General Introduction - 20 

A more serious problem, however, began to emerge: John of Parma's sympathy for the ideas of Abbot Joachim of Fiore (+1202). In addition to Joachim's theology of the Trinity, the Cistercian abbot constructed a theology of world history that intricately combined biblical, trinitarian, and apocalyptic themes. Accordingly, the year 1260 was of particular interest since, in Joachim's analysis, each biblical age would last forty generations. If that of the Old Testament, the age of the Father, ended with the birth of Jesus, the age of the Son would usher in that of the Spirit in 1260. At that point, a new order would appear at the dawning of a new age, an order having the image of and directed solely by the Holy Spirit. Joachim's accent of newness appealed to Francis's followers, who had repeatedly heard the refrain of newness throughout Thomas of Celano's writings. More powerfully, however, was the emphasis of Francis himself who summarized the life of his brothers as that of "the Spirit of the Lord and Its holy activity."42

The problem of these attractive thoughts came quickly to the surface in 1254, when one of the brothers, Gerard of Borgo San Donnino published his Liber Introductorius in Evangelium Aeternum [A Book Introducing the Eternal Gospel]. In the book Gerard went further than his master, Joachim, in presenting the abrogation of the Old and New Testaments with the advent of the Eternal Gospel of the Holy Spirit in Joachim's writings. Gerard also interpreted the apocalyptic figure of the Angel of the Sixth Seal, the one that would announce the impending destruction of the rich and powerful, as personified in Francis of Assisi. Pope Alexander IV condemned the book on October 23, 1255, but the residue of its impact was felt for years afterward, particularly as the Joachimite leanings of John of Parma became known. Salimbene de Adam's autobiographical statement about his stay in Provence expresses this best: "Then [1248] I went to live in the convent of the Friars Minor in Aix, where with the help of my companion [Brother Hugh], I made a copy of Joachim's Commentary [on the Gospels] for the general minister, John of Parma, who was also a great Joachite . . ."43

Iriarte maintains that "a recalcitrant minority" took advantage of this weakness of John of Parma and had no difficulty "in persuading the Pope to ask for his resignation."44 Moorman is vague and states simply: "Complaints were made against him, and the pope was obliged to take action."45 It is difficult to obtain a thorough, objective picture since the biased accounts of the early fourteenth century, e.g. The History of the Seven Tribulations of the Order by Angelo Clareno, tend to interpret these events as efforts at discrediting John of Parma. In any case, the result was very much the same. In 1257 John of Parma convened a General Chapter that was held in the newly acquired friary of the Aracoeli in Rome. John resigned. When asked to nominate his successor, he submitted the name of Bonaventure of Bagnoregio.

Bonaventure, then teaching at the University of Paris, guided the brothers from February 2, 1257, until May 20, 1273, when Pope Gregory X made him cardinal bishop of Albano. While Bonaventure's earlier writings reveal his respect for tradition and suggest that he was conservative by temperament, they also indicate his perceptive mind as well as his ability to confront the is

 Previous

Next 

 

Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 20

Hardcopies Available for Purchase