Michael of Cesena
Michael of Cesena (c. 1270 – 29 November 1342) was an Italian Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

, general of that Order, and theologian.


Of his early life little is known. He was born at Cesena
Cesena is a city and comune in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, south of Ravenna and west of Rimini, on the Savio River, co-chief of the Province of Forlì-Cesena. It is at the foot of the Apennines, and about 15 km from the Adriatic Sea.-History:Cesena was originally an Umbrian...

. Having entered the Franciscan Order, he studied at Paris and took the doctor's degree in theology. He taught theology at Bologna and wrote several commentaries on Holy Scripture and the Sentences of Peter Lombard.

His advocacy of Evangelical poverty brought him into conflict with Pope John XXII
Pope John XXII
Pope John XXII , born Jacques Duèze , was pope from 1316 to 1334. He was the second Pope of the Avignon Papacy , elected by a conclave in Lyon assembled by Philip V of France...


At the general chapter of Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

 (31 May 1316) he was elected minister general
Minister general
Minister General is the term used for the Superior General of the different branches of the Franciscan Order. It is a term exclusive to them, and comes directly from its founder, St. Francis of Assisi....

 and went at once to Assisi
- Churches :* The Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi is a World Heritage Site. The Franciscan monastery, il Sacro Convento, and the lower and upper church of St Francis were begun immediately after his canonization in 1228, and completed in 1253...

, where he convoked a chapter to consider the revision of the Constitutions of the order. Returning to Bologna
Bologna is the capital city of Emilia-Romagna, in the Po Valley of Northern Italy. The city lies between the Po River and the Apennine Mountains, more specifically, between the Reno River and the Savena River. Bologna is a lively and cosmopolitan Italian college city, with spectacular history,...

, he issued the document, Gravi qua premor (21 August 1316), which, together with several other ordinances regarding the matter of poverty, induced John XXII to publish the Bull, Quorumdam exigit (7 October 1317) whose purpose was to explain the decretal
Decretals is the name that is given in Canon law to those letters of the pope which formulate decisions in ecclesiastical law.They are generally given in answer to consultations, but are sometimes due to the initiative of the popes...

s of Nicholas III
Pope Nicholas III
Pope Nicholas III , born Giovanni Gaetano Orsini, Pope from November 25, 1277 to his death in 1280, was a Roman nobleman who had served under eight Popes, been made cardinal-deacon of St...

, Exiit qui seminat (13 August 1279), and of Clement V, Exivi de paradiso (6 May 1312). As it concerned the principal chapter of the Franciscan Rule, this action caused no little disturbance within the order.

The Bull was opposed by Michael and his party, who claimed that in adopting the strict poverty upon which Michael had insisted in his letters, they were following the example and teaching of Christ and the Apostles. Thus the controversy finally shifted to a speculative theological question: whether or not it was consonant with Catholic Faith to hold that Christ and the Apostles had no property individually or in common; and while in the famous dispute at Narbonne in 1321 the inquisitor, John of Belna, claimed that it was heretical, Berengarius of Perpignan declared it a Catholic dogma in perfect accordance with the decretals of Nicholas III and Clement V.

The matter having been brought before John XXII, a further attempt to settle the controversy was made by distinguishing between dominion and simple use, so that both propositions, Christ and the Apostles had no property, i. e., dominion of property, and Christ and the Apostles possessed property, i. e., the use of property, were true. In the Bull Quia nonnunquam (26 March 1322) the pope declared that he intended merely to explain the decrees of his predecessors, and excommunicated anyone who attempted to misconstrue the meaning of the papal Constitution Quorumdam exigit.

In June of the same year a general chapter of the order was convoked at Perugia
Perugia is the capital city of the region of Umbria in central Italy, near the River Tiber, and the capital of the province of Perugia. The city is located about north of Rome. It covers a high hilltop and part of the valleys around the area....

 and decided that to assert that Christ and His Apostles possessed no earthly goods was not only not heretical, but sound and Catholic doctrine. At the same time Bonagratia of Bergamo
Bonagratia of Bergamo
Bonagratia of Bergamo was a leading supporter of the Franciscan Spirituals from within the Franciscan movement. He was a well trained lawyer before entering the Franciscans, and represented the Franciscans at the Papal Curia...

 was commissioned to represent the chapter before the papal Curia, at Avignon.

Summons to Avignon

The controversy continued unabated until, in 1327, Michael was summoned to appear before the pope. The latter summoned him to Avignon
Avignon is a French commune in southeastern France in the départment of the Vaucluse bordered by the left bank of the Rhône river. Of the 94,787 inhabitants of the city on 1 January 2010, 12 000 live in the ancient town centre surrounded by its medieval ramparts.Often referred to as the...

 in 1327 and Michael eventually agreed to go, after feigning illness and delaying. He obeyed a subsequent summons and was forbidden by the pope under pain of grave censure to leave Avignon. He was thus unable to attend the chapter held at Bologna in May of the following year (1328). Despite his absence and the protest of the papal legate, he was reelected minister general, the chapter deeming the charges against him insufficient to deprive him of office.

Michael managed to win over William of Ockham
William of Ockham
William of Ockham was an English Franciscan friar and scholastic philosopher, who is believed to have been born in Ockham, a small village in Surrey. He is considered to be one of the major figures of medieval thought and was at the centre of the major intellectual and political controversies of...

 to his cause. Several prelates and princes wrote to the pope in Michael's behalf. In the following year, Cesena, Ockham, and a few other high-ranking Franciscans fled from the papal court. They had apparently wished to seek the protection of King Robert of Naples
Robert of Naples
Robert of Anjou , known as Robert the Wise was King of Naples, titular King of Jerusalem and Count of Provence and Forcalquier from 1309 to 1343, the central figure of Italian politics of his time. He was the third but eldest surviving son of King Charles II of Naples the Lame and Maria of Hungary...

 (who favoured their views), but a storm on the Mediterranean forced their galley back to the port of Aigues-Mortes
Aigues-Mortes is a commune in the Gard department in southern France.The medieval city walls surrounding the city are well preserved.-History:...

, where they transferred to another ship manned by agents of Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Louis IV , called the Bavarian, of the house of Wittelsbach, was the King of Germany from 1314, the King of Italy from 1327 and the Holy Roman Emperor from 1328....

 and were taken to Pisa
Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Central Italy, on the right bank of the mouth of the River Arno on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa...



At Pisa they were received by the party of Louis and were joined by a number of other schismatics. John XXII was declared to be deposed by the Emperor. Cesena was excommunicated by the Pope. Michael published a solemn appeal from the pope to a council (12 December 1328), posted it on the door of the cathedral.

In 1329 Cesena was deposed from the Franciscan leadership, now controlled by the Pope, and in 1330 left with his followers in the entourage of Louis, for Germany. The general chapter of Paris (11 June 1329), at which Cardinal Bertrand
Bertrand de Turre
Bertrand de Turre was a French Franciscan theologian and Cardinal.He was an opponent of the Franciscan Spirituals. He undertook diplomatic missions for Pope John XXII, with Bernard Gui...

 presided, had condemned the conduct and writings of Michael and all who took part with him against John XXII; and had elected Gerard Odon minister general of the Franciscan Order.

The pope issued the Encyclical Quia vir reprobus, warning the faithful against Michael; and the latter answered in his Ad perpetuam rei memoriam innotescat quod ego, Fr. Michael (25 November 1330) and in Christianæ fidei fundamentum, in which he accused the pope of heresy in the three Bulls, Ad Conditorem Canonum, Cum inter nonnullos, and Quia quorumdam. These and Litteras plurium magistrorum, and Teste Solomone which Michael wrote in his own defence, are contained in Occam's Dialogue.

Later life

The chapter of Perpignan (25 April 1331) expelled Michael from the order and sentenced him to perpetual imprisonment.
He continued to struggle for his understanding of evangelical poverty for the rest of his life, and issued an Appeal against Benedict XII, who had succeeded John XXII, in 1338. He died in Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

, and was buried there in the Franciscan convent, the Barfüsserkirche.

He was officially rehabilitated in 1359. Michael de Cesena was one of the historical characters in Umberto Eco
Umberto Eco
Umberto Eco Knight Grand Cross is an Italian semiotician, essayist, philosopher, literary critic, and novelist, best known for his novel The Name of the Rose , an intellectual mystery combining semiotics in fiction, biblical analysis, medieval studies and literary theory...

's novel The Name of the Rose
The Name of the Rose
The Name of the Rose is the first novel by Italian author Umberto Eco. It is a historical murder mystery set in an Italian monastery in the year 1327, an intellectual mystery combining semiotics in fiction, biblical analysis, medieval studies and literary theory...


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