Apostolic Brethren

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The Apostolic Brethren (sometimes referred to as Apostolici, Apostoli, Apostles) were a Christian sect founded in northern Italy in the latter half of the 13th century by Gerard Segarelli, a native of Alzano in the territory of Parma. He was of low birth and without education, applied for membership in the Franciscan order at Parma, and was rejected. Ultimately he resolved to devote himself to the restoration of what he conceived to be the apostolic manner of life. [1] Most of the spirit of the movement continued in the Dulcinian movement.

Christianity is a religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, as described in the New Testament. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, whose coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament. Depending on the specific denomination of Christianity, practices may include baptism, Eucharist, prayer, confession, confirmation, burial rites, marriage rites and the religious education of children. Most denominations have ordained clergy and hold regular group worship services.

Sect followers of a particular religious or ideological doctrine

A sect is a subgroup of a religious, political, or philosophical belief system, usually an offshoot of a larger group. Although the term was originally a classification for religious separated groups, it can now refer to any organization that breaks away from a larger one to follow a different set of rules and principles.

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a country in Southern and Western Europe. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and the enclaved microstates San Marino and Vatican City. Italy covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. With around 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth-most populous EU member state and the most populous country in Southern Europe.



About 1260, Segarelli assumed a costume patterned after representations which he had seen of the apostles, sold his house, scattered the price in the market-place, and went out to preach repentance as a mendicant brother. He found disciples, and the new order of penitents spread throughout Lombardy and beyond it. At first the Franciscans and other churchmen only scoffed at Segarelli's eccentric ways; but about 1280 the Bishop of Parma threw him into prison, then kept him awhile in his palace as a source of amusement, and in 1286 banished him from the diocese. All new mendicant orders without papal sanction having been prohibited by the Second Council of Lyon in 1274, [2] [1] Pope Honorius IV issued a severe reprobation of the Apostolic Brethren in 1286, and Nicholas IV renewed it in 1290. [1]

Lombardy Region of Italy

Lombardy is one of the twenty administrative regions of Italy, in the northwest of the country, with an area of 23,844 square kilometres (9,206 sq mi). About 10 million people, forming one-sixth of Italy's population, live in Lombardy and about a fifth of Italy's GDP is produced in the region, making it the most populous and richest region in the country and one of the richest regions in Europe. Milan, Lombardy's capital, is the second-largest city and the largest metropolitan area in Italy.

Franciscans group of religious orders within the Catholic Church

The Franciscans are a group of related mendicant religious orders within the Catholic Church, founded in 1209 by Saint Francis of Assisi. These orders include the Order of Friars Minor, the Order of Saint Clare, and the Third Order of Saint Francis. They adhere to the teachings and spiritual disciplines of the founder and of his main associates and followers, such as Clare of Assisi, Anthony of Padua, and Elizabeth of Hungary, among many others.

Mendicant orders religious orders

Mendicant orders are, primarily, certain Christian religious orders that have adopted a lifestyle of poverty, traveling, and living in urban areas for purposes of preaching, evangelization, and ministry, especially to the poor. At their foundation these orders rejected the previously established monastic model. This foresaw living in one stable, isolated community where members worked at a trade and owned property in common, including land, buildings and other wealth. By contrast, the mendicants avoided owning property, did not work at a trade, and embraced a poor, often itinerant lifestyle. They depended for their survival on the goodwill of the people to whom they preached.

A time of persecution followed. At Parma in 1294 four members of the sect were burned, and Segarelli was condemned to perpetual imprisonment. Six years later he was made to confess a relapse into heresies which he had abjured, and was burned in Parma on July 18, 1300. A man of greater gifts now took the lead of the sect. This was Dolcino, the son of a priest in the diocese of Novara, and a member of the order since 1291, an eloquent, enthusiastic utterer of apocalyptic prophecies. [1]

Fra Dolcino Italian preacher

Fra Dolcino was the second leader of the Dulcinian reformist movement who was burned at the stake in Northern Italy in 1307. He had taken over the movement after its founder, Gerard Segarelli, had also been executed in 1300 on the orders of the Roman Catholic Church. Although the beliefs and spirituality of the Dulcinian sect were inspired by the teachings of Francis of Assisi, who had founded the Franciscan Order in 1210, their beliefs were condemned as heresy by the Catholic Church. The Papacy condemned their practices of poverty, liberty and opposition to the feudal system.

As the head of the group, who were in daily expectation of seeing the judgment of God on the Church, he maintained in the mountainous districts of Novara and Vercelli a guerilla warfare campaign against the crusaders who had been summoned to put him down. Cold and hunger were still more dangerous enemies; and finally the remnant of his forces were captured by the bishop of Vercelli: about 150 persons in all, including Dolcino himself and his "spiritual sister," Margareta, both of whom, refusing to recant, were burned at the stake on June 1, 1307. [1]

Novara Comune in Piedmont, Italy

Novara is the capital city of the province of Novara in the Piedmont region in northwest Italy, to the west of Milan. With 104 284 inhabitants (1-1-2017), it is the second most populous city in Piedmont after Turin. It is an important crossroads for commercial traffic along the routes from Milan to Turin and from Genoa to Switzerland. Novara lies between the rivers Agogna and Terdoppio in northeastern Piedmont, 50 kilometres (31 mi) from Milan and 95 kilometres (59 mi) from Turin.

Vercelli Comune in Piedmont, Italy

Vercelli, is a city and comune of 46.552 inhabitants (1-1-2017) in the Province of Vercelli, Piedmont, northern Italy. One of the oldest urban sites in northern Italy, it was founded, according to most historians, around the year 600 BC.

This was really the end of the sect's history. Later, in the middle of the century, traces of their activity are found, especially in northern Italy, Spain, and France, but these were only isolated survivals. [1]

Spain Kingdom in Southwest Europe

Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a country mostly located on the Iberian Peninsula in Europe. Its territory also includes two archipelagoes: the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla make Spain the only European country to have a physical border with an African country (Morocco). Several small islands in the Alboran Sea are also part of Spanish territory. The country's mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.


The ideal which the Apostolic Brethren strove to realize was a life of perfect sanctity, in complete poverty, with no fixed domicile, no care for the morrow, and no vows. It was a protest against the invasion of the Church by the spirit of worldliness, as well as against the manner in which the other orders kept their vows, particularly that of poverty. In itself the project might have seemed harmless enough, not differing greatly from the way in which other founders had begun. When the order was prohibited, however, the refusal to submit to ecclesiastical authority stamped its members as heretics. [1]

Catholic Church Christian church led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's "oldest continuously functioning international institution", it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the Pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

Heresy belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs

Heresy is any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs, in particular the accepted beliefs of a church or religious organization. A heretic is a proponent of such claims or beliefs. Heresy is distinct from both apostasy, which is the explicit renunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is an impious utterance or action concerning God or sacred things.

Persecution embittered their opposition; the Church, in their eyes, had fallen completely away from apostolic holiness, and become Babylon the Great, the persecutor of the saints. Their apocalyptic utterances and expectations are a link with the Joachimites; in fact, parallels to their teaching, mostly founded on literal interpretations of Scripture texts, may be found in many heretical bodies. They forbade the taking of oaths, apparently permitting perjury in case of need, and rejected capital punishment; their close intercourse with their "apostolic sisters" gave rise to serious accusations against their morals, though they themselves boasted of their purity, and considered the conquest of temptation so close at hand as especially meritorious. [1]


The Apostolics did not have a fully developed theory, Segarelli being uneducated. They based their belief on the Acts of the Apostles (2,44-45):

All who believed were together, and had all things in common. They sold their possessions and goods, and distributed them to all, according as anyone had need.

They lived a simple life of fasting and prayer; often they worked to earn enough to eat, otherwise living off charity, preaching, and always invoking penitence.

Their maxim was Poenitentiam agite (make penitence) soon misspelled as Penitençagite! and cited in present days by The Name of the Rose , a novel by Umberto Eco.

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Gerard or Gherardo or GherardinoSegarelli or Segalelli was the founder of the Apostolic Brethren. He was burned at the stake in 1300.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 PD-icon.svg  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Sachsse, Hugo (1908). "Apostolic Brethren". In Jackson, Samuel Macauley. New Schaff–Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge . 1 (third ed.). London and New York: Funk and Wagnalls. pp. 243–244.
  2. We perpetually forbid absolutely all the forms of religious life and the mendicant orders founded after the said council which have not merited confirmation of the apostolic see, and we suppress them in so far as they have spread http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Valley/8920/churchcouncils/Ecum14.htm. Archived 2009-10-25.