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friar


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(from Latin fratres, i.e. brothers) belonged to the so‐called mendicant (i.e. begging) monastic orders. The four most important were the Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, and Augustinians. The friars emerged in the early 13th cent., partly as a response to the spiritual needs of a changing society, particularly increasing urbanization, partly to combat heresy by teaching and example.

The friars, though frequently following variants of older monastic rules, differed from monks in fundamental respects. Adopting a life of poverty, they refused endowments and property, relying instead on begging; their raison d'être was engagement with, rather than seclusion from, the secular world. As orthodox evangelists they placed much emphasis on learning both within their own communities and in the universities, and it is no coincidence that almost all of the leading intellectuals of late medieval Europe, including Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus, were friars.

Subjects: British History.


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