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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary

Fratricelli

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An enthusiastic sect of Franciscans, which arose in Italy, and particularly in the marquisate of Ancona, about the year 1294. The word is an Italian diminutive, signifying fraterculi, or "little brothers, " and was here used as a term of derision, as they were most of them apostate monks, whom the Italians call fratelli or fratricelli. For this reason, the term fratricelli, as a nick-name, was given to many other sects, as the Catharists, the Waldenses, &c. however different in their opinions and their conduct. But this denomination, applied to the austere part of the Franciscans, was considered as honourable.

See FRANCISCANS. The founders of this sect were P. Maurato and P. de Fossombroni, who, having obtained of Pope Celestin V. a permission to live in solitude after the manner of hermits, and to observe the rule of St. Francis in all its rigour, several idle vagabond monks joined them, who, living after their own fancies, and making all perfection to consist in poverty, were soon condemned by pope Boniface VIII. and his successor, and the inquisitors ordered to proceed against them as heretics: which commission they executed with their usual barbarity. Upon this, retiring into Sicily, Peter John Oliva de Seriguan had no sooner published his comment on the Apocalypse, than they adopted his tenets.

They held the Romish church to be Babylon, and proposed to establish another far more perfect one: they maintained that the rule of St. Francis was the evangelical rule observed by Jesus Christ and his apostles. They foretold the reformation of the church, and the restoration of the true Gospel of Christ, by the genuine followers of St. Francis; and declared their assent to almost all the doctrines which were published under the name of the abbot Joachim, in the "Introduction to the Everlasting Gospel, " a book published in 1250, and explained by one of the spiritual friars, whose name was Gerhard. Among other errors inculcated in this book, it is pretended that St. Francis was the angel mentioned in Revelation 14:6 ., and had promulgated to the world the true and everlasting Gospel; that the Gospel of Christ was to be abrogated in 1260, and to give place to this new and everlasting Gospel, which was to be substituted in its room; and that to be substituted in its room; and that the ministers of this great reformation were to be humble and barefooted friars, destitute of all worldly employments.

Some say, they even elected a pope of their church; at least they appointed a general with superiors, and built monasteries, &c. Besides the opinions of Oliva, they held that the sacraments of the church were invalid, because those who administered them had no longer any power or jurisdiction. They were condemned again by pope John XXII. in consequence of whose cruelty they regarded him as the true antichrist; but several of them, returning into Germany, were sheltered by Lewis, duke of Bavaria, the emperor. There are authentic records, from which it appears, that no less than 2000 persons were burnt by the inquisition, from the year 1318 to the time of Innocent VI. for their inflexible attachment to the order of St. Francis. The severities against them were again revived, towards the close of the fifteenth century, by pope Nicholas V. and his successors. However, all the persecutions which this sect endured were not sufficient to extinguish it; for it subsisted until the times of the reformation in Germany, when its remaining votaries adopted the cause and embraced the doctrine and discipline of Luther.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Fratricelli'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/f/fratricelli.html. 1802.

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