Religious order founded in 1209 by St Francis of Assisi. In its broader sense the name encompasses two other organizations that he founded: the Order of Poor Clares and the Tertiaries (founded 1221), lay brothers who were affiliated to the Franciscans but usually lived in the world. The Franciscans were active in Italy from the early 13th century, but they spread rapidly and eventually became a worldwide movement; they were wealthy and influential patrons of art and architecture. . . . The first officially approved Rule of 1221 best expressed the spirit of Francis’s mission. Of primary importance was the obedience he pledged to the papacy; the other brethren were to obey St Francis and his successors. Equally important was the vow to live in obedience, chastity and poverty.
Louise M. Bourdua