General Introduction of Costanzo Cargnoni



From I FRATI CAPPUCCINI. Dcumenti e Testimonianze del Primo Secolo. Edited by COSTANZO CARGNONI, Roma 1982, XVIII-XCVII

Prepared by Gary Devery OFM Cap

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

Table of Contents

I. Historical, Cultural and Spiritual Generalities

1) Franciscanism: a continuous tension of reform

2) Conventuals, Observants and Capuchins

3) The portrait and spirituality of the first Capuchins

4) Popular icons of the Capuchin friar

5) Some modern literary testimonies

6) Paul VI’s prophetic meditation on the Capuchin charism


1) Fundamental criteria for choosing and presenting documents

2) Justification of the chronological scope

3) Text transcription criteria



1) Part one

Section I: Papal documents (1528-1627)

Section II: Primitive Capuchin legislation (1529-1643)

Section III: First Capuchin commentaries on the Rule (beginning of the 16th century – 1614)

Section IV: «Modus vivendi», provincial customs, formularies, ceremonials (1536-1641)

2) Second part

Section I: Documents and testimonies extraneous to the Order (1526-1632)

Section II: Testimonies of public authorities (1526-1611)

Section III: Correspondence of the first Capuchins (1536-1628)

Section IV: Early Capuchin Chronicles (c. 1565-1630)

3) Third part

Section I: Ascetic-mystical spiritual literature (1535-1628)

Section II: Apostolate and evangelization (1528-1630)

Section III: Testimonies on Capuchin life from the canonization processes (1587-1626)

4) Fourth part with two appendices and indexes

Section I: Testimonies on the first Capuchins in France (1575-1625)

Section II: Testimonies on the first Capuchins in Belgium-Holland (1585-1625)

Section III: Testimonies on the first Capuchins in Switzerland (c. 1571-1630)

Section IV: Testimonies on the first Capuchins in Spain (1578-1619)

Section V: Testimonies on the first Capuchins in the countries of Central-Eastern Europe (1593-1630 c.)

Appendix I: Capuchin iconography, architecture and “art”

Appendix II: Origin and early development of the Capuchin Poor Clares (1535-1611)


Who are the Capuchin friars? The answers can be different in the details, but in the end they all boil down to one simple, poor, humble, unadorned, almost rough answer. The reader will already be able to find in this first volume a sure answer which will steadily grow in precision and detail with the contribution of the documents contained in the other volumes. This question was surreptitiously posed to the documents and testimonies of the first century of the Order’s history. There are many voices that merge, even among contrasts, counterpoints, cues, dissonances, to form a harmonious and powerful orchestra. In listening to these voices, in re-reading these documents and testimonies, it is possible to identify an answer which clearly identifies, without ambiguity and blurring, the Capuchin friars as they desired to be in the Church and as they were judged.

It is therefore necessary to introduce some historical, spiritual and cultural generalities, to then specify the spirit, the framework, the method and the limits of this anthology of documents.

I. Historical, Cultural and Spiritual Generalities

Perhaps not everyone knows that the Capuchin friars, seen in their real historical light, are disciples of Saint Francis of Assisi, born over 450 years ago from the travail of one of the most painful and successful reforms of Franciscanism and one of the most convincing expressions of a widespread aspiration for renewal in the Church of the XVI century.

The reform was conceived in Italy towards end of the 15th and at the beginning of the 16th centuries in the solitude and silence of small hermitages in Basilicata and Calabria by Ludovico and Bernardino da Reggio, but also in the provinces of Rome and Naples with Stefano Molina, Bernardino d’Asti and Nicolò Tomacelli, and in Umbria and the Marches by many zealous friars.[1]

The reform was given birth, so to speak, in Montefalcone in Fermo between the months of April and May, in the spring of 1525 with the impromptu action decided upon by Matteo da Bascio to flee from the normal life in fraternity. He was a Friar Minor Observant who with a “threadbare habit and a pointed cowl, barefoot, with a cross in his hand”,[2] obtained from Pope Clement VII a benevolent oral approval of his way of life as an itinerant preacher. No one then could have imagined that such a furtive and irrelevant gesture, which escapes the attention of “great” history, would have set off such an intense religious and spiritual renewal that would later spread throughout Italy and, after the Council of Trent, into the various European regions and to Catholic missions beyond Europe.

It was not a reflection on the calamitous times and immoral customs of pagan humanism that pushed the first Capuchins to the drastic movement of reform, but the anxiety to relive in themselves and defend the “living spirit of Jesus Christ” according to the example of the apostles and the experience of Saint Francis, in an integral, literal and spiritual observance of the “evangelical and seraphic Rule” of the Friars Minor.[3]

It was not just a local movement, from the Marches or Calabria or Veneto or other areas of Italy. In its complexity it must rather be viewed on a national level, since there were many seeds of renewal that proliferated within the minoritic Observance, similar to what was happening not only in other religious Orders, but through the work of the hierarchy and the saintly reformers, throughout all the Catholic world.[4]

We also need to point out the undeniable contribution of the religious ferment in Calabria and the industriousness in the Marches the brothers Ludovico and Raffaele Tenaglia from Fossombrone, who, under the influential protection of the Duchess of Camerino, Caterina Cybo, obtained on that memorable Friday 3 July 1528, the first official pontifical document of approval, the bull Religionis zelus of Clement VII, which can very well figure as the “baptism” of the Capuchins.[5]

In 1529, having been secretly “confirmed” on the mountains of Albacina in the Fabriano area, the Capuchins solemnly and definitively renewed and clarified their “baptismal promises” in the general chapter of Rome-S. Euphemia in 1535/36 with the Farnese Pope, Paul III.

This is the primary regulation of their life after the first ten years of history. A second adjustment took place after the Council of Trent with the constitutions of 1575. It is only after 1619, when the Capuchins obtained complete autonomy from the Conventuals, that they arrived at their maximum operational development and established their definitive physiognomy and spiritual and social institutionalisation. So much so that to the question: “Who is a Capuchin friar?”, a lawyer to the Parliament of Paris, “maître” Philip of Monthouri could give an exhaustive answer in a 1613 pamphlet dedicated to the famous Angel of Joyeuse, with the title: L ‘image du parfait capucin [The image of the perfect Capuchin].[6]

The entire historical range of the planting, first growth, flowering and productivity of the capuchins is placed. The image of the tree is as Franciscan as ever and lends itself as a precise support to a history that can be told in many ways, like so many branches that intertwine, but all start from the same trunk. And if you have admired a “Franciscan tree” which fans out its branches with incredible fecundity, according to an image already suggested in the XIV century but realised iconographically above all in the 17th century by Carlo d’Arenberg, you will notice how at the foot, or rather, at the root, is Francis of Assisi. From his heart, all seraphic and evangelical and Catholic, the vitality of the Order is born and nourished. Is it possible to understand who the Capuchins are and when and where and why they arose, if we do not start from this root?[7]

1) Franciscanism: a continuous tension of reform

The Poverello bequeathed an immense horizon of freedom and simplicity. His Rule of radical poverty and humility was set out to mediate and facilitate the disciples’ entry into obedience and hence into the spiritual freedom of the Gospel. And instead, strangely, this document of freedom had almost immediately turned into a stumbling block.

The Order, which grew immeasurably in the 13th century until it exceeded 30,000 members, could no longer keep up with the heroism of the primitive fraternity. It had become a religious and monastic power and could boast of highly learned professors in Paris and Oxford, legendary travellers and missionaries, heroic saints and martyrs, itinerants and apostles to the people. It also had large convents and significant churches in the most important cities. It was no longer a small group of ioculatores [jesters], who had no permanent home and sang the laudes Domini [praises of the Lord]. It was a compact, structured army, used insistently by the Church in an organized apostolate with precise juridical norms and privileges. Saint Bonaventure saw in this evolution a symbol of the Church, which started with humble origins and later became majestic and powerful.[8]

But here is a tangle of branches sprouting from the mighty trunk that wanted to be different, almost returning to the root. In fact, not all applauded this greatness and power, but some, affectionately attached to an experience of simplicity and poverty such as they had seen in Francis, at the scandal of an Order which, growing, distanced itself from the spirit of the Founder, and they cried out, was Francis being betrayed?[9]

These zealots had tasted the sweet and strong poetry of the Fioretti. They wore a more strangely different dress, coarse and tight; they opted for hermitages on the mountains and in the valleys, which the evolved and urbanized friars had abandoned; they did not want privileges and renounced the exemption from bishops; they only wished to observe the Franciscan Rule to the letter, as simply as it sounded, with only the accompaniment and commentary of the Testament of St. Francis, and they aspired to the renewal of the Church.

By then accepting Joachim’s prophecy, some perilously exposed themselves to heresy with reckless reformistic applications and passed into schism when Pope John XXII condemned the thesis of the absolute poverty of Christ and the apostles. They were called, and even today historiography still calls them “Spirituals” and calls the more troublesome “Fraticelli”. These engaged in a battle that had unpredictable currents of development and complicated political implications. However, they were only small branches on the great trunk of the friars of the Community; they were a small group, but tireless, and engaged in polemics for about eighty years from 1244 to 1318, until they were severed and burned with the bull Gloriosam Ecclesiam.[10]

Yet these men, tormented and yet in love with Francis, did not finish their spiritual adventure. Franciscan spiritualism, in its positive values, beyond any proscription, injected itself into the ranks of Franciscanism as a restlessness or tension for reform which was at the origin of a fruitful renewal which sprung up in many provinces and was destined to become the great movement of reform of the Observants, the predominant reality of the Franciscans in the 15th century.[11]

At first the sap of spiritualism made delicate branches reappear, with various attempts of a hermitic and local nature, led by Giovanni della Valle, Gentile da Spoleto and Paoluccio Trinci da Foligno; then the contribution of Saint Bernardino of Siena and the other saints of the Observance opened the movement to a European and ecclesial dimension, resurrecting, with new vitality and social and religious vivacity, the itinerant and popular apostolate of early Franciscanism. And the tree gradually took the form of two large trunks, clearly distinct already in the middle of the 15th century with the bull Ut sacra of Eugene IV of 1446, but juridically and definitively divided only in 1517 with the bull Ite vos of Leo X, just as Martin Luther launched his challenge to the Roman Church, which however would lead to a great division and painful laceration.[12]

2) Conventuals, Observants and Capuchins

The two Franciscan families, now divided, the Conventuals and the Observants, re-proposed the same battles of the Spirituals and the Community. The Spirituals seemed to revive in the reform of the Observants, who initially favoured radical poverty and a hermitic life.

But after the great success achieved by the “four columns of the Observance”, by Saint Bernardino of Siena, Saint John of Capistrano, Saint James della Marca and Blessed Alberto da Sarteano, with a whole series of great itinerant preachers, the Observant became powerful, influential, and political. In the great success encountered throughout Europe, they felt they were the only true reform of Franciscanism and demanded that every seraphic plant should only blossom in their garden, among their flowerbeds. No other separatist reforms were licit. But, in fact, the soul of the Observant was composite.

Many ferments of reformist spirituality moved in it: the movement of the hermitages in Portugal, the very austere Villacreziani of Castile, the Aragonese friars of the Cappucciola, so-called for the pyramidal hood, the French Colettani, the Amadeiti in Lombardy, the reform of Giovanni de la Puebla, the Guadalupesi or Capuchos, the Pasqualiti, all “pies por tierra” [barefooted], that is, the Spanish Scalzi [Discalsced] who would later merge into the very penitent Alcantarini.[13]

It was necessary to keep these “seperated fronds” together. This was attempted by Pope Leo X; but his bull of union Ite vos in practice became the document of the division. The equilibrium of the 1400s ceased. This also coincided with the Italian politics of the time, which was divided between independent and fragmented states. The time for unity seemed to have arrived. A certain “national sentiment” arose with the union of the states of the peninsula, and especially of Venice and the Papal States, which was achieved under the banner of an Italian spirit; but the dream vanished between the defeat of Pavia (February 1525) and the meeting of Bologna (autumn 1529), that is, in the years in which the threat of Spanish domination was increasingly taking shape, and strengthening until it culminated in the calamity of the terrible “sack of Rome” of 1527.[14]

It is in a dramatic moment like this that the most unusual and most successful reform of Franciscanism is conceived. It unknowingly prepares itself in the solitude of the houses of recollection, established in Spain at the beginning of the 1500s, restructured and spread also into Italy in 1526 by the General of the Franciscan Observants, Francesco Quiñones.[15] This “strategic” form was to curb and prevent new splits in the ranks of the Franciscans, but instead, it served to nourish a group of fervent men who would later lay the foundations of the Capuchin reform. “Recollection” indicated, on the one hand, separation, withdrawal, an ermitical life and penitential confinement, and, on the other, the withdrawal of the soul into itself, interiorization and recollection of the powers of the soul and a spirit of prayer.

While in small hermitages of the Roman territory, in the Marche, Umbria, Tuscany and further south, in Basilicata and Calabria, but also in the Lombard-Veneto regions, many of these zealous religious found consolation. Here Matteo da Bascio comes out into the open in 1525 with Capuchin characteristics, followed shortly after by the brothers Ludovico and Raffaele da Fossombrone, involuntarily suggesting a new proposition, an alternative for renewal. These are the three initiators of the Capuchins, itinerant and fugitive, hunted down and persecuted. However, they found refuge among the Camaldolese of Cupramontana and then in Camerino, in the ducal palace of the Da Varanos and in Arcofiato.[16]

In this period the terrible looting of Rome by angry Landsknechts took place, and the scourge of the plague immediately spread. The first Capuchins ante litteram come out again into the open in the charitable service of the plague-stricken and dying, and immediately enter the hearts of the people.

3) The portrait and spirituality of the first Capuchins

Clement VII manages to escape from Rome. And in Viterbo he issued to Ludovico da Fossombrone, on July 3, 1528, the founding bull of the Capuchins, which began with the significant words: Religionis zelus. It is punctuated by the catchphrase “vitam eremiticam ducere”, that is, to lead an eremitic life, in penitential fashion with hood and beard, and a lot of courage and zeal of renewed Franciscanism. The phrase hides an enormous commitment to prayer and radical poverty, but it is also a form that only partially corresponds to the global aspirations of the Capuchin reform. It is rather the photograph of the first phase of the first generation, the foundation of a solid construction.[17]

When Pope Clement VII, on 6 October, returns to Rome still in the desolation of the humiliation suffered, he will wear a long, hoary beard. It could be argued that, if the 15th century was a hairless age, the 16th century of the Capuchins favoured bearded faces. A long beard indicated a penitent, a prisoner, a hermit or a member of the Eastern Church.[18] It was significant that Vincenzo Gioberti would write that “the Capuchin is poetic even in appearance, because the dress, the carriage, the manners ideally represent the genius of the people who are very poetic… The beard and habit of the Capuchin are still popular in paintings, and they have something ancient and primitive about them, reminiscent of the East and patriarchal times”.[19]

In 1529 a group of these Capuchins met secretly in the church of S. Maria dell’Acquarella, a hermitage in the mountains of Albacina, to clarify their intentions and their programme. And so the first step which determined the basic direction of Capuchin spirituality was strongly oriented towards a total re-appropriation of interiority, this “work” – as presented by one of the first chroniclers, Bernardino Croli da Colpetrazzo – “which looked at all the actions of the spirit having eyes that turn away from all affection not only for the world, but also for oneself, the better to unite oneself with its end which is the glorious and most holy God”.[20]

This practice of silence and of an intense and positive regard for interiority and of the external burying of one’s personality contrasted with, head-on, the whole humanistic philosophy and custom of man’s greatness and power and self-sufficiency, of aesthetic and hedonistic enjoyment of the beauties and forces of life, as well as the courtly spirit of a dangerous trust in political manipulations in the government of the Church and in the protection of the kingdom of God.

External conduct, according to a rigorous and integral application of the Rule and spirit of Saint Francis, was modelled on the forms of a radical and almost unbearable poverty in “coarse and rustic” clothes, in “eating coarse and simple things, as it is said of herbs and legumes, and also other sorts of rustic soups», in the poor furnishings of wretched dwellings, so overflowing with spirituality that “it seemed that the walls smelled of simplicity and sanctity”.[21]

These “poor ones, all barefoot, pale in the face, who looked like hollow bodies”,[22] wanted to affirm with utmost priority and to the bitter end an evangelism (which was after all a living and perennial Franciscanism) and an asceticism, the absolute prevalence of God over the human, the inner conquest of God over all that is contingent and sensible to human intelligence and will, and of the future life over against the transitory life of this earth.

Albacina’s furtive notes will be taken up and officially developed in Rome – in the shadow of St. Peter – in the heart of Catholicism, near S. Maria Maggiore, in the Constitutions of 1536, the “charismatic” identity card of Capuchins for all times. After this the first inroads will begin whereby the early Capuchins will begin to penetrate the whole life of the Italian people, like evangelical leaven. They will begin to make themselves present wherever there was suffering to soothe or a service to be rendered with gratuitous love, in churches, pulpits, hospitals, courts and, “even if for the most part they were simple and uneducated, they spoke so highly of the things of God and of the great good and glory of the next life, that they seemed to be fiery seraphim”.

They revived the flowers of early monasticism, of the fathers of the desert. They appeared in the eyes of the people as men of another world, but not of a world that divides, but that instils fraternity and unity. People understood this message of liberation and communion and welcomed the unmistakable figure of the Capuchin friar with love.

It is not easy to do a true portrait. The first Capuchins did not pose easily. They loved the hidden life and solitude. Yet, as the result of a long and penetrating observation, a portrait was left. It is like an icon. The people have traced the essential lines, like an identikit that gives us the possibility of discovering and recognising with a true likeness the inner face of the first Capuchins.

The icon is the malleable representation of a spiritual communication. It requires an intimate and heartfelt visualization; it requires prolonged listening to its message. It is a portrait that concentrates a thousand faces and a thousand acts, the faces and acts of an ecclesial fraternity. Thereby it becomes stereotyped and could appear formalistic if it did not express a lively spiritual experience. The icon can only be admired with the eyes of the spirit.[23]

For this reason, Brother Francesco da Cartoceto, who had gone blind from crying and moaning for the reform of the Order, retired to a contemplative life in a “little place” near Matelica, saw in a vision a young “barefoot friar, alone, dressed in a patchwork habit , coarse, rugged and short, with a long and pointed hood on his head, and with the cross in his hand, he ran very quickly across a beautiful plain».[24] In this representation there is already the identikit of the Capuchin. This is how Matteo da Bascio will appear, “a simple man with a great spirit”, always intent on preaching. The first Capuchins appeared to the people no differently: “They went around squalid, in patched habits, in silence, with their heads sunken into their hoods, with downcast, thin, emaciated and tearful eyes”.[25]

When Giovanni da Fano and his companion presented themselves in Milan in 1535 before Duke Francesco Sforza, “the duke without speaking looked at physical appearance of both of them and gave consideration to their rough and torn habits, to them being barefoot, gaunt, and so exhausted by the harshness of penance and of the hardships they suffered for not being well known, for which they seemed more similar to the dead than to the living…, he said in astonishment: I don’t like very much this extreme way of living…”.[26]

Modern aesthetic refinement and the inexhaustible and fantastic comforts of material well-being will make us repeat this negative judgment perhaps more forcefully. But the message remains: the poor habit, the cross, penance, prayer and mystical and apostolic ardour.

Popular literature quickly found a source of admiration and inspiration. It reacted to the religious presence of the Capuchins with perfect intuition and spiritual communication. It looked beyond the external forms yet read the characteristic signs of this shocking presence. The Capuchin friar did not look good. Just like St. Francis seen by Thomas of Spalato in Bologna, who “wore an unpretentious habit, who looked contemptible, with a face that had no beauty”.[27] But the people understood that this strange solitary friar, “ugly to look at in the eyes and face”, was however “beautiful and lucid in conscience”.[28] And through the spontaneous suggestion of juxtaposed images and assonances of words, the popular soul, in the desire to see the face of Jesus dead amidst the emotion of the angels and the sigh of the Madonna, discovers next to it, as a guide and valid interpreter, the figure of the praying and ecstatic Capuchin:

My Lady, Saint Clare,
lend me your ladder
to go to heaven
to see that beautiful face.

What a beautiful face had died:
it enchanted all the angels;
the Madonna languished over it;
the Lord like a child on her breast.

O how beautiful the prayer,
the prayer of the Capuchins
full of roses and full of thorns.[29]

In this image the people condensed the entire spiritual method of Capuchin piety, with ingenuous beauty, strongly opposed to mystical and contemplative effusions and ascetic and penitential repetitions. Yes, the Capuchin is ugly, but his prayer is beautiful. Here is his true face, outlined and interpreted with prophetic certainty by simple people.

The same iconography is revealed by the old engravings and prints. The faces of the Capuchins appear really “hollowed out”, in an attitude of great concentration, their eyes fixed on the cross either in their hand or placed nearby, with a skull placed at the foot of a cross or on a table or even in their hand, depicted often with a book open in front of them, the eyes teary, with the rosary, the lily, the patched and coarse habit, and the scene is perhaps set at the entrance to a cave.[30] It is religiosity that could be described as marked strongly by seventeenth century and counter-reformation motifs. Nonetheless, it is a portrait that makes the message clear.

The cross with Christ’s passion continually contemplated is the secret source that moves everything. The poor habit “was in the shape of a cross… The cruciform reform could not implant itself without the cross, therefore God allowed that the renewed habit to be consecrated by the cross, as it evinces the form of the cross”, writes the chronicler Paolo da Foligno.[31]

What a battle for the habit! It is an unmistakable trait of Capuchin iconography. Here the habit makes the Capuchin. For this reason, there is the cross in hand or the open book. The Capuchin must get used to reading the book of the cross to learn the wisdom of the heart. Then he becomes acutely sensitive to the pain of the poor and the groaning of the wretched.

The Capuchin, if he has made heroic sacrifices or severed strong ties, is not however hard-hearted, stoic, cynical or masochistic. He is a man who has the disposition of a good heart. He is a noble, kind figure, with deep affections, generous friendships, jovial and witty and very approachable. For this reason, the people have always had a soft spot for the Capuchins. He loved them in his own way, with tenderness and strength, with respect and affection, as his very own people.[32]

5) Some modern literary testimonies

In this regard there are various particular testimonies of worthy writers which merit to be referred to here.

A Protestant, W. Mendel, an expert and man of letters, wrote that “the Capuchins were distinguished by a disinterested industriousness in favour of souls and by the austerity of life. The people… felt drawn towards them, who went on foot from one town to another, who were at home in the humblest cottages, and made clear to the poor the maxims of the Gospel, which for them is the kingdom of heaven. In the mouth of a friar with a long beard and bare feet, who on outside of his tunic had no shirt to cover his body, and who slept on bare boards, with the doctrine that the Christian must crucify his flesh and turn his gaze only towards the heavenly homeland because he was a stranger and a pilgrim on earth, he seemed much more convincing”.[33]

L. Palomes, a Conventual friar minor, affirmed that “the Capuchins, from 1525 to today, are, except for a few and very slight modifications, the same, at least for what reflects the external form. They were born professing the Rule ad litteram: poverty in the houses, in the churches, in the furnishings, in the decorations, in the clothing, in the meals, without income, without dispensations, begging every day, as well giving alms, that is, every day sharing their bread and soup with the poor. The suppression that in several countries of Europe made them abandon their houses, and then find themselves others, also forced them to wear a less rough habit than the one they made in the wool mills of their friaries; but anyone who explored the lands of Europe would find, with few exceptions, the image of Matteo da Bascio in the Capuchins friars of today… and this after three hundred and fifty and more years; which is an argument of extraordinary vitality, much more than what is ordinarily seen in reforms. The truth is this, that society is in need of the Capuchin”.[34]

Francesco Renato, viscount of Chateaubriand, father of French romanticism, in his famous book Genio del cristinaesimo presented in this way the meeting between two Capuchin friars with a country family who had given them hospitality:

“Who among us has not seen at least a couple of these venerable men traveling the countryside, usually towards the feast of All Souls, on the approach of winter, at the time of the questing for grapes? They were asking for hospitality in the old manors located along their way. As night fell, the two pilgrims arrived at the house of the solitary manor, climbed onto an ancient balcony, placed their long sticks and sacks behind the door, knocked loudly on the portico and asked for hospitality. If the master rejected these guests of the Lord, they would bow deeply and without proffering a word, taking up their sacks and walking sticks, shake the dust off their sandals and set off into the dark of night to look for the worker’s hut. Welcomed there, after allowing them to wash themselves, as in the times of Jacob and Homer, they were made to sit around the welcoming fireplace.

Like in ancient times, to make themselves favourable to the owners of the house and also because like Jesus Christ they loved children, they began by caressing their little children, giving them relics and images. The father and mother with a smile of tenderness looked at those innocent scenes, at that interesting contrast between the precious youth of their children and the white-haired old age of the guests. The family sat at table near a large hearth. The meal was cordial and their manners affectionate. Those good fathers entertained the family with pleasant discussions, recounting some very moving accounts, as of those who had learned remarkable things in their distant missions to the savages of America and the peoples of Tartary. The long beards of these fathers, their clothing that accorded with the customs of the ancient East, the manner in which they had asked for hospitality, brought to mind those times when Thales, Anacharsis and their like travelled similarly through Asia and Greece.

After supper one of the fathers was asked to pray in common; then the two religious went to their assigned room, wishing the guests every blessing. The next day the old travellers were sought out, but they had vanished, like those holy apparitions that sometimes visit the good man in his own living room”.[35]

Two other Frenchmen, notable orators of the last century, defended the validity of the presence of the Capuchins in modern society. The Dominican P. Lacordaire, at the pulpit of Notre-Dame in Paris in 1841 supported the restoration of the Capuchin friars as representatives of the most authentic and popular Franciscanism:

«Well, gentlemen, we come today to ask you to re-establish the Order of the multitude, of popularity and of poverty… I am convinced that the re-establishment of the religious Orders and especially those of Saint Francis will be such an act which will favour civilization against decay and barbarism. So call back to this metropolis of France the Order which is multitude, the Order which is celebrated. And in this city where poverty is so great, call up the Order of Poverty… You have, I very much wish, the truth in your books, in your academies, in the spirit of your decorated and gifted professors; but below? Who will bring the truth lower? Who will bring it down to the people, children of God like you, but who do not have the convenience of seeing it as they see the sun, which reaches them in the morning? Who will radiate the light of intelligence to the poor souls of the countryside, so inclined to bend over the earth, like their bodies, and keep them erect in front of the august presence of the true, the beautiful, the holy, of what enraptures the man and gives him the courage to live? Who will go to see my brother, the people, out of love for Him, with a disinterest that is perceived, for the sole pleasure of dealing with him about the truth, and of speaking simply about God between the sweat of the day and that of the morrow? Who will bring him not a dead book, but the priceless thing, a living faith, the word with a soul, God being heard in the stress of a phrase, faith, the soul and God, all together telling him: – Here I am, a man like you; I studied, I read, I meditated for you, since you couldn’t do it; can I bring you my learning? Don’t look for proof of it from afar; you see it in my life; love gives you his word which is the truth – Who will be able, who will dare to speak like this to the people, if not the apostle of the people, the Capuchin, with his cord and his bare feet?… The poor man is in the same need as you of the raptures of the word, his heart to be moved, in the recesses of his heart where truth sleeps, and where eloquence must surprise him and promptly awake him”.[36]

The other lawyer was L. Veuillot who thus characterized the Capuchin friar among the various religious Orders: “The Carthusian is in the choir, the Capuchin travels the countryside, assists a dying man, consoles a poor man, explains the catechism to a child… The Jesuit occupies the confessional or the chair. The Benedictine restores some old, faded code…”. And he contrasted those who considered the friars as useless to society, with these convincing words: “We do not accept that a Capuchin, who spends his days preaching, studying barefoot in a cell without heating, who spends part of his nights in choir, and the rest on a bed of straw, may seem a soft and idle fellow. This Capuchin, constantly engaged in preaching, meditation, study, prayer and the works of the sacred ministry; this priest who carries everywhere the words of peace, the sentiments of charity, the thoughts of eternal life; this religious who has detached himself from every joy and ambition of the world, and who also renounces his name; it is not true that this man, despite his habit, his beard, his bare feet, does less honour to the human species than an opera dancer, a songwriter, a poet, a writer and any other species of literary and political figures”.[37]

Also in Italy two most Italian of authors, also from the last century, who lived through the difficult moments of a painful social and political maturation that resulted in the unity of the nation and prepared popular democracy, V. Gioberti and A. Manzoni, painted in different proportions, but with equal admiration, the characteristics of the Capuchin friars.

V. Gioberti, in a page of his Gesuita moderno, explains the reasons for his sympathy for these popular friars, so spiritually noble, evangelical, penitential:

“Although a man of the 19th century, I confess that I love the Capuchins; and if their pious institute, due to the changed reason of the times, does not today bring to Christian society all those services, with which it was generous in the past, I believe that by conforming to the times, without abandoning its own character, it could still collect the ancient blessings. The reason, which in my opinion makes it capable of enduring so long, much more than other religious Orders, is precisely that which endears it to many and which, if I am not mistaken, makes up its essence. The Capuchin is the friar of the people. And as long as there is a people, like that of our villas, forced to sweat among clods of the earth and compelled to live in the fields, a religious brotherhood that is especially dedicated to rousing those souls and sweetening their sweat, emulating the harshness by their example, and ennobling baseness with religion can always bear great moral and civic fruit.

The Capuchin is the type of poor, hard-working and common man, raised up and purified by the Gospel. Humility and dignity, simplicity and greatness are coupled in his person, by virtue of that idea, which reconciles the extremes, forming a Christian harmony.

The Capuchin is also poetic in appearance, because the habit, the carriage, the manners ideally represent the genius of the people, which is very poetic; and the Capuchin Order is the democracy of the cloister… I am well aware that the beard and habit of the Capuchin are also popular in painting, and have something ancient and primitive about them, reminiscent of the Orient and patriarchal times. Perhaps such poetry derives in part from a higher origin and reverberates from the remembrance of the first founder, to whose ancient and crude simplicity Baschi aimed in his reform. And truly in the Capuchin there continues to survive and be revitalised that old image of Francis of Assisi, so beautiful, so poetic, so Italian”.[38]

However, it was A. Manzoni, the greatest novelist of Italian literature, who offered the most penetrating and suggestive, the most historical and ideal portrait of the Capuchin friars. His famous page deserves to be remembered here before scrolling through these volumes of documentary anthology:

“But such was the condition of the Capuchins, that nothing seemed too low or too high for them. Serving the lowly and being served by the powerful, entering palaces and hovels, with the same demeanour of humility and confidence, being sometimes, in the same house, a subject of joking and a character without whom nothing is decided, he begged alms everywhere and disbursing them to all who ask for it at the friary, a Capuchin was accustomed to everything. Going down the street, he might equally encounter a prince who reverently kissed the tip of his cord, or a band of bad boys who, pretending to be at each other’s throats, smear his beard with mud.

The word “friar” was, in those times, uttered with the greatest respect and with the most bitter contempt: and the Capuchins, perhaps more than any other Order, were the object of two opposite sentiments, and experienced the corresponding extremes of treatment; because, possessing nothing, wearing a habit ever at variance with the fashion, making a more open profession of humility, they exposed themselves more closely to the veneration and disdain that such things can attract from different temperaments, and from people’s different ways of thinking” .[39]

6) Paul VI’s prophetic meditation on the Capuchin charism

To these various judgements, as a particularly moving synthesis of trust, it is suggests itself to add some reflections of Paul VI who, of the 43 popes in Capuchin history up to today, was perhaps the one who most deeply and sincerely intuited, interpreted, valued and reaffirmed the validity and relevance of the Capuchin form of life.

In various ways and on various occasions he has openly and strongly expressed his thoughts on this matter. He even launched, so to speak, to the Order the idea and perspective of renewed historical research, of a clearer definition and explanation of the “characteristic of Capuchin life” and of a deeper and broader examination of the “particular tradition” distinctive to the Order itself. “All of this – he said in 1974 – requires that you diligently turn your soul to the origins, to the beginnings of your family”, with the intention of “returning to the roots, to one’s initial and inspiring essence”.[40]

To journey back in time is not easy. The only thing left to be seen of the large leafy, branching, gnarly tree is the massive end of the roots. These roots delve deep, penetrating into the terrain of history. They cannot be grasped at a single glance, or at first sight. Nor can they be sifted through with a cliché of prefabricated experience. We need to observe, study, dig with patience and trust, and it takes time and effort and passion, like someone looking for a hidden treasure. But these are not archaeological excavations.

Perhaps it is the fault of the first chroniclers if the first Capuchins today seem a bit like tortuous roots, unattractive because they are not very human, perhaps, emaciated saints, rough, inflexible, hard as wrought iron, consumed by the ardour of penance and secret contemplation, living apart and far from other habitations, how far they seem from the innocent weaknesses of our nature. They were men of multifaceted character. The narration of the extraordinary and miraculous side has perhaps not been a good service to the history. The mist that descends between us and a now distant past makes us glimpse these first Capuchins like shadows that flee away and vanish. It can be that the more you frequent extraordinary people, the less and less extraordinary they end up appearing. Therefore, we prefer to demystify them, secularize them. We end up criticizing and rejecting the past as an insubstantial shadow dancing in the fog of a utopia and an alienation. While every day the Capuchin life should reveal itself as a new and original reality, approachable in a loving process of continuous and active contemplation.

In this the two realities merge with “clear intelligence” – says Paul VI – “into a single vision: the historical and spiritual reality of the sources of a religious institute and the practical and apostolic reality of current needs; the past and the present; tradition and experience; fidelity to the original and inspiring constitutions and adherence to the needs and duties of our time… Your life can therefore be ancient and modern”.[41]

Modernity lies in fidelity. The Capuchins are not “individuals who seem to have come from who knows which path of the Middle Ages”; their testimony is not “incommunicable”; there is not “an abyss between the modern world and the humble habit of the friar. Instead, it is precisely this distance that makes them close…”.[42] It is a thought that dominated the pope’s mind. He removes all doubts: “Your tradition walks the difficult path, the narrow path of the Gospel, and reaches the present day to the astonishment of the world, which does not know how to justify the gross anachronism… A doubt may arise: Meh! Are we relics of a history that has now passed, or do we still have a function, just as we are?… Yes, yes, brothers, you are modern! You are up-to-date!”.[43]

Paul VI grasped the difficulty and narrowness of this Franciscan way in the incandescent experience of Saint Francis and his charism and in the folds of the history of the Capuchin origins which are characterized as a spirit of contemplative prayer, “serene and wise austerity” in penance and poverty, popular preaching and apostolate, complete fidelity to the Apostolic See and genuine experience of evangelical fraternity in radical conformity to primitive Franciscanism in its “humbler, more arduous and more original expressions”.[44]

These thoughts were the conclusion of a long-meditated reflection, with the weight and inner strength with which Pope Montini knew how to meditate. And his conviction over the years had become stronger and stronger; yet it had already been like this at the beginning of his responsibilities as pastor when, as archbishop of the vast diocese of Milan, he came on a pastoral visit to the city of Lecco and wanted to visit the church and the Capuchin friary, outside the scheme of a canonical act, but with the courtesy and amiability of a father who intended to give authoritative recognition to the work and effective presence of the friars in that social sphere of the city and in the city’s religious life.

It was then that an impromptu speech blossomed on his lips.[45] The assembly was gathered in the Capuchin church as in a popular chapter, of which he assumed the presidency with the classic Franciscan greeting: “Pace e bene” for those who lived there and for the “good religious, good friars”, which will become the specific notation with which it will always qualify the Capuchins.

But the brief discourse broadened and focused on the value of the presence of the Capuchin friars in the contemporary world. In the geographical context of the Promessi Sposi, with its Capuchin influences on seventeenth-century Lombard, Archbishop Montini could not fail to recall their liberal and romantic nineteenth-century Milanese author of the nineteenth century as witness, confirming his own experience and conviction that had matured in the Roman curia and in the Ambrosian pastoral action.

The identification with Father Cristoforo immediately assumed a permanent testimony: “To see a Capuchin friar, with humble and solicitous steps, who goes about doing good works, and to see in front of you the first Capuchin you meet and to ask: – Will this will be brother Cristoforo? -, it’s the same thing”.

Rather than in an invented present or in a future more hypothesised than prophetic, the Capuchin of today is reflected by the combination of the past that arises renewed and well-seasoned by a plurality of activities, as well as by the characters that Mansoni has inserted in his romantic novel who remain striking in every era and every circumstance. As a great master of social psychology, he summarizes the typical figure of the Capuchin in a picture with characteristic lines. It is more expressive and more pliable than the constitutions themselves and other legislative norms of the Order, because it is created and desired by the people and all its classes as a religious component of society. But the personal religious testimony of Father Cristoforo, whose historical reality is still being discussed with a positive prevalence, involves the entire Capuchin Order as a micro-reproduction of it.

The Archbishop of Milan posed with foresight this question for discussion even before the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council made it the subject of revision and new awareness for all religious Orders; but for him the solution of the Capuchins seemed so precise and evident that Montini proposed it to the faithful as a solution for themselves in living their vocational commitment in the modern world, in correspondence with that of the religious in question: “I think that the Franciscan affirmation in a population like you, that is, belonging to a city that has become very modern and that manifests in itself the phenomena of all the civil, political, industrial, technical and social transformations of the modern world, this witness has an even greater value than it did three hundred years ago”.

This overturns the reasons or justifications put forward by those who consider it necessary to abandon the external form of life of the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, also active in the first half of the twentieth century, for a reinvention of the Capuchin, who is no longer an “object of contrasts”, but feels absorbed by society as a hidden ferment, a secret force, a religious fifth column. Instead, the contemporaneity of the centuries-old figure of the Capuchin is based on opposition, on overt contestation, on the “shock force” of him. “Why? – asked the archbishop -. It is because the world is more distant from this witness; the comparison between what the world is and what this voice, this example brings us, seems to be incommunicable, it seems that there is an abyss between the modern world and the humble habit of the Franciscan friar”. The choice between contrast and conformism, mimicry, occultism is here and complete: “Instead, it is precisely this distance that makes these good friars closer…”.

He did not impose this option with authority but proposed it as a requirement of the current historical moment, as a “sign of the times” proper and specific to the Capuchins. He also perspicaciously understood the secret, which was discovered, like a flash of lightning, by the young Francis himself during the liturgy of the Word in the Eucharistic celebration of April 1208, in the chapel or church of S. Maria degli Angeli or Porziuncola, located on a farm of the abbey of S. Pietro in Assisi, in the green plain of the Spoleto valley: “It is precisely from this world that there is so much need for the Gospel, that there is so much need for spiritual consolation, that there is so much need of an authentic, almost literal witness of knowing that the Gospel has presented itself to us in the person of Jesus Christ, in poverty, humility, service of the poor, love of neighbour, gentleness, sacrifice”.

It seems that in this conversation one can see again Cardinal Ugolino who participated in the first general chapters that Saint Francis gathered at S. Maria degli Angeli. Montini did not speak as an ecclesiastical visitor, but as a pilgrim apostle, who enters the house of his “good” Capuchin friars, wishes them “pace e bene” and rejoices in the homely serenity of this popular and urban family. His speech, his though so precise, flowed from a satisfied, serene, joyful, pleased heart; but in his soul it became urgent that so much evangelical and pastoral good should not lessen, which would be a serious misfortune, in a society already impoverished, indeed plundered and stripped of so many spiritual desires: “All these evangelical virtues, dear religious, dear Capuchins of Castello,[46] do not let them extinguish in this blessed land, but really try to make them shine and that these faithful who surround you and that the whole city of Lecco and that the whole Ambrosian diocese, from here can draw the joy of a living and authentic evangelical witness, may they also see in you the goodness, the humble heroism of Fra Cristoforo, may they still feel that the Gospel over the centuries has not worn out, has not been altered, but has become even more capable of spreading for the consolation and salvation of human hearts”.

Isn’t such a warm and pressing exhortation perhaps a reprise of the message that Jesus Christ entrusted to the apostles, which Providence renewed in Saint Francis, which the Church recognised in the Capuchin friars minor with the bull Religionis Zelus of July 3, 1528, and that Paul VI, already as archbishop of Milan, recognized as their specific contemporary “sign of the times”? The solicitude of the father and pastor took care to support the evangelical example with the understanding, benevolence, trust and above all the collaboration of all the people in a communion of ecclesial reciprocity: “And so you, dear faithful, be truly faithful! Surround yourself with sympathy, docility, the ability to understand these strange phenomena that represent you, these individuals, who seem to have come from who knows which path of the Middle Ages and who are instead of our time”.

With a precise intuition of the sources of the Franciscan spirituality of the Capuchin friars minor, he traced their “strangeness” to the “foolishness” and the “scandal” of the passion and the cross of Jesus Christ, of which Saint Francis had been a teacher, imitator and ” sign” externalised even in the stigmatized body. To strengthen his favoured sons in this witness and in this commitment to reverse modernity, the pastor of the people had recourse to their solidarity according to the charismatic axiom “vox populi vox Dei”: «Know how to understand, know how to read in their sacrifice, know how to grasp the message of Franciscan goodness that they still bring you. Know how to become devotees of this Via Crucis which they spread on the walls of our churches. Know how to understand in their example and in their ministry the always good, always prodigious, always mysterious presence of Christ our Saviour”.

The dense and concise conversation of the pastor with the Capuchins and with the people did not end with a rhetorical or pietistic ending, but with an appeal and a commitment from all the people who live in the local sphere and in the atmosphere of the Capuchin presence, to gather and to spread its message with the power of a transmitter, almost as if the local church were to become a secular Franciscan order but not institutional and closed like a spiritual ghetto, but Christianity spreading out as a social ferment: “Here, I recommend that you know how to read the evangelical witness which it is given and I also recommend that you take it to your homes, that you take it to your establishments, that you take it to your schools, that you take it throughout the city. Because if St. Francis is still with us, Christ also will be; and with Christ we have our hope and salvation”.


These historical notes and general reflections on spirituality, iconography, popularity in some literary testimonies of the last century and on the meaning of an authentic renewal-updating according to some persuasions of Paul VI, perhaps escape most. The speed of modern religious and cultural changes probably makes us forget many pages of the past, while ecological and mental pollution lets so much water pass under the bridge with indifference without reflecting that this water, even in a polluted situation, always has an initial purity, it has its own crystalline source, perhaps hidden in the depths of a rock or in the gorges of a high mountain covered in perennial snow. We are all searching, if not to say, hunting for sources. We want to find fresh, crystal-clear spring water.

The history of the Capuchin Order is perhaps one of the best documented. There are many documents and writings, especially from the second half of the sixteenth century. But they are hidden in public and private archives, scattered in the various libraries. They are not read either because they are inaccessible or because they are unknown. How do we make all of this secret spring gush forth and be made available?

To this end what is necessary is research, a collection method, a coordination system, but also discernment. The result is a division of themes and sectors which become like a catalogue of an archive, of a library, in which the whole life of an entity is hidden, recorded and encrypted which is still alive after more than four and a half centuries.

The method requires a chronological context which must therefore be justified as one which encompasses all the generational dynamism of Capuchin life, from its gestation to its birth and its first uncertain steps up to its stabilisation, expansion and definitive organization.

The research involves the identification of the places where the documents with contemporary testimonies are kept. The material may be already known or remain unknown, already published or unpublished or partially published.

The coordination system highlights the value of unity, through which a new vision of the history of the Order can be born, or rather, the ancient more genuinely seen, just as it really was, or as seen by others both from within the Order and from the outside, from above and below, from every visual angle.

The choice of documents and testimonies also means a distinction between more extensive writings, volumes, books, treatises, and writings more related to the immediate impression, to the utility or need of the moment, such as letters, official texts, notes, lists. Writings born to be read several times and others to be read only when necessary, private writings and public writings, some for a few, others for everyone.

Such a collection is not easy then, above all due to the need to leave aside very many of the many documents and testimonies. Purporting to compose an exhaustive anthology of a century of history, the first Capuchin century, in its tormented and differentiated evolution, may seem an irresponsible and superficial undertaking, the overall picture is so complex. But we believe that in the end the documents and testimonies will speak for themselves. Discernment is made possible by a correct questioning of them. We need to make them talk and therefore we need to question them in the right way and remove that apparent exterior opacity that makes them like the wreckage of a submerged civilization, fragments of a past that no longer exists. But one must also overcome laziness and undergo the effort of breaking the shell to taste the hidden marrow.

From a substantial philological adherence with slight textual modernizations, the various documents and testimonies make us aware of the regional varieties of the Marches, Rome, Tuscany, Umbria, Lombardy-Venetia, Romagna, Naples, Calabria, Sicily, etc.: a consummate conversation with an Italy of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries in which the Capuchin friars organized themselves into a dynamic Order in the service of the Church and of society.

If in verifying the saints and their sanctity a disinterested historical, indeed ruthlessly historical, examination is necessary, the same goes for the understanding of a charism and its components: the gestures, the deeds, the words, the works, the concrete options, the apostolic activities, all of this becomes a sign, almost a sacrament of a charism and a mission. And then we are able to see the Saint Francis lived and thought by the Capuchins; how they thought and lived the spiritual life, prayer, social life, daily life. We also see the person of the friar in his unmistakable existential, exterior iconography, but also in his interior connotations; and then the environment, where this figure finds its most harmonious coherence: internal and private environment: hermitages, woods, chapels, in solitude, churches, huts, caves, low cottages, small cells, that is, an ambient widely diffused to preserve the life of the spirit and the concerns of the apostolate; and then the external, public, more frequented environment: the countryside or mountain towns, villages, cities, churches for preaching, the streets and, more in accord to their spirit, the poor, the unimportant, the humble, where there is suffering and tiring work, where faith is lacking, where there is the Church to be created.

One cannot claim to be able to sort everything out. Right from the start we are convinced, with the utmost certainty, that other testimonies and other documents, perhaps even more important, are yet to be discovered. This is just an effort, an attempt supported by love. And, of course, what emerges in the end is the cultural humus from which this flowering of Franciscanism into its Capuchin expression was born and developed. There are “ancient fathers” who transmitted ways of reading and interpreting Saint Francis and the Franciscan life, and this emerges continuously in the writings and in all forms of Capuchin life of the sixteenth century. There is a whole “corpus” of Franciscan sources, of spiritual literature, especially Bonaventurian and of the “modern devotion”, there is a sinking of the teeth into the literature of the Spirituals of the 13th and 14th centuries; there is a theological and philosophical formation, initially mainly Scotist, on a juridical and disciplinary background that displays all the ardour of the spirituality of the Council of Trent, of Saint Charles Borromeo and of the Counter-Reformation missionary spirit.

More than an opposition to our modern way of living and judging, we feel in this the need for a reconciliation with the sources, ideals and primitive thoughts. Ignoring one’s Middle Ages for every Western thought is ignoring oneself. So to ignore one’s history is to distort one’s life. Today’s ecclesial development, if on the one hand it seems to have set aside a specific, distinct and divided logic of spirituality, on the other hand has encouraged us not to let this considerable mass of historical, literary, spiritual, legislative and official documentation fall into the oblivion of the past.

It is from this perspective that we have approached the search and choice of documents and testimonies according to some general criteria and methods of presentation that we will now briefly explain.

1) Fundamental criteria for choosing and presenting documents

One of the criteria of the choice was that of not neglecting any typology and characteristic of written documentation that can be found in the arc of the first Capuchin century. Therefore, documents of all kinds, a whisper, an echo.

To this is added a second criterion, that of the variety of geographical extraction, favouring representative testimonies of different Italian provinces, so as to discover in the different accents and tonalities, the unity that blends them into one voice.

The thematic distinction, “by subjects”, has helped to define this choice of historical and literary testimonies. With these criteria, the theme can recur in the different types of documents with multiple nuances and could seem like a repetition if it weren’t an enrichment of interpretation. In any case, a synthesis is always possible with the help of the analytical-systematic index placed at the end of the whole work.

Some passages, it will be noted, have a certain, indeed sometimes notable breadth; others, however, are shorter and more restricted. Some are referred to partially, others in full, and are texts like small books set in the mosaic, due to their specific exemplary importance in the logic of documentation; thus, for example, some writings of Giovanni da Fano or the ceremonial of Bartolomeo Vecchi or various texts of spirituality or sermons.

The appearance of the texts is reported exactly and always in the vernacular form. And to respect its peculiarity, the criterion was chosen to always add to the possible translation into Italian, as simple and respectful as possible (Italian is the fundamental reading text in all the volumes of the work), the corresponding passage in its own original language, usually Latin, but also, albeit to a much lesser extent, in French, Spanish, Catalan, German, Dutch and English.

Many texts are published for the first time. Various unknown authors thus emerge from anonymity and offer their significant testimony to illustrate the history and life of the Capuchins. However, some still prefer to remain anonymous, even when offering their own reflections.

Historical or lexical annotations have been added to the selected passages with references to other documents which should contribute to making the whole work more unified. Perhaps the multiplicity of notes will appear to some readers an undue intrusion, half naive and presumptuous, when not downright annoying, like an extraneous noise that disturbs the calm listening to the text. Well, simply bypass them. The typographical layout has been prepared in such a way as to distinguish the basic reading text in Italian with a larger body font, while the other texts have been added in a smaller body font for the originals not in Italian, and the footnotes placed in two columns, and serves only for a prompt verification of textual and historical accuracy of the source and as a verification to the fidelity of the Italian version for the more demanding.

The general introductions to the various blocks of texts are often very brief monographic studies on the specific topic. However, generally, they are not mandatory reading, or can be read at the end because they represent the historical and logical coordination of a multitoned and homogeneous map of the documents. The small presentations of the individual documents, even if they sometimes required a broader and more detailed discourse, have the purpose not of repeating information already reported in the general introduction, but of suggesting to the reader, even the most inexperienced, the historical environment and the suitable climate, as well as the background context of the text for its exact understanding.

Repetition of information in the notes on persons and facts have generally been preserved for a functional reason: referring to the other volumes would have been a complex undertaking and would have created difficulties and annoyance for normal readers.

Once the fundamental criteria for choosing and presenting the documents and testimonies have been specified, much remains to be said to justify the chronology adopted and the specific classification of the documents in the general design of the work.

2) Justification of the chronological scope

One can immediately perceive the intention of a systematic collection of the various types of documents available during the period of foundation and expansion of the Capuchin Order. The title of the famous work by Gratien de Paris regarding the Capuchins, could very well apply to the resulting historical description, namely: Histoire de la fondation et de l’évolution de l’Ordre des Frères Mineurs Capucins au XVIe siècle. In reality, this anthology follows imperceptibly, but profoundly, all the degrees of development and expansion of the Capuchin reform. It is also possible to understand the original reasons which led to a variety of spiritual orientations and apostolic choices and gratuitous provision of ecclesial and social service.

A chronological-geographical distinction immediately imposes itself:

1) There is an Italian period, which practically corresponds to the first fifty years of the Capuchin reform (from 1525 to 1575). It is the contribution and founding strength of the experience of the Franciscan reform which began as a vital option in various Italian regions, especially in Calabria, the Marches, Veneto and more or less in other regions, but merged, by a fortunate and providential historical causality, in the initiative occurring in the Marche and then remained enclosed within the borders of the peninsula due to the sanction of the bull of Paul III, Dudum siguidem, of January 5, 1537, then freed by Gregory XIII on May 6, 1574.[47] This period remains an indispensable point of reference for a rediscovery of the soul and the charism of the reform. It is the Capuchin life that is born, grows among many contradictions, fought by some, esteemed and loved by others and then became adult and well structured.

2) Later, the European period was added, of exceptional vitality, starting from 1574/75, when the first Capuchin friars crossed the borders of Italy and came to Paris. With the Constitutions of 1552 – according to some historians – the heroic and charismatic period of the Order ended. The Capuchins were officially approved by the Council of Trent in 1563; the following year they had their own Cardinal Protector. As early as 1567 they could settle on the island of Crete. The friaries became larger, the discipline more rigid and regimented. The great geographical expansion at the European level took place. In France, already at the end of the 16th century, as many as 32 friaries had arisen. As in Italy, also elsewhere the Capuchin apostolate had Eucharistic, Marian, missionary and popular tones. The friars entered Belgium-Holland in 1586, moved to Switzerland in 1581, to northern Tyrol in 1593, to Spain as early as 1578 and founded five provinces with 91 friaries, which later became six provinces. Another expansionist movement took place towards the countries of central Europe, where the Capuchin friars were called and solicited because they were considered unparalleled in the fight against heresy. They came to Bavaria in 1600. From Belgium they came to Germany in the lower Rhine regions and in 1611 they founded the first novitiate in Cologne. St. Lawrence of Brindisi practically introduced the Capuchins into Austria and Bohemia in 1599.[48]

This great development led, at the end of the 16th century, to the foundation of 40 provinces with 15,000 Capuchin friars! A real army chosen and willing to do anything.

The problems of this impact with individual European nations could be expressed in particular questions such as the following: What does the synthesis, or more anthropologically, Capuchin inculturation produce? What homogeneous, identical, analogous elements occur? How does the eremitical-contemplative choice and the apostolic option remain or are they transformed? And, where there has been no previous Franciscan experience, how is this responsibility of renewed Franciscanism culturally and spiritually grafted?

In these two periods, the first complete, the Italian one, and the second one only initial, the European one, extends the chronological span of the first Capuchin century. Here our documentary collection is forced to stop. Too vast is the horizon that from the first decades of the seventeenth century widens on different fronts with different characteristics of Capuchin inculturation in the substantial unity of the spirit, but also in a certain uniformity of life choices.

The year 1525, which also stands out on an ancient seal of the general minister of the Order, wants to safeguard the importance of the intrepid and nonconformist gesture of Matteo da Bascio, even if the historical question of the Capuchin origins cannot be stylized only in the figure of the little friar of Montefeltro. More varied are the historical confluences of reformist experiences within the Italian Franciscanism of the sixteenth century; and here, probably, all the splendid spiritual richness of the Calabrian initiative should be recovered, without thereby changing anything of the traditional historiographical thesis. The documents will speak on this point, many of which are still unpublished. It is certainly significant that, for example, a humanist bishop of the early sixteenth century, Antonio Minturno Sebastiani (+ 1574), in a letter of 1549 presents the new Capuchin reform in this way: “In the Marche of Ancona and in Calavria was born a new Order of the Friars of St. Francis or, as they say, the old one has been renewed. They call themselves Hermits”, putting the initiative from the Marche region and the Calabrian one on the same level.[49]

However, we know that the most important date is not 1525, but 1528, with the approval of Clement VII. The final date, on the other hand, is more flexible. Formally it should be, to complete the first hundred years, 1625 or 1628; but the discourse, due to logical and historical necessity, tends here and there to slip a little out and dive into the great sea of the Annales by Zaccaria Boverio (Lyon 1632 and 1639).

We did not want to cross this “sea” which poses many problems of historical and documentary truthfulness which it is not possible to address here. We have observed it as we stopped on its bank. But the tools for verifying it have been somewhat indicated where the primitive Capuchin chronicles are concerned.[50]

Thus we have also used a text published in the 1640s by Father Valeriano Magni, as a synthetic and retrospective judgment on the spiritual and apostolic life of the Order after a century of history.[51] The same goes for certain testimonies on the plague of 1630, of Manzonian memory, because they collect a rich experience of service to the poor and the sick embodied in a characteristic form of life already experienced above all during the plague of San Carlo.[52]

In this way the chronological correctness adopted remains justified, also because it allows a precise overview of the whole horizon that appeared in the spiritual and apostolic development of the Order, up to its complete legislative institutionalization and social, religious, cultural and ecclesial organization.

3) Text transcription criteria

The basic criterion was a slight modernisation of the 16th and 17th century vernacular text and a general normalisation of the Latin text. This was done in an attempt to better respect the author’s linguistic profile and possible graphic and grammatical inaccuracies.

In particular, abbreviations have almost always been eliminated without resorting to graphic markings that would have disturbed the readability of the text.

Punctuation has been better measured, punctuated and interpreted, including the “a capo” [new paragraph], which often did not exist in the original document.

Capital letters have been reduced to a minimum.

The spelling has been slightly modernised, but without losing the original Latinising patina with which it is usually clothed (there is often a Latin antigraph preceding it), or the possible dialectal root.

The use of accents and apostrophes has been regularised.

More specifically, the final letters i, y, and ii have been reduced to i. The etymological h, even in the body of words, has been regularly suppressed. The et has been reduced to e or, if it precedes a vowel, to ed. The nexes -ti, -tti, -ct followed by a vowel have been rendered as -zi, -zzi, -cz, without reducing it to -zi, thus respecting the alternation of forms. The double ss or x followed by a vowel has remained as such, without being reduced to an s.

Square brackets have generally been used as diacritical marks to join words or syllables, or to indicate that a part of the text has been omitted, with three dots inside.

The Latin text has generally been respected in its graphic variations, unless otherwise indicated. Abbreviations have been eliminated and capital letters limited to the essential.

Punctuation has been better respected.

For other non-Italian or Latin texts, the original dictionaries have been retained, capitalisation has been limited and more precise and careful punctuation has been introduced.

From time to time, where necessary, other special notes have been included in the cross-references to the source of each document.

The big problem now remains: how to classify the documents and testimonies.


A collection of sources has already been done, but not with systematic criteria. And here it is necessary to acknowledge the enormous work of the Capuchin Historical Institute which has developed a very important bibliographic and documentary tool, with the Monumenta Historica Ordinis Minorum Capuccinorum (= MHOC) series, now in its 16th volume and with the series of volumes of Bibliographia Franciscana (BF) where also the topics concerning the Capuchin friars are systematically catalogued bibliographically.

If the BF reports titles of studies, texts, works, articles classified according to a precise subject, the volumes of MHOC allow you to read some important sources of the Order, such as the most important primitive chronicles, or the pastoral letters of the first vicars generals, or the trial ordered by Sixtus V in 1585, and therefore called “sistino” for the canonization of the first Capuchin saint Felice da Cantalice, or the Innocentian inquiry of 1650 with other testimonies which, however, exceed our chronological limit.

Other important but fragmentary documentation can be found in various articles in the international journal Collectanea Franciscana (CF), also edited by the aforementioned Historical Institute, where significant texts, even quite extensive ones, are often published; as well as in the Bibliotheca Seraphico-Capuccina series which collects monographic research on personalities and historical problems of the Order.[53]

Nonetheless, these are just a few stones of the whole documentary edifice of the history of the Capuchin friars, which is among the richest, even after the various religious suppressions and the hardships of the last wars.

Moreover, we must not forget that the Capuchins, from 1525/28, the year of the beginning, to 1569/70, the year of the Breve dichiaratione of the chronicler Mario Fabiani da Mercato Saraceno, did not give thought to writing their own historical memoirs and of collecting documentation. And it is precisely these fifty years of lived and never written history that are the most important in terms of sources and the least studied, during which the Capuchin charism exploded as the foundation and nourishment of the subsequent history of the Order.

If we add to this reason the fact that the first printed Capuchin work on the origins and first developments of the reform, in practice, on the first century of history, appeared only in 1632 with the already mentioned Annales of Boverio, therefore more than a century later, the difficulty it becomes more relevant. Also because the apologetic, panegyristic and edifying tone of Boverio, copied in part by the first Capuchin chroniclers, conditioned the subsequent historiography of the Order, perhaps not allowing a more historical vision of reality, according to modern criteria and sensibility, even if they had the merit of having been able to keep alive among the Capuchins, for another three centuries, the passionate memory of their heroic origins.[54] The same evaluation is applicable, with due proportions and nuances, to the Annales following Boverio until end of the last century.[55]

Another difficulty or gap is the study of documents extraneous to the Order and which concern the Capuchin origins, above all the notarial documents, the deeds of the various municipalities where the first communities of friars settled, relations with the authorities of the various local churches and details etc. This very interesting material, largely unexplored, could open new horizons, more lively and vibrant, more human and concrete and less conventional, on the first decades of the history of the Order, above all by bearing witness to the primitive forms and modalities of apostolate and life of piety of a movement that allows you to reach the soul of the Christian people, the humble classes, popular religious life and the reactions of the various social classes.

Finally, there is no study (with the exception of a few monographs) on the works of the first Capuchin writers, steeped in fresh, clear and simple spirituality. They are usually almost unknown testimonies, yet indispensable for discovering the hidden folds of the Capuchin charism.[56]

Even the Order’s Bullarium, composed according to an eighteenth-century documentary erudition system, while collecting pontifical documents with a precise systematic criterion and has therefore become an important documentary tool, leaves much to be desired in terms of completeness of texts and correctness of reading and textual transcription.

The first to confront with an exemplary critical sensibility and to classify more systematically the fundamental documents, especially primitive ones, of the Capuchin reform was the worthy archivist general Edoardo d’Alençon (+ 1928). He achieved this with some monographic studies still unsurpassed today and with historiographical reference point of the finest degree.[57] He immediately established a general principle of historical criticism and gave first place to testimonies from outside the Order and diplomatic and archival sources.[58]

He started from the main chroniclers of the Order, up to Boverio, and pointed out their value and limits, also dwelling on other minor chroniclers such as Girolamo da Montefiore, Giovannello da Terranova, Giuseppe da Colleamato and Francesco da Cannobio. He then listed a series of writings appeared in the 16th century dealing with the Capuchins: the first Dialogo by Giovanni da Fano of 1527 and the one the amended and remained in manuscript; the synthesis of the Jesuit Paolo Moriggia on the origin of the Capuchins, from 1569; the pages dedicated to the Capuchins in the Cronaca of Marco da Lisbon, from 1570, with the interpolated Italian translation published in Venice in 1591; the L’Informatione by Giuseppe Zarlino of 1574 which supports the thesis that Paolo Barbieri of Chioggia was the forerunner of the Capuchins; the notes of the Conventual Pietro Rodolfi da Tossignano in his “Storia serafica” of 1586 and those of the Observant Francesco Gonzaga in his luxurious and ponderous volume dealing with the origin of the seraphic religion, of 1587. And then a very rich first-hand archival documentation. He sifted through the general archive of the Order in all its surviving early documents and left many handwritten and critical notes on the historical and critical value of these documents. Furthermore, he discovered and published for the first time the originals of many papal documents, thus correcting the sometimes gross inaccuracies of Boverio and of the Bullarium. He also used letters and contemporary chronicles. Only a few documents, of the main ones, escaped his ruthless and punctual search. Among other things, he has the great merit of having found and published for the first time the original printed text of the Constitutions of 1536, which was believed lost. But it would take a separate study to point out the importance of his historiography which represented the first critical history, serene and severe, of the origins of the Capuchin reform.[59]

We have revisited these texts and documents of his, and possibly re-read them in the original, thus discovering new details and perfecting his transcription several times.

Another “classic” of Capuchin history was Father Cuthbert of Brighton, an English Capuchin (+ 1939), who elaborated a history of the first Capuchin century that is still unsurpassed today for its power of synthesis and intuition.[60] He added in the appendix a classification of the sources of the primitive history of the Capuchins, starting from a rather heavy critical judgment on Boverio: “As a historian he has absolutely no value”. Perhaps today he would have softened this radical expression. He then came to deal with the usual first four major chroniclers, and mentioned other minor ones, such as Giovannello da Terranova judged unsafe in the text that has survived, or Girolamo da Dinami, whose important chronicle (he writes) “is now lost”, (but fortunately we will publish it in the state in which it was found);[61] Celestino da Bergamo for the origin and development of the Capuchins in the early province of Brescia which also included Bergamo; the compiled chronicle of Ruffino da Siena, very suitable for a popular vulgarization” and for this reason he had it translated into English,[62] the Vite di alcuni cappuccini by Girolamo da Montefiore.

He then listed “other non-Capuchin writers” Zarlino, L. Wadding and his Annales, Tossignano, Gonzaga and Marco da Lisbon already mentioned. Finally, he signalled “other documents” official and private, such as the pontifical ones of the Bullarium, the letters of Vittoria Colonna, the Venetian chapters of the Observants edited by E. d’Alençon, various documents published in Analecta Ordinis (= AO), in Études franciscaines ( = EF), in Miscellanea Franciscana (= MF), in L’Italia franciscana (= IF) and in many history books of the various Capuchin provinces.[63]

Despite these rich indications, Fr. Cuthbert concluded with some disappointment: “It must be said that the critical study of Capuchin history is still in its infancy”, especially since “the study of the works of Capuchin writers… A suitably authentic history of the Capuchins cannot be written until the works of their greatest writers have been rescued from the oblivion in which they have long been abandoned. It is not possible to know a people until one knows its literature”. So he wrote in 1928.

Fr. Melchor de Pobladura (+ 1983) tried to fill this gap, who, giving new impetus to the industriousness of the Historical Institute, collected and organized an enormous amount of material above all of this “literature” and obtained from it a notable and voluminous Historia generalis printed in Rome in the years 1947-1951 in four volumes.[64] He thus classified the documents: first the pontifical documents, then the juridical ones of the Order, that is, the constitutions, ordinances and decisions of the general chapters; the first chroniclers, with a critical note on Boverio; the historical monographs of the various provinces which make available many documents. All this documentation was organized in a seven-year scheme of historical approach which, starting from the internal evolution and external expansion of the Order, focuses on legislation or particular law, on the constitution or structure of places, people and internal hierarchy, on the spiritual and intellectual life, and on apostolic activity, ending with the theme of the relationships of the friars with people outside the Order.

This systematic treatment, point of arrival and departure, summarized by Lázaro Iriarte in his handbook of Franciscan history,[65] if it has the merit of having collected and ordered an enormous bibliographic material, is rather insufficient as regards the first decades of the Capuchin reform, so fundamental to understand the successful expansion and evolution of the Order. Above all because an analytical research on the primitive sources is still lacking, above all in the various local and regional, public and private archives, in order to underline the influences, the resonances and the repercussions that the Order at its first appearance had on the civil and religious society of the 16th century and within the pre-Tridentine Church.

The very useful historical-bibliographical handbook Lexicon capuccinum, updated up to 1950, deserves a separate mention, a true encyclopaedia of Capuchin knowledge, even if it needs various clarifications, corrections, additions and updates. Here are to be found various entries that directly concern the Order’s sources.[66]

In the wake of the critical notes of E. d’Alençon and Cuthbert of Brighton regarding the historical validity of the primitive chronicles and with the editions of the latter prepared by Melchor de Pobladura, Theophil Graf (+ 1975) wanted to explore the full consequence of the application of the method of critical review to the chronicles. By highlighting their tendentiousness and their subjectivism, however, in some points he arrived at a rationalist extremism, unjustly debunking some “dogmas” of traditional Capuchin history, such as the historical truth of the chapter of Albacina, which provoked a strong reaction from Melchor de Pobladura who demolished this hypercritical study, blocking the important attempt initiated by the Swiss scholar, even if not yet mature, of a critical analysis of the sources. The presentation of the sources made in this study is very useful, divided into “Capuchin chronicles” and “other sources”, the latter also including the Annales of Wadding, the Bullarium, the Dialogo de la salute of 1527, some memoirs of Bernardino d’Asti, various letters of V. Colonnna, and other personalities such as P. Giustiniani, G. Muzio, Luciano da Brescia, Nicola da Tolentino etc. But it is not yet a reasoned and systematic classification, but only in function of its critical examination.[67]

Also the great historian of the Church Ludwig von Pastor (+ 1928), in the second part of the IV and in the V volume of his monumental Storia dei Papi, had offered a pithy history of the first century of the Capuchin reform, relying above all on the chronicle of Bernardino

by Colpetrazzo, considered the most important source, up to now, for the history of the origins of the Order. Although Pastor considered the most ancient stories about Matteo da Bascio legendary, he adhered to the most important reports of the chroniclers, but always sought verification, if possible, from the original documents of the Vatican Archive and in the chronicle of Giovannello da Terranova, “leaving aside the exasperations and embellishments by Boverio”.[68]

One who, during the years of the Second Vatican Council, made a stimulating contribution to the knowledge of the Capuchin charism in the context of the Franciscan Order, the Church and spirituality, was Optatus van Asseldonk of Veghel in his fundamental study La réforme des Frères minerus capucins dans l’Ordre franciscain et dans l’Eglise and in many of his other studies and research.[69]

He immediately established a methodological criterion of priority in the use of sources. He firstly discarded the Cronica of Mario Fabiani da Mercato Saraceno, L’Historia Capuccina of Mattia da Salò and the Annali of Boverio and his followers, as naïve, edifying, one-sided sources, “légendes sans valeur!” [legends without value]. In his opinion, the most objective and valid sources were: the opinions of Giovanni da Fano, both before and after the Capuchin “conversion”; the oldest official legislation compared with that of the other contemporary Franciscan groups; the judgments of the Church, both of the popes and of other ecclesiastical personalities; the Divota Historia by Bernardino da Colpetrazzo, as the most consistent with the truth; and finally the testimonies extraneous to the Order, especially of an Observant friar minor, Ivo Magistri and of Vittoria Colonna, Marchioness of Pescara.[70]

It is above all in these last years after the Second Vatican Council, starting from 1978, with the stimulus of the 450th anniversary of the founding bull of the Order, that fundamental and in a certain way new studies have appeared, both as a penetration into the primitive spirit of Capuchin reform, and as a re-proposition of traditional themes in a vital and up-to-date way, and as methodological suggestions and research prospects, and as an analysis of the more local environment and the characteristics of the different implantations, and finally as a history of primitive spiritual literature and its sources.

These studies have been collected in various journals of the Order, which have appeared for the occasion in special editions or single issues. The following are noteworthy:

Reformationis capuccinae recurrente anno 450° fasciculus memorialis, in AO 94 (1978) 301-432. The various themes concern the meaning of the Capuchin reform, its development in Italy, its Franciscan values, the contemplative element and the apostolic undertakings, the spirit of poverty, charism and authority and finally the presentation of two eminent figures: Bernardino d’Asti and San Felice da Cantalice. The celebratory tone did not prevent a new documentary contribution recognizable in the critical edition of the bull Religionis zelus and in the publication of the unpublished and hitherto unknown Orationi devote by Bernardino d’Asti.

La vita dei frati cappuccini ripensata nel 450° anniversario della loro riforma. Conferenze tenute al convegno nazionale (Roma 25-30 sett. 1978), Rome 1978. These are expositional essays on the spirit of service of the Order in the Church, on the apostolate as “redundantia di amore” [overflowing of love], on the figure of Saint Francis as it emerges from the statutes of Albacina, on the Franciscan Rule and the Capuchins, and on the Spirit of Jesus Christ in the constitutions.

Leaving aside other more particular journals,[71] one cannot fail to mention the notable contribution given by the Historical Institute in the special issue of CF 48 (1978) 241-449 with studies concerning Saint Francis in the constitutions of 1536, the evolution of primitive spiritual literature of the Order, the first chroniclers, the documentation of the General Archive of the Order and the Capuchin historiography.

Finally, we cannot overlook three important publishing initiatives in the province of the Marches, where the Capuchins arose: one linked to the circumstance of the first centenary of the death of Alessandro Manzoni in 1973 with the publication, edited by Giuseppe Santarelli, of Documenti cappuccini di interesse manzoniano relating to the plague of 1630, of fundamental importance not only for Manzoni’s representation of the Capuchins, but also for the history and spirituality of the Order.[72]

The second initiative concerns a conference of historical studies in Camerino on the origins of the Capuchin reform, held on 18-21 September 1978 with various very pertinent studies where, in addition to investigations into the historical-cultural environment, particular research is added on the origin of the reform starting from the ferment within the larger family of the Franciscan Observance, and to then enter into more vital topics of historiography and spirituality.[73]

The third and most important initiative is a voluminous history of the Capuchins of the Marches which has now reached the year 1585 with two volumes of historical narration and a third in two volumes which collects extremely precious and almost completely unpublished archival documentation ranging from 1517 to 1609.[74] Particularly in the first volume, which describes the first ten years of the reform and has a special interest for the whole Order, there is probably the most accurate research on the Capuchin origins, explained with a singular balance of historical interpretation with an acute and passionate re-evaluation of Ludovico Tenaglia da Fossombrone, considered the true initiator of the Capuchin friars. Perhaps the most significant historiographical aspect is found in the fact that the abundant first-hand documentation, collected over decades of research among the many local and provincial archives, above all the testimonies extraneous to the Order and the municipal reforms, compared with the first Capuchin chronicles, in particular with that of Bernardino da Colpetrazzo, is entirely in favour of the chronicles themselves. The consequence is strong: the first chronicles are not so false, so legendary as has often been repeated; and then also the Annali of Boverio, examined and compared with the sources still available, may not be as tendentious and polemical as they say.

The opportunity for these discussions emerged at the convention for Capuchin archivists organized by the Order’s Historical Institute to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 1980. As can be seen, there is growing interest.

But it would take too long to point out all the contributions made by the various Capuchin scholars to the knowledge of the sources. Thus the immense documentary work of Father Arturo M. of Carminano di Brenta both for the figure of Saint Lawrence of Brindisi and for the history of the Venetian province remains a fundamental point of reference.[75] If we then wanted to dwell a little on the research at the provincial level and on the monographs on friaries, we would have to continue for a long time. On the latter topic, however, another convention of Capuchin studies, held in Rome on December 28-30, 1986, organized by the Historical Institute, gave a sure direction.[76]

After this rapid historiographical excursus on some significant works which more or less systematically deal with Capuchin sources, it remains even more true that it is very difficult for a normal reader to have a clear and global idea of these documents, which nonetheless require to be re-read to arrive at a truer history.

However, on the basis of this historiography, by grouping and completing the various indications, we have tried to classify the documents and testimonies of the first century of history in a more systematic way. The result was this painting, which is also the construction project for the entire present work.


The work plan was initially modest, but the ideas and knowledge of the documentary material were also more limited. The work has grown, so to speak, in hand, and a document has called for another document, one testimony has made propaganda for another. These requests have been checked and the most significant ones have been collected. Each document will undoubtedly find its own justification.

The “field” of work has thus been transformed into a large “estate”, not always well cultivated, in which facts and events, personalities and testimonies, law and legislation, correspondence and reforms, saints and processes, preachers and sermons, piety and devotions, priests, bishops, cardinals and popes, nuns and friars, chronicles and diaries, art and poverty, meditations and spiritual affections, prose and poetry, everyday life and heroism, asceticism and mysticism, apologetics and polemics, all in a variety of dimensions and on a chronological scale from the early 16th century to the first two or three decades of the 17th century.

The single volume initially envisaged, a breviary format, has been expanded and broken up into several volumes which, more or less, corresponding to the individual parts of the work.

1) Part one

The first volume corresponds to the first part of the entire documentary anthology and aims to read the Capuchin life in the fruitful dialectical dynamism between legislation, charism and institution. This is why it was entitled: “Inspiration and institution”. The documents and testimonies have been divided into four sections according to the following scheme:

1. Papal documents (1528-1627)
2. Primitive Capuchin legislation (1529-1643)
3. First Capuchin commentaries on the Rule (beginning of the 16th century – 1614)
4. “Modus vivendi”, provincial customs, formularies, ceremonials (1536-1641)

Inspiration or charism precedes the verification of the institution, but it is only after the guarantee and confirmation of ecclesial authority that the charism flourishes. The gradualness of the spiritual journey of the first Capuchin “hermits” is linked to the external developments of the reform. But always a charismatic line, which emerges particularly in the period of origins, continues to guide the initiators and organizers or animators of the reform. There is therefore a primordial inspiration and there is a way of incarnating this inspiration, in which the contribution of the first companions or followers is often decisive. Much of the experience of the initiators and the first communities also flows into the text that literally translates inspiration. In fact, experience, the impact with daily life and with the different environments and circumstances are used to understand, describe and translate the primordial inspiration. As F. Ciardi writes, the passage from inspiration to its historical realization of foundation, and even more in the institution, can appear mortifying. It is like the drama of the Incarnation. God, by becoming man, “loses” his light, his glory, his splendour. In the same way, when the “ideal” of the founder takes on “flesh”, it seems to lose its exuberance, its transparency, its luminous vision. It seems to shrink, humiliate itself. Inspiration appears vaster, more creative than the work it creates.[77]

Thus, for example, Matteo da Bascio saw the soul, not the body of the reform; he gazed at its spirit, not its organization.

Its involuntary leader, he guaranteed his inspiration by obedience to the Church. All the other initiators did the same, who, despite being unrepeatable prototypes, each gave their own fundamental contribution, their own nuance, their own spiritual touch, their own gift, to configure the Capuchin identity for all time.

It must also be said that the Capuchin reform arises not so much as a response to the needs of the Church, but first as an impulse of the Spirit to recover and continue the Franciscan charism in its purity and radicality. Subsequently, in obedience and in the service of the Church, it becomes by intrinsic, connatural force, an adequate response to the needs of the Church, according to God’s providential plan.

Section I: Papal documents (1528-1627)

For these reasons, as well as for a special respect for the experience of Francis of Assisi himself re-presented by the Capuchin friars, the pontifical documents that unfold chronologically from the founding bull Religionis zelus of 3 July 1528 to the brief of Urban VIII Salvatoris et Domini of 27 June 1627, are together two points of arrival and departure: of the reform as inspiration and of the Order as an institution.

The curator of this first section, Isidoro Agudo, has chosen a total of twelve documents: four bulls and eight papal briefs, as milestones in the foundation and evolution of the Order in its first century. The texts are translated into Italian and are also reproduced in Latin, but amended from the originals, with appropriate annotations.

A general introduction explains the historical and legal significance of these papal interventions. It is not that they reveal to us, to tell the truth, many things about Capuchin life, which is presupposed and authoritatively supported by them. But there is finally a precise answer to the question posed ten years ago by the late Ilarino da Milano who wrote: “This series of pontifical or curial documents… perhaps deserves a more specific juridical examination, to clarify with which charismatic jurisprudence the Capuchins knew how to reconcile on the one hand the obedience which they always professed to the supreme authority of the Holy See, even when the provisions of the Roman curia were not favourable to them, indeed, heavily coercive, and on the other hand the freedom of spirit with which the reformist advanced the enterprise of the Franciscan Order”.[78]

Section II: Primitive Capuchin legislation (1529-1643)

After the pontifical documents, the primitive legislative texts is condensed into the 67 statutes of Albacina and in the 152 paragraphs of the constitutions of Rome-S. Euphemia of 1536 which document in the most original way the project or the inspiration of the Capuchin reform.

The ordinances or statutes of Albacina are compared with the Latin translation of Boverio, while the constitutions of 1536 are accompanied by a critical apparatus that highlights all the editorial variations of the successive five reformulations of the same constitutions, from 1552 to 1643, which thus become a special x-ray of the evolution of the Order in the first century of its history.

And to complete the legislative framework, the first two surviving texts of ordinations of the general chapters, dated 1549 and 1552, are finally reproduced in the original Latin and Italian, as an example of this type of primitive legislation.

The fact of the various revisions of the constitutions and of the frequent variation of particular legislation (expressed above all in the general and provincial legal systems), manifests the poverty and richness, at the same time, of written thought, as when an author is never satisfied with his work and tries to redo it, perfect it, polish it, adapt it, etc. But he does not renounce the text, unless he wants to renounce, by denying it, his own thought. In the same way, the constitutions of 1536 continue to remain substantially identical in the various editions. This makes us understand how the tradition is always wider than the text. And perhaps also for this reason the lived and concrete history and therefore the observance and the apostolate of the Order in its personal and community expressions, are more significant with respect to the institutional charism than the legislation itself.

The introductions to this section are elaborated by Francesco Saverio Toppi and are organized as follows: first a general introduction to the whole section, which deals with the sources of the primitive legislation, characterised by a great openness to the signs of the times and by a fruitful relationship between spirit and law. This general introduction is followed by a particular introduction to the ordinations of Albacina, which speaks of their qualifying notes: a poor and austere contemplative life, and other themes, especially manual work, fraternal life and works of charity.

A second introduction concerns the constitutions of 1536. The transition from Albacina to the first true constitutional text is narrated. Its Christocentric and seraphic spirituality is highlighted with some peculiar notes. Afterwards, almost as an appendix, the subsequent legislative development up to the constitutions of 1575 is presented. The historical-critical notes intend to collect the best of the most recent studies that have appeared on the subject, especially in the identification of the respective Franciscan, legislative and spiritual sources.[79]

Section III: First Capuchin commentaries on the Rule (beginning of the 16th century – 1614)

In practice, the constitutions of the Order are already an existential commentary on the Rule of Saint Francis as it should have been in daily life. Yet from the beginning the Capuchins loved to deepen their vital knowledge of the Rule and for this reason they wrote various commentaries, often born from sermons and conferences to the confreres, most of which remained manuscripts. The third section seeks to recover this richness of thought on a point which lies at the origin of the reform; therefore it reproposes, ideally linked to the constitutions, various commentaries on the Rule written by some first-century Capuchins.

These are eleven texts, more or less widespread, but very substantial: four date back to the early sixteenth century, another five were composed in the second half of the sixteenth century and two in the early seventeenth century. The material is often completely new to modern readers.

Two commentaries are anonymous, one of which is an important source of the amended Dialogo by Giovanni da Fano,[80] which however finds ample space in this collection, together with the Breve discorso, also by Giovanni da Fano, as it largely inspired the constitutional text of 1536 and has always been considered the first Capuchin commentary on the Rule. The Dichiaratione of Bernardino d’Asti on the clothing of the Capuchins has also been included, because it is an example of the method and spirit with which the first Capuchins interpreted the rule.

The other authors are later, but no less interesting for this. For the first time it will be possible to read curious pages by Giovanni M. da Tusa and Silvestro d’ Assisi, copied directly from the manuscripts and which reveal, above all in da Tusa, the early general ministers zeal of animating and the style of preaching on the Rule.

Only four texts are chosen from contemporary editions: two by Gregory of Naples, from the Enchiridion ecclesiasticum and form the one Rule; the others from the expositions of Girolamo da Polizzi (in Latin) and Santi Tesauro da Roma (in Italian). But a precise institutionalization of the reform has already developed, even if these comments are a logical consequence.

The selected pages mostly concern vital and significant topics for the “forma vivendi” of the Order, both for the reading and interpretation of the Franciscan sources, and for perennial values such as the spiritual observance of the Rule, the spirit of prayer and devotion, fraternal charity, work, preaching, missionary activity, etc.

Section IV: «Modus vivendi», provincial customs, formularies, ceremonials (1536-1641)

The last section of the first part is like a further logical corollary of the legislative material and collects numerous documents and testimonies of extreme importance for understanding the Capuchin tradition of religious formation, observance of the Rule, spiritual and apostolic life. The title: “‘Modus vivendi’, provincial customs, formularies, ceremonials”, already suggests the richness and variety of this documentation, which is further organized into six subsections:

1) Defense and apology of the Capuchin “modus vivendi”: here are gathered together some memorials addressed by ministers and general procurators to the supreme pontiffs and the Holy See to defend the influx of vocations to the Order, the external iconography of the Capuchin and the authority of the Minister General. Two rather long, analytical texts follow, an example of an apology for the Capuchin ideal of reform, due to Celestino Colleoni of Bergamo and an elusive Conventual friar of Savoy, Bonito Combasson: the first, in practice, becomes a kind of commentary on the constitutions of the Order; the second instead attributes the success of the Capuchin reform to four values, which he called, with reminiscence of the success of the Franciscan Observance, “four columns”.

2) Traditions and practices of the provinces and of the novitiate: this second subsection includes eight texts which suggestively describe the way of life of the Capuchins of the Marches and Lombardy-Venetia, with other particularities, including the edition of a long unpublished Capuchin ceremonial for the novitiate, written, so it seems, by Bartolomeo Vecchi from Bologna, master of novices for several years. These documents make the genuine method of formation (the hard and powerful early novitiate) of the Capuchins leap before the eyes, developed in the wake of the centuries-old Franciscan tradition from the experience of the first Capuchin century.

3) Ascetic and devotional customs in the early booklets of the Rule: this subsection, the fruit of the biblio-historical work of F. Elizondo, who has described this sector of Capuchin pocket editions in an exemplary manner, wants to emphasise how this mini-literature as a tool in the hand of all the brothers played a major role as a tool in ascetical and devotional formation. From these booklets, which usually escape attention, various texts have been chosen which concern the concrete ascetic and sacramental life open to the mystical gift with the exercise of affective prayer, of purity of heart according to the teaching of Enrico van Herp and “aspiration”. Other texts make us understand the Capuchin approach to the figure of Saint Francis and to the Rule. There are 17 texts in all, some of which are in Latin.

4) Capuchin life in the forms of obediences, recommendations and letters of affiliation: this documentation is another novelty in our collection. For the first time it was possible to systematically bring together all the obedience forms issued by the humble secretariats of the general and provincial curiae. It’s an amazing assortment. The whole of Capuchin life, from beginning to end, thus appears immersed in obedience. There are obediences relating to the period of formation, obediences for preaching, for travel and transfers, for appointments to offices, for expulsion from the Order; there are letters of recommendation for pilgrims, the poor, benefactors and forms relating to the organization of the provincial wool mill and construction. The collection ends with a sampling of letters of spiritual affiliation to the Order. Unfortunately, there are no examples of these formulas for the first thirty/forty years of Capuchin history. Or maybe they will be buried in some archive. In fact, the first evidence we have found dates back only to the 1550s. But in the second half of the 16th century multiplied until they reached, in the 17th century, an incredible variety of expressions and applications.

5) The first printed ceremonials and “modus vivendi”: these are some significant chapters extracted from the ceremonial of Zaccaria Boverio printed in 1626 and from a booklet by Francesco di Chambéry of 1634 which portrays the ordinary day of the Capuchin with spirit and unction with all its practices of prayer, penance, work and apostolate. They are texts translated from the original Latin, capable, we believe, of making us savour the atmosphere of an early Capuchin friary, of which they offer an extremely lucid picture in a heroic and characteristically articulated standard of living.

6) The first part of this work ends with some pages, also unpublished, by Valeriano Magni from Milan, which are like a retrospective critical and apologetic look at the values of Capuchin life which becomes, due to the holiness it expressed in the first century, objective criterion of truth of the Catholic Church, but also requires an update in some legislative expressions. The latter, perhaps, according to Valeriano Magni, would have prevented a more open and effective apostolate.

2) Second part

The second part of the work, corresponding to the second volume, has a special historiographical importance and could represent the key to understanding in the most objective way the foundation and evolution of the Capuchin friars and their daily life. For this reason it was entitled: “History and chronicle”, not because the other parts are not interested in history or chronicle, but because in this part the documents extraneous to the Order are more valued with particular regard to the testimonies of public authorities on the one hand, and on the other the epistolary correspondences and chronicles and biographical compilations of the first Capuchins, thus merging the two sides of the medal: what others have seen, believed and judged of the Capuchin reform, and what the Capuchins have thought, believed and judged of themselves and their Order.

Therefore, also in this second part, the documents and testimonies have been classified into four sections according to this framework:

1. Documents and testimonies extraneous to the Order (1526-1632)
2. Testimonies of public authorities (1526-1611)
3. Correspondence of the first Capuchins (1536-1628)
4. Early Capuchin Chronicles (c. 1565-1630)

Section I: Documents and testimonies extraneous to the Order (1526-1632)

This first section is of incalculable historical value. It depends, in part, on the reasons already underlined by K. Eßer for the problem of the Franciscan sources,[81] inasmuch as we are dealing, in general, with testimonies devoid of any polemical and apologetic element; and although there is no lack of controversy, this is carried on by people outside the Order, so that the sounds of the various bells can be compared and the historical fact of the Capuchin experience better understood.

The selected documents are 105, grouped in logical and chronological order, but could multiply with a more analytical and complete research. We, as always, would like to just get started, like sharpening the appetite.

The oldest document in this collection dates back to 1526 and is the famous letter of Blessed Paolo Giustiniani, founder of the reform of the Camaldolese of Monte Corona; the most recent is located in the year 1632 and comes from the pen of Cardinal Frederico Borromeo.

For an internal logic, all this material has been divided into various sectors and thus facilitate the synthesis of the various contents for the reader and the scholar:

1) A first group of texts includes thirteen Franciscan testimonies extraneous to the Order, particularly coming from the Observant Friars Minor who are obviously the first to react to the centrifugal movement of the Capuchins. Here we find leading personalities, such as Giovanni da Fano when he was not yet a Capuchin, Onorio Caiani general procurator of the Observants, Bonaventura de Centi, Cherubino Lusio, Francesco Montegiano, Ivo Magistri, Marco da Lisbona, the Conventual Pietro Ridolfi from Tossignano, the Venerable Francesco Gonzaga and Antonio Daza.

2) The second sector lingers on the relations of the Marquise of Pescara, Vittoria Colonna, with the Capuchins. For the first time her “Capuchin” epistolary is grouped together, that is, 27 letters received or sent spanning only seven years, from 1535 to 1542, but of fundamental importance. In some parts this epistolary abounds with polemical passion in favour of the new Franciscan reform and is involved in the exaltation and, then, in the tragedy of Bernardino Ochino, from whom, however, the marquise keeps her distance. And just as a complement to this dramatic episode in the history of the Capuchin friars, two significant and long letters have been added, one by Claudio Tolomei and the other by Gianmatteo Giberti.

3) A third block brings together 21 testimonies on the origins and first development of the Order, which find their fulcrum in the official approval of the reform by the Council of Trent in 1563. These are the testimonies of Paolo Giustiniani, of Cardinal Del Monte, Caterina Cybo, Eleonora Gonzaga, G. Francesco Bordini of the Oratory of San Filippo Neri, and some bishops such as Gaspare Viviani, A. Peruzzi and Nicolò Sfondrati, who would become Gregory XIV, and others. They allow us to guess and in part reveal the difficulties of the “hermitic” period of the reform and then its first successful expansion in Italy.

4) It will be noted that in this second part the correspondence has a significant frequency. In fact, a fourth subdivision also includes a collection of letters of Saint Charles Borromeo selected from his immense epistolary conserved in the Ambrosiana library in Milan.

Twelve letters are signed by the saint and another eleven received, in the space of about twenty years, from 1565 until the year of his death 1584. The great pastor who let the inspiration of the Council of Trent penetrate the life of the Church, had a strong liking for the Capuchin friars whom he supported in the foundations of various friaries, defended and used them as privileged instruments of apostolic and missionary avant-garde in Switzerland and in the Grisons.

5) A fifth documentary sector intends to enhance historiographically the literary genre of chronicles and diaries extraneous to the Order. 23 pieces have been chosen, some quite widespread, arranged chronologically from 1523/28 to 1625, taken from diaries, citizen chronicles and memoirs, whose authors are laymen, priests and religious, city notaries, scholars, chroniclers by passion, local historians , canons, Poor Clare nuns, a Carmelite, a cardinal protector of the Order. The result is one of the most evocative pictures of the first century of early Capuchin experience.

6) A sixth group of texts collects particular testimonies on the Capuchin preaching. There are only four texts, between the end of the sixteenth century and the first decades of the seventeenth century, on the preaching of Verucchino in Milan, of Giacinto da Casale in Brescia in 1615, of an anonymous Capuchin in Parma and of Alfonso Lupo and Mattia Bellintani in the judgment of Cardinal F. Borromeo. It might seem like a repetition of themes, since other documentary sections also speak of preaching and preachers; but elsewhere it is the chronological documentary typology that is of interest, here it is the specific subject matter.

7) The seventh and last sector unites those texts which are rather general information on the Capuchin reform, written in the form of notes or in a more reasoned way from 1542 to 1600. The authors are Bartolomeo Stella, the Neapolitan Pietro De Stefano, the humanist bishop Antonio Minturno Sebastiani, the Jesuit Paolo Morigia, David Romeo from Calabria, a Swiss priest, the Dominican bishop Feliciano Ninguarda, the Camaldolese don Luca Spagnolo, the bishop Pietro Matthieu, a canon of Milan and, why not?, an obscure and devoted local poet Umbrian, Capoleone Ghelfuzzi.

Section II: Testimonies of public authorities (1526-1611)

The second section brings together various examples of public authorities’ testimonies (“riformanze”) and has been distinguished, due to its importance, from the first section of which it really belongs. It is the first clash of the Capuchin friars with the socio-cultural reality of their time. The municipal councils offered places, alms, facilitation in the foundation of friaries in the cities and in the countryside. Reading the reasons for their favourable votes, one discovers the richness of impressions and emotions that the austerity and humility of the Capuchin friars produced on souls. They, men of responsibility and government, saw in those friars the materialization and expansion of that reform desired by all, but which seemed so difficult to make general and accepted.

This section, edited by C. Urbanelli, offers documents from 1526 to 1611. From them it appears how the spirituality and apostolic action of the new Franciscan family were received in the society of the time right from its first steps.

A first block of 83 documents investigates the theme of spirituality with 14 testimonies on the evangelical life of the first Capuchins, 7 on their life of prayer, 17 on poverty and austerity, 11 on popular benevolence and 14 on the request and acceptance of Capuchin fraternities in the municipal area.

A second block of 35 texts highlights the socio-religious apostolic action with 12 documents on the theme of evangelization, 5 on the increase of Eucharistic and Marian popular piety, 10 on the work of moral rehabilitation of society, such as the moderation of luxuries, working for peace in the city, against gambling and bad language, etc.; and 8 texts on charitable and welfare services, such as helping the poor, caring for abandoned children, assisting contagious patients, etc.

The chosen method of highlighting and grouping the various topics made me break up the texts, distributing them, in fact, fragmenting them, under the various topics and this criterion did not allow for a layout in strict chronological succession.

The characteristics of this documentation, which is more numerous in Central-Northern Italy and almost non-existent in the South due to the diversity of socio-poilitical traditions, require that the original Latin text extracted from the volumes of the testimonies of public authorities also be reported, in which any texts in Italian, such as letters of petition or recommendation, are also included, although these would be better placed in a later section.[82]

Section III: Correspondence of the first Capuchins (1536-1628)

The third section, again edited by C. Urbanelli, proceeds to make the same survey by analyzing the correspondence of the first Capuchins. In fact, the surviving letters of the Capuchins of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries constitute a privileged source for the history of the Order. They offer the possibility of knowing how the life program proper to the new reform was understood and practiced, through the direct testimonies of its first and second generation followers.

The material is organized thematically in two parts with the same method as in the previous section. Under the topic “life-spirituality” about forty letters from 1536 to 1598 are proposed which illustrate the life of the first Capuchin fraternities. Another 14 letters, from 1540 to 1615, address the theme of love and the practice of poverty; while another dozen, between 1536 and 1613, serve to highlight in the first Capuchins the fidelity, predilection and defense of their own spiritual tradition.

The theme of the apostolate is documented by 65 letters, written from 1539 to 1628, of great historical and spiritual significance. Of these, 16 concern the ministry of the word: 11 evangelization, two itinerant preaching, and the others the persistent request for Capuchin preachers; 22 letters underline the activity carried out to increase Christian life and another 27 letters intend to document some socio-religious interventions in favor of the poor, the marginalized, Jews, prisoners, plague victims, Christian slaves and to restore peace among citizens and moderate luxury.

Even these documents, all originally in Italian, do not follow a precise chronological sequence, but rather a logical order. The overall analysis reveals a vast and very interesting assortment of Capuchin correspondence from the first century.

Section IV: Early Capuchin Chronicles (c. 1565-1630)

The fourth section aims to give as complete or nearly as complete an idea as possible of the Order’s internal chronicles, which arose out of a pedagogical and formative need and of self-awareness of the Order itself at the moment in which it began its greatest numerical development and its European expansion. The chronicles were an exemplary point of reference, but without thereby wanting to condition historical truth. As one of the annalists of the Order would write two centuries later, the reader could not get bored in reading what the early fathers “practiced of humiliations, harshness, sufferings and other similar virtues, all proper to our religious and seraphic institute, with which only a fully formed Capuchin can appear in his true image”.[83]

The title “Early Capuchin Chronicles” includes both major and minor chronicles. For this reason, the material has been divided into two parts: the first, edited by Mariano D’Alatri, intends to grasp the “daily life of the Capuchins in the sixteenth century according to the early chronicles of the Order”, the major ones, so to speak, written by Mario Fabiani from Mercato Saraceno, Bernardino Croli from Colpetrazzo, Mattia Bellintani from Salò and Paolo Vitelleschi from Foligno, published in the first seven volumes of MHOC by Melchor de Pobladura. Over 400 texts have been extracted from these critical editions, organized according to a theme and with the method already used by Melchor de Pobladura himself in the volume “La bella e santa riforma dei frati minori cappuccini”, published in 1943 and in a second edition, revised and enlarged, in 1963.

The themes embrace all the meaning of the daily life of the Capuchin friar. You are introduced to significant characters, situations and problems, which have a message to convey. Of the four chroniclers, the good Colpetrazzo takes the lion’s share, who was a direct, attentive, honest witness, even if, while writing, he was undeniably nostalgic: but his nostalgia was for an ideal which – in his opinion – at a certain moment was realized in full, and that he tried to pass on to future generations of friars.

In the brief introduction to the texts, chroniclers and chronicles are characterized.

The second part of this section sinks its teeth into the vast material of minor chronicles and primitive biographical compilations. Here is one of the newest points of this documentary anthology. In fact, this material is rather dispersed in poorly conserved editions or is completely unpublished in archives and libraries. With the criterion of the broadest regional geographical representativeness, we have chosen various texts in a chronological arc that extends from 1536 to the first three or four decades of the seventeenth century.

We introduce them with the “painting” of the general chapter of 1536, an original memory, as it were, of Francesco da Cannobio who was secretary in that chapter assembly. Then we represent the chronicle of Giovanni Romeo from Terranova, as reported in the Historia sacra by the Cistercian Silvestro Maruli, published in Messina in 1613. The most sensational novelty is the discovery of a complete edition of Girolamo da Dinami’s chronicle, entitled “Capuchin reform”, considered lost up to now (as we have already said), and which dates back, as we read in the manuscript, unfortunately incomplete, to 1584.

Another novelty is the unpublished “Capuchin Chronicle” by Bonaventura Campagna from Reggio Calabria, from which several chapters are extracted. These last three chronicles have been presented to give a particular space to the region of Calabria and its provinces and will be able to offer valuable indications regarding the «vexata quaestio» of the priority of the Calabrian Capuchin movement over that of the Marches.

Another chronicle, from which we have chosen many pages, is that of Ruffino da Siena (+ 1626), which dates back to the last decades of the sixteenth century. Also new is the complete edition of the “Lives of the Capuchins” written by Girolamo da Montefiore in the 1580s and these are those small devout biographies that he read to the friars during visits when he was general.

And then a whole series of “vitae fratrum” is added which represent those, which we call, early biographical compilations, already present in the aforementioned chronicles, born from a will of the superiors general to preserve the historical memory of the virtuous examples of the friars of the past. To this end, some religious in the individual provinces of the Order were commissioned to collect all useful biographical material, all significant documents, also questioning the religious priests and older lay brothers to get them to give valuable information. This compilation material was intended for the official chronicler of the Order, who would use it to draft the definitive text of the Official Chronicles for their edition.

We have therefore chosen from various “vita fratrum” always with the criterion of regional representativeness and we have identified the following: the “Biographies” written by Bernardino Marchionni da Orciano (+ 1622) for the province of the Marches, already published by C. Urbanelli; the “Narrations” by Lattanzio Mazzancolli from Terni (t 1919) for the Umbrian province, already published in CF by Francesco da Vicenza; the “Notable things that occurred in the province of Capuchin friars of Abruzzo”, by Mauro da Castelli, written in 1611, the “attestations” on the Capuchins of Sicily, collected by Antonio di Trapani in 1612; the “chronicles of the Capuchin friars of the province of Genoa”, composed by Agostino of Genoa in 1610; the “Narrative of the foundation and beginning of the province of the Capuchin friars of Milan” and “Lives of some Capuchin friars”, written by Salvatore Rasari da Rivolta in the first decades of the seventeenth century; the collection of memoirs, entitled “Life and customs of some old fathers”, written by Cherubino da Lendinara (+ 1616) in 1614/15, and the “Exemplary lives” compiled by Amedeo and Dionisio da Verona towards the middle of the seventeenth century, for the province of Venice. And finally, we report the “Warnings or instructions on the collection of material for the Capuchin Chronicles”, a text attributed to Mattia da Salò, which explains the method of research and collection of this historical-biographical material which will then merge into the Annales of Boverio.

3) Third part

The third part of the work corresponds to the third volume and is dominated by the life of piety, by devout and spiritual literature, by ascetic and mystical doctrine, by literature relating to the various sectors of the apostolate and, finally, by the sworn depositions of the canonical processes which testify the sanctity of some Capuchin friars.

Therefore the third part was entitled: “Holiness and apostolate”. The documents and testimonies are organized into three sections according to the following scheme:

1. Ascetic-mystical spiritual literature (1535-1628)
2. Apostolate and evangelisation: sermons, forty hours, assistance to the sick, dying and sentenced to death, missions and missionaries (1528-1630)
3. Testimonies on Capuchin life from the canonization processes (1587-1626)

Section I: Ascetic-mystical spiritual literature (1535-1628)

This section is the richest in documentation and therefore, even in the selection of texts, which nonetheless wants to be representative of testimonies from the whole national territory from Northern to Southern Italy, embraces a considerable part of our anthology.

The texts chosen and published are often unique or very rare, others unknown and unpublished, others better known, but important for the fame of their author. They are all written in the vernacular of the sixteenth – early seventeenth century. The series of selected authors privileges writings from the first fifty years of the Capuchin reform, but also includes various authors from the last part of the 16th and early 17th centuries to exemplify a richness of Franciscan and Capuchin spirituality.

The authors in order of appearance are: Bernardino d’Asti, Francesco Tittelmans, Giovanni da Fano, Francesco da Jesi, Girolamo da Molfetta, Bernardino Ochino, Bernardino da Montolmo, Bernardino da Balvano, Francesco da Fognano, Mattia Bellintani da Salò, Silvestro da Rossano, Cristoforo da Verucchio known as Verucchino, Gregorio da Napoli, Michelangelo da Venezia, Paolo da Terni, Francesco da Corigliano, Tommaso da Olera, Valerio da Venezia, and some unpublished and anonymous texts and, as a concluding summary, Alessio da Salò.

The criterion for choosing the passages sometimes also kept in mind the literary aspect of the text, but above all it paid attention to the practical teaching, experience and method of prayer that these spiritual masters (some of great importance) taught in their time, creating hosts of praying souls even among the laity. The theme of affective prayer, meditation and contemplation, with all the different modalities, dominates these pages which, in their simplicity, redound with genuine Franciscan spirituality and become a point of inspiration for our time.

Section II: Apostolate and evangelization (1528-1630)

Although most of the texts collected in the previous section could be included in the topic of preaching, since they are booklets born from living preaching, in this second section more specifically we try to collect various texts that directly concern: 1) preaching; 2) the Forty Hours; 3) assistance to the sick and plague-stricken, the moribund and those sentenced to death; 4) the teaching of catechism to the people; 5) missions and missionaries. In this way, All the vast material in this section was so divided. In many cases, as in the theme of preaching, which has already been encountered so many times, it may seem like a repetition, but it is not. The distinction with other texts which bear witness to the Capuchin apostolate, collected in other parts and sections, lies in the fact that here are reported texts of specific Capuchin literature on various sectors of apostolic activity.

1) Thus in the subsection preaching texts of sermons given by Capuchin friars in the first century of their history are proposed, taken both from printed materials of the time and from unpublished manuscripts. After a poetic introduction that collects the themes of the penitential preaching of the Capuchin leader, Matteo da Bascio, with the famous refrain: “To hell with sinners!”, various magnificent sermons by Bernardino Ochino are reported, an example of the evangelical preaching of the first Capuchins; then there are other examples of preaching by Girolamo of Pistoia, Bernardino of Balvano, Mario of Mercato Saraceno, Giovanni M. of Tusa, Alfonso Lupo, Mattia Bellintani of Salò, Matteo Lolli of Agnone, Saint Joseph of Leonessa, Saint Lawrence of Brindisi, Anselmo Marzati from Monopoli, Giacinto da Casale and Girolamo da Narni.

The characteristics, evolution, spirit and method of this preaching are revealed. The texts can be read, more often than not, as if they were writings on spirituality, a clear demonstration that the Capuchin booklets were born, as we have said, usually from the experience of preaching.

2) The forty hours were, as is known, a typical Capuchin apostolate. This subsection collects some rules to be observed in carrying out this devotion: those dictated by Giuseppe da Ferno in 1538 and by Bernardino Ochino in 1540; then the Trattato of Mattia Bellintani of 1588; the “Mode et order” by Fedele da S. Germano of 1614 and many other texts which refer to the great success obtained by the Capuchin preachers in this apostolate.

3) Assistance to the sick and plague-stricken, to the moribund and those sentenced to death is the theme which brings together various Capuchin writings which teach the most suitable behaviour and pastoral method in this difficult sector of the apostolate. But it does not neglect those particular testimonies which refer to the heroic dedication of the friars in times of plague. Thus we report an important account by Salvatore da Rivolta on the plague of San Carlo of 1576 and the service provided by the Capuchins; some significant passages are chosen from the “Plague Dialogue” by Paolo Bellintani da Salò; testimonials of assistance to sick soldiers; The “Notices, records and regulations”, that is, a pastoral letter on the plague, by Domenico da Palermo, provincial minister of that province; several pages from the “Process of authentication” and other reports by friars and doctors’ testimonies on the plague of 1630-31.

For assistance in general to the sick, moribund and those sentenced to death, a pamphlet by Gregory of Naples is proffered which teaches how to spiritually console a sick person; another pamphlet by Mattia da Salò to “comfort and help those sentenced to death” a chapter of Boverio’s ceremonial which deals with the “discipline to be observed in visiting sick secular people”. Finally, to complete the discourse, even if the chronological limit is exceeded, some pages by Giuseppe da Cammarata are reported as rare texts on the way to help “troubled, afflicted and dying souls” and an “Instruction on a good death” by Giovanni da Sestola, both written in the fourth decade of the seventeenth century.

4) Already in the first century an important aspect of the popular preaching of the Capuchin friars is the teaching of the catechism. The Capuchins wrote many catechisms and disseminated them among the people. To reconstruct this literature, small in size and almost unknown, we report some very elementary notes of Christian doctrine inserted by Giovanni da Fano in his mystical booklet “Art of union” for use also by religious brothers who are not priests, such as the small catechism inserted in the booklets of the Rule distributed by the friars; then the “Doctrine of the Christian religion” by Girolamo da Molfetta, from 1539. We also mention the booklet “The Divine Precepts” (1543) by Giacomo da Molfetta “senior”; a text by an anonymous Capuchin who teaches a “brief way of confessing” (1552) and the unpublished one by Giovanni M. da Tusa (1580). We also mention the catechetical teaching of Ludovico Galli from Trent to Modena in the middle of the 16th century and the controversial catechism of Maurizio Gambarino della Morra (1601). But above all we want to demonstrate and report in full, because it is extremely rare, the “masterpiece”, in our opinion, of this Capuchin literature on the catechism, namely the “Dialogue of the Master and the Disciple”, the first edition of which dates back to 1539 and is the work of the “evangelical preacher” Antonio da Pinerolo.

5) To complete the section that concerns the apostolate, we also wanted to insert the theme of missions and missionaries at the end in order to be able to bring back some texts, there are very few, which have not found a place elsewhere, such as the 1585 report on the apostolate of the Capuchins in Algiers among the slaves, the letter from Father Pacifico della Scala asking for the foundation of the mission in the East to Cardinal L. Ludovisi in 1623; or excerpts selected from the long and pithy report by Bonaventura da Caspano on the mission of the Capuchins in Rhaetia and other similar reports.

For the avoidance of doubt, it should be noted that all this documentary material is more understandable when compared and connected with the other parts of this anthology. In fact, the apostolate is present everywhere where the Capuchin friar lives, like the spirit of prayer and devotion to which everything must serve.

Section III: Testimonies on Capuchin life from the canonization processes (1587-1626)

The third and final section of the third part intends to collect, from the sworn depositions during the canonical processes, an anthology of significant passages which capture the Capuchin life of our first saints, blessed, venerable and servants of God, in the conviction that they interpreted the spirit in an authentic way and, therefore, represent the charism of the Order more genuinely and manifest it in a more transparent way.

From these testimonies it will be possible to reveal what the different categories of people think of these holy friars: the hierarchy, the clergy, the religious, the people; a typology of holiness which, while highlighting the close links in force between the models esteemed in those times, the political and social structures in which these models developed and the religious aspirations of the time, offer our contemporaries many indications and clarifications on the concrete and effective sense of Capuchin life, valid in every age.

We have chosen four priests and four brothers, within the established chronological context, who have had official processes with the relative positiones. In first place, of course, is St. Felix of Cantalice (+ 1587), whose “Sistine process”, available in the beautiful edition edited by Mariano D’Alatri, made our work easier; then brother Raniero da Borgo S. Sepolcro (+ 1588), san Serafino da Montegranaro (+ 1604) and brother Geremia da Valacchia (+ 1625), recently beatified by John Paul II. These are all lay brothers.

The priests are: Saint Joseph of Leonessa (+ 1612), Saint Lawrence of Brindisi (t 1619), Blessed Benedict of Urbino († 1625) and Venerable Francis of Bergamo (+ 1626). We have omitted St. Fedelis of Sigmaringen († 1622), protomartyr of Propaganda Fide, due to the very nature of the process and of the “depositiones”, aimed at proving the fact of martyrdom and therefore less suited to our intentions.

This section becomes like a history of Capuchin holiness of the first century, not seen through more or less cerebral categories, but caught in the life of the saints. It is good, therefore, to leave the last word to the saints, which is the truest.

4) Fourth part with two appendices and indexes

The fourth and final part, corresponding to the fourth volume of the work, collects a composite documentary material, with a prevalence of documents and testimonies that report the impact and describe the first “European” expansion of the Capuchin reform, with all its anthropological problems of acculturation and inculturation. Therefore it was entitled: «Expansion and inculturation». In fact, the way of life and many “material” and “mental” expressions of “Italian” Capuchin life will undergo, always however in the unity of the spirit and the inspiration of the charism, various variations and nuances, even if not essential, due to the new religious and cultural environment.

Due to the complexity of the theme and the vastness of the documentary horizon, the five sections into which this last part of the work has been divided have been elaborated in a more contained and discreet way, while giving the subject a sufficiently complete and precise design. Two appendices have been added to them, as two separate sections.

Finally, as a fundamental tool for consultation and practical use of the four volumes, the entire apparatus of the various indexes is added: abbreviations, bibliography, documents and testimonies in chronological order, the analytical-systematic index in the manner of a dictionary ( this is the real key to studying and consulting the Capuchin sources), the index of the illustrations and, finally, the general index. And then, excluding the indices, the following picture emerges:

1. Evidence of the first Capuchins in France (1575-1625)
2. Evidence of the first Capuchins in Belgium-Holland (1585-1625)
3. Evidence of the first Capuchins (1571-1590) in Switzerland
4. Evidence of the first Capuchins (1578-1619) in Spain
5. Testimonies on the first Capuchins in the countries of Central-Eastern Europe (1593-1630 c.)
1. Capuchin iconography, architecture and “art”
2. Origin and first development of the Capuchin Poor Clares (1535-1611)

Section I: Testimonies on the first Capuchins in France (1575-1625)

This section is meant to be only a small sample of a very abundant documentation which it is not possible to report here. The skill of this discretionary choice is the result of the intervention of two scholars who divided up the theme. J. Mauzaize addressed the topic more generally: “The first Capuchins in France in the context of the country”, and collected more than twenty documents chronologically aligned from 1572 up to the second decade of the 17th century. Optatus van Asseldonk completed the study by presenting “the spiritual and social life of the Capuchins in France” with a reasoned choice of typical texts by five Capuchin spiritual authors: Benedict of Canfield (‡ 1610), Lorenzo of Paris (+ 1631), Onorato Bochart de Champigny of Paris (+ 1624), José du Tremblay of Paris (+ 1638) and Martial d’Etampes († 1635). The result is a sufficient viewing, also from the point of view of mysticism and spiritual literature which, perhaps, is the most characteristic aspect of the presence of the Capuchins in France in the 17th century.

Section II: Testimonies on the first Capuchins in Belgium-Holland (1585-1625)

This section, in the choice of precise testimonies, tries to place the first Capuchins in the environment of the Netherlands, both in a general sense and in a “spiritual-social” sense. The topic is developed by a specialist scholar in the sector, Optatus van Asseldonk, who proposes a dozen documents and testimonies that reflect the judgments of bishops and other ecclesiastical and civil authorities on the Capuchins, focusing particularly on the problem of “mysticism” and related controversies that arose against Capuchin authors towards the end of the 16th century.

In particular, some unpublished pages of the Belgian Caeremonale of 1594, probably the first of its kind in the Order, and other testimonies on the theme of “mysticism” are published; and after the defense of Francesco Nugent, the general minister Girolamo da Castelferretti who requested a mystical manual for the Capuchins. Then various testimonies relating to Cipriano Crousers of Antwerp who defends the mystical orthodoxy of Benedict of Canfield and Lorenzo of Paris against the harsh attack of the Carmelite Girolamo Graziano. Finally, some significant pages are extracted from the spiritual writings of Giovanni Evangelista da ‘s-Hertohenbosch and Constantine from Barbençon and from other mystical texts, also poetical, by Dutch Capuchins.

Section III: Testimonies on the first Capuchins in Switzerland (c. 1571-1630)

This section, edited by R. Fischer, a well-known scholar of the history of the Capuchins in Switzerland, brings together twelve significant documents chronologically aligned from 1571 to 1590. Initially we note the “longa manus” of St. Charles Borromeo, who defends some Capuchins in a letter to Melchior Lussi; then the request of the community of Altdorf to the holy cardinal for Capuchins (1579), a first report by Francesco da Bormio on the coming of the friars to Switzerland (1582), an interesting testimony from a Protestant and the nuncio

Ottavio Paravicini (1582 and 1590), a description of the “modus vivendi” of the friars by the provincial commissioner Francesco Foresti of Brescia (1584), a description of the friary of Lucerna (1584) and preparations for building a Capuchin friary in the account of Rufino von Baden (1585); finally the apostolic activity of Ludovico da Saxony in one of his reports (1589), the orders of the general commissioner Michele da Sala (1589) and some formularies (1590).

To these testimonies we wanted to add some texts of Capuchin spiritual literature, extracted from some writings and letters of Ludovico da Saxony, Bonaventura von Pluvio, Gianpietro da Obergam (+ 1634) and San Fedelis of Sigmaringen († 1622).

Section IV: Testimonies on the first Capuchins in Spain (1578-1619)

This section, elaborated with punctual research by Germán Zamora, collects the testimonies and documents, progressively numbered up to 82 items, in three parts: 1) Half a century of attempts and oppositions to the entry or diffusion of the Capuchins in Spain (1535-1577); 2) the rise of the provinces (1575-1637); 3) Capuchin life in Spain.

The theme is analysed in all its components and also deals with the various Spanish friars who were forced to expatriate and come to Italy to become Capuchins, including Capuchin proto-martyr Juan Zuazo, John of Valencia, Pietro Trigoso and Alfonso Lobo.

The first part collects 15 documents from 1535 to 1577: interventions by Cardinal Quiñones and Charles V against the Capuchins (1535-36) and the undertakings of many zealous people in favour the new reform, up to the request of the Scalzi to join the Capuchins; then the attempts of Francesco Alarcon, the opportunity of the victory at Lepanto in 1576 to introduce the Capuchins in Spain and the brief of Gregory XIII Inter caetera (April 27, 1577) which authorises a Capuchin hermitic foundation in Spain.

The second part lists a good 42 documents, from the initiative in Catalonia (1576) with the foundation of Barcelona and many other friaries, and the hostility of the Observants. Nevertheless, the province of Valencia was founded (1605) with the interest and help of Saint John de Ribera and the provinces of Aragon (1609) and Castile arose in the period of Saint Lawrence of Brindisi (1605-1618). Many other foundations of famous friaries are added, such as that of El Pardo in Madrid (1612), of Antequera and others.

The remaining documents outline the Capuchin life in Spain, characterized by austerity, poverty, humility, and observance of the constitutions. Finally, some texts of the first Capuchin spiritual literature are reported.

Section V: Testimonies on the first Capuchins in the countries of Central-Eastern Europe (1593-1630 c.)

This section was necessary to complete, even if in a summary way, the design and scope of all the first European expansion of the Capuchin friars from the end of the 16th century to the first two or three decades of the 17th century, and geographically embraces Central-Eastern Europe, that is, the area of Germany around Köln and Westfalen, in Bavaria, Tyrol and then Austria, Bohemia and Poland. From the Belgian province, as a mother, originate the Rhine or Cologne province and the first foundations of the province of Westphalia. From the Venetian province, on the other hand, as a mother, the province of Tyrol begins up to Munich.

Since the geographical area is vast, the culture is articulated and diversified, the documentary collection follows this development with discretion, also using various unpublished testimonies.

Appendix I: Capuchin iconography, architecture and “art”

This section, added as the first appendix, aims to catalogue and interpret the style and message of the first Capuchin iconography obtained from early prints of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. For the sixteenth century the images are rather rare and can be found both on the title pages or frontispieces of sixteenth-century Capuchin editions, and, more rarely, in isolated prints. In the seventeenth century, however, the Capuchin iconography had a great development and found its most significant and mature expression in the famous prints of the Flores Seraphici by Carlo d’Arenberg.

A second part of this section aims to collect those descriptive and interpretative elements of the architecture and poor art of the Capuchin friaries and churches and other characteristic objects of the conventual and social life of the first Capuchins (habit, rosary, prints and devotional sayings, etc.). This too is a way of grasping important spiritual resonances expressed by unmistakable outward signs of an incarnate and inculturated religious and Franciscan life.

In particular, the “Memorial for building our small and orderly monastery”, the work of the Capuchin architect and blacksmith Antonio da Pordenone (‡ 1628), was published for the first time. This whole theme is developed by the director of the Franciscan Museum in Rome, Servus Gieben, already qualified in the field as a specialist in Capuchin-Franciscan iconography.

Appendix II: Origin and early development of the Capuchin Poor Clares (1535-1611)

This last section, as a second appendix, is elaborated at some length. After an introduction which is a careful narration of the first historical development of the Capuchin Poor Clares, starting from the Neapolitan monastery of S. Maria in Gerusalemme with venerable Maria Lorenza Longo (1535) to the first expansion in Perugia (1553), in Gubbio (1557), in Brindisi (1571), in Rome (1574), in Genoa (1577), in Milan (1578) and also in Spain, Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland, followed by an exposition of the legislation and spirituality of the Capuchinesses, Lázaro Iriarte, who has carefully edited this part, divides the review of the documents into three points: 1) Pontifical documents (1535-1629); 2) Chronicles and testimonies (1560-1600); 3) “Observances” of the Capuchinesses (legislation and regulations: 1538-1624 c.).

There are 22 pontifical documents, from the founding bull of Paul III, Debitum pastoralis offici (February 19, 1535), issued to Maria Lorenza Longo, up to the brief of Urban VIII, Exdebit pastoralis offici (August 13, 1629).

The “chronicles and testimonies” include six groups of different texts: the pages of Bellintani’s Historia capuccina on the origin of the Capuchinesses; the testimony of Pietro De Stefano (1560); the relationship of San Carlo Borromeo with the Capuchinesses in Milan, and various documents are reported here: an excerpt from the book of clothing and professions of the monastery of S. Prassede (1578), letters and sermons of San Carlo (1579, 1583), the report by Giambattista Casale (1579); there is also a letter from the abbess of S. Prassede to the Countess Margherita Borromeo asking her to obtain from Cardinal Federico that the Capuchins take over the spiritual direction of the monastery. Other texts concern the foundations outside Italy: there is a testimony on the way of life of the Capuchinesses of Granada (1590), and letters of Philip III for the foundation of the monastery of Barcelona (1601), letter of Ludovico da Saxony to the community of Panneregg (1592).

Finally, in the part relating to “legislation”, various texts are presented: the norms on the cause of venerable Maria Lorenza Longo (1538), footnotes to the Rule of Saint Clare and the Colettine constitutions (c. 1570), the customs of the monastery of S. Maria in Gerusalemme in Naples (c. 1576), the first edition of the early constitutions of the Capuchin Poor Clares (1611), in 15 chapters, to be compared with the “Constitutions of the reverend mother Capuchinesses of Padua of 1607, much freer comparing to the text of the constitutions of Saint Coletta. Also added is a “Dialogue of regular observance for the religious novices who have to make their profession”, by Valerio da Venezia (1610) and the constitutions of the Swiss Capuchinesses by Antonio da Cannobio († 1624).

In this context, there is a systematic classification of the many types of documents and testimonies relating to the history and spirituality of the Capuchin friars over the course of the first century.


And now the last, but not the least: if the size of the work, in its “full measure”, and the exuberant abundance of documentation can frighten modern readers who love brevity, ease and speed, bear in mind that we wanted to make a service that remains over time, rather than a work of consumption in the culture of the immediate and the ephemeral, knowing that this was a unique occasion, which will never come back. And so, rather than sacrificing many documents and many testimonies, when in doubt, we believed that melius est abundare quam deficere [abundance is better than deficit].

After all, every reader will always love to read those texts that suit him or her best. But the true method, linear in its objectivity and an untiring pilgrim in the search for truth, will consist above all in the courage to read even those texts that seem less topical or relics of an outdated culture, so as to avoid the risk of forced topicalisation and modernisation, and instead succeed in going back to the sources and penetrate deep into the roots of the Capuchin experience.

All that remains is to express our dutiful thanks to the collaborators and translators who have worked with us, making it possible to produce this edition after ten years. Thanks also to the numerous archivist and librarian confreres, which it would be very long to list, with the risk of leaving someone out; and, in particular, to all the provincial ministers of Italy who have favoured, supported and helped this work; but above all to our brother Minister General, Flavio Roberto Carraro, who wanted, continually encouraged, to follow the various phases of the work and has recently allowed us to devote ourselves completely, freed from other commitments, to the realization of this initiative.

And finally, we too, together with the recipients of this work, feel the need to raise a hymn of praise and gratitude to the Immaculate Virgin, patroness and queen of the Franciscan Order, to Father Saint Francis, to Saint Clare, to Saint Felix of Cantalice and to all the Capuchin saints, small and great, known and hidden, who with their heroic fidelity to Christ and to the Church have made the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin fertile with love and service.

  1. Cf. E. d’Alençon, De primordis, 10-12; C. Urbanelli, Storia I/1, 160s.
  2. Cf. MHOC II, 26.
  3. Cf. Cost. 1536, prologue.
  4. See for example: H. Jedin, Chie sa della fede, Chiesa della storia. Saggi scelti, Brescia 1972; A. Cistellini, Figure della rifor ma pretridentina, Brescia 1979 (ed. anastatica); M. Bendiscioli-M. Marcocchi, Riforma cattolica. Antologia di documenti, Roma 1963; and, for the Observants: M. Fois, Osservanze, Congregazioni di Osservanza, in DIP VI, 1036-57.
  5. Cf. Stanislao Santachiara, La bolla «Religionis zelus», in Le origini della riforma cappuccina, Ancona 1979, 261-280.
  6. Cf. Ordres monastiques. Histoire extraite de tous les auteurs qui ont conservé à la posterité ce qu’il y a de plus curieuse dans chaque Ordre, tome troisième, Berlin 1751, 211s.
  7. Cf. Ch. d’Arenberg, Arbor seraphicae religionis seu Epilogus iconographicus totius Ordinis S. Francisci, Anverse 1650; Lexicon cap., 116-118 ( = Arbor seraphicae religionis); CF 3 (1933) 410s; Bavaria Franciscanaantiqua V, München 1961, 637.
  8. Cf. S. Bonav., Epistula de tribus quaestionibus, 13 (Op. omnia VIII, 336).
  9. Cf. Ilarino da Milano, L’incentivo escatologico nel riformismo dell’Ordine francescano, in L’attesa dell’età nuova nella spiritualità della fine del medioevo, Todi 1962, 1-55.
  10. On the polemics of the Spirituals cf. Chi erano gli Spirituali. Atti del III Convegno internazionale. Assisi, 16-18 ott. 1975, Assisi 1976; A. Frugoni, Dai «pauperes ere mitae domini Celestini» ai «fraticelli de paupere vita», in Celestiniana, Roma 1954, 125-167; René de Nantes, Histoire des Spirituels dans l’Ordre de saint François, Couvin-Paris 1909; Lydia von Auw, Angelo Clareno et les Spirituels italiens, Roma 1979; G. Luca Potestà, Storia ed escatologia in Ubertino da Casale, Milano 1980.
  11. Cf. A. Volpato, Gli Spirituali e “«intentio» di S. Francesco, in Riv. Storia Chiesa in Italia 33 (1979) 118-153; L. Di Fonzo, L’immagine di san Francesco negli scritti degli Spirituali, in Francesco d’Assisi nel la storia (secoli XIII-XV), Roma 1983, 63-122; M. Fois, L’«Osservanza» come espressione della ‘Ecclesia semper renovanda’ in Problemi di storia della Chiesa nei secoli XV-XVII, Napoli 1979, 13-107; R. Manselli, Dagli Spirituali all’Osservanza. Momenti di storia francescana, in Humanitas 6 (1951) 1217-1228; Il rinnovamento del francescanesimo: l’Osservanza. Atti dell’XI Convegno internazionale. Assisi, 20-21-22 ott. 1983, Assisi 1985.
  12. Cf. Ilarino da Milano, San Bernardino da Siena e l’Osservanza minoritica, in S. Bernardino da Siena. Saggi e ricerche, Milano 1945, 379-406; M. Sensi, Le osservanze francescane nell’Italia centrale (secoli XIV-XV),Roma 1985; P.J.Meseguer Fernández, La bula «Ite vos» (29 de mavo de 1517) y la reforma cisneriana, in AIA 18 (1958) 257-361.
  13. On these reforms cf. ora D. Nimmo, Reform and Division in the medieval Franciscan Order from Saint Francis to the formation of the Capuchins, Rome 1987.
  14. Cf. A. Chastel, Il sacco di Roma, 1527, Torino 1983, specie 97-106.
  15. Cf. J. Meseguer Fernández, Programa de gobierno del P. Francisco de Quiñones, ministro general O.F.M. (1523-1528), in AIA 21 (1961) 5-51; Id., Constituciones recoletas para Portugal, 1524 e Italia, 1526, ibid.,459-489; A. Uribe, La Aguilera plantel de la Recollección y estatutos por que se regian, ibid., 9 (1918) 264-272; J. Poulenc, Le case di recollezione nel francescanesimo, in DIP VII, 1322-1331.
  16. Cf. Urbanelli, Storia I/1, 163-208.
  17. Cf. C. Cargnoni, Alcuni aspetti del successo della riforma cappuccina nei primi cinquant’anni (1525-1575), in Le origini cit., 224s, 236s.
  18. Cf. A. Chastel, Il sacco di Roma cit., 174-178.
  19. V. Gioberti, Il gesuita moderno, IV, Losanna 1847, 104s.
  20. Colpetrazzo dedicates many pages to this theme. Cf. for example, MHOC II, 98, 212-216. The theme continually remerges in the first writings of the Capuchins and especially in the 1536 Constitutions, nn. 63-64 (nn. 245-246).
  21. Cf. MHOC IV, 185, 166, 174s, 181s, ect.
  22. Cf. MHOC II, 257.
  23. Cf. M.M. Lebreton, Iconographie fonctionnelle, in Rev. des Sciences religieuses 28 (1954); P. Scazzoso, Il problema delle sacre icone, in Aevum 43 (1969) 304-323; A. Provoost, La méthode iconologique et l’interpretation de représentations antiques, in Bull. de l’Inst. Histor. Belge de Rome, fasc. 44 (1974) 503-511.
  24. Cf. MHOC II, 128; I, 186.
  25. МНОС II, 26, 257, I, 255; VII, 179.
  26. Cf. Salvatore da Rivolta, Fondatione de’ conventi della provincia di Milano, in Metodio da Nembro, Salvatore da Rivolta e la sua cronaca, Milano 1973, 5.
  27. Cf. FF n. 2252.
  28. Cf. MHOC VI, 535. – Ancient publications also testify to this “horrid beautiful” of the first Capuchins, similar to monks and hermits of the desert. See, in the last volume of this work, the study by Servus Gieben on Capuchin iconography.
  29. Cf. A. Vecchi, Correnti religiose nel Sei-Settecento veneto, Venezia -Roma 1962, 129-131, and note 1.
  30. The Prints Cabinet of the Franciscan Museum in Rome, at the Capuchin Historical Institute, has collected a great deal of iconographic material, about 1,300 drawings and almost 15,000 old prints, many of which concern Capuchin iconography. Cf. Il Museo Francescano. Catalogo, a cura di P. Gerlach – S. Gieben – M. D’Alatri, Roma 1973.
  31. Cf. MHOC VII, 17.
  32. The reasons for the popularity of the Capuchins is expressed by Colpetrazzo. Cf. МНОС IV, 1655.
  33. Quoted from L. Palomes, Dei frati minori, Palermo 1897 3, 523.
  34. Ibid., 517.
  35. Cf. F. R. de Chateaubriand, Genio del cristianesimo, III, trad. di L. Toccagni. 7ª ediz., Milano 1846, 95-97; Oeuvres completes de Chateaubriand, II, Paris 1929, 433s: one notes with what romantic tenderness antiquity was exalted.
  36. Cf. H. D. Lacordaire, Conferenze, trad. A. Lissoni, Milano 1852, 218s (= Sullo stabilimento dei Padri Cappuccini); cf. Conférences de Notre-Dame de Paris, t. II, in Oeuvres III, Paris 1857, 196s.
  37. Cf. Modeste de Corpataux, L. Veuillot, avocat des Capucins, in St. Fidelis 25 (1938) 118-122.
  38. V. Gioberti, Il gesuita moderno, I, Losanna 1847, 104-106.
  39. A. Manzoni, I promessi sposi, a cura di A. Chiari e F. Ghisalberti, Milano 1958, c. III, p. 53; vedi inoltre G. Santarelli, I cappuccini nel romanzo manzoniano, Milano 1970.
  40. Paolo VI, Lettera al ministro generale in occasione del capitolo generale straordinario dei cappuccini (20 agosto 1974), in Notiziario cap. 8 (1974) 10s; in latino in AO 90 (1974) 179; inoltre cf. Discorso ai partecipanti al capitolo generale (30 sett. 1974), ibid., 290; ora anche in Cari Cappuccini…, Discorsi di Paolo VI ai Cappuccini, Perugia – Edizioni Frate Indovino, [1985], 53 e 47s.
  41. Paolo VI, «Una via difficile e perfetta». Allocuzione in occasione del capitolo generale speciale dei cappuccini (21 ott. 1968), in AO 84 (1968) 315; Cari Cappuccini…, 32s.
  42. Discorso del card. Montini nella chiesa dei cappuccini di Lecco (27 sett. 1959), in Atti dei Fr. Min. Cap. della Provincia di S. Carlo in Lombardia IX/6-7 (apr.-sett. 1959) 248.
  43. Discorso ai partecipanti, 290; «Una via difficile e perfetta», 316.
  44. Ibid.; Cari cappuccini cit., 35 e 31; cf. anche Clemente di S. Maria in Punta, La vita religiosa in una lettera di Paolo VI ai cappuccini, in Vita Minorum 46 (1975) 27-30.
  45. The chronicle of this almost impromptu visit, with its accompanying speech that greatly impressed the brothers, who were already somewhat sensitised to the renewal of the Order, can be read in Atti dei Fr. Min. Cap. cit., 248s; e ora in E. Sala – U. Panzieri, I cappuccini nella storia di Lecco. Presenze – opera – testimonianze dalle origini ad oggi, Lecco 1987, 260-262.
  46. “Castello” is the area at the foot of the slope of the mountain known as S. Martino, where the Capuchin friary was built, and was so named because of a “castle”, in fact, where, in the seventeenth century, a commander stayed with a stable garrison of Spanish soldiers, as Manzoni also recalls in his novel, cap. IV.
  47. Cf. part I, sect. I.
  48. Cf. part IV, sect. I-V.
  49. Cf. part II, sect. I.
  50. Cf. part II, sect. IV.
  51. Cf. part I, sect. IV, to the end.
  52. Cf. part III, sect. II, where it also treats of the assitance to the sick and the plague-stricken.
  53. On the history and activity of the Historical Institute cf. the accurate study of Isidoro da Villapadierna, I cinquant’anni dell’Istituto Storico cappuccino. Gli uomini e le opere, in CF 50 (1980) 5-34.
  54. On the Annales of Boverio cf. Melchor de Pobladura, De cooperationibus in compositione Annalium Ordinis Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum, in CF 26 (1956) 9-47; id., De prima versione italica «Annalium» Zachariae Boveri Salutiensis hucusque inedita, ibid. 25 (1955) 305-312; Vittorio da Ceva, P. Zaccaria Boverio, teologo e annalista, in IF 24 (1949) 133-141.
  55. Cf. Eduardus ab Alençon, De Annalibus Ordinis decursu temporum typis evulgatis, in AO 21 (1905) 53-57; G. Santarelli, Documenti cappuccini di interesse manzoniano, Ancona 1973, 34-39; Melchior de Pobladura, Historia generalis O.F.M. Cap., II/1, Romae 1948, 432-460 (De historiografia Ordinis).
  56. Cf. in this regard C. Cargnoni, Fonti, tendenze e sviluppi della letteratura spirituale cappuccina primitiva, in CF 48 (1978) 311-398.
  57. Cf. above all: De primordiis O.F.M. Cap. (1525-1534). Commentarium historicum, Romae 1921; Tribulationes O.F.M. Cap. primis annis pontificatus Pauli III [1534-1541], Romae 1914: these two fundamental studies were collected from various published articles in AO in the years 1913-14 e 1918-21; Gian Pietro Carafa vescovo di Chieti e la riforma nell’Ordine dei Minori dell’Osservanza. Documenti inediti sul generalato di Paolo Pisotti da Parma e la provincia di S. Antonio, in MF 13 (1911) 33-48, 81-92, 112-121, 131-144; Il primo convento dei cappuccini in Roma. S. Maria dei Miracoli, Alencon 1907; Il terzo convento dei cappuccini in Roma. La chiesa di S. Nicola de Portis, S. Bonaventura-S. Croce dei Lucchesi. Memorie, Roma 1908; Primigeniae legislationis O. F.M. Cap. textus originales seu constitutiones anni 1536 ordinatae et anno 1552 recognitae cum historica introductione copiosisque adnotationibus, in Liber memorialis, Romae 1928, 333-430; and many other articles disseminated in various journals. Cf. Lexicon cap., 525s.
  58. «Auctoribus nostrarum chronicarum integram fidem adhibere non licet, nisi eorum dicta, non semper inter se convenientia, aliis testimoniis extraneorum praesertim qui studi non possunt esse suspecti, vel documentis authenticis confirmentur» (De primordis, 1; 40 34 [1918] 8).
  59. Unfortunately, these studies have not yet been done. Many of his studies also merit to be translated into Italian. They were written in Latin; the majority of the friars have never read them.
  60. Cf. The Capuchins. A contribution to the Counter-Reformation, London 1928, 2 voll.; translated into Italian: I Cappuccini. Un contributo alla storia della controriforma, Firenze 1930.
  61. Cf. ahead, in part II, sect. IV, in le Cronache minori.
  62. Cf. A Capuchin Chronicle. Now first translated and abridged from the original Italian by a Benedictine of Stanbrook Abbey (Capuchin Classic, III), London 1931).
  63. Cf. I Cappuccini. Un contributo cit 497-508 ( = “About the sources of the early history of the Capuchins”).
  64. Cf. Melchior de Pobladura, Historia generalis O.F.M. Cap., 4 voll. in 3, Romae 1947/48/48/51.
  65. Cf. L. Iriarte, Storia del francescanesimo. Ediz. italiana con aggiornamento bibliografico, a cura dell’Autore e di F. Mastroianni, Napoli 1982, 259-284.
  66. Lexicon capuccinum. Promptuarium bistorico-bibliographicum O.F.M. Cap. (1525-1950), Romae 1951, 1867 pp. – Cf. Cassianus ab Oberlutasch, De opere quod «Lexicon capuccinum» inscribitur, in CF 23 (1953) 265-284.
  67. Cf. T. Graf, Zur Entstehung des Kapuzinerordens. Quellen-kritische Studien, Olten u. Freiburg/Br. 1940; and reviews of Melchiorre da Pobladura in CF 10 (1940) 418-427). Stanislao da Campagnola considered these criticisms to be “too severe and damaging”: cf. Le origini francescane come problema storiografico, Perugia 1979 2, 107 nota 106; this last author is insightful and prolific, and this is an important article: L’esperienza dei primi decenni di vita cappuccina in alcuni studi recenti, in Laurent. 4 (1963) 497-516.
  68. Cf. L. von Pastor, Osservazioni sulle fonti piú antiche per la storia dei cappuccini e la critica del Boverio, in Storia dei Papi, trad. dal tedesco, IV/2, Roma 1956, 728-730; also see ibid., 588-603; V, Roma 1942, 346-353.
  69. These numerous studies are compiled in: Optatus (de Veghel) van Asseldonk, La lettera e lo spirito. Tensione vitale nel francescanesimo ieri e oggi, 2 voll., Roma 1985.
  70. Cf. Optatus van Asseldonk, Le réforme des frères mineurs capucins dans l’Ordre franciscain et dans l’Eglise, in CF 35 (1965)6s, e ora in: La Lettera e lo spirito, I, 130s.
  71. Ad es. Estud. Franc. 79 (1978) 21-499, with diverse significant articles on the history of te first Capuchins in Spain; Altöttinger Franzikusblatt. Sondernummer, München 1978; Boll. Ufficiale Prov. di Foggia – Numero speciale dell’anno 1979; I Cappuccini nella Chiesa. Storia e attualità nel 450° della riforma, Roma 1978; and many other striking editiorials (articles of investigation, commenorative, etc.) which would make a long list.
  72. Cf. G. Santarelli, Documenti cappuccini di interesse manzoniano, Ancona [1973]; on this argument the author has two other important studies: Il P. Cristoforo manzoniano nella critica, Milano 1971; I cappuccini nel romanzo manzoniano, Milano 1970.
  73. CE. Le origini della riforma cappuccina. Atti del convegno di studi storici. Camerino, 18-21 sett. 1978, Ancona 1979.
  74. C. Urbanelli, Storia dei cappuccini delle Marche. I/1: Origini della riforma cappuccina (1525-1536). I/2: Vicende del primo Cinquecento (1535-1585), Ancona 1978; I/3: Documenti (1517-1609), 2 tomi, Ancona 1984.
  75. Cf. Arturo M. da Carmignano di Brenta, San Lorenzo da Brindisi, Dottore della Chiesa universale (1559-1619). Vol. I-III. Vol. IV: Documenti. Parte I (nn. 1-911). Parte II. (nn. 912-1219), Venezia-Mestre 1960-1963: cf. CF 34 (1964) 200-202, and above all Stanislao da Campagnola, S. Lorenzo da Brindisi (1559-1619) e il rinnovamento cattolico postridentino. A proposito di una recente biografia; in Laurent. 5 (1964) 403-420; another volume of Fr Arturo is inserted in the volumous history of the province: Storia dei cappuccini veneti. III: Conventi fondati dal 1582 al 1585 e loro vicende fino alla soppressione, Venezia-Mestre 1979.
  76. Cf. Per la storia dei conventi. Atti del 2° convegno di studi cappuccini. Roma, 28-29-30 dicembre 1986, Roma 1987; estr. da IF 62 (1987) 115-208.
  77. Cf. F. Ciardi, I fondatori uomini del lo Spirito. Per una teologia del carisma di fondatore, Roma 1982; see also: E. Sastre, Aproximación a los origenes de un instituto de perfección, in Claretianum 20 (1980) 193s; M. de Certeaux, L’éprouve de temps, in Christus 13 (1966) 313s.
  78. Cf. Ilarino da Milano, Il carisma della riforma dei minori cappuccini e l’autorità gerarchica, civile e popolare, in IF 53 (1978) 551.
  79. Cf. F. Elizondo, Las constituciones capuchinas de 1536. Texto, fuentes, lugares paralelos, in Estud. Franc. 83 (1982) 143-252; id., Contenido de las constituciones capuchinas del 1575 y su relación con la legislación precedente, in Laurent. 16 (1075) 225-280; id., Constituciones capuchinas de 1575 en torno a un centenario, ibid., 3-52; id., Las constituciones capuchinas de 1529. En el 450° aniversario de su redacción en Albacina, ibid., 20 (1979) 389-440; O. Schmucki, Lo spirito francescano nelle «Costituzioni delli frati minori detti della vita heremitica» del 1529, in Le origini cit., (sopra, nota 73), 121-157, e anche in IF 53 (1978) 595-624; id., De loco sancti Francisci Assisiensis in constitutionibus O.F.M. Cap. anni 1536, in CF 48 (1978) 249-310; Le prime costituzioni dei frati minori cappuccini (Roma-S. Eufemia 1536) in lingua moderna con note storiche ed edizione critica, Roma 1982.
  80. Cf. C. Cargnoni, Una sconosciuta fonte inedita del «Dialogo» emendato di Giovanni Pili da Fano, in Estud. Franc. 89 (1988) 343-358.
  81. Cf. K. Eßer, Origini e inizi del movimento e dell’Ordine francescano, trad. daltedesco, Milano 1975, 13-23 (= “the problem of the sources).
  82. On problems posed by this type of document see C. Urbanelli, Archivi locali e storia dei conventi, in CF 57 (1987) 273-288.
  83. Cf. Annali dell’Ordine dei Fr. Min. Cap. Appendice al tomo terzo divisa in due parti…, described and enhanced in the Italian language by Fr. Giuseppe da Cannobio, I, Milano 1744, in the preface.