The Franciscans (History 463)

Fall semester, 2012/ Dr. George Dameron

MW 3:15-4:50 (JEM 144)


                                        Office:  Library 306/Telephone extension x2318

Office Hours:  Mondays, 1-3; Thursdays, 4-5, and by appointment





Upper and Lower Basilicas of San Francesco (Assisi) Photo George Dameron Copyright 2006


The purposes of the course are several:  1) to explore the history of Franciscans and the Franciscan Order on an advanced level, 2) to  examine the complex conflicts between religious ideals (devotion to poverty) and the realities of institutional pressures emanating from the upper hierarchy of the Church, 3) to analyze and trace the history and significance of Franciscan apostolic poverty as a manifestation of the notion of the ideal of the imitatio Christi, 4) to explore in depth the primary sources associated with the Franciscan Order and other mendicant orders, 5) to produce a significant research paper on a topic associated with medieval Franciscan history, 6) to become acquainted with examples of recent scholarship on Franciscan history, 7) to use the examples of Saint Clare and Saint Francis as case studies to explore the role of gender in the historical development of ideal models of spirituality,  8) to understand the historical context for the emergence of the mendicants in the early thirteenth century, and 9) to fulfill the requirements of an upper level seminar for the History major, minor,  and Medieval Studies Minor.


The seminar meets twice a week on Monday and Wednesday afternoons (3:15-4:50).  The format for each seminar is discussion of the assigned readings, organized around selected questions.  There will be no lectures.  Discussion will focus on the listed of posted (at eCollege) study questions as well as questions about the readings brought to the seminar by individual students (who will take turns).  At the end of the semester, students will be responsible to present to the entire seminar the results of their research. 


The pre-requisites of the course are Humanities 101 (Ancient and Medieval Civilization), or History 109 (Europe in the Early Middle Ages), or History 111 (Europe in the Later Middle Ages, 1000-1400), or History 108 (Medieval Europe), or permission of the instructor.  Students should have junior or senior standing.  


 There are several requirements:  1) two (2) two- to three-page typed essays on the two sets of readings due September 12 and September 26 (20% of final grade, 10% each essay); 2) a thirteen to fifteen (13-15) page research paper on a topic of the student's choosing (40%), based on research using primary sources, and due on Wednesday, December 5 (the last seminar meeting of the semester); 3) a prospectus (one page) and annotated bibliography (two pages, 12-15 primary and secondary sources) for the research project (10%), due October 24); 4) a 10-15-minute oral presentation of the principal results of the research project at the end of the semester on December 3 or 5 (Monday or Wednesday); and 5) participation (attendance, participation in weekly seminar discussions, quality of seminar presentation, and general involvement in the work of the seminar), 30%.  There is no final examination.


Students will attend every seminar meeting and come fully prepared, having completed all the assigned readings. 

Students will power off all electronic devices during the seminar.

A student who misses a seminar meetings will write a 2-3 page (ungraded) focus paper responding to one or more of the study questions for that week.  The essay will be due one week after the missed seminar.  More than one unexcused absence from a seminar meeting will have a significant impact on the final grade.  Please arrange all travel arrangements so that you will not miss any scheduled seminar meetings. 


The paper is due on Wednesday, December 5.  There will  normally be a half a letter grade penalty (5 points) for every day any of the assigned papers are late.   The seminar paper, 13-15 pages (excluding bibliography and notes), will follow the required methods of citing primary and secondary sources.  It must also include a formal bibliography.  History department policy requires students to use footnotes or endnotes in the proper format.   Early in the semester we will have an orientation to online and library resources available for the research paper.  Resources regarding the proper citation and documentation of sources are available online at the Saint Michael’s College Library Web site (cite sources).  Guidelines for research papers for this seminar will be available at my Web site and at the eCollege site.

Research Resources

Aside from the wide array of print journals available to the student in the library, there are also online databases in Medieval Studies, many of which are full text, available at the library Web site.   There are also a number of Web sites that are relevant to this course.  General Web sites associated with Medieval Studies are available at my Web site and at the eCollege site.  More specific sites connected to the Franciscans include The Franciscan Archive (resources on Francis and Franciscans), The Franciscan Institute (includes links to research databases), The Franciscan Web Page, Orb:  The Francisan Order, The Order of the Friars Minor (official Web site of the Franciscan Order), the Rule of Saint Francis (Internet Medieval Sourcebook), the official site of the town of Assisi (in Italian), and a site featuring the Middle Ages in Umbria (includes links to official sites of Umbrian towns and cities).

Academic Integrity

Plagiarism is a serious academic offense.  According to the Academic Integrity Policy of Saint. Michael’s College, plagiarism is the presentation of “another person's ideas as your own, by directly quoting or indirectly paraphrasing, without properly citing the original source.  This includes inadvertent failure to properly acknowledge sources."  The penalties for plagiarism can range from receiving a failing grade for the plagiarized assignment to receiving a failing grade in the course.  In some cases plagiarism can result in suspension or expulsion from the college. 


Each student will submit an annotated research bibliography of primary and secondary sources in proper format (at least twelve to fifteen sources), along with a one-page prospectus of the paper.  The prospectus will detail the historical problem being addressed, the primary and secondary sources available, and the projected thesis.  It is due on October 24.  Students should refer to the document, “Guidelines for Paper Assignments”, which I will post at the eCollege site when preparing their bibliography and prospectus.  Both periodicals in print (in the library) and in online databases should be used. 


Students with learning differences (documented by the Director of Accessibility Services—Ms. Toni Messuri) will receive special accommodations where appropriate.  Please see me if you would like to request such arrangements.  


Burr, David.  The Spiritual Franciscans (Penn State 2003).  ISBN-10: 0271023090

The Cambridge Companion to Francis of Assisi, ed. Michael Robson (Cambridge 2012)

Francis and Clare:  the Complete Works, ed. Regis Armstrong and Ignatius Brady (Paulist Press, 1986).  ISBN-10: 0809124467 or ISBN-13: 978-0809124466.

Mueller, Joan.  The Privilege of Poverty:  Clare of Assisi, Agnes of Prague, and the Struggle for a Franciscan Rule for Women (Penn State, 2008). ISBN-10: 027102769X; ISBN-13: 978-0271027692

Robson, Michael.  The Franciscans in the Middle Ages (Boydell 2009).  ISBN-10: 1843835150.

Thompson, Augustine.  Saint Francis of Assisi:  A New Biography (Cornell 2012).  ISBN-10: 0801450705 ISBN-13: 978-0801450709


·         Rosalind B. Brooke, The Image of St. Francis:  Responses to Sainthood in the Thirteenth Century (Cambridge 2006).

·         Lezlie Knox, Creating Clare of Assisi:  Franciscan Female Identities in Later Medieval Europe (Brill, 2008).

·         John Moorman, A History of the Franciscan Order:  From Its Origins to the Year 1517 (Franciscan Herald Press, 1988)

·         André Vauchez, Francis of Assisi:  The Life and Afterlife of a Medieval Saint (Yale 2012).

·         André Vauchez, The Laity in the Middle Ages:  Religious Beliefs and Devotional Practices, edited by Daniel Bornstein (Notre Dame:  University of Notre Dame Press, 1993).


The Internet Medieval Sourcebook (contains many primary sources on Francis and the Franciscan Order for the research paper)


Medieval Italy:  An Encyclopedia, edited by Christopher Kleinhenz (New York:  Routledge, 2003). 


Week One:  Introduction to Seminar

·         August 27:  overview of syllabus; “Francesco” (film, first half, Liliana Cavali, Director, 2004)

·         August 29:  film (“Francesco,” conclusion and discussion); Thompson, introduction and chapter 1; Robson, The Franciscans, introduction and chapter 1

Week Two:  The Life and Writings of Francis of Assisi

·         September 3:  Thompson, chapters 2-4 (also peruse relevant sections of Part II, organized by chapter, paying particular attention to pp. 149-170); Sources:  Francis and Clare, 103; 44-5, 62-5, 146-8, 49-51, 52-3, 54, 55-73, 77-8, 107-135

·         September 5:  Thompson, chapters 5-8; Sources:  Francis and Clare, 136-145, 161, 74-6, 66-73, 79, 99-100, 37-9, 55-61, 164, 40-41, 46, 160, 153-8, 159, 162

Week Three:  The Life and Image of Saint Francis

·         September 10:  Brooke, chapters 1-2; Moorman, chapters 1-5

·         September 12:  Brooke, chapters 3-4; Moorman, chapters 6-9 (First Essay Due)

Week Four:  The Life and Legacy of Clare of Assisi

·         September 17: 

o   Steven Botterill, “Clare, Saint,” in Medieval Italy, volume 1, 230-231 (in reference section);

o   Cambridge Companion, chapter 7;

o   Sources:  Francis and Clare (Clare of Assisi:  Introduction and The Writings, 169-234)

·         September 19: 

o   Lezlie Knox, Creating Clare of Assisi, introduction and chapters 1-3

o   Miles Pattenden, “The Canonization of Clare of Assisi and Early Franciscan History,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 59 (2) April 2008, 208-226

Week Five:  Clare of Assisi and Agnes of Prague

·         September 24:  Mueller, chapters 1-3

·         September 26:  Mueller, chapters, 4-6 and epilogue (Second Essay Due)

Week Six:  The Franciscans in the Thirteenth Century

Week Seven:  Francis and The Franciscans in the Thirteenth Century

·         October 8:  Cambridge Companion, Part 1 (chapters 1-6, 8-9)

·         October 10:  Vauchez, “Female Sanctity in the Franciscan Movement” (at eCollege); Vauchez, “’Ordo Fraternitatis’: Confraternities and Lay Piety in the Middle Ages” (at eCollege);  Orientation to Library Resources

Week Eight:  The Heritage of Francis of Assisi

·         October 15:  No Seminar (October Break)

·         October 17:  Cambridge Companion, Part 2

Week Nine:  The Franciscans in the Fourteenth Century

·         October 22:  Moorman, Part III

·         October 24:  Robson, The Franciscans, Section Two; Prospectus and Bibliography Due

Week Ten:  The Spiritual Franciscans

·         October 29:  Burr, preface and chapters 1-4

·         October 31:  Burr, chapters 5-9

Week Eleven:  The Fifteenth Century

·         November 5:  Burr, chapters 10-conclusion

·         November 7:  Robson, Section Three; Moorman, Part IV (chapters 35-37)

Week Twelve:  The Fifteenth Century; A New Assessment of Francis

·         November 12: Moorman, Part IV (chapter 38-43); Vauchez, Francis of Assisi, preface and chapter 1.

·         November 14:  no seminar meeting

Week Thirteen:  A New Assessment of Francis (continued)

·         November 19:  Vauchez, Francis of Assisi, chapters  2 and 3

·         November 21:  No Seminar (Thanksgiving Break)

Week Fourteen: A New Assessment of Francis (continued)

·         November 26:  Vauchez, Francis of Assisi, chapters 4, 5, 6

·         November 28:  Vauchez, Francis of Assisi 7, 8, 9, 10, and Conclusion

Week Fifteen:  Seminar Presentations and Conclusion to Seminar

·         December 3:  Student Presentations

·         December 5:  Student Presentations and Research Paper Due