Annunciades and Friars Minor

The one who wants to detach the Annunciade’s graft from the Franciscan tree will not understand the Order of the Virgin Mary.  This affirmation is verified in the first place regarding the foundress.  How to “think” Jeanne of France without her family contact with so many Franciscans, especially on the maternal side?  Charlotte of Savoie, Jeanne’s mother, battles a long time to found the monastery of the Poor Clares of the Ave Maria of Paris.  Her grandmother, Anne of Lusignan, is a Franciscan tertiary.  Her aunt, Yolande of France, also founds some monasteries of Poor Clares (Chambery, Geneva).  Her cousin, Louise of Savoie, enters the Poor Clares after becoming a widow.  Jeanne of France carries on this continuity; no one is unaware of her privileged ties with Father Gabriel Maria, but the Duchess of Berry is in contact with many other Friars Minor of the Observance; such as the fiery preacher Oliver Maillard or some more anonymous brothers from the convents of Amboise and of Meung-sur-Loire.

This long familiarity with the Franciscan world partly explains the spirituality of the Annunciade.  But it is all the history of the Order, which bears the mark of the Friars Minor.  Let us insist on this last point.

During the first fifteen years of its history the Order, founded conjointly by Jeanne of France and by Gabriel Maria, becomes progressively under the jurisdiction of the Friars Minor of the Observance.  The process finishes with the general chapter of Anvers (1514) during which the observants receive the annunciades under their official care  (as well as the Conceptionists, other marian and Franciscan Orders of the same epoch). Consequently, the monasteries of the Annunciade are henceforth integrated into the territorial structures of the Order of St François, the “provinces” which are going to play a determining role in the new foundations.  Let us take a flagrant example, the one of Bruges, in 1516.  How to explain the implantation of a founded order by an ex-queen of France, in full Spanish earth, in an epoch in which France and Spain were almost continually at war?  The answer to this enigma is given by the geography of the Franciscan provinces.  Indeed the Observant province of “France parisienne”, before 1517, we should say more exactly “vicairie of the Observants of the province of France”, spreads very far towards the North and embraces all the Flanders.  Bruges belongs then to the same Franciscan world as Paris or Bourges.  It is in 1523 only, under pressure from the Spanish that the Flanders will be erected in a Franciscan province.  But between times, Father Jean Glapion, eminent member of the Observance and guardian of the Friars Minor of Bruges, allowed some sisters of Bourges to implant a monastery in his city. And the little “French” cutting took root in Spanish earth.

Another example of the implication of the Friars Minor in the expansion of the Annunciade: the imposing set of foundations of the first half of XVIIth century.  Certainly the phenomenon participates in the general movement of the Catholic reform, but not solely.  Since the first time of the Observance (end of the XIVth century) the brothers had been rejoined by a great number of regular tertiaries, the Grey Sisters.

They nursed in hospitals and cared for people in private houses.  Therefore, they were not enclosed, to the great disappointment of the most zealous brothers of the reform.  At the end of the XVth century, they sought to persuade the Grey Sisters to adopt the enclosure. (It was the origin of some monasteries of the Poor Clares).  After the Council of Trente, and on Roman injunction, the Friars Minor once more strongly encouraged some whole communities to take the rule of the Annunciade.  Several monasteries (Boulogne/mer, Melun, Gand, …) exist because of these transitions of one rule to another, imposed by the brothers.

Once founded, the communities of the Annunciades participate in the life of a Franciscan province, to this “vital reciprocity” between the different categories of religious.  The brothers assure the regular visit of the monasteries and provide confessors and preachers to the sisters.  (Jean Clerici at Bethune, Médéric Molière at Melun, Jean Herment at Gisors, Pierre David at Popincourt).  The nuns celebrate the Franciscan feasts and contribute to the material life of the province by alms and the stipends of masses.  The registers of amounts of Popincourt, fully preserved, testify on every page these exchanges.  There again, it is impossible to read these archive documents in concealing the Franciscan horizon of the monastery.

If the annunciades are really integrated into the Franciscan provinces it is not in the same way as the Poor Clares.  For example, the daughters of Saint Jeanne seem always to keep a certain margin that gives them more freedom in connection with the brothers of the Observance.  It manifests itself by a greater awareness of the nuns with regard to the other branches of the first Order of Saint François (Capucins, in particular); it appears also in case of conflict with the brothers by their transfer to the jurisdiction of the bishop.

Since the Revolution, the ties between Annunciades and Friars Minor evolved deeply.  The phenomenon is explained by the belated return of the Franciscans (at least in France) and the transfer of the entirety of the feminine communities under the jurisdiction of the Ordinary.  But even so, the brothers continue to exercise their brotherly solicitude towards the monasteries of the Order of the Annunciade. The existence of a service “pro monialibus” to the Curie Generalice testifies of it.  As for the Annunciades, they are fully conscious of  belonging to the “Franciscan family” and they act accordingly.

Pierre Moracchini


(For those who want to know more of this, one can indicate the references to the article of the Mabillon magazine) …?
Here are the references:

Pierre Moracchini, in the heart of a Franciscan province; The Cordeliers, Poor Clares, Grey Sisters and Annunciades of “France Parisienne” at the XVIIth century, Mabillon magazine, international Magazine of religious history and literature, New set, 12(t.73), Ed. Brepols, 2001.