FRATICELLI: An antiecclesiastical sect which developed in the latter part of the thirteenth century from the Observantine Franciscans. The name of "little brothers" was originally applied to the strict Franciscan Observantines whom Celestine V. had united with his own order in 1292 and who, after the suppression of the Celestines (q.v.) by Boniface VIII. ten years later, had continued their opposition to the Conventual Minorites. Later becoming a general designation of all separatistic Observantine Franciscans, the term Fraticelli gradually acquired a sinister connotation, being applied to heretics of the most dangerous type and equivalent to Beghards, Bizochi ("wallet-carrying vagabonds," from Fr. besace, "wallet"), Lollards, and similar epithets. The Fraticelli quickly spread throughout Italy, southern France, Flanders, and portions of Germany, despite the Inquisition. Their principal Italian leaders were the Observantine Angelus de Clareno in the east-central part, Enrico de Ceca in Tuscany, the Celestine hermits of Mount Majella in Abruzzi, and Duke Lodovico de Durazzo in southern Italy, while in Achæa and the Peloponnesus they were harbored by the Latin princes, forming both here and in the south of Italy an organized hierarchy under their own bishops in opposition to the Church.


In life and practise the Fraticelli differed from the Observantines chiefly in that they desired to be entirely independent both of the Minorites and of the Church and its hierarchy. Their garb was uncouth and they wore short cowls and dirty wallets to distinguish themselves from the Franciscans. They also rejected the Roman Catholic Church as fallen from Christian purity, and considered the popes since Celestine V. or at least since John XXII. as usurpers, while the sacraments administered by priests were held to be inefficacious and papal indulgences worthless. The Fraticelli were subjected to severe persecution as a result of the bull of condemnation issued by John XXII. on Jan. 23, 1318, especially in Toulouse and its vicinity, in Italy after 1321 and again after 1350, repeatedly in Flanders after 1322, and in Florence even in the fourteenth century, while a number were put to death in Rome as late as 1466.