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The Dulcinians were a religious sect of the Late Middle Ages, originating within the Apostolic Brethren. The Dulcinians, or Dulcinites, and Apostolics were inspired by Franciscan ideals and influenced by the Joachimites, but were considered heretical by the Catholic Church. Their name derives from the movement's leader, Fra Dolcino of Novara (ca. 1250–1307), who was burned as a heretic on the orders of Pope Clement V.

Late Middle Ages Period of European history between 1250 and 1500 CE

The Late Middle Ages or Late Medieval Period was the period of European history lasting from 1250 to 1500 AD. The Late Middle Ages followed the High Middle Ages and preceded the onset of the early modern period.

The Apostolic Brethren 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. Most of the spirit of the movement continued in the Dulcinian movement.

The Joachimites, also known as Joachites, a millenarian group, arose from the Franciscans in the thirteenth century. They based their ideas on the prior works of Joachim of Fiore, though rejecting the Church of their day more strongly than he had.




The Dulcinian sect began in 1300 when Gherardo Segarelli, founder of the Apostolic Brethren, was burned at the stake in Parma during a brutal repression of the Apostolics. His followers went into hiding to save their lives. Fra Dolcino had joined the Apostolics between 1288 and 1292, and became their leader. He published the first of his letters explaining his ideas about the epochs of history based on the theories of Gioacchino da Fiore.

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

Death by burning Execution method

Death by burning is an execution method involving combustion or exposure to extreme heat. It has a long history as a form of capital punishment, and many societies have employed it for criminal activities such as treason, heresy and witchcraft.

Parma Comune in Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Parma is a city in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna famous for its architecture, music, art, prosciutto (ham), cheese and surrounding countryside. It is home to the University of Parma, one of the oldest universities in the world. Parma is divided into two parts by the stream of the same name. The district on the far side of the river is Oltretorrente. Parma's Etruscan name was adapted by Romans to describe the round shield called Parma.

Reunification with the Apostolics

Fra Dolcino, at the beginning of 1303, reunited the Apostolic movement near Lake Garda. He met Margaret of Trento (real name Margherita Boninsegna, his lover or sister in spirit), and wrote the second letter to the Apostolics. At the beginning of 1304, three Dulcinians were burned by the Inquisition, leading Dolcino to evacuate the community to the west side of the Sesia valley, near his native Novara. At the end of 1304, only 1400 survived on the top of Mount Parete Calva, in the fortified Piano dei Gazzari. They descended the mountain to pillage and kill the people in the valley, responsible in their eyes for not defending the group against the episcopal troops. The villagers called them "Gazzari" (Cathars), and joined the soldiers in opposition.

Lake Garda lake in Italy

Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy. It is a popular holiday location in northern Italy, about halfway between Brescia and Verona, and between Venice and Milan on the edge of the Dolomites. Glaciers formed this alpine region at the end of the last Ice Age. The lake and its shoreline are divided between the provinces of Verona, Brescia (south-west), and Trento (north). The name Garda, which the lake has been seen referred to in documents dating to the eighth century, comes from the town of the same name. It is the evolution of the Germanic word warda, meaning "place of guard" or "place of observation."

Inquisition A group of institutions within the Catholic Church whose aim was to combat heresy.

The Inquisition was a group of institutions within the Catholic Church whose aim was to combat heresy. The Inquisition started in 12th-century France to combat religious dissent, in particular the Cathars and the Waldensians. Other groups investigated later included the Spiritual Franciscans, the Hussites and the Beguines. Beginning in the 1250s, inquisitors were generally chosen from members of the Dominican Order, replacing the earlier practice of using local clergy as judges. The term Medieval Inquisition covers these courts up to mid-15th century.

A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight.

Dolcino justified the acts committed by the Dulcinians by affirming their perfection and holiness based on Saint Paul's Epistle to Titus (1:15):

Epistle to Titus book of the Bible

The Epistle of Paul to Titus, usually referred to simply as Titus, is one of the three Pastoral Epistles in the New Testament, historically attributed to Paul the Apostle. It is addressed to Saint Titus and describes the requirements and duties of elders and bishops.

To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted.

The end

Margaret and Dolcino were captured and executed.


The main concepts of the Dulcinian heresy were:

Humility virtue

Humility is the quality of being humble. Dictionary definitions accentuate humility as a low self-regard and sense of unworthiness. In a religious context humility can mean a recognition of self in relation to a deity or deities, and self-debasement with subsequent submission to said deity as a member of that religion. Outside of a religious context, humility is defined as being "unselved", a liberation from consciousness of self, a form of temperance that is neither having pride nor indulging in self-deprecation.

Poverty state of one who lacks a certain amount of material possessions or money

Poverty is not having enough material possessions or income for a person's needs. Poverty may include social, economic, and political elements.

Fra Dolcino was inspired by the millenarist theories of Gioacchino da Fiore. He viewed the history of humanity as 4 epochs:

In his first letter, Dolcino gave his interpretation of the seven Angels and seven Churches of the Apocalypse of John:

Following the death of Boniface VIII, Dolcino produced a schedule of 4 popes:

Thus, the advent of the "new holy pope" was postponed to the second pope after the death of Boniface VIII. Dolcino never proposed himself as the new Pope in his letters, although this was one of the accusations of the Inquisition.

The rallying cry Poenitentiam agite (make penitence) was attributed to them in The Name of the Rose , a novel by Umberto Eco.

See also


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