detail of a photograph of Padre Pio, date unknown; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsAlso known as

  • Order of Friars Minor Capuchin


A branch of the first Franciscan Order and reform of the Observants of the Marches, instituted in 1525 by Father Matteo da Bassi. Aiming at a more perfect return to the primitive observance of the Rule of Saint Francis, in resistance to the secularizing tendency which accepted certain relaxations, Father Matteo sought and obtained from Pope Clement VII permission for strict adherence to the traditional rule of poverty, wearing the original Franciscan habit, and preaching the Word of God. In 1526, by Papal Brief, Father Matteo and two companions were exempted from the community life of the Observants, being permitted to live in hermitages, and in 1528 they were more effectually released from the jurisdiction of their superiors, being constituted a distinct family. The first chapter was held at Albacina in 1529, and drew up the new constitutions. The combination of the eremitical life and active ministry was the informing ideal, the former to be accomplished through small communities in secluded situations. The reform then counted 18 friars and four “hermitages or monasteries.” So rapidly did it grow, admitting the Observants in great numbers, that two Briefs issued by Pope Paul III (1534, 1535) forbade the further reception of Observants before their next general chapter, and in 1537 they were forbidden to establish houses outside Italy; but in 1574 this was revoked by Pope Gregory XIII who accorded them the right to extend their provinces. In 1619 they were made independent of the Conventuals, having the power to elect their own minister-general. Notwithstanding the modifications which became necessary as the order increased in numbers, the Capuchins strove to maintain the simplicity and detachment which characterized them as true sons of Saint Francis. Their constitutions were approved by Pope Urban VIII in 1638; reviewed, modified, and approved anew by Pope Saint Pius X in 1909. The Capuchin reform was most influential in the Church in the 16th and 17th centuries when their works of charity in time of pestilence and need undoubtedly contributed to the success of their home and foreign missions. The devotion of the Forty Hours has been traced to their missionary zeal and they were particularly active in combating the errors of the Reformation. Missions were established in Abyssinia, India, Asia Minor, Arabia, Central and South America, and English-speaking countries. The friars entered England in 1599, Ireland in 1615, and North America in 1632. Their establishment in the United States dates from 1857. The French friars have charge of the Canadian province.

Additional Information

MLA Citation

  • “Capuchins“. Congregations of the Faith. CatholicSaints.Info. 10 July 2020. Web. 26 January 2022. <>