See studies by J. Moorman (1968), K. Esser (tr. 1970), and T. MacVicar (1986).
Member of a Christian religious order dedicated to the apostolic life of poverty and preaching founded in 1209 by St. Francis of Assisi. The Franciscans actually consist of three orders. The First Order comprises priests and lay brothers who have sworn to a life of prayer, preaching, and penance. The Second Order (founded 1212) consists of cloistered nuns known as the Poor Clares. The Third Order consists of religious members and laypersons who observe Franciscan principles in teaching, charity, and social service. The Rule of St. Francis stipulated that Franciscan friars could own no property of any kind, either individually or communally. The friars wandered and preached among the people, helping the poor and sick. Their impact was immense; within 10 years they numbered 5,000. A milder version of the rule was approved in 1223, and after the death of St. Francis in 1226 the order was divided by conflicts over the vow of poverty. A moderate interpretation of the rule was established while St. Bonaventure was minister general of the order (1257–74), and the friars spread throughout Europe, their missionaries penetrating as far as Syria and Africa. Though continuing controversy over the definition of poverty led to the intervention of the Pope John XXII, who persecuted the advocates of strict poverty, and to divisions of the order that lasted into the 19th century, the Franciscans flourished. They remain the largest Roman Catholic religious order.
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