Angelo of Clareno: Structure and argument in the Historia septem tribulationum

Anton F Xuereb, Fordham University


Angelo of Clareno's Historia Septem Tribulationum ordinis minorum remains a significant literary composition which provides essential information about the historical evolution of the Friars Minor. This present analysis proposes new insights into the historical and ideological dimensions of the Historia. An analysis of the historical context precedent to the publication of the Historia addresses the scriptural roots of the vita apostolica, its impact on the Benedictine tradition, the Gregorian reform, the early years of Franciscan history, and the emergence of the Franciscan Spirituals. In the case of the latter, the consequences of Joachimist thought and of internal conflicts over the "will of Francis" constitute additional contextual parameters for the dissertation. A new examination of biographical information about Clareno forms the foundation of the author's investigation of the clash between the friars of the Spiritual tradition and Pope John XXII. Given the intensity of the persecution of Clareno and his followers, the Historia clearly took on an eschatological context redolent with polemic, and a personal apologia by Clareno. Hence, the concept of "tribulations." The first part of the Historia comprises the Legenda Antigua. The Legenda, however, does not emulate "typical" interpretations of that genre. Rather, it is a commentary organized around select materials about Francis and the origin of the Order, which Clareno employs to clarify and justify the stance taken by the Spirituals against the "corruption" of the original Franciscan ideals. This present interpretation of Clareno addresses three areas: the mystical relationship between Christ and Francis; the specific "commission" given to Francis in consequence of that relationship; and the prophetic tone taken by Clareno in his exposition of this material. In the second part of the Historia, which deals with the seven tribulations experienced by the Franciscan Spirituals at the hands of popes and Franciscan leaders, Clareno establishes a basis for the spiritual formation of future disciples. He treats the cowardice and duplicity of the early leaders as the source of an "obligation of conscience": a refusal to enter into practices of mitigated poverty, incumbent upon those betrayed by such leaders. Throughout the Historia an ecclesiology which is intensely eschatological is developed by Clareno. Using a symbolist methodology, he arrives at an understanding of the Church as the indefectible Body of Christ, tainted by corruption of basic Christian and Franciscan principles. According to Clareno, obedience to unjust authority was a tribulation, but fidelity to the ideal could and should be maintained--even in times of great persecution. However, such an ecclesiology did not serve the Church well. The "faithful remnant" mentality inspired by the Historia ultimately proved a continuing cause of disunity within the Friars Minor and the larger Church community.

Subject Area

Middle Ages|Religious congregations|Biographies

Recommended Citation

Xuereb, Anton F, "Angelo of Clareno: Structure and argument in the Historia septem tribulationum" (1997). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9730115.