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FRANCISCANS, or MINORITES (fratres minores, as they were called by their founder, in token of humility), are the members of the religious order established by St. Francis of Assisi (q. v.), in 1208, by collecting followers near the church of Porticella or Portiuncula, at Assisi, in Naples, The order was distinguished by vows of absolute poverty, and a renunciation of all the pleasures of the world, and was intended to serve the church by its care of the religious state of the people, so neglected by the secular clergy of that time. Learning and intellectual accomplishments its members were not to aim after. St. Francis likewise strictly prohibited his followers from possessing any property whatever. The rule of the or der, sanctioned by the pope, in 1210 and 1223, destined them to beg and to preach. The popes granted them extensive privileges, which soon became equally burdensome to the laity and clergy, particularly as they were subject to no authority but that of the pope. They often encroached on the rights of the regular pastors. Indulgences were granted to them more finely than to any other order; hence the expression Portiuncula indulgence. The order soon comprised thousands of monasteries, all established by alms and contributions. The rule of poverty, so strictly enjoined by the founder, was somewhat relaxed, and the monasteries were permitted to hold property. This change, however, was not effected without divisions within the order itself. Learning, also, did not long remain excluded from their monasteries, and distinguished scholars, as Bonaventura, Alexander de Hales, Duns Scotus, Roger Bacon and others obtained a celebrity which justified the admission of the Minorites to the chairs of the universities. They defended the immaculate conception of tne Virgin Mary against the Dominicans; their animosity against whom has been maintained even down to a late period, in the disputes between the Scotists (Franciscans; and Thomists (Dominicans). With their rivals, they were, from the 13th to the 16th century, the confessors of princes and the rulers of the Christian world. They were then superseded by the Jesuits; but, by a prudent compromise with them, they retained more influence than the Dominicans. Several Franciscans have risen to the highest offices of the church; the popes Nicholas IV, Alexander V, Sixtus IV and V, and Clement XIV, were from this order. Some members of the order declared this to be an unpardonable deviation from its rules, and therefore formed particular fraternities, such as the Caesarinians and Celestines in the 13th century, the Spirituals in the 14th century. In 1363, the dissidents were united, by St. Paul, in the fraternity of the Soccolanti, or sandalwearers. In 1415, they were constituted, by the pope, a separate branch of the Franciscans, under the name of Observantines, which, in 1517, when Leo X effected an accommodation between the different parties, retained the superiority. Since that time, the general of the Observantines has been the general minister of the whole order (the Franciscans use this term, minister, servant, by way of humility). The Cordeliers are a branch of the Franciscans in France. The Ri formati in Italy, and the Recollects, formerly numerous in France (so called because they lived a strictly meditative Hfe), belong to the brethren of the observance. The strictest are the Alcantarines, who follow the reforms introduced by Peter of Alcantara, and go with their feet entirely bare. They are numerous in Spain and Portugal, but not in Italy. The branches of the Observants, under their common general, form two familiesthe cismontane, who have 66 provinces, now generally in a feeble state, in Italy and Upper Germany, in Hungary, Poland, Palestine and Syria; the ultramontane, with 81 provinces, in Spain, Portugal, Asia, Africa, America and the islands. That portion of the Franciscans who wear shoes, or the conventuals, are much less numerous. Before the French revolution, they had 30 provinces, with 100 convents and 15,000 monks. They are now found only here and there in the south of Germany, in Switzerland and Italy, where they have given up begging, and serve as professors in the colleges. A coarse woollen frock, with a cord round the waist, to which a rope with a knotted scourge is suspended, is the common dress of all the Franciscans. In 1528, Matthew of Bassi founded the Capuchins, a branch of the Minorites, still more strict than the Observantines. Since 1619, they have had a particular general. In the 18th century, they had 1700 convents, with 25,000 members. St. Francis himself collected nuns in 1209, who were sometimes called Damianistines, from then* first church at St. Damian, in Assisi. St. Clare was their first prioress; hence they were also called the nuns of St. Clare. The nuns were also divided into branches, according to the severity of their rules. The Urbanists were a branch founded by pope Urban IV ; they revered St. Isabelle, daughter of Louis VIII of France, as their mother. Other branches are the female Capuchins and barefooted nuns, of the strictest observance; also the Annuntiata. In the 18th century, there were 28,000 Franciscan nuns, in 900 convents. They were formerly supported by the alms collected by the monks; they now live by the revenues of their convents. St. Francis also founded, in 1221, a third order, of both sexes, for persons who did not wish to take the monastic vows, and yet desired to adopt a few of the easier observances. They are called Tertiarians, and were very numerous in the 13th century. From them proceeded several heretical fraternities, as the Fraticelli, Beghardss and the Picpuses, as the strict Tertiarians in France were called. The whole number of Franciscans and Capuchins, in the 18th century, amounted to 115,000 monks, in 7000 convents. At present, it is not, probably, one third so great, as they have been suppressed in most countries. In Austria, they are not allowed to receive novices. The order flourishes in South America. In Jerusalem, they watch the holy sepulchre; and in the Catholic cantons of Switzerland, they are engaged in the education of the young.