The Franciscans (History 343:  Topics in Medieval History)

Fall semester, 2010/ Dr. George Dameron


                                        Office:  Library 306/Telephone extension x2318

Office Hours:  Monday, 8:30-9:30; Wednesday, 9:30-11:30, 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 offer a survey of the history of Franciscans and the Franciscan Order on an advanced level, 2) to explore the complex conflicts between Franciscan ideals (devotion to poverty) and the institutional pressures emanating from the upper hierarchy of the Church to compromise them, 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 and know how to use our library resources to conduct advanced research, 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 generation of ideal models of spirituality,  8) to understand the historical context for the emergence of the mendicants, and 9) to fulfill the requirements of an upper level seminar for the History major, minor,  and Medieval Studies Minor.


The seminar meets weekly on Thursday afternoons from 2:30 pm to 5:50 pm.  In general, the seminar will end at 5:15 pm (with the exception of the last week when students will be doing their presentations).  There will be a 15-minute break in the middle of the session.   The format for each seminar is discussion of the assigned readings, organized by 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 associated with their seminar paper. 


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 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 16 and 30 (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 Thursday, December 9 (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 21); 4) a 10-15-minute oral presentation of the principal results of the research project at the end of the semester (10%) on December 9 (Thursday); and 5) participation (attendance, participation in weekly seminar discussions, and general involvement in the work of the seminar), 20%.  There is no final examination.


Students will attend every seminar meeting and come fully prepared, having completed all the assigned readings.  A student who misses a seminar meeting will write a 2-3 page 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 Thursday, December 9.  There will 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, and we will visit the library to explore research resources (accompanied by a reference librarian).  Resources regarding the proper citation and documentation of sources are available online at the Saint Michael’s College Web site (citation guides).  Guidelines for research papers 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 on will submit to me 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 21.  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.  

*                               BOOKS REQUIRED FOR PURCHASE


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

*                               Chesterton, G. K.  Saint Francis of Assisi (CreateSpace 2010).  ISBN-10: 1450567169

*                               House, Adrian.  Saint Francis of Assisi:  A Revolutionary Life (Paulist Press 2003).  ISBN-10: 1587680270

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

*                               Moore, R. I.  Formation of a Persecuting Society, 2nd edition (Wiley Blackwell, 2007).

*                               Waley, Daniel and Trevor Dean, The Italian City-Republics, 4th edition (Longman 2010).   ISBN-10: 1405859008

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


·         George Dameron, Florence and Its Church in the Age of Dante (Philadelphia:  University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005).

·         Marion A. Habig, St. Francis of Assisi:  Writings and Early Biographies (Franciscan Herald Press, 1983).

·         C. H. Lawrence.  The Friars (1994).

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

·         Joan Mueller, The Privilege of Poverty:  Clare of Assisi, Agnes of Prague, and the Struggle for a Franciscan Rule for Women (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006).

·         Augustine Thompson, O. P., Cities of God:  The Religion of the Italian Communes, 1125-1325 (College Park, Pa.:  Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005).

·         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).

·         Walter L. Wakefield and Austin P. Evans, translators; Heresies of the High Middle Ages (New York:  Columbia University Press, 1991).


·         Rosalind Brooke, The Coming of the Friars (1975, electronic resource)

·         Decima Douie, Nature and Effect of the Heresy of the Fraticelli (1978, electronic resource)Walter L. Wakefield and Austin P. Evans, translators; Heresies of the High Middle Ages (New York:  Columbia University Press, 1991).   Also available electronically.


The Internet Medieval History Sourcebook


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


September 2:  Introduction to Seminar

·         The Rule of Saint Benedict and The Testament of Francis of Assisi (online, Internet Medieval History Sourcebook, in class)

·         Film (followed by discussion):  “Francis of Assisi” (Michael Curtiz, Director, 1961)

·         Introduction to syllabus

September 9:  Before Francis and Clare

·         Waley and Dean, chapters 1-5

·         Moore, chapters 1-3

·         Lawrence, chapter 1

·         Vauchez, chapters 5 and 7

·         Sources:  Wakefield and Evans, 151-187 (peruse)

September 16:  Francis of Assisi:  Son

·         First essay due

·         Waley and Dean, chapters 6—9

·         Lawrence, chapter 2

·         Moore, chapters 4, 5, and Bibliographical Excursus

·         House, part 1

·         Sources:  Francis and Clare, 103; Thomas of Celano, First and Second Lives of Saint Francis (Internet Medieval Sourcebook)

September 23:  Francis of Assisi:  Brother

·         House, part 2

·         Brooke, The Coming of the Friars, chapters 1-4

·         Sources:  Francis and Clare, 44-5, 62-5, 146-8, 49-51, 52-3, 54, 55-73, 77-8, 107-135,  

September 30:  Francis of Assisi:  Father

·         Second Essay Due

·         House, part 3 and Epilogue

·         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

October 7:  Clare of Assisi


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

·         Mueller, entire (on reserve)

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

October 14:  Franciscans in the Thirteenth Century

·         Library visit (Mr. John Payne, Director of the Library)

·         Robson, section 1

·         Burr, chapters 1-4

·         Vauchez, “Female Sanctity in the Franciscan Movement,” chapter 14 (on reserve)

·         Thompson, Cities of God, Epilogue: Communal Piety and the Mendicants (on reserve)

·         Sources:  Pope Honorius III (Bull “Solet annuere”), Pope Gregory IX (Bull “Mira Circa Nos”), Nicholas III (“Exiit qui seminat”), in Internet Medieval Sourcebook

October 21:  The Fourteenth Century

·         Prospectus and Annotated Bibliography due

·         Robson, section 2

·         Moorman, Part III

·         Dameron, chapter 4

·         Sources:  Pope Clement V (“Exivi de Paradiso”, in Internet Medieval Sourcebook)

October 28:  The Fourteenth Century

·         Burr, chapters 5-9

·         Douie (e-book), chapters 1-4

·         Sources:  Pope John XXII (Bull “Quum inter nonnullos,” “Quia Quorundam,” in Franciscan Archive)

November 4:  The Fourteenth Century

·         Burr, 10-Conclusion

·         Douie (e-book), chapters 5-7

·         Sources:  Pope John XXII (Bull “Quum inter nonnullos,” “Quia Quorundam,” in Franciscan Archive)

 November 11:  The Fifteenth Century

·         Robson, section 3

·         Moorman, Part IV

·         Source The Bull of Sixtus IV, canonizing Saint Bonaventure of Bagnoreggio (1482), from the Franciscan Archive

**November 18**

Dr. Michael McCormick (Harvard University), Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Lecturer (7:30 pm; topic and place tba)

November 18 (assigned readings):  Gender and the Franciscans--selected articles or essays, 1991-2008 (alternately, Dr. McCormick may lead discussion on a selected topic in medieval history, title tba)

·         Dan Bornstein, “The Use of the Body:  The Church and the Cult of Santa Margherita of Cortona,” Church History 62 (2) June 1993:  163-178.

·          John Coakley, “Gender and Authority of the Friars,” Church History 60 (4) December 1991:  445-460.

·          Lezlie Knox, “Audacious Nuns:  Institutionalizing the Franciscan Order of Saint Clare,” Church History  69 (1) March 2000:  41-62.   

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

November 25 (Thanksgiving):  No Seminar

December 2:  Francis Past and Present

·         Chesterton, entire

·         Arnold Davidson, “Miracles of Bodily Transformation, or How St. Francis Received the Stigmata,” Critical Inquiry 35 (3) January 2009:  451-80.

·         James M. Powell, “Mendicants, the Communes, and the Law,” Church History 77 (3) Spring 2008:  557-73.

December 9:  Seminar Presentations (research paper due)