Introduction to works of Edourdo d’Alençon OFM Cap

By Paul Hanbridge OFM Cap

© 2020 Capuchin friars of Australia

This volume is intended as a reference work. Its genesis was more or less incidental to another project currently in progress. While translating the Chronicle of the first decades of the Capuchin Friars Minor composed by Bernardino da Colpetrazzo,[1] my need for a better understanding of the historical background became apparent and imperative. Consequent reading referred often to the significant and original contributions of Père Edouard d’Alençon towards a critical history of the Capuchin reform. A reading of the essays in this volume seemed inevitable, a required material component of a serious study of the subject. Obviously, to read these essays it would be necessary to attempt to translate them. Given the dearth of material in English on Capuchin history, the decision to write the translation appeared sensible.

This collection of studies is, I believe, a valuable resource. The author has painstakingly located, compiled and published documents relevant to the emergence of the Capuchin Friars. His critical method marks a significant and influential change in approach to Capuchin historiography. My hope is to preserve and present these documents faithfully, with d’Alençon’s commentary translated into English. At the same time, the present volume may serve as a memorial. For some reading these lines, now may be the first time they have heard the name Edouard d’Alençon.

Francis Lecorney[2] was born in Alençon on 10 April 1859. At the age of twenty, having already completed studies in philosophy, he joined the Capuchin Fraternity in the Province of Paris, taking the religious name Edouard. To study the history of the Capuchin Order he came to Rome in 1890. Within a short time he became the General Archivist of the Capuchins (1892) and director of the Analecta OFM Cap. He fulfilled these offices for the next twenty-two years, returning to his home province in 1914 at the age of 55. Ten years later, the General superiors assigned him to establish the recently acquired friary in Assisi. There he remained until ill health compelled him to return to Rome where he died 1 September 1928,[3] in his seventieth year.

D’Alençon’s prodigious and erudite contribution to Franciscan studies has been described elsewhere[4] and won him the epithet historiae franciscanae cultor eximius.[5] Also during his years in Rome he collected and scrutinised documents relevant to early Capuchin history. He published such documents (Monumenta antiqua), as well as the research of other friars during his directorship of the Analecta. The following may be a useful list of these ‘sources’ found in the Analecta between 1893 and 1928.





De familia, ortu, et adolescentia S. Laurentii a Brindusio. Litterae 9 1893 367
De imaginabus depictis SS. Fidelis a Sigmar. et Josephi a Leonis. In Basilica Lateranensi 10 1894 117
Litterae Rmi Joan. Nariae a Noto ad Zach. Boverium et alios de compositione Annalium Ordinis 10 1894 283
Joan. Baptista Vitelli Ordinis Min, Capuccinorum amicus et benefactor. Includes a letter to same from Mattia da Salò (27 May 1598), as well as two other letters (Theodisio da Bergamo 22 Nov 1606) and Silvestro d’Assisi (5 July 1605) 11 1895 250
Relatio incendii Conv. Capucc. Assisiensis (Todi, 17 August 1627). De incendio Conventus Assisiensis jam verbum fecimus (Analecta, Aug. 1894, p.250) 11 1895 340
Erectio prioris Conventus Imolae: “Dagli Atti della Comunità d’Imola. Die 25 Aprilis mdl. Supplicatio Fratrum Minorum covatorum li Cappuccini, da Frate Joseph da Ferno 12 1896 220
Novem alphabeta spiritualia P. Gregorii Capuccini Neapolitani…excerpta sunt ex opusculo P. Gregorii titulus: I sedici avertimenti sopra la meditatione del bene morire, pluribus typis edito Venetiis (Primum haec monita Venetiis prodierunt ad calcem alterius operis P. Gregorii Regola unica del Serafico S. Francesco (1589) 13 1897 25
Salutationis Angelicae expositiones duae, reproduced on the occasion of the solemnity of the Assumption of BVM. 1) Ave Maria esposta dal Reverendiss. Monsignor Cornelio Musso Vescovo di Bitonto dell’ordine Conventuale di S. Francesco, nella sua Cathedral Chiesa di Bitonto à di primo di Gennaio mdlxxii; 2) Devota meditatione sopra la Salutatione Angelica datta dal R.P.F. Silvestro di Franco da Rossano dell’Ordine de’ Capuccini nell’Anno del Signore 1578, mentre egli predicava nella Chiesa Cathedrale di Fermo. Stampata per ordine del Magistrato di detta Città à commune utilità de’Fedeli. Con licenza dell’Ill. et Reverendiss, Monsig. Demenico Pinelli Vescovo, et Principe di essa Mag. Città. – A Fermo, 1578 13 1897 249
Il Capuccino spiegato dal Signor Capoleono Ghelfuzzi (†1600) 19 1903 220
De Confessione saecularium in Ordine nostro 19 1903 251, 279, 370
Ignatius de Loyola et Josephus a Ferno 20 1904 249
De Confessione saecularium in Ordine nostro 20 1904 27, 125, 150
Epistolae duae ad Matthiam Salodiensem da Nicola da Tolentino (Camerino 3 Feb 1589, 9 Feb 1589) 22 1906 139
Rituale antiquissimum Ord. Ff. Minorum 22 1906 91,116,183
Epistola P. Marii a Foro Sarsinio ad P. Honorium a Monte Granario 23 1907 273
Diploma Executoriale Cancellariae Neapolitanae, 26 septembris 1529 23 1907 359
Breve Clementis VII contra Capuccinos Piceni et Calabriae: Dilectis filiis Generali Ministro et Procuratori Ord, Fratrum Minorum regularis Observantiae. …Alias Litteras consimiles, datas diebus 27 maii 1530 et 2 decembris 1531, jam obtinuerat Minister Generalis, quas refert Waddingus, sed effectum non erant consecutae propter favorem quo gaudebant in Curia primi Capuccini. (see note) 23 1907 360
Chronica Joannis Romaei de Terranova de origine Fr. Min. Capuccinorum 23 1907 9,

118, 120, 150, 178, 214, 248

Litterae Bernardini Astensis 24 1908 20
De antiquo loco in Terra Montis-Melonis 24 1908 21
De loco Colmenzoni et de Bernardo ab Ophyda 24 1908 22
Litterae diversae ad Jacobum Salodiensem – a) Litterae Luciani Brixiensis b) Duae Litterae Bernardini ab Orciano c) Litterae Felicis a Nuceria 24 1908 24, 25, 27, 31
De commoratione Ludovici et Raphaelis a Forosempronii apud Eremtias Camaldulenses 25 1909 249
De pestilentia quae anno 1576 Mediolanum vastaviot ac de impavida caritate S. Caroli et Capuccinorum 26 1910 248
Inventarium Documentorum ad historiam Ordinis spectantium quae Mediolani asservantur 28 1912 189, 249, 285, 318, 348, 374
Brevis illustratio monumentorum quae ad historiam nostri Ordinis spectant, primis annis Pontificatus Pauli III. See separate list. 29 1913 122, 155, 188, 215, 252, 310, 254, 279
Brevis illustratio monumentorum quae ad historiam nostri Ordinis spectant, primis annis Pontificatus Pauli III. See separate list. 30 1914 36, 147, 242, 307
Monumenta ad Constitutiones Ordinis Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum pertinentia in lucem edidit Venantius a Lisle-en- Rigault 32 1916 1-224
Monumenta ad Constitutiones Ordinis Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum pertinentia in lucem edidit Venantius a Lisle-en- Rigault 33 1917 225-575
Monumenta ad Constitutiones Ordinis Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum pertinentia in lucem edidit Venantius a Lisle-en- Rigault 34 1918 557-682
Les Ouvrages Franciscains du P. Charles d’Arenberg, O.M. Cap. 1593-1669 34 1918 134
Archivium Historicum Fr. Min. Capuccinorum Thusciae summatim descriptum 34 1918 14, 46, 110
Primordiorum Ord. Min. Cap. enarratio 34 1918 8, 27, 42, 61, 171,
Archivium Historicum Fr. Min. Capuccinorum Thusciae summatim descriptum 35 1919 28, 109, 134, 182
Primordiorum Ord. Min. Cap. enarratio 35 1919 42, 98, 167, 194, 232
Primordiorum Ord. Min. Cap. enarratio 35 1919 42, 98, 167, 194, 215, 232
Primordiorum Ord. Min. Cap. enarratio 36 1920 112, 209, 222, 254, 295
Apostulatus P. Josephi a Ferno (saec.xv-xvi) 39 1923 48
Priscorum Ordinis nostri fratrum praeconia (On Yves of Laval) 39 1923 225
De arte Unionem cum Deo consequendi juxta P. Joannem a Fano, addita appenedice de VII doloribus S. Joesphi 39 1923 259, 279
In P. Ioannem Fanensem epigraphae tres 40 1924 45
De Minoribus Capuccinis medicis et pharmacopaeis 40 1924 274
S. Petri Canisii S.I. cum Ordine Fr. Minorum Capuccinorum devota consuetudo 41 1925 192
Documenta ad historiam Ordinis nostri utilia, quae Matriti in Archivo historico et in Bibliotheca nationali servantur 41 1925 25, 41, 63, 100, 120.
De Capitulo generali Ord ann, 1535-1536 Romae celebrato 43 1927 282

Among these documents he published the extant version of the Chronicle of Giovanni da Terranova (Chronica Joannis Romaei de Terranova de origine Fr. Min. Capuccinorum) and the first account of the birth of the Capuchins written by Mario da Mercato Saraceno (Epistola P. Marii a Foro Sarsinio ad P. Honorium a Monte Granario). About the establishment of the first Capuchin friaries in Rome, he published Santa Maria dei Miracoli. Il primo convento Cappuccini in Roma, Alençon, 1907 and La chiesa di S. Nichola da Portiis, San Bonaventura, S. Croce dei Lucchesi. Il terzo convento dei Cappuccini in Roma Roma, 1908. He describes the foundation of the second Roman friary at Santa Euphemia in De primordiis, translated herein. As for the friaries at Albacina and Renacavata (Camerino) he wrote Les premiers couvents des Frères Mineurs Capucins. Documents et souvenirs de voyage in Etudes Franciscaines, Paris, 1912.

Two of the works presented in this volume, written for the Capuchins themselves, deal directly with aspects of the origins and early development of the Capuchin fraternity. The third essay d’Alençon wrote to describe the involvement of Gian Pietro Carafa with the reform minded Observant friars in the Veneto Province in the first decades of the sixteenth century.

Gian Pietro Carafa, bishop of Chieti (later Pope Paul IV) and the Reform of the Friars Minor of the Observance. Unpublished documents on the Generalate of Paolo Pisotti da Parma and the Province of Saint Anthony, second edition, Foligno, 1912.[6]

While researching the relationship between the Clerics Regular and the Capuchins, d’Alençon concluded that Carafa had not been directly involved with the foundation of the new branch to the Franciscan tree. In the biography Vita et gesti di Gio. Pietro Carafa, Antonio Caracciolo depicts the bishop’s direct involvement with the reforming friars in the Venetian province of St. Anthony (Veneto). Almost by chance, in the Storia dei Papi by Ludwig von Pastor, d’Alençon found a reference to a manuscript codex[7] where he found the documents cited by Caracciolo, as well as many others concerning the friars of that province at that time. Inquiry led him to two other similar codices in the Vatican Archive.

In this essay, or documentary, the author seeks to establish a chronological order of the transgressions within the Veneto province concerning the election and appointment of the provincial and guardians due to the intrigues of the then Observant Minister General, Paolo Pisotti. His opposition to the friars there desiring reform is apparent. The documents d’Alençon publishes in this composition are mostly exchanges of letters, including four letters of Bernardino Ochino published in this essay for the first time, shedding a little more light on the person of Bernardino Ochino in his pre-Capuchin life. The key document, however, is the report or Informazione Carafa[8] sent to Clement VII where he describes problems among the friars and various aspects of the situation of the Church needing remedial reforms which he also proposes.

The time period described in this essay overlaps the beginnings of the Capuchin Order. Carafa dated his report on 4 October 1532,[9] when he was already fifty-two years old, twenty-three years before he became Pope. The essay demonstrates the presence of a desire for reform among friars, reflected also in the Ordinances of Francesco Quiñones[10] and the General Chapter celebrated in Assisi in 1526. The correspondence published here would indicate the frustrating difficulties friars faced in realising what had been decreed for reform, difficulties which would prompt the search for reform independent of the Superiors and result in the beginning of the Capuchins. Carafa’s Informazione describes some details of these difficulties and the need for reform among the friars, though he does not capture what appears to have been a restive and restless mood among the provinces, manifested in occurrences of illicit itinerancy. In some ways this document expresses the reforming mentality of the future, controversial Pope.

The Troubles of the Friars Minor Capuchin during the first years of the Pontificate of Paul III (1534-1541), second edition, Rome, 1914.[11]

Written at the insistence of the friars,[12] this work was also occasioned by the discovery of a letter Ludovico da Reggio wrote to Bernardino d’Asti, 15 January 1536. “This letter is one of the very rare documents that survive and pertain to the beginnings of our Order. I decided to publish it immediately, but it seemed to require a lengthy exposition. This was the occasion to write the present work.”[13]

The troubles he describes are those the Capuchins had to face from their opponents, as well as the crisis surrounding the convocation and outcome of the 1535 Chapter, reconvened in 1536. He points out the need for a ‘genuine history’ of the beginnings of the Friars Minor Capuchin. Since reliable sources are scarce, such a history is difficult. He uses Wadding and Boverius for the narrative, though not uncritically, relying upon Pontifical documents, as well as other letters, especially those of Vittoria Colonna.

The Beginnings of the Capuchin Friars Minor 1525-1534. An Historical Commentary, Rome, 1921.[14]

The difficulty posed in writing such a history gave the author pause. Again he succumbed to the requests of the friars, he says, especially the Minister General, Pacifico Carletti da Saggiano (1908-1914). His aim is “to briefly summarise the origins of the Capuchin Order and its changes within the first years. “Briefly,” he says tellingly, “because it is more valuable to present a series of facts than explain them subtly.”[15] Again his intention is to outline a “genuine and sincere history.” For d’Alençon the difficulty comes about “because one ought not have absolute faith in the authors of our Chronicles, unless what they say, and they do not always agree with each other, may be authenticated by other documents or external witnesses, especially those above suspicion of partiality.”[16]

This treatise is the longest and perhaps most courageous of the three. I say ‘courageous’ because his critical approach exposes the fallacy of some ‘traditional’ narratives regarding the very beginnings of the Capuchins. He risks the accusation of immolating sacred cows with empirical method on the altar of human reason.

The initial chapter recalls the study he did on Carafa and the Observant reformers. The spirit of reform pre-existed the Capuchins, but superiors obstructed such initiatives. A discussion follows regarding the activities of Matteo da Bascio, and then Ludovico and Raffaele da Fossombrone who find themselves at one stage among the Camaldolese. D’Alençon attempts to rationally re-construct the timeline of Ludovico’s enterprise to establish an independent community of reformed friars, with all the associated difficulties. The second half of the essay deals with the reformed friars of Calabria. Amid these matters the author persuasively considers the question about the identity of the Capuchin founder, after evaluating Giuseppe Zarlino’s claim in favour of Paolo da Chioggia. The first presence of the friars in Rome is described. Vittoria Colonna does not feature in this work, but Caterina Cybo.


To compose a ‘genuine and sincere history,’ d’Alençon seeks human causes behind human events, leaving out ‘miracles, visions and revelations.’[17] Thus, while not rejecting the supernatural, he does not include such causes because they are not demonstrable. Explicitly he tries, though not always successfully, to avoid speculative interpretation. Occasionally he does indulge himself. But by and large, he attempts to restrict himself to “recount the facts without losing myself in hypothetical speculation.”[18] He seeks to describe reliably, where possible, what happened. That is, he attempts a descriptive reconstruction of the sequence of events based – sometimes with only a few clues – on authentic documents (then) available to him. Where possible, he compares secondary documentary sources, such as Wadding and Boverius, with the originals that he then published in these essays.

Since he considered the early writers of Capuchin history as uncritical and often in error, he spent “years and years … carefully examining the codices and documents kept in our (Capuchin) Archive and comparing documents kept in other places also, collecting material. Thus prepared, given the opportunity, I might write a genuine history of the beginnings of our Order.”[19] In short, he believes that the first task in writing history is to ascertain the factual, to establish the sequence of events. The reliability of these res gestae or facts is established by the testimony of monumenta. While such a view of historical method may be challenged perhaps as idealistic and inadequate, the fundamental details of events remain. In his passion for honesty – and an empirical objectivity – d’Alençon sees himself following, in some measure, fundamental principles of classical historiography. He cites Cicero on the ‘law of history.’ “Who does not know the first law of history, that one not dare say what is false, and then dare not say what is true? Should there be any suspicion of favouritism or rancour when writing? Obviously everyone knows therefore that these values are fundamental.”[20]

For d’Alençon these studies are only a beginning.

Many things remain obscure, doubtful and uncertain in the history of the beginning of our Order. To the best of my ability I have attempted to explain unpublished and little known documents. By far the most are the others which I have left unstudied, for those who have the task of writing the history of individual provinces. They are to seek out carefully contemporary accounts hidden in the archives of friaries, scribes, comuni and regions, especially regarding the spread of the Order and the foundation of our friaries, which our Chroniclers often related with less exactness.[21]

And why apply such a scientific approach and method to Capuchin history? Towards the end of his study on the beginnings he makes an exhortation that reveals and highlights his motivation. “Contrary to the poet,” he says, “I am certain that hard work does not conquer all things. However hard work is necessary so that our history not be counted by learned men as fables.” With a final rallying call, alluding to Scriptures, he exclaims, “Come then brothers, cast off the works of darkness. Avoid foolish and old tales and clothe yourselves with the armour of light in truth.”[22]

D’Alençon’s difficulty with the first Capuchin writers of the history of the Order compelled him to search out other documentary evidence. The difficulty also raises the question of the historical value of such works.

Our first friars were little concerned with handing on to posterity their memories of the things that had happened. These friars had already died when their heirs wanted to compose a family history. The first account was produced in 1565 by Mario da Mercato Saraceno, and expounds things the early fathers had said, or which they had heard some time earlier from the mouth of Matteo da Bascio. It is not usually based on authentic documents. In his second and third narrations Mario enlarges the account, though without worrying about critical apparatus necessary to confirm what he says, as if everything can be taken as certain. There are so many errors in his account,[23] as well as the accounts of the others,[24] that it is necessary to weigh up carefully their assertions and compare them with historically certain data.

Some of this kind of data is to be sought among contemporary writings which admit no exception, such as pontifical documents, or in letters and accounts of this time, as well as other lesser witnesses. For many long years I have tried to gather these things as best I could and on every occasion.[25]

In Capuchin historiography, d’Alençon’s timely and painstaking effort to ascertain the factual was necessary, and perhaps some may have regarded his dismissal of hagiographical narrative of the events as iconoclastic. Such a reliable basis, the result of a diligent search for corroborative documentary evidence and critical assessment and comparison, is an essential foundation for historical reflection, needed to liberate the story from obsolete polemical, apologetic and romantic trappings and bias. However, one must ask if d’Alençon’s critical historical approach tends to undervalue, if not misjudge, the contributions of Mario da Mercato Saraceno and Bernardino da Colpetrazzo, and the other first ‘chroniclers,’ as untenable and unhistorical because they are undocumented and often factually erroneous and mutually contradictory.

Given d’Alençon’s specific aim to compose a trustworthy description of the course of events, he does not attempt any further assessment of the historical value of these Chronicles beyond their capacity to offer indisputable facts. The accounts are, I believe, historically valuable. The accounts I have in mind are those published by Melchiorre da Pobladura in the Monumenta Historica Ordinis Minorum Capuccinorum vols I to VII, the ‘histories’ of Mario da Mercato Saraceno, Bernardino da Colpetrazzo, Mattia Bellintani da Salò and Paolo Vitelleschi da Foligno.[26] These works are more than museum pieces, cherished relics of the past.[27] These histories are explicitly conscious reflections upon the remembered events and experience of the first Capuchins in relation to the authors’ self-understanding or perceived identity – reflections that were to some extent officially representative, and therefore shared analogously by a significant number of their confreres. While not critical histories, they are a history nonetheless and witness to some human experience lived in Italy during the sixteenth century. Even if these accounts are idealised, they are not merely religious fables nor fairy-tales. Their emphases, polemical or otherwise, ought not be only regarded as idyllic musings, but a response to how some Capuchins saw themselves and how they thought others perceived them. Reading between the lines of these ‘chronicles,’ and re-reading the lines themselves, we may find there a kind of literary mirror of their times. These chronicles are themselves ‘documents,’ but not the kind that d’Alençon can accept within the limits of his approach.

Another consequence of this critical or ‘scientific’ reliance upon the monumenta of papal documents and official correspondence as the substance of the historical commentary is that these essays essentially provide a partial description rather than an understanding. As someone else has said, “documents do not by themselves ‘make’ history; rather, it is history that makes documents.”[28] D’Alençon’s documentary skeleton does not adequately present the lived experience of the friars, but a kind of tactical exchange between key protagonists in the story. Even then the sequence of events is restricted to the kind and number of documents available to the writer. These accounts by d’Alençon are thus very limited. The second and third essays are merely a history of Capuchin legitimisation. There is very little to be found about the life and activity of the friars, apart from the rare references to their preaching and care of the sick. There is little mention of the relationship of the first friars with others apart from the Holy See, the Superiors of the Observance, the Camaldolese, Caterina Cybo and Vittoria Colonna. In other words, as an attempt at a critical history, these two essays do not place the Capuchin reform in any social or ecclesial context, especially the context of pre-Tridentine Italian reform. Indeed, others will later point out this lack in Capuchin historiography.[29] These essays do not entirely transcend that kind of insular or introverted religious family history, but do make more precise assertions about persons, times and places. So many dimensions of history of the birth of the Capuchin Fraternity are left unconsidered and unexplored in d’Alençon’s approach which, if I am not mistaken, would deem any attempt to interpret or understand the facts to be ‘hypothetical speculation,’ counter-productive to a ‘genuine and sincere history.’

A general question of interpretation of the wider context of the Capuchin reform comes to mind, a question which may highlight just one unwitting bias of the author where he identifies his own construal as a ‘fact’ while using only hearsay evidence in favour of an inherited or ‘traditional’ interpretation. As contents of the compositions suggests, the years 1525 to 1541 seem to delimit a kind of historical boundary. (Why d’Alençon finished his commentary on the Troubles in 1541, and not later in 1542, is intriguing, given the major crisis the new fraternity had to face that year with the apostasy of the famous Vicar General, Bernardino Ochino.) These years are foundational not only in the chronological sense, but also ideologically, as the identity of the rapidly growing number of Friars Minor of the Eremitical Life modified. The reader will find in no analysis of the movement that would result in the founding of the new Congregation, much less a survey of the motives behind the great influx of friars from the Observance to the Capuchins in the years 1534 and 1535, despite explicit prohibitions. Of course, the first essay does shed some light.

A Capuchin chronicler such as Bernardino da Colpetrazzo, who himself joined the Capuchins as a young man in 1535, takes pains to justify the existence and novelty of the new fraternity as an expression of the reforming Spiritual tradition within the Franciscan family that brought about the Observant reform the previous century.[30] For various reasons Colpetrazzo, following Mario da Mercato Saraceno, presents the representative majority of new Friars as having an implicitly unanimous motivation and spirit. According to this view, the friars who transferred to the much harsher life of the Capuchins were anxious to live the Rule of Saint Francis literally. While this may have been the case on a general level, I would seriously question the precision, impartiality and adequacy of such a simple imputation to account for the events surrounding the convocation of the Chapter first in 1535 and again in 1536, or those of August 1542.

While a critical historical approach may usefully re-assess the accuracy of names, dates and places, the need remains also to evaluate the meanings or interpretations of these facts. Was Ludovico da Fossombrone concerned about the convocation and celebration of the Chapter only because he was allegedly stubbornly autocratic and ambitious, as the Chroniclers present him? Recourse to megalomania as the ‘explanation’ of the motives of Ludovico and Bernardino Ochino is unconvincing. Such an ‘explanation’ would serve, however, to vindicate and defend the fledgling community, in an attempt to distance the friars from their involvement with such controversial figures. Did those friars who joined the Capuchins all do so for the principle purpose of imitating Saint Francis? Did all the friars have in mind the same concept of Reform? Even Bernardino da Colpetrazzo will lament the presence of mixed motives among them.

Simplified inherited interpretations originating from this period would have taken shape within the atmosphere of the Counter Reformation, when a general and polarised reading of the events within the Church in the first half of the sixteenth century may even have been identified as the orthodox interpretation. The Capuchin chroniclers could not have openly interpreted the events surrounding the flight of Bernardino Ochino and his numerous disciples from the Capuchin fold in any other way than that reflected in the less than charming metaphor of the sea vomiting up her dead. However, even as late as Paolo Vitelleschi da Foligno in the early 1600’s, the Capuchin chroniclers felt the need to defend the authenticity and orthodoxy of the fraternity by rejecting an apparently held belief that Bernardino Ochino was their founder.

We may need to put to one side the inherited interpretations that defensively (and literally) demonise figures like Ochino and simultaneously extol the inviolability of Capuchin virtue and orthodoxy deemed necessary in the context of a Counter Reformation environment hostile to views divergent from decreed standards. Transcending a simple family history, we ought to situate the first Capuchin generation within a broader context and consider the possibility of other plausible critical hypotheses resonant with what is already known or observed, exploring the relationship between friars of the emergent Capuchin Reform and pre-Trent Italian Reform between 1525 and 1542.[31]


D’Alençon’s exclusively preferred reliance upon external witnesses in the construction of his time-line and commentary in the second two essays often seems to result in an incomplete narrative, interrupted by the lack of authentic documents. Indeed, his narrative has the feel of being disjointed and unfinished, ending abruptly.

Nonetheless, these observations do not detract from the intrinsic value of these works by d’Alençon. Others have acknowledged this worth; a few examples. Cuthbert of Brighton’s (1866-1939) history, The Capuchins. A Contribution to the History of the Counter Reformation,[32] remains the only published English language general history of the Capuchins, though now even less complete than its author feared then. The two volumes came out in 1928, partially realising the dream of Bernard Christen von Andermatt.[33] While Cuthbert does not agree in all things, d’Alençon’s observations often provide a starting point for his discussion, and d’Alençon’s chronology provides the essential timeline for Cuthbert’s description of the period up to 1541.

The editors of the revised Annales Minorum by Wadding also signal d’Alençon’s contribution to the history of the Franciscan family, being the first to publish Clement VII’s Bull Cum nuper (8 March 1526)[34] and Pastoralis officii (15 April 1534).[35] His study of Gian Pietro Carafa is recognised in a later, authoritative publication of Carafa’s ‘Informazione.’[36]

In his critical editions of the Capuchin chroniclers in Monumenta Historica Ordinis Minorum Capuccinorum i-vii, Melchiorre da Pobladura refers repeatedly to these studies, as he does in the first volume of his Historia Generalis Ordinis Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum, pars prima, 1525 – 1619.[37]

Not only Capuchin authors have appreciated d’Alençon’s essays. De Primordiis Ordinis Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum 1525-1534. Commentarium Historicum and Tribulationes Ordinis Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum primis annis pontificatus Pauli III (1534-1541) “should still be consulted. These volumes are the first modern historical works on the origins of the Capuchins written by the archivist of the Order.”[38] In her assessment this author echoes the noteworthy, if slightly incandescent summary offered by the Capuchin historian Callisto Urbanelli in 1978:

A new direction in historiography was necessary…This took place at the beginning of the nineteen hundreds thanks to Edouard d’Alençon, who should be considered the true initiator of the scientific handling of the history of the Order. He undertook research and studies with an exemplary methodology, characterised by an exhaustive investigation of the documents and an exact critical evaluation of the sources, accompanied by a revision of the historical data and biographies, reconstructed in their genuine reality by means of subtle and incisive analysis. The impulse he gave to such studies has not remained an isolated incidence, but a great throng have continued to initiate a fertile work of revision and complementation of work done in the past.


I have already explained why I have included the essay on Gian Pietro Carafa with the two on the early years of the Capuchins. The reader will quickly recognise that the different style of the Carafa essay renders it more difficult to read. The author uses the documents within the fabric of his commentary. My intention is to make available to other researchers the documents that d’Alençon collected and in their original languages. Having the texts in their original languages is an obvious disadvantage for most readers approaching the first essay. The presence of foreign language documents within a translated work may appear contradictory – an unsightly, frustrating and esoteric display. My only defence would be to restate my primary purpose for this reference work: a) to present a translation of the author’s commentary for its factual content and historical method; b) to preserve and represent the documents the author gathered.

In the second and third compositions, on the other hand, the author writes a more ample commentary that refers to the documents and sums up the salient points each makes.

After deciding the inclusion of this work, the question arose concerning the order in which to arrange the essays: according to the date of publication, or following the chronological order of the subject matter of each work. Gian Pietro Carafa was published in 1912, De Primordiis in 1921 and Tribulationes in 1914. I had overlooked this slight problem earlier and arranged the essays according the timeline of their contents and cross-referenced them according to their combined pagination. At this moment I see no compelling reason to change the sequence, but do acknowledge the advantage of placing Tribulationes before De Primordiis. With the benefit of longer reflection and the availability of further documents, in De Primordiis the author modifies or changes his opinion about some assertions made in Tribulationes. In short, let the reader beware of the time-gap between these compositions.

D’Alençon presented documents previously unpublished, but also a number of them already found in Boverius’ Annalium,[39] Wadding’s Annales Minorum[40] or Vittoria Colonna’s Carteggio.[41] Any such compilation can be exhaustive and complete. Some of his documents have been republished, along with some others relevant to the period, in I Frati Cappuccini.[42] D’Alençon tries to present the documents as faithful to the originals as possible. This task occasionally presented him difficulties in deciphering the text, as when Vittoria Colonna writes in her own hand, a scribe has omitted a word or the manuscript is damaged. He has also added punctuation to render the meaning of the texts clearer. He says, “In the publication of documents I have sought to preserve the original spelling of the words. I have added full-stops, commas, accents and capital letters when it seemed useful to facilitate understanding of the meaning. However, I must confess that at different times I have not managed to understand the meaning perfectly.”[43] As a result other editions of the same documents may vary in some details of wording and punctuation. Critical of erroneous transcriptions, d’Alençon is himself not above the same reproach. In this volume, however, I have followed his transcriptions. In cases of significant divergence between his version and that rendered by others, I have indicated this in a footnote. Of course, I have likely made some original contributions to transcription errors also. In this, as in any other aspect of this work, corrections are welcome.


The latter edition of the second and third essays each had an alphabetical index which I have omitted. All three works, in their second edition and translated here, appeared in a double-column format. While very economical with space and paper, this format may be difficult to read, especially the footnotes.

To the documents the author has assembled, I have added two more. I have appended to the first work the full text of informazione (or ‘Informatione’) Gian Pietro Carafa sent to Clement VII.[44] An English translation of Religionis zelus is included after the third essay.[45]

Without mentioning the Codex Cingulano and very few minor references to some local archives, I have tried to compile a bibliography of the works to which d’Alençon refers in the three compositions.[46] The reader will find also a supplementary bibliography of works I have cited, occasionally in the footnotes, in the hope that such references help the reader.[47] Sometimes I have added a comment to a footnote of the author, or inserted a fresh note. The symbol precedes these inclusions. Most of these interventions are library references to the work cited, and the references are to the catalogue of the Biblioteca Centrale dei Frati Minori Cappuccini in Rome, indicated thus – BCC. For example, when a cited work is in the Biblioteca Centrale, the catalogue number is given in this format – BCC:24-O-16, or BCC: opusc-61-63. When I have included such references within the text of the author’s note, I have separated them from the text with square brackets, e.g. [BCC:24-O-16]. When the BCC edition of a cited work has a different page number to that given by the author, I have opted to use the pagination of the BCC edition.

I have used the author’s formatting of his content pages. He supplied Tribulationes with a chronological table rather than contents. I have added a list of contents for this essay on page 232.

A list of corrigenda for De Primordiis and Tribulationes conclude this introduction, for the sake of those who may wish to consult the author’s own text.


A special word of thanks to Br Servus Gieben OFM Cap for his patient assistance in reply to many importunate requests for help with the Latin, and similarly to Patrizia Morelli and Silverio Saulle of the Biblioteca Centrale dei Frati Minori Cappuccini for their ever prompt, tirelessly generous and professional assistance and encouragement. Naturally, I am responsible for the translation, for better or for worse.

Paul Hanbridge OFM Cap
Collegio Internazionale dei Cappuccini
Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena
29 April 2005


Corrigenda to the original edtion

6 Left column, line 14: “Civitatem Latinam” → “Civitatem Laviniam”
7 Left column, line 11, “Civitatem Latinam” → “Civitatem Laviniam”
10 Right column, line 10, “exprobrasse” →”exprobravisse”
15 Right column, continuation of note (1), line 17 of the continuation., “con comunicata” →”son comunicata”
16 Left column, line 19, “improbarunt” → “improbabarunt”
16 Right column, line 28, “quamdam” → “quandam”
19 Note (4), “p.466” → “p.467”
21 Note (1), “autumnat” → “autumat”
22 Right column, line 32, “contrariarentur”→ “contradictionem habuerint” better perhaps?
23 Left column, line 2 “debent” → “debet”
45 Left Column, line 17 “reponsiones”→ “responsiones”
46 Note (3) line 3, “spirti” → “spiriti”
52 Left Column, line 1 “despectdm” → “despectam”
57 Left Column, last line “onso” → “sono”
59 Right Column, line 10, “omnibns”→ “omnibus”
59 Note (2) “Cronologia” → “Chronologia”

De Primordiis

Corrigenda to the original editino

24 Note in continuation from the previous page. Instead of Analecta vol.xxvi.1910, read Analecta vol. xxv. 1909
30 Note (2) Instead of “Göller, op.cit., p.60”, read “Göller, op.cit., p.69”.
31 Note (2) Instead of 1226, read 1526
37 Left column, line 17, instead of “demonstrant” read “demonstrat.”
38 Left column, line 6, instead of “occurebat” read “occurrebat.”
42 Right column, line 34, instead of “edicta” read “edita.”
48 Note (1) instead of “24 Nov.1305” read “24 Nov. 1435.”
49 Note (1), this is the author’s first explicit citation of the ‘opusculum’ which is later idenitfied from p.124 note (1): Notizie e documenti sulla vita di Caterina Cibo-Varano, Camerino, 1891.
49 Right column, line 12, instead of “licem” read “licet.”
50 Note (3), The author reproduces the evident mistake in the text of Boverius, Annalium I, 99. Instead of “xxv” read “xv.”
52 Note (1). Instead of “Ducange” read “Du Cange”
59 Right column, line 12, add the citation: Boverius, Annalium, an.1528, xxviii.
59 Note (4), instead of “1916” read “1906.”
60 Note (6), instead of “Aventiae” read “aventiae.”
62 Note (2). Attention. “cod. cit.” refers to the third Relatio of Mario da Mercato Saraceno and not to the Codex Cingulano. See MHOMC I, 243, rig.26-28.
63 Left column. “Angelus a Tiferno” add “Metaurensi” to distinguish it from Città di Castella (Umbria) or Tifernum Tiberinum, and from Tifernum del Sannio.
63 Note (3). Add: “Vedi, Paolo Vitelleschi da Foligno, MHOMC VII, 57, where is read “p.74” of the codex. On the discussion about Boverius’ equivocal reference to ‘Saloniensis’ and taken up by d’Alençon, see MHOMC VII, xxvii-xxviii.
63 Note (1), “cod. cit.” Attention. “cod. cit.” refers to the third Relatio of Mario da Mercato Saraceno and not to the Codex Cingulano. See MHOMC I, 242.
64 Note (2) Instead of “Ordinit” (right column) read “Ordinis”.
66 Left column, line 6, instead of “dicendis” read “dicendi.” See the correction for page 79 above..
66 Left column, line 35, instead of “quamdam” read “quandam.”
68 Note 6 e 7. These notes refer to the Codex Cingulano f.44r, or MHOMC I, 76, that is, the second Relatio of Mario. Therefore ‘l.c.’ e ‘f.c.’ can be deleted fromt he respective notes.
69 Note (6) first word “Gualterius”
69 Right column, line 15, instead of “loquiter” read “loquitetur”
70 Note (4) La data fornita dall’autore per la prima edizione dell trattato di Girolamo da Dinami, cioè 1566, non è congrua con la data esplicita della seconda edizione ‘ampliata et emendata’ in 1565.
70 Note (2), Bonaventura Campagna lib.III, hear read lib.IV
71 Note (7) after “Valentia”, instead of “Op.cit.” read, “Bibliotheca Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum Neapolitanae, Romae, apud Archivistam Generalem Ordinis Capuccinorum, 1886”
71 Note (6) for ‘Bonantura’ read ‘Bonaventura’
79 Right column, line 30, “ex modo dicendis,” for “dicendis” read “dicendi” See correction p.66.
80 Note (2) for “1559” read “1529”
86 Right column, line 7, for “assequutum” read “assecuutum” or “adsecuutum”
91 Left column, line 15, for “1531” read “1532”
92 Left column, read “benevolentium ac devotionum accendit” accordino to the original text
96 Right column, line 37, instead of “didicerant” read “didicerat”
98 Left column, line 7, instead of “tamdem” read (also according to Boverius text cited here) “tandem”
99 Left column, line 10, instead of “auserat” read “ausus erat.”
103 Left column, line 11, instead of “accomodare” read “accommodare”
108 Right column, penultima line, instead of “pretitionis” read “petitionis”
108 Right column, line 14-15, “qui” twice
109 Right column, rige 30-31, instead of “patritiatus” read “patriciatus”
109 Right column, line 19, instead of “Ioanne Maria” read “Ioanne Matthaeo”
115 Note (2) Right column instead of “Boerius” read “Boverius”
115 Left column, line 24, instead of “Capuccinose” read “Capuccinos e”
118 Left column, line 36, instead of “mandas” read “mandamus”
119 Left column, line 4, instead of “milliaribus” read “milliariis”
119 Right column, line 9, instead of “correctorium” si legge “correctior”
121 Left column, line 2, instead of “repereret” read “reperiret”
122 Right column, line 2, instead of “declinarunt” read “declinaverunt”
122 Right column, line 8, instead of “seorsim” read “seorsum”
  1. Bernardino da Colpetrazzo (1514–1594), Monumenta Historica Ordinis Minorum Capuccinorum II-IV
  2. For an obituary of Edouard d’Alençon see Analecta Ordinis Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum 45(1929)21-26.
  3. Later that same year Cuthbert of Brighton (1866-1939) published his two volume history The Capuchins: A Contribution to the History of the Counter-Reformation, London, Sheed and Ward, 1928.
  4. Edith Pasztor, San Francesco e la ‘Questione Francescana’ nei Cappuccini Edouard d’Alençon e Gratien de Paris in Collectanea Franciscana 52(1982) 267-315.
  5. Lexicon Capuccinum (1951), 525.
  6. The first edition of Gian Pietro Carafa, vescovo di Chieti (Paolo IV) e la riforma nell’Ordine dei Minori dell’Osservanza. Documenti inediti sul Generalato di Paolo Pisotti da Parma e la Provincia di S. Antonio appeared in Miscellanea Franciscana 13 (1911) 33-48,81-92,112-121,131-144.
  7. Biblioteca Casanatense of Rome, ms. 349
  8. For a reference to an English translation of Carafa’s Informatione see page xi note 6
  9. In November 1536, along with Pole, Giberti, Cortese, and Contarini, Carafa was part of Paul III’s reform commission that published the Consilium delectorum cardinalium et aliorum praelatorum de emendanda ecclesia S.D.N. Paulo III petente conscriptum et exhibitum anno 1537. Meeting almost daily from that November, the commission produced the Concilium the following February. An English translation ‘Proposal of a Select Committee of Cardinals and Other Prelates Concerning the Reform of the Church, Written and Presented by Order of His Holiness Pope Paul III’ may be found in Elizabeth G. Gleason, Reform Thought in Sixteenth-Century Italy, Chico (California), 1981, 81-100.
  10. Juan Mesequer Fernández, “Programa de Gobierno del P. Francisco de Quiñones, Ministro General O.F.M. (1523-1528),” in Archivo Ibero Americano 21(1961) 5-51
  11. Tribulationes Ordinis Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum primis annis pontificatus Pauli III (1534-1541). Haec Brevis Illustratio Monumentorum, editorum vel ineditorum, quae ad dicti Ordinis historiam spectant, correcta et ampliata secundo prodit, cura Eduardi Alenconiensis, Romae, 1914. The first edition in Analecta OFM Cap (see above) Brevis illustratio monumentorum quae ad historiam nostri Ordinis spectant, primis annis Pontificatus Pauli III.
  12. In 1904-1905 the Minister General, Bernard von Andermatt called upon each Capuchin mission jurisdiction to appoint a suitable friar to write a factual history of the mission to supplement the Storia delle Missioni dei Cappuccini written by Rocco Cocchia da Cesinale, the Procurator General of the Missions, and published in three volumes 1867, 1872 and 1873. These described the history of the Capuchin Missions up to the end of the eighteenth century. See Analecta OFMCap 20(1904)108-109. The following year, the same General made a similar request to the Provinces, together with guidelines, in the hope that each province produce its own history so that a general history of the Order be produced for the fourth centenary of Religionis zelus in 1928. “Plurimum interest, ut retineamus Patrum nostrorum memoriam, eorumque investigemus praeclara exempla gestaque. Ipsi enim tam dictis quam factis suis nostram illuminant mentem, et tamquam lucernae ardentes rectam nobis ostendunt viam quam ingredientes finem nobis praefixum consequamur, ipsi suarum virtutum splendore zeloque apostolico nostrum augent animum ad eorum insistendum vestigiis.” Analecta OFMCap, 21(1905)15. The General’s letter pages 15-16, followed by supplementary guidelines De Historia Ordinis conscribenda, 53-57, 120-123, 177-181, 210-215, 313-317, 332-342. The last two references contain Mattia da Salo’s schema for composing local Capuchin history. On this schema, see Costanzo Cargnoni, I Frati Cappuccini II, “Guida e metodo per compilare le Cronache dell’Ordine,” 1862-1879.
  13. Page 294.
  14. De Primordiis Ordinis Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum 1525-1534. Commentarium Historicum, Romae, apud Curiam Generalitiam O.M. Cap, 1921. First edition appeared as Primordiorum Ord. Min. Cap. enarratio in Analecta OFMCap 1918-1920 (above).
  15. Page 93.
  16. Same page.
  17. “We should not demand special divine intervention to explain the causes of human events.” p. 93.
  18. Page 30.
  19. Page 94.
  20. Page 93.
  21. Pages 233-234.
  22. Page 226.
  23. “Many details described by some writers seem false to me, or at least without a satisfactory, sound foundation… and they do not always agree with each other.” Page 94 .
  24. “Our early writers who, at that time, had known about the historical facts only by tradition, still did not know the original documents mentioned and they mixed error with truth, errors which weave through the narrative, and they altered the sequence of facts.” Page 120.
  25. Page 230 .
  26. Other contemporary works written by Capuchins may be included, such as those by Giovanni Romeo da Terranova and Ruffino da Siena. D’Alençon will cite others in these essays. Costanzo Cargnoni, in I Frati Cappuccini II, has published these and others ‘chronicles,’ most of which are mainly biographical (almost another category of writing) and too numerous to mention here. The works cited here in the text appear to be the most substantial by far and were specifically commissioned by the Capuchin general superiors – a fact that places them, I think, into a category of their own. None of these were published prior to the twentieth century.
  27. I do not deny the value of museum pieces as historical witnesses, particularly as a tangible presence of the ‘past.’
  28. John Lukacs, At the End of an Age, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2002, page 62.
  29. See Cuthbert of Brighton, The Capuchins, 9-10, 429-430; Gleason E.G., The Capuchin Order in the Sixteenth Century in Religious Orders of the Catholic Reformation. In honour of John C. Olin on his seventy-fifth birthday. Edited by R.L. DeMolen, Fordham University Press, New York, 1994, 30-57, pages 48-49.
  30. There is a large bibliography of studies regarding the relationship between the Capuchins and the Franciscan spirituals and reformers. For a sample of such discussion see Fredegando d’Anversa, Le idee francescane spirituali nei FF.MM. Cappuccini del secolo XVI in L’Italia Francescana 2(1927) 113-130.
  31. I hope to discuss these questions more fully at another time and in another place.
  32. London, Sheed and Ward, 1928.
  33. See page vi, note 2.
  34. Wadding, Annales Minorum xvi, 788-791. Cf. Callisto Urbanelli, Storia dei Cappuccini delle Marche, prima parte, vol.iii: Documenti 1517-1609, tomo secondo, Ancona, 1982, page 792, misnaming the Brief as Esponi nobis in the index, ‘Edoardo d’Alençon.’ See 115-116.
  35. Wadding, Annales Minorum xvi, 794-796. See 218-220.
  36. Concilium Tridentinum …, Societas Goerresiana, tom.xii: Tractatuum pars prior, Freiburg, 1930, pp.67-77, see 67(1) and 67(2). An English translation ‘Memorial to Pope Clement VII (1532) in Elizabeth G. Gleason, Reform Thought in Sixteenth-Century Italy, Chico (California), 1981, 55-80.
  37. Rome, 1947.
  38. Elizabeth G. Gleason, The Capuchin Order in the Sixteenth Century, 52.
  39. Zacharias Boverius Salutiensis, Annalium seu sacrarum historiarum Ordinis Minorum S. Francisci, qui Capucini nuncupantur, tomus.I, Lugduni, 1632; tomus.II, Lugduni, 1639.
  40. Lucas Waddingus, Annales Minorum seu trium Ordinum a S. Francisco institutorum, tomus xvi (1516-1540), Editio terza accuratissima auctior et emendatior ad exemplar editionis, Prope Florentiam, 1933.
  41. Vittoria Colonna, Carteggio, raccolto e pubblicato da Ermanno Ferraro e Giuseppe Müller. Seconda edizione con Supplemento raccolto ed annotato da Domenico Tordi, Torino, Ermanno Loescher, 1892.
  42. Costanzo Cargnoni (a cura di), I Frati Cappuccini, 5 vol. in 6 tomi. Edizioni Frate Indovino 5 volumes in 6 tomes. 1988-1993.
  43. Page 9.
  44. See pages 77-90. Cf. page xi, note 6 above.
  45. The translation is from the now defunct Round Table of Franciscan Research, see pages 300-302.
  46. Pages 303-307
  47. Pages 307-309