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Sunday, 1 March 2015


Francis of Assisi and his followers walked barefoot to Rome in 1209 to ask Pope Innocent III for official recognition as an order. The pope was dubious, but after a dream in which he saw the church was bursting apart and a poor man, whom he identified as Francis appearing to hold it together, he granted their wish.

According to tradition, the official founding date of the Franciscan Order was April 16, 1210.

The Pope approving the statutes of the Order of the Franciscans, by Giotto, 1295–1300

In their early days Francis and his followers lived in huts made of branches at Rivoreto close to Assisi. As they began to travel throughout central Italy, they, like Jesus, often found they did not have a place to lay their heads.

The Poor Clares were the second Franciscan Order to be established. Founded by Saints Clare of Assisi and Francis of Assisi on Palm Sunday in 1212, they devoted themselves to nursing. For 40 years despite constant ill health Clare guided her community.

The Franciscans first arrived in England on September 10, 1224. Blessed Agnellus of Pisa, who led the mission, was chosen by Francis of Assisi to go to England and become the first Minister Provincial. He was accompanied by eight Franciscan brothers; three of whom were English.

These early Franciscans wore a grey robe, tied at the waist by a plain cord with three knots representing the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. In England they were nicknamed “Greyfriars.”

Franciscans of the California missions donned gray habits

According to tradition, the official founding date of the Franciscan Order was April 16, 1210. The Dominican order was recognized seven years later. The authorization and growth of these two orders meant a decline in appeal and influence of the older monastic orders with the mantle being passed to these new begging orders.

By the beginning of the fourteenth century there were around 25,000 Franciscan friars preaching from 1,400 friaries in Western Europe.

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