John of Parma

John of Parma

Blessed John of Parma was an Italian Franciscan, and Minister General of the Friars Minor (1247-1257).


Giovanni (John in English) was born at Parma about 1209; his family name was probably Buralli. Educated by an uncle, chaplain of the church of St. Lazarus at Parma, his progress in learning was such that he quickly became a teacher of philosophy ("magister logicæ"). When and where he entered the Order of Friars Minor, the old sources do not say. Affò ["Vita", p. 18, see below.] assigns 1233 as the year, and Parma as the probable place. Ordained priest he taught theology at Bologna and at Naples, and finally read the "Sentences" at Paris, after having assisted at the First Council of Lyons, 1245.

At the general chapter of the order at Lyons in July, 1247, he was elected minister general, which office he held till 2 February 1257. The spirit that animated the new general, and of his purposes for the full observance of the rule, reflects from the joy recorded by Angelus Clarenus among the survivors of St. Francis's first companions at his election, though Brother Giles's words sound somewhat pessimistic: "Welcome, Father, but you come late" ["Archiv. Litt.", 11, 263.] .

John set to work immediately. Wishing to know personally the state of the order, he began visiting the order's different provinces. His first visit was to England, with which he was extremely satisfied, and where he was received by Henry III of England (Anal. Franc., I, 252). At Sens in France, King Louis IX honoured with his presence the provincial chapter held by John.

Having visited the provinces of Burgundy and of Provence, he set out in September 1248, for Spain, whence Innocent IV recalled him to entrust him with an embassy to the East. Before departing, John appears to have held the General Chapter of Metz in 1249 (others put it after the embassy, 1251). It was at this chapter that John refused to draw up new statutes to avoid overburdening the friars [Salimbene, "Mon. Germ. Hist. Script.", XXXII, 300.] . Only some new rubrics were promulgated, which in a later chapter in Genoa (1254) were included in the official ceremonial of the order [Beginning: "Ad omnes horas canonicas" (published by Golubovich in "Archivum Franc. Hist.", III, Quaracchi, 1910.] . The object of John's embassy to the East was the reunion of the Orthodox Church, whose representatives he met at Nice, and who saluted him as "angel of peace". John's mission bore no immediate fruit, though it may have prepared the way for the union decreed at the Council of Lyons in 1274.

In his generalate occurred also the famous dispute between the Mendicants and the Sorbonne University of Paris. According to Salimbene [op. cit., XXXII, 299 sqq.] , John went to Paris (probably in 1253), and by his mild yet strenuous arguments strove to secure peace. It been in connection with this attack on the Preachers and the Minors that John of Parma and Humbert of Romans, Master General of the Dominicans, published at Milan in 1255 a letter recommending peace and harmony between the two orders (text in Wadding, 111, 380). The "Introductorius in Evangelium Æternum" of Gerard of S. Donnino (1254), John's friend, having been denounced by the professors of Paris and condemned by a commission at Anagni in 1256 [Denifle, "Arch. f. Litt.", I, 49 sqq.] , John himself was in some way compromised--a circumstance which, combined with others, finally brought about the end of his generalate. He convoked a general chapter at Rome on 2 February 1257. If Peregrinus of Bologna ["Bulletino critico di cose francescane", I (1905), 46.] be right, Pope Alexander IV secretly intimated to John that he should resign, and decline re-election should it be offered him, while Salimbene [1. c., 301 sqq.] insists that John resigned of his own free will. The pope may have exerted some pressure on John, who was only too glad to resign, seeing himself unable to promote henceforth the good of the order. Questioned as to the choice of a successor, he proposed St. Bonaventure, who had succeeded him as professor at Paris.

John retired to the Hermitage of Greccio near Rieti, memorable for the Christmas celebrated there by St. Francis. There he lived in voluntary exile and complete solitude; his cell near a rock is still shown. But another trial awaited him. Accused of Joachimism, he was submitted to a canonical process at Cittá della Pieve (in Umbria), presided over by St. Bonaventure and Cardinal John Gaetano Orsini, protector of the order. The mention of this cardinal as protector brings us to a chronological difficulty, overlooked by writers who assign the process against John to 1257; for Alexander IV (1254-61) retained the protectorship [Anal. Franc., 696, 710; Mon. Germ. Hist.: Scr., XXXIII, 663, 681-2); and Cardinal Orsini became protector, at the earliest, at the end of 1261; see Oliger in "Arch. Francisce. Hist.", III, 346.] .
Angelus Clarenus tells us that the concealed motive of this process was John's attachment to the literal observance of the rule, the accusation of Joachimism, against which he professed his Catholic faith, being only a pretext. Other sources, however [Anal. Franc., 111, 350, 698.] , speak of retractation. Clarenus relates that John would have been condemned had it not been for the powerful intervention of Innocent IV's nephew, Cardinal Ottoboni Fioschi, later Pope Hadrian V [Concerning whose letter to the judges see Arch. f. Litt., II, 286; Orbis Seraphicus, I, 120.] . John certainly did not profess the dogmatical errors of Joachimism, though he may have held some of its apocalyptic ideas.

Upon his acquittal he returned to Greccio, and continued his life of prayer and work. It was there, it is said, that an angel once served his Mass [Salimbene, 1.c., 310; Anal. Franc., 111, 289.] , and that in 1285 he received the visit of Ubertin of Casale, who has left an account of this meeting ["Arbor Vitæ", Venice, 1485, V, 3.] . Hearing that the Orthodox were abandoning the union agreed upon in 1274, John, now 80 years old, desired to use his last energies in the cause of union. He obtained permission of Pope Nicolas IV to go to Greece, but only travelled as far as Camerino (in the Marches of Ancona), where he died in the convent of the friars on 19 March, 1289.

He was beatified in 1777; his feast is kept on 20 March.


With the exception of his letters scarcely any literary work can with surety be attributed to John.

He is certainly not the author of the "Introductorius in Evangel. Æternum", nor of the "Visio Fratris Johannis de Parma" [Anal. Franc., 111, 646-49.] .

With more probability can we attribute to John the "Dialogus de vitia ss. Fratrum Minorum", partly edited by L. Lemmens, O.F.M. (Rome, 1902). The "Chronicle of the XXIV Generals" [Anal. Franc., III, 283.] ascribes to John the allegoric treatise on poverty: "Sacrum Commercium B. Francisci cum Domina Paupertate" (ed. Milan, 1539), edited by Ed. d'Alençon (Paris and Rome, 1900), who ascribes it (without sufficient reason) to John Parent. Carmichael has translated this edition: "The Lady Poverty, a thirteenth-century allegory" (London, 1901); another English translation is by Rawnsly (London, 1904); a good introduction and abridged version is given by Macdonell, "Sons of Francis", 189-213.

Other works are mentioned by Sbaralea, "Suppl. ad Script." (Rome, 1806), 398.


*Catholic|Blessed John of Parma
*Salimbene, Chronica (Parma, 1857), ed. also by HOLDER-EGGER in Mon. Gern. Hist.: Script., XXXII (Hanover, 1905-8)
*Angelus Clarenus, "Chronicon seu Historia septem tribulationum ordinis minorum", partly edited by Ehrle in Arch. Für Litt. u. Kirchengesch., II (Berlin, 1886), 249 sqq., and by Döllinger, Beiträge zur Seklengesch., II (Munich, 1890), 417 sqq
*Anal. Francisce., I (Quaracchi, 1885), 217 sqq.; III (Quaracchi, 1897); Archivum Francisanum Historicum, II (Quaracchi, 1909), 433-39; Bull. Franc., I (Rome, 1759); II (Rome, 1761)
*Suppl. ad Bull. Franc. of Flaminius Annibali de Latera (Rome, 1780)
*Konrad Eubel, editor, "Bullarii Franciscani Epitome sive Summa Bullarum" (Quaracchi, 1908)
*Collection of good texts, especially referring to missions in the East: Golubovich, Biblioteca bio-bibliografica di Terra Santa, I (Quaracchi, 1906), 219-228
*Luke Wadding, Annales, III, IV (2nd ed., Rome, 1732).
*Anne Macdonell, Sons of Francis (London, 1902), 214-51
*Léon [DE, CLARY] , Lives of the Saints and Blessed of the Three Orders of St. Francis, I (Taunton, I885), 493-513.

There are three Italian lives with the title Vita del Beato Giovanni da Parma:
*Camerino (Ravenna, 1730)
*Affò (Parma, 1777)
*Luigi da Parma, 2nd ed. (Quaracchi, 1900)--1st ed. had appeared in the review Beato Giovanni da Parma, Periodico Bimensile (Parmi, 1888-9


*Ludovico Jacobilli, "Vite de' Santi e Beati dell' Umbria", I (Foligno, 1647), 329-34
*Affò in "Memorie degli Scrittori c Letterati Parmigiani", I (Parma, 1789), 129-45
*Daunou in "Histoire Littéraire de la France", XX (Paris, 1842), 23-36 (antiquated)
*Féret, "La Faculté de Théologie de Paris, Moyen Age," II (Paris, 1895), 94-99
*Picconi, "Serie Cronologico-Bioqrafica dei Ministri e Vicari Prov. della Minoritica Provincia di Bologna" (Parma, 1908), 43-44
*Holzapfel, "Manuale Historiæ Ordinis Fratrum Minorum" (Freibug im Br., 1909), 25-30; German edition (Freibug im Br., 1909), 28 33
*René de Nantes, "Histoire des Spirituels" (Paris, 1909), 145 205.


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