta. Studi sulle fonti normative degli ordini religiosi nei secoli centrali del Medioevo. Atti del I e II Seminario internazionale di studio del Centro italo-tedesco di storia comparata degli ordini religiosi (Bari-Lecce-Noci, 26-27 October 2002 – Castiglione delle Siviere, 23-24 May 2003), edited by C. Andenna and G. Melville (Vita regularis 25), Münster 2005, 501-537; idem, Servus vestrum et ancillarum Christi omnium. Gregorio IX e la vita religiosa femminile, in Vita evangelica. Essay in Honor of Margaret Carney, ed. by M. F. Cusato – J. F. Godet-Calogeras, St. Bonaventure (NY 14778) 2006 [= Franciscan Studies 64 (2006)], 145-78.
  93. Legend of Saint Clare 37, 7-10 : Once, when Lord Pope Gregory forbade any brother to go to the monasteries of the Ladies without permission, the pious mother, sorrowing that her sisters would more rarely have the food of sacred teaching, sighed: “Let him now takeaway from us all the brothers since he has taken away those who provide us with the food that is vital.” At once she sent back to the minister all the brothers, not wanting to have the questors who acquired corporal bread when they could not have the questors for spiritual bread. 1When Pope Gregory heard this, he immediately mitigated that prohibition into the hands of the general minister.
  94. Thomas of Celano, First Life 98, 7.
  95. Cf. Letter Is qui ecclesiam, 22 April 1230: BF I, 60-62.