History of Franciscan order

After the death of St. Francis (in 1226) a division occured between the monks divided into two groups. The first group wanted to preserve the original radicalism of the founder's life; there were only a few older monks in this group. The second opted for adapting the function and activity of the Order to the ever-increasing number of friars and to the new tasks they were faced by the Church. These were the vast majority.

This tension was eased by General St. Bonaventure of Bagnoreggio (1217-1274), referred to as the second founder of the Order. By the end of the 13th century, the Franciscans had monasteries in many European countries, and their number exceeded 30,000. At that time another reform movement, the so-called Spirituals appeared in the Order. They started the so-called Observation, or movement of strict observance of the rule. This movement in the mid 15th century found a great protector in the person of Saint Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444), vicar general of the Order..

In 1517, Pope Leo X convened in Rome the Chapter of all the Franciscans, both observers and those who were the core of the Conventual Order, who exercised formal control over the observers. By 1517, the Order had one general, it was always a Franciscan from the mainstream (Conventual).

On this chapter the observers received independence, were called Friars Minor Regular Observers, were entrusted with the seal of the Order. This decision of the pope was a formal division of the Order into two autonomous orders: Friars Minor Conventuals and Friars Minor Observants. From then on, each Order has elected its own general.

In the ensuing years in the new congregation of “observants” some new groups were formed: of reformists, alcantarians, retreatants, brothers of the so-called. "Small reform". In 1897, Pope Leo XIII merged all of these into one order called the Order of Friars Minor.

In the sixteenth century, the fraction of Matthew from Bascio emerged from the reformist movements, which marked the inauguration of the third Franciscan Order. This faction had support and formal care in the conventual order. In 1528 Pope Clement VII gave his consent to the formation of the new Capuchin Friars Minor, officially approved in 1619.

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