Poor Clares

Poor Clares
Fresco of Saint Clare and sisters of her order, church of San Damiano, Assisi
Nun of the Order of Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration

The Poor Clares also known as the Order of Saint Clare, the Order of Poor Ladies, the Poor Clare Sisters, the Clarisse, the Minoresses, the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, and the Second Order of St. Francis, (In Latin ordo sanctae Clarae ), comprise several orders of nuns in the Catholic Church. The Poor Clares were the second Franciscan order to be established. Founded by Saints Clare of Assisi and Francis of Assisi on Palm Sunday in the year 1212, they were organized after the Order of Friars Minor (the first order), and before the Third Order of penitents or tertiaries, of which the secular part was later called the Secular Franciscan Order. As of 2011 there were over 20,000 Poor Clare nuns in sixteen observances and federations living in over 76 countries throughout the world.[1]

The Poor Clares (OSC) follow the "Rule of St. Clare," which was approved by Pope Innocent IV the day before Clare died in 1253. Other branches established since that time are the Colettine Poor Clares (founded 1410), the Capuchin Poor Clares (founded 1538) and the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration (founded 1854).


Foundation and Rule

The Poor Clares were founded by Clare of Assisi in the year 1212. Little is known of Clare's early life, although popular tradition hints that she came from a fairly well-to-do family in Assisi. At the age of eighteen, inspired by the preaching of Francis in the cathedral, Clare ran away from home to join his community of friars at the Portiuncula, some way outside the town.[2] Although, according to tradition, her family wanted to take her back by force, Clare's dedication to holiness and poverty inspired the friars to accept her resolution. She was given the habit of a nun and transferred to Benedictine convents, first at Bastia and then of Sant Angelo di Panzo, for her formation.

By 1216, Francis was able to offer Clare and her companions a house adjoining the church of San Damiano where she became abbess. Clare's mother, two of her sisters and some other wealthy women from Florence soon joined her new order. Clare dedicated her order to the strict principles of Francis, setting a rule of extreme poverty far more severe than that of any female order of the time.[3] Clare's determination that her order not be wealthy or own property, and that the sisters live entirely from alms given by local people, was initially protected by the papal Privilegium paupertatis given by Pope Innocent III.[4] By this time the order had grown to number three convents.

Spread of the order

The movement quickly spread, though in a somewhat disorganised fashion, with several convents of women devoted to the Franciscan ideal springing up elsewhere in Northern Italy. At this point Ugolino, Cardinal Bishop of Ostia (the future Pope Gregory IX), was given the task of overseeing all such convents and preparing a formal rule. Although convents at Monticello, Perugia, Siena, Gattajola and elsewhere adopted the new rule - which allowed for property to be held in trust by the Papacy for the various abbeys - it was not adopted by Clare herself or her convent at Damiano.[4] Ugolino's rule, originally based on that of the Benedictines, was amended in 1263 by Pope Urban IV to allow for the communal ownership of property, and was adopted by a growing number of monasteries across Europe. Communities adopting this less rigorous rule came to be known as the Order of Saint Clare (O.S.C.) or the Urbanist Poor Clares.[5]

Clare herself resisted the Ugolino Rule, since it did not closely enough follow the ideal of complete poverty advocated by Francis. On 9 August 1253, she managed to obtain a papal bull, "Solet annuere", establishing a rule of her own, more closely following that of the Franciscans and which forbade the possession of property either individually or as a community. Originally applying only to Clare's community at San Damiano, this rule was also adopted by many monasteries.[4] Communities that followed this stricter rule were fewer in number than the followers of the rule formulated by Cardinal Ugolino, and became known simply as Poor Clares (P.C.), or Primitives. The situation was further complicated a century later when Saint Colette of Corbie restored the primitive rule of strict poverty to 17 French convents. Her followers came to be called the Poor Clares of Saint Colette (P.C.C.) or Colettine Poor Clares. Two further orders, the Capuchin sisters and the Alcantarines, also followed the strict observance.[5]

The spread of the order began in 1218 when a monastery was founded in Perugia, new foundations quickly followed in Florence, Venice, Mantua, and Padua. Agnes, a niece of Clare, introduced the order to Spain, where Barcelona and Burgos hosted major communities. The order to Belgium and France where a convent was founded at Reims in 1229, followed by Montpellier, Cahors, Bordeaux, Metz, and Besançon. A monastery at Marseilles was founded directly from Assisi in 1254.[4] By 1300 there were 47 Poor Clare convents in Spain alone.[3] In Medieval England, their principal convent was located near Aldgate, known as the Abbey of the Order of St Clare. The order gave its name to the still-extant street known as Minories on the eastern boundary of the City of London.


Following Catholic Emancipation in the first half of the 19th century, the Poor Clares returned to the United Kingdom, eventually establishing communities in Baddesley Clinton (1850), Notting Hill (1857), Much Birch (1880), Arundel (1886), Lynton (1904), Nottingham (1927) and Bothwell (1952). There are also communities of Poor Clare Colettines in Ellesmere[disambiguation needed ], Hawarden and Neath. After the Reformation the Convent of Poor Clares at Gravelines was one of several houses formed in northern France. There is a community in Larvik, Norway.

North America

The Poor Clares went to the United States in 1875 Pope Pius IX sent nuns to establish a monastery of Poor Clares of the Primitive Observance, a community being established in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1878. There are also convents in Duncan, British Columbia, Evansville, Cleveland (Ohio), (Indiana), Roswell (New Mexico), Saginaw (Michigan), Brenham (Texas) Spokane (Washington) and Washington D.C..

Connections with television

Gothic Altar in Cologne Cathedral dedicated to Poor Clares

In 1958, Saint Clare was declared Patron Saint of television by the Catholic Church. The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) is operated by the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Alabama, USA. In June and July 2006 BBC Two broadcast a television series called The Convent,[6] in which four women were admitted to a Poor Clare monastery, in southern England, for a period of six weeks.


  1. ^ Poor Clare Sisters: Surrounding the World with Prayer
  2. ^ Michael Walsh (ed.). Butler's lives of the Saints, Burns and Oates (1991) p 246
  3. ^ a b Farmer, David (ed.) Oxford Dictionary of Saints, Oxford University Press (1997), p. 103
  4. ^ a b c d "Poor Clares". The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12251b.htm. Retrieved 2009-11-10. 
  5. ^ a b Encyclopedia Britannica, 2007, Vol.9. p. 603
  6. ^ Poor Clares, Arundel

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Poor Clares — • The second order of St. Francis Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Poor Clares     Poor Clares     † …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Poor Clares — Franciscan Fran*cis can, a. [LL. Franciscus Francis: cf. F. franciscain.] (R. C. Ch.) Belonging to the Order of St. Francis of the Franciscans. [1913 Webster] {Franciscan Brothers}, pious laymen who devote themselves to useful works, such as… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • POOR CLARES —    a ROMAN CATHOLIC Order of NUNS founded by FRANCIS OF ASSISI and his DISCIPLE Clare between 1212 and 1214 on the FRANCISCAN model …   Concise dictionary of Religion

  • Poor Clares —    Members of the order founded by St francis of assisi and St Clare in the early thirteenth century …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • Poor Clares — the female branch of the Franciscan order, maintaining an enclosed monastic life rather than one equivalent to that of the friars …   Medieval glossary

  • Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration — The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration are a branch of the Poor Clares, a contemplative order of nuns in the Franciscan tradition. Founded in France in 1854 by Marie Claire Bouillevaux, the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration are cloistered nuns… …   Wikipedia

  • Capuchin Poor Clares — The Capuchin Poor Clares were founded in Naples, Italy, in 1538, by Ven. Maria Laurentia Longo. The Capuchin Poor Clares follow the original ideals of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare of Assisi.External links* [http://www.capuchins.org/sisters …   Wikipedia

  • Poor Clare — ▪ religious order also called  Clarissine, or Clarisse,         any order of nuns descending from the Franciscan order founded at Assisi, Italy, in 1212 by St. Clare of Assisi (Clare of Assisi, Saint) (1194–1253), a noblewoman who took a vow of… …   Universalium

  • Poor Clare Convent (Gravelines) — Venerable Mary Ward, I.B.V.M., (1585 – 1645), who founded the community in 1607. The Convent of Poor Clares at Gravelines in the Spanish Netherlands (now in northern France), was a community of English nuns of the Order of St. Clare,commonly… …   Wikipedia

  • poor clare — noun Usage: usually capitalized P&C : a nun of an order founded early in the 13th century at Assisi by St. Clare under the direction of St. Francis * * * Poor Clare see under ↑Clare • • • Main Entry: ↑poor * * * Poor Clare «klair», a member of an …   Useful english dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.