[CAPESTRANO, Johannes de, et al.]


[CAPESTRANO, Johannes de, et al.] [Canon law documents on the Franciscan Third Order.]

Italy, first half of the 15th century


Folio. 13 unnumbered ll., last 3 in a different contemporary hand. Latin, in black and brown ink, Gothic letter, average of 45 lines per full page, three-line ms. note concerning Capestrano c.1700 at head of first leaf. Edges untrimmed, slight yellowing, recto of first leaf finger soiled at lower outer corner, small clean tear from lower edge, couple of ll. slightly foxed, small worm trail at blank gutter of first few ll., couple of little holes to text of fol.3 affecting a few letters and to blank portion of fol.10, small ink splash to fore-edge of last. A very good copy in envelope limp vellum, couple of scattered flaws, C14 ms. used as spine lining just visible.

This manuscript comprises copies of some of the most important regulations relating to Franciscan Tertiaries. Its Umbrian origin is proved by the names of the four notaries, copied by a secretary, who had authenticated the original documents. Three, from Gubbio, were ‘imperial’ notaries, i.e., of the Curia Vescovile.

The collection opens with the final part of a key text in the definition of their legal status: ‘Defensorium tertii Ordinis beati Francisci’ by the reformer John of Capestrano (1386-1456), a Franciscan Minor, doctor ‘in utroque’ and major contributor in debates on the legal status of Franciscan Orders in the early C15. Written c.1440, ‘Defensorium’ comprises ‘consilia’ by eminent jurists, defending the clerical status of regular Tertiaries. Although they did not take orders strictu sensu, and lived outside religious institutions, these nevertheless wore the habit and followed the Franciscan rule. As such, in case, of legal complications, they would be tried according to ecclesiastical, not civil, law. This manuscript features the last few paragraphs of Capestrano’s ‘consilium’, followed by those of Cato de Saccis, Luchinus de Curte, Bartholomeus de Barateriis, Lucae de Vernaciis and Franciscus de Folengus and Augustinus de Manzariis de Castro.

The remainder of the manuscript includes whole documents or excerpts relating to the Tertiaries, sometimes copied without interruption, dating from the C13 to the C15. For instance, the Bulla Supra Montem (1289), by which Nicholas IV approved the Third Order; a letter to Jordanus, Bishop of Albano, on the Third Order (1426); several apostolic privileges issued by Eugenius IV; the immunity of ecclesiastical persons; and excerpts from a bull by Alexander IV (1258).

The complexity of the Tertiaries’ legal status required that notaries had at hand all regulations on the subject, especially in case of inheritance, bequests, etc. In Umbria, members of the Third Order—both secular (living in their own homes) and regular (living in organised communities)—had increased substantially since the C14. Female communities were particularly common, organised around non-claustral convents or in small groups centred around the houses of secular members (generally unmarried women or widows). Among the vows undertaken by the regulars was not that of poverty, which was problematic, as Tertiaries generally continued to purchase or sell land, pay off debts, etc. (Casagrande, 386-90). In case of inheritance, for instance, it should be determined whether the testament was made before or after the signatory joined the Order, and whether their closest relatives or the Order had priority. All documents in this collection concern ‘fratres’ and ‘sorores’ alike.

A remarkable survival of the practical and legal complexities of late medieval religious communities. 

P.P. Piergentili, ‘Il diritto e la vendetta’, in Dall’Archivio Segreto Vaticano (2011), pp.257-399: p.335 n.381, p.323 n.286; G.A. Zanetti, Nuova raccolta delle monete… (1775), I, p.18; A. Luongo, ‘I notai della curia vescovile di Gubbio nel Trecento’, Bollettino della Deputazione di Storia Patria dell’Umbria 110 (2013), pp.37-57: p.47; F. Bertolacci and R. Lambertini, ‘Attorno al Defensorium di Giovanni da Capestrano’, Szeged 15 (2017), 75-88; G. Casagrande, ‘Aspetti del Terz’Ordine francescano a Perugia’, in Convegno di studi francescani (1980), 363-97.
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