Introduction to Clare of Assisi: Early Documents - 18 

pointed the Cardinal Legate of Tuscany and Lombardy, Hugolino dei Conti di Segni, as their protector. Honorius's letter to Hugolino, written on August 27, 1218, suggests his desire to continue the policies of his predecessor and expresses his concern, in particular, for those women who desire to live "not possessing anything under heaven except these homes and oratories to be constructed for them." By the end of 1219, Honorius had issued separate papal decrees granting protection and exemption to four monasteries, St. Mary of Monticelli near Florence, Monteluce in Perugia, St. Mary outside the Camollian Gate in Siena, and St. Mary in Gattaiola in the diocese of Lucca. Two points are especially noteworthy in these early papal documents: the imposition of the Rule of Saint Benedict and the mention of the regular observance of the Ladies of Saint Damian in Assisi. Did the initiative for providing the Rule of St. Benedict as the foundation of their lives come from Honorius or did it come from Hugolino? That remains unclear.

What is certain, however, is Hugolino's attempt to provide these women with stability by introducing his own detailed and austere Form of Life based on the Benedictine Rule. It is a document that demonstrates Hugolino's knowledge not only of the monastic tradition, but also his awareness of the legislation emerging from the Cistercian expression of monasticism and from the lay movements of the early thirteenth century. The precise circumstances surrounding promulgation of Hugolino's Form of Life are unknown, as are the immediate reactions of the woman who received it. What, for example, was their reaction to the imposition of the enclosure? Was it observed strictly or flexibly? Unfortunately, there is no information. The papal legate's vision may well have been acceptable to the other communities of women; for Clare and her sisters at San Damiano, however, two central points were missing from that Form of Life: the pursuit of the Gospel poverty inspired by Francis and dependence on the Lesser Brothers. And so a struggle began for Clare that was to continue throughout the remainder of her life.

The Cardinal, no doubt, realized how difficult it was for the Poor Ladies of San Damiano to live. The type of poverty they proposed demanded a total dependence on the generosity and dedication of others for their well-being. The Benedictine and Augustinian expressions of religious life envisioned a poverty permitting the sharing of goods as well as the cultivation of appropriate means of support. Clare, on the other hand, took a much more demanding view in which confidence in the bountiful providence of God was its strength. Hugolino, however, officially entrusted with protecting all the religious women of Tuscany and Lombardy, must have felt more confident with the type of material security provided by proven expressions of religious life.




Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, p. 18