English Monastic Life – The Franciscan, or Grey Friars

Franciscan FriarArticle

Saint Francis the founder of the Grey Friars was contemporary with Saint Dominic, and was born at Assisi, in the province of Umbria in Italy, in A.D. 1182. These friars were called Franciscans from their founder; “Grey Friars” from the colour of their habit; and “Minorites” from their humble desire to be considered the least of the Orders. Their rule was approved by Innocent III in A.D. 1210 and by the General Council of the Lateran in A.D. 1215. Their dress was made of a coarse brown cloth with a long pointed hood of the same material, and a short cloak. They girded themselves with a knotted cord and went barefooted. The Franciscan Friars first found their way to England in A.D. 1224, and at the general destruction of Regular life in England in the sixteenth century they had in all about sixty-six establishments. A reformation of the Order to primitive observance was made in the fifteenth century and confirmed by the Council of Constance in A.D. 1414. The branches of the Order which adopted it became known as “Observants” or “Recollects.” This branch of the Order was represented in England by several houses built for them by King Henry VII, although they are supposed to have been brought into England in the time of Edward IV.

The whole Order in England was divided into seven “Custodies” or “Wardenships,” the houses being grouped round convenient centres such as London, York, Cambridge, Bristol, Oxford, Newcastle, and Worcester. Harpsfield says that the “Recollects” or “Observants” had six friaries, at Canterbury, Greenwich, Richmond, Southampton, Newark, and Newcastle.

MLA Citation

  • Dom Adrian Gasquet. “The Franciscan, or Grey Friars”. English Monastic Life, 1904. CatholicSaints.Info. 28 November 2018. Web. 21 April 2021. <>