Discovering the 4 Mendicant Orders: Understanding their History and Mission

Do you know what the 4 mendicant orders are? If not, let’s dive into this topic together. These four groups of religious orders were founded during the 13th century, and all shared the core belief in a life of poverty and begging. Yes, you read that right! Begging was seen as an act of humility and a way to rely solely on God’s providence.

The first of the 4 mendicant orders is the Order of Friars Minor, also known as the Franciscans. This order was founded by St. Francis of Assisi and his followers in Italy in 1209, and their mission was to live a life of poverty, humility, and service to the poor. The Franciscans were involved in many charitable works, including caring for the sick and educating the youth.

The second order is the Order of Preachers, commonly known as the Dominicans. Founded in France by St. Dominic in the early 13th century, their mission was to preach and teach the Catholic faith. They were known for their great scholarship and intellectual rigor, which earned them the nickname “the hounds of the Lord.” The Dominicans also played a key role in the Inquisition, which aimed to combat heresy and spread Catholicism.

History of Mendicant Orders

Mendicant orders are religious orders that practice a communal life of poverty, chastity, and obedience, relying primarily on alms for their sustenance. The mendicant orders emerged in the 13th century during a time of great turmoil in the Catholic Church and Western Europe. The Church was challenged by the rise of heresy and the need for reform, and the secular powers were experiencing social upheaval and a growing sense of individualism.

The four major mendicant orders are the Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, and Augustinians. Each order has its unique charism and founder, but they all share a common belief in the value of poverty and the importance of preaching and teaching.

  • The Franciscans, founded by Saint Francis of Assisi, emphasize simplicity and the imitation of Christ’s life of poverty. Their mission is to bring Christ’s message of charity and peace to the world.
  • The Dominicans, founded by Saint Dominic, focus on preaching and the intellectual defense of the faith. They are known as the “hounds of the Lord” for their relentless pursuit of truth.
  • The Carmelites, who trace their roots to the hermits on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land, emphasize contemplative prayer and the development of the interior life. They seek to unite themselves with God through detachment and self-discipline.
  • The Augustinians, founded by Saint Augustine of Hippo, are known for their devotion to the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession. They seek to model their lives after the early Christian community described in the Acts of the Apostles.

These mendicant orders played a crucial role in the Church’s response to the challenges of the 13th century. They provided a new model of religious life that emphasized simplicity, poverty, and preaching, and they inspired countless individuals to follow their example. Today, the mendicant orders continue to be a vibrant and essential part of the Catholic Church.

Founder of Mendicant Orders

The mendicant orders, also known as begging orders, are religious orders that rely on charity and donations to support themselves and their ministries. There are four main mendicant orders: the Franciscans, the Dominicans, the Augustinians, and the Carmelites. Each of these orders was founded by a prominent religious figure, who had a unique vision for the order’s mission and purpose.

  • Franciscans: The Franciscan order was founded by St. Francis of Assisi in the early 13th century. St. Francis was a wealthy merchant who gave up his wealth to follow a life of poverty and service to the poor. He believed in a simple life grounded in the teachings of Jesus Christ, and his order of friars was dedicated to preaching the Gospel, serving the poor, and working for peace.
  • Dominicans: The Dominican order was founded by St. Dominic in the early 13th century. St. Dominic was a Spanish priest who was committed to combating heresy and spreading the truth of the Gospel. He founded his order of friars to preach the Word of God and to study and defend Church doctrine, with a particular emphasis on intellectual pursuits and theological discourse.
  • Augustinians: The Augustinian order was founded by St. Augustine in the 4th century. St. Augustine was a theologian and bishop who wrote extensively on Christian doctrine and spirituality. His order of friars was dedicated to living a simple life of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and to faithfully serving the Church through preaching, teaching, and other forms of ministry.
  • Carmelites: The Carmelite order was founded by a group of hermits on Mount Carmel in the 12th century. The hermits lived a life of solitude and prayer, following the example of the prophet Elijah. The order was later reformed by St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross in the 16th century, who emphasized the importance of contemplative prayer and mystical experience.


For further reading on the founders of mendicant orders, check out these resources:

Title Author Publisher
The Life of St. Francis of Assisi St. Bonaventure Penguin Classics
The Life of St. Dominic Augusta Theodosia Drane Tan Books
The Confessions of St. Augustine St. Augustine Dover Publications
The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila St. Teresa of Avila Penguin Classics

These books offer valuable insights into the lives and teachings of the founders of the mendicant orders, as well as the broader cultural and historical contexts in which they lived and worked.

Franciscan Order

The Franciscan Order, also known as the Order of Friars Minor, was founded by St. Francis of Assisi in the early 13th century. The order is known for its strong commitment to poverty, simplicity, and humility, as well as its focus on serving the poor and marginalized.

  • The Franciscan Order is divided into three branches: the Friars Minor, the Friars Minor Conventual, and the Friars Minor Capuchin.
  • The Friars Minor are the original branch of the Franciscan Order and focus on living a life of poverty and serving the poor.
  • The Friars Minor Conventual are a larger branch of the order, with a focus on brotherhood and evangelization, as well as a commitment to education and ministry in urban areas.
  • The Friars Minor Capuchin are known for their distinctive brown hooded robes and their emphasis on contemplative prayer and community life.

The Franciscan Order has made significant contributions to the Catholic Church and the world at large. St. Francis of Assisi is renowned for his love of nature, and is the patron saint of ecology. The order has also produced numerous saints, including St. Anthony of Padua and St. Bonaventure.

The table below highlights some key information about the Franciscan Order:

Founder St. Francis of Assisi
Year founded 1209
Branches Friars Minor, Friars Minor Conventual, Friars Minor Capuchin
Core values Poverty, simplicity, humility, serving the poor
Notable saints St. Anthony of Padua, St. Bonaventure, St. Clare of Assisi

The Franciscan Order continues to thrive today, with members serving in a variety of ministries throughout the world. Their commitment to simplicity, poverty, and service to the poor serves as an inspiration to many.

Dominican Order

The Dominican Order, also known as the Order of Preachers, is one of the four great mendicant orders of the Catholic Church. Founded in 1216 by Saint Dominic de Guzman, the order has a rich history of preaching and teaching throughout the world.

  • The Dominicans are known for their focus on the pursuit of truth and knowledge, and their commitment to preaching and evangelization. This has led them to become highly-respected theologians and scholars throughout history.
  • The order is also known for its contributions to art and culture. Many famous artists, such as Fra Angelico and Giovanni da Fiesole, were members of the Dominican order, and their works reflect the order’s values of beauty, intellectual rigor, and spiritual depth.
  • The Dominicans have a strong tradition of academic and intellectual inquiry. Many of their members have served as teachers or professors at universities and other institutions of higher learning, and the order has founded many schools and educational programs throughout the world.

The Dominicans place a great emphasis on community life and brotherhood. Members of the order live in communities, known as priories or convents, where they share a common life of prayer, study, and service.

Founder Saint Dominic de Guzman
Date Founded 1216
Official Name Order of Preachers
Motto “Laudare, Benedicere, Praedicare” (“To praise, to bless, to preach”)

Today, the Dominican Order continues to thrive and serve in many parts of the world. Its members work in various fields, including education, healthcare, and social justice, and continue to preach the Gospel and share their unique charism with the world.

Augustinian Order

The Augustinian Order is named after St. Augustine of Hippo, a prominent Christian theologian and philosopher. This order was established in the 13th century and is characterized by its emphasis on prayer and intellectual pursuits.

  • The members of the Augustinian Order are called Augustinians or Friars.
  • Their dress code consists of a black robe, a white tunic underneath, a leather belt, and sandals.
  • Their motto is “Tolle, lege” which means “Take up and read.”

Augustinians are committed to a life of contemplation, community, and service. They place great importance on education and are known for their contributions to theological and philosophical studies.

Augustinians are widely known for their exceptional contributions to the development of Christianity. The following table provides a list of notable Augustinians:

Name Contribution
St. Augustine of Hippo Developed the Christian doctrine of original sin
St. Thomas of Villanova Known for his works of charity
Martin Luther Started the Protestant Reformation after being a member of the Augustinian Order
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Was a member of a literary society associated with the Augustinians

The Augustinian Order has had a significant impact on the Christian faith and continues to be an influential presence in the world today.

The Carmelite Order

The Carmelite Order, also known as the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, is one of the four mendicant orders. The Carmelites have a rich history that dates back to the 12th century. The order was founded on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land, where a group of hermits lived in solitude, dedicating themselves to a life of prayer and contemplation.

The Carmelites eventually spread to Europe and became involved in various ministries, including education and pastoral work. The order also became known for its devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, as well as its distinctive brown habit and scapular.

The Carmelite Way of Life

  • The Carmelite way of life is rooted in a deep sense of prayer and contemplation. Carmelites seek to live a life of solitude and simplicity, focusing on their relationship with God and their commitment to serving others.
  • The order is also dedicated to living a life of poverty, which is reflected in their simple lifestyle and their commitment to helping the poor and marginalized.
  • Carmelites also place a strong emphasis on community life, seeking to build deep, supportive relationships with one another, as well as with the wider community.

Carmelite Spirituality

Carmelite spirituality is characterized by a deep sense of prayer and contemplation, as well as a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Carmelites seek to cultivate a deep sense of interior prayer, focusing on their relationship with God and their own personal growth.

The order also has a strong sense of mystical spirituality, which is reflected in the writings of Carmelite mystics like St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. These writings emphasize the importance of detachment from worldly concerns and a complete surrender to God.

The Carmelite Brown Scapular

The brown scapular is perhaps the most recognizable symbol of the Carmelite Order. The scapular is a small piece of cloth worn over the shoulders, with one piece hanging down the front and one down the back. It is a sign of the wearer’s commitment to living a life of prayer and devotion.

Significance Requirements
The brown scapular is a sign of the wearer’s commitment to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to the Carmelite way of life. To receive the brown scapular, one must be enrolled in the order by a priest and commit to wearing it daily and living a life of prayer and devotion.

In addition to its spiritual significance, the brown scapular is also seen as a sign of community and solidarity with other Carmelites around the world.

Role of Mendicant Orders in the Church

Mendicant orders are religious orders of friars that emerged in the 13th century and played a significant role in the history of the Catholic Church. The word “mendicant” comes from the Latin word “mendicare,” which means to beg. This is because the friars of these orders were known for living a life of poverty and relying on the charity of others to support their activities. Here, we will discuss the essential role of Mendicant Orders in the Church.

  • Spreading the Gospel
  • Mendicant orders were founded with the primary goal of bringing the Gospel to the people and spreading the teachings of the Church. They specialized in preaching to the common people, who were often unable to read and write and, therefore, could not access the Bible. This was a radical departure from the traditional monastic model of contemplation and seclusion from the world. Mendicants were street preachers, traveling from town to town or living in densely populated areas, where they preached and provided guidance and consolation to the poor.

  • Champion of social justice
  • Mendicant orders were often involved in social justice issues, advocating for the poor and supporting the oppressed. They believed that poverty was a virtue and that the rich had a moral obligation to help those in need. Many friars of the Franciscan and Dominican orders worked with lepers, the sick, and the poor, providing them with food, clothing, and medical care.

  • Missionary work
  • Mendicant Orders played a crucial role during the Age of Discovery. From the outset, their international networks and familiarity with different cultures provided them with strategic advantages in the overseas mission. Their mission included converting people to Christianity, but it was also about fostering cooperation and cultural exchange, respecting local traditions and teaching acceptance and tolerance.

  • A Model of Religious Life
  • Mendicant orders were founded on the idea of living in poverty, obedience, and chastity. They didn’t live in monasteries, which were cut off from the world; instead, they lived in the heart of cities and towns, living with and serving the poor. They offered an alternative to the traditional monastic model that was focused on contemplation and prayer.

Mendicant Orders Founder Year Founded
Dominicans Dominic de Guzman 1216
Franciscans St. Francis of Assisi 1209
Carmelites Berthold of Calabria 1154
Augustinians Augustine of Hippo 1254

Mendicant orders revitalized the Church, injecting it with passionate, visionary, and enthusiastic men and women dedicated to promoting the ideals of Christianity. The role of these orders in the growth of the church can’t be overstated. They were able to infect the church with an entirely new spirit that revived faith in the public and out of an age of darkness. Consequently, Mendicant orders played a significant role in the growth of the Church.

Spread of Mendicant Orders in Europe

The spread of the mendicant orders in Europe during the Middle Ages was a significant aspect of medieval religious history. The mendicant orders, also known as friars, were religious orders that emphasized poverty, preaching, and active ministry in the world. There were four main mendicant orders that emerged in the 13th century: the Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, and Augustinians.

  • The Dominicans, founded by Saint Dominic of Guzman in 1216, focused on preaching and teaching against heresy. They were known for their intelligence and skill as theologians, and their many prominent members included Saint Thomas Aquinas.
  • The Franciscans, founded by Saint Francis of Assisi in 1209, emphasized living in poverty and serving the poor. They were known for their compassion and devotion to nature, and many of their members became famous as miracle-workers.
  • The Carmelites, founded on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land, believed in the importance of solitary contemplation and prayer. They were known for their mystical spirituality and asceticism, and their most famous member was Saint John of the Cross.
  • The Augustinians, founded by various groups of hermits in the 13th century, were a more diverse order that included both mendicant and non-mendicant branches. They were known for their intellectual and pastoral work, and many of their members became prominent scholars and theologians.

The spread of these orders was facilitated by the support of the medieval papacy, which saw them as a way to combat heresy and reform the church. The popes granted the mendicants many privileges, such as the right to preach and hear confessions, and exempted them from the control of local bishops. This allowed the friars to travel freely throughout Europe, forming communities and establishing houses in major cities.

Over time, the mendicant orders became some of the most influential religious communities in medieval Europe. They played a key role in the spread of literacy, education, and culture, as well as in the reform of the church and the development of new spiritualities. Today, many of these orders continue to exist, carrying on the legacy of their founders and serving the needs of the modern world.

Mendicant Orders and Poverty

The Mendicant Orders were founded in the 13th century as a response to the growing poverty and social problems caused by the Crusades, feudalism, and urbanization. The four mendicant orders are the Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, and Carmelites.

  • The Franciscans, founded by St. Francis of Assisi, emphasized poverty, humility, and simplicity. They lived among the people, preached in the vernacular, and worked for social justice and peace. Their motto was “to follow the poor Christ” and they survived by begging.
  • The Dominicans, founded by St. Dominic, emphasized preaching, education, and intellectual inquiry. They lived in communities, studied the Bible and theology, and fought heresy and immorality. Their motto was “to praise, to bless, to preach” and they survived by relying on patrons.
  • The Augustinians, founded by St. Augustine, emphasized contemplation, prayer, and service. They lived in monasteries, prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, and served as priests and teachers. Their motto was “to love and serve God” and they survived by receiving donations.
  • The Carmelites, founded on Mount Carmel in Palestine, emphasized solitude, silence, and prayer. They lived as hermits, monks, or mendicants, wore a distinctive brown habit, and dedicated themselves to the Virgin Mary. Their motto was “with zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of hosts” and they survived by farming or weaving.

Poverty was the hallmark of the mendicant orders, but it also posed a challenge and a paradox. On the one hand, poverty was a spiritual virtue that enabled them to imitate Christ, detach themselves from material possessions, and depend on God’s providence. On the other hand, poverty was a practical need that forced them to rely on charity, hospitality, and begging, and exposed them to criticism, suspicion, and exploitation.

That’s why the mendicant orders developed a complex system of rules, regulations, and customs to manage poverty and avoid abuses. For example, they had to share their goods, observe manual labor, practice discretion, avoid excess, value education, respect authority, and contribute to the common good. They also had to be aware of the social context, adapt to the changing circumstances, and negotiate with the secular clergy, the lay people, and the authorities.

Name of the Order Founder Core Values
Franciscans St. Francis of Assisi Poverty, Humility, Simplicity, Charity, Peace
Dominicans St. Dominic Preaching, Education, Inquiry, Prudence, Piety
Augustinians St. Augustine Contemplation, Prayer, Service, Community, Charity
Carmelites Prophet Elijah Solitude, Silence, Prayer, Sacrifice, Devotion

Despite the challenges, the mendicant orders had a significant impact on the medieval Church and society, and their legacy still resonates today. They inspired other religious and lay movements, they shaped the artistic, literary, and musical culture, and they challenged the established power structures and the orthodox doctrines. They also remind us of the enduring relevance of poverty, and the need to balance material and spiritual values, in a world full of wealth and poverty, privilege and oppression.

Comparison of Mendicant Orders to other Religious Orders

When it comes to religious orders, there are many different types that exist. However, the mendicant orders have carved out a unique spot for themselves in the religious landscape. Here are a few ways that they differ from other religious orders:

  • Fundraising: While many religious orders rely on donations from wealthy patrons or the state to support themselves, mendicant orders take a different approach. They actively fundraise, going out into the world and asking for donations from everyday people.
  • Poverty: Most religious orders call for members to take vows of poverty, but the mendicant orders take this to a whole new level. They aren’t just supposed to live simply – they’re supposed to rely solely on donations and not have any possessions or property of their own.
  • Outreach: Unlike other religious orders, mendicant orders don’t live in seclusion. They go out into the world and actively seek to convert non-believers or engage in acts of charity.

So how do these differences stack up when comparing mendicant orders to other religious orders? Here’s a closer look:

In terms of fundraising, mendicant orders are similar to some other orders that also rely on donations. However, they are unique in that the actual act of fundraising is an essential part of their religious practice. This sets them apart from orders that simply accept donations without actively seeking them out.

When it comes to poverty, mendicant orders are far more extreme than most other religious orders. While other orders may call for members to live simply, they are usually allowed to own personal possessions and live on property owned by the order. The mendicant orders, in contrast, must rely entirely on donations and cannot own anything of their own.

Finally, mendicant orders are unique in their outreach efforts. Many orders may perform charitable works, but the mendicant orders make it a central part of their religious practice to actively seek out new converts or help those in need.

Comparison Mendicant Orders Other Religious Orders
Fundraising Actively seek donations from everyday people Rely on donations from wealthy patrons or the state
Poverty Rely solely on donations, cannot own possessions or property Live simply, but can own personal possessions and live on property owned by the order
Outreach Actively seek new converts or engage in acts of charity May perform charitable works, but not necessarily seek out new converts or engage in active outreach

Overall, mendicant orders have a unique way of living out their religious practice that sets them apart from other religious orders. While their extreme vows of poverty and active outreach efforts may not be for everyone, they have certainly left a lasting impact on the religious landscape for centuries.

FAQs: What are the 4 mendicant orders?

Q: What exactly are the 4 mendicant orders?
A: The 4 mendicant orders are a group of religious communities that were founded in the 13th century by St. Francis of Assisi, St. Dominic, St. Clare of Assisi, and St. Augustine of Hippo. Their core beliefs revolve around a life of poverty, service, and devotion to God.

Q: What are the names of the 4 mendicant orders?
A: The orders are: the Franciscans, also known as the Order of Friars Minor; the Dominicans, also known as the Order of Preachers; the Poor Clares, also known as the Order of Saint Clare; and the Augustinians, also known as the Order of Saint Augustine.

Q: What is the difference between the 4 mendicant orders?
A: Each order has its own unique traditions and practices, as well as its own specific focus and emphasis. For example, the Franciscans place a strong emphasis on simplicity and poverty, while the Dominicans prioritize education and preaching.

Q: What is the mission of the 4 mendicant orders?
A: The goal of the orders is to live a life of total dedication to God and service to others, particularly to those who are poor or marginalized. They strive to live out the teachings of Jesus Christ in their daily lives and to inspire others to do the same.

Q: Are the 4 mendicant orders still active today?
A: Yes, each of the orders is still active today and has a presence all over the world. They continue to serve their local communities, educate others about their faith, and inspire people to live lives of kindness and compassion.

Q: Can anyone join one of the mendicant orders?
A: Each order has its own specific requirements and admission process, but generally speaking, anyone who feels drawn to a life of service and devotion to God can consider joining one of the orders.

Q: How can I learn more about the 4 mendicant orders?
A: There are many books, websites, and other resources available that explore the history and teachings of the mendicant orders. You can also consider visiting a local church or monastery that belongs to one of the orders to learn more about their work and beliefs.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for taking the time to learn about the 4 mendicant orders. Their commitment to serving others and living a life of poverty and devotion to God is an inspiration to people all over the world. If you are interested in learning more about these remarkable religious orders, be sure to visit us again later for more information and resources.