Catholic Encyclopedia – Saint Francis Caracciolo

18th century illustration of Saint Francis Caracciolo; artist unknown; uploaded by MaryHenryettaCarson; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

Co-founder with John Augustine Adorno of the Conregation of the Minor Clerks Regular; born in Villa Santa Maria in the Abrusso (Italy), 13 October 1563; died at Agnone, 4 June 1608. He belonged to the Pisquizio branch of the Caracciolo and received in baptism the name of Ascanio. From his infancy he was remarkable for his gentleness and uprightness. Having been cured of leprosy at the age of twenty-two he vowed himself to an ecclesiastical life, and distributing his goods to the poor, went to Naples in 1585 to study theology. In 1587 he was ordained priest and joined the contraternity of the Bianchi della Giustizia (The white robes of Justice), whose object was to assist condemned criminals to die holy deaths. A letter frorn Giovanni Agostino Adorno to another Ascanio Caracciolo, begging him to take part in founding a new religious institute, having been delivered by mistake to our saint, he saw in this circumstance an confidence of the Divine Will towards him (1588). He assisted in drawing up rules for the new congregation, which was approved by Sixtus V, 1 July 1588, and confirmed by Gregory XIV, 18 February 1591, and by Clement VIII, 1 June 1592.

The congregation is both contemplative and active, and to the three usual vows a fourth is added, namely, that its members must not aspire to ecclesiastical dignities outside the order nor seek them within it. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is kept up by rotation, and mortification is continually practised. The motto of the order “Ad majorem Dei Resurgentis gloriam” was chosen from the fact that Francis and Adorno made their profession at Naples on Low Sunday, 9 April 1589. In spite of his refusal he was chosen general, 9 March, 1593, in the first house of the congregation in Naples, called Saint Mary Major’s or Pietrasanta, given to them by Sixtus V. He made three journeys into Spain to establish foundations under the protection of Philip II and Philip III. He opened the house of the Holy Ghost at Madrid on 20 January 1599, that of Our Lady of the Annunciation at Valladolid on 9 September 1601, and that of Saint Joseph at Alcala sometime in 1601, for teaching science. In Rome he obtained possession of Saint Leonard’s church, which he afterwards exchanged for that of Saint Agnes in the Piazza Navona (18 September 1598), and later he secured for the institute the church of San Lorenso in Lucina (11 June 1606) which was made over to him by a bull of Pope Paul X, and which was, however, annulled by the Bull “Susceptum” of Pope Pius X (9 November 1906).

Saint Francis Caracciolo was the author of a valuable work, “Le sette stazioni sopra la Passione di N.S. Gesù Christo”, which was printed in Rome in 1710. He loved the poor. Like Saint Thomas Aquinas, a relative on his mother’s side, his purity was angelic. Pope Paul V desired to confer an important bishopric on him, but he steadfastly refused it. His frequent motto was “Zelus domus tuae comedit me”. Invited by the Oratorians at Agnone in the Abruzzo to convert their house into a college for his congregation, he fell ill during the negotiations and died there on the vigil of Corpus Christi. He was beatified by Pope Clement XIV on 4 June 1769, and canonized by Pope Pius VII on 24 May 1807. In 1838 he was chosen as patron of the city of Naples, where his body lies. At first he was buried in Saint Mary Major’s, but his remains were afterwards translated to the church of Monteverginella, which was given in exchange to the Minor Clerks Regular (1823) after their suppression at the time of the French Revolution. Saint Francis is no longer venerated there with old fervour and devotion.

MLA Citation

  • Francesco Paoli. “Saint Francis Caracciolo”. Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913. CatholicSaints.Info. 25 May 2012. Web. 22 September 2020. <>