English Monastic Life – Friars of the Sack, or De Penitentia

Friar of the SackArticle

These brethren of penance were called “Friars of the Sack” because their dress was cut without other form than that of a simple bag or sack, and made of coarse cloth, like sackcloth. Most authorities, however, represent this as merely a familiar name, and say that their real title was that of Friars, or Brethren of Penance. They took their origin apparently in Italy, and came to England during the reign of Henry III, where, about A.D. 1257, they opened a house in London. They had many settlements in France, Spain, and Germany, but lost most of them after the Council of Lyons in A.D. 1274, when Pope Gregory X suppressed all begging friars with the exception of the four mendicant Orders of Dominicans, Franciscans, Austin Friars, and Carmelites. This did not, however, apply universally, and in England the Fratres de Sacco remained in existence until the final suppression of the religious Orders in the sixteenth century. The dress of these friars was apparently made of rough brown cloth, and was not unlike that of the Franciscans; they had their feet bare and wore wooden sandals. Their mode of life was very austere, and they never ate meat and drank only water.

MLA Citation

  • Dom Adrian Gasquet. “Friars of the Sack, or De Penitentia”. English Monastic Life, 1904. CatholicSaints.Info. 28 November 2018. Web. 19 April 2021. <>