Franciscan Colors

To speak of the color of the habits worn by Franciscans (men and women inspired by the charism of Francis of Assisi) is not an easy task. Throughout the centuries, the families of the first Order – that of the “friars minor” – adopted gray and brown colors (in many shades: light, dark, chestnut, reddish) … and even black.

There are new male and female congregations that even wear blue in honor of the B. V. Mary. Obviously, color has always had a symbolic energy that serves as a reminder of the spiritual identity of the group. What did Francis think about the color of the habit?

In the Rule, Francis does not prescribe any specific color for the habit of his penitential followers, rather he invites them to “wear humble garments,” to “dress in cheap clothing.” A biographer remembers the poor man of Assisi praising the lark: “Its plumage is earthy. It gives example to religious women and men that they should not have elegant and fine attire, but rather wear dull colors, like that of the earth”. Towards 1240, an English chronicler speaks of friars minor wearing “long gray robes “. In the Constitutions of Narbonne (1260), St. Bonaventure, who was General Minister, prescribes that the friars never wear black or white.

The Friars Minor Conventual up to the constitutions of 1803 were bound to wear ashen gray, but in1823 black began to prevail.

The Friars  Minor Observant underwent the official move from gray to brown habits at the 1895 Assisi Chapter when Leo XIII gathered the various families of the Observance into the “Friars Minor” (Reformed, Alcantarins, Recollects, etc.).

The Friars Minor Capuchin, in 1912, decided on their present chestnut color.

The color of the habit of the Franciscan families of the First Order expresses the birth and the evolution of currents within the Franciscan family. Until 1517, the Franciscan family, born in 1209, was a juridical one, governed by a single General Minister, considered by all to be the direct successor of Saint Francis. In that year, Leo X gave lawful independence to the Observance movement, initiated by a lay friar of Saint Francis at Foligno in 1368. The Capuchins (1525) arising from the Observants, faced opposition on various fronts. Under the legal protection of the Conventuals, the Order gained legal independence in 1628.

Pasquale MagroSource: www.sanfrancescopatronoditalia.it