Possibly dumb question about the Franciscans


I was watching the film “Marcellino Pan y Vino” and as many here know, it has a major plot point where a group of Franciscans live in a monastery on land owned by the town council. The nice mayor lets them live there and tries to gift them the land, but they tell him they can’t accept because they are not allowed to own property. The nice mayor dies and is succeeded by a bad mayor who tries to get the council to throw the monks out.

I understand about poverty and not owning property individually etc but I was wondering why they couldn’t have accepted the gift of land and simply made it the property of the Order. Also, if such prohibitions on any real estate ownership were enforced, how did the Franciscans ever maintain a stable living situation so they wouldn’t be getting thrown out every time a landowner or city decided to make other land use plans? Or did the rule change at some point to allow the Order to own real estate?


That’s kind of odd. My thought would go less to the peculiarities of the vow of poverty and more toward inaccurate screenwriting. But then again, I tend to like to ruin movies anyway, even movies I love. I will happily ruin Remember the Titans, since I’m convinced it’s the worst football movie ever made. But the day that I ruined The Shawshank Redemption for myself was a sad day indeed.



I’m guessing it’s the hole in the wall being hidden by a poster for ten plus years without being discovered through routine cell inspections.



Well, if we’re into ruining movies, I also couldn’t quite understand how the villagers of the town in “Marcellino” simply accepted the fact that a seemingly healthy child with a reputation for not being very saintly had suddenly died a beatific death in the arms of a life-size Jesus who had come to life and climbed down off his crucifix, when this “miracle” was only privately witnessed by a group of monks who were under pressure to find some way to stay in their monastery after the bad mayor had already gotten the town council to sign an eviction notice.


Well, FWIW, the Franciscans in my area (more than one community) don’t own any property. The Archdiocese or some other private group does, but the order doesn’t.

I’ll not spoil any movies right now.


Well if you have any to spoil, go over to Fr.'s thread! :slightly_smiling_face:


I’m in a class right now on the History of the Franciscan Order for my Religious Studies degree. We have talked at length about this. From looking at early Franciscan documents, were talking late 1280s, one of the main doctrines was communal living in all aspects of life. This extended to material possessions but also property.

Property was acceptable and given to the community as a new place for a chapel or commune to form. If there was no need or immediate use for the property however, they would not take it.

Keep in mind, Francis and his early follows out of humility, begged on the side of the road for food at times. Denying themselves property was certainly not out of the question. But if it was in the interests of the general community, they would have no problem with property. It was all communally owned. After all, the Franciscans were called the ”Lesser Brothers”


Interesting. The “Marcellino” movie is set in the mid-1800s in Spain (the war at the beginning would appear to be the 1815 war for independence from the French Empire). What would the situation have been regarding property ownership at that time?

The actual subtitled dialogue used in the film (sorry my Spanish is not good enough to understand the regular dialogue) has the mayor telling them he plans to give them the land and the Father Superior saying that is very kind, but if he did that the monks would have to move away as they can live only on charity.


That’s an interesting question. The novel was written in the 1950s, by an author who had grown up in Madrid and must have been reasonably well informed about the history of the Catholic Church in Spain.


It may be that the novel goes into more detail about this situation or presents it differently. I haven’t read the novel.
I do note that the monastery in the film is presented as the former estate of a rich man which was restored using people from the village who came up to help the monks for free. So it would have been a very generous gift, not just some little estate.


I believe that the story takes place in Spain. In Spain the Catholic Church was the official religion and was supported by the peoples tax dollars. So it is conceivable that with a change in administration that there could be a change in the situation for the monasteries and convents in that country.


Might be more related to Spanish culture/government specifically. But it would also have to do with if they had a specific need for the property. If not, they can’t accept it


Thinking more about this, the nice mayor also may have been acting outside his own authority to some degree. In the beginning of the film, the nice mayor gives the monks permission to restore and use the old ruined building and land, which are all under the control of the town council who have done nothing with the building or land since the war (some years ago). The nice mayor does not consult the town council for permission, and dismisses the statement from his assistant (who later becomes the bad mayor) that he needs to get permission from the town council. The nice mayor says his own permission should be enough since his father died in those ruins defending the town from the French.

Later on when the nice mayor is dying and wants to gift the land to the monks, it’s not clear whether he’s just going to do this on his own without asking the town council (in which case the Father Superior knows there might be trouble with it after he dies), or if he’s planning to ask the town council for permission to gift the monks the land (in which case the Father Superior knows the bad soon-to-be-mayor, who has shown his dislike for the monks a few times, will oppose the gift). So maybe refusing the gift was a prudential judgment by the Father Superior.


Just a minor point, but Franciscans are friars and live in friaries. Benedictines and many other orders are monks and live in monasteries. I graduated from a Benedictine high school and a Franciscan college before attending a Vincentian seminary for graduate school. I call this an ecumenical education.

Many religious orders in the US have followed a trend to turn over property like hospitals and colleges to separate non-profit corporations for legal reasons. My college originally had a charter that required the president of the college to be a Franciscan, but that has also been changed since they now have upgraded themselves to a university.


Point taken, and I thought “friar” was the more correct word myself for the reasons you state.

The reason why I am using the “wrong” words in this thread is that the official English subtitles of the film (the pro version , not autogenerated) use the words “friars” and “monks” repeatedly and interchangeably throughout the film. For example, the subtitles have Jesus asking the boy at the end if he wants to “become a monk like Brother Bernardo…” etc. The subtitles also repeatedly refer to the building where they live as a “monastery” when I would think it was more correctly called a convent or something else.

When I went back to check this just now and make sure I wasn’t imagining things, I could see that the subtitles are putting in the word “monk” in places where the Spanish dialogue is definitely saying “friar” and putting in “monastery” where the Spanish is saying the Spanish word for “convent” (it sounds the same). So, blame it on poor knowledge of the subtitle generator. I’ll try to do better in future.

I also noticed that there is a poorer quality version of the film on Gloria.tv where some bilingual person apparently made up his own subtitles, and while in parts they seem to be garbled or wrong (he has the last two lines of the movie completely different in meaning from the pro version), he does use the correct words “friar” and “convent” throughout.


That’s possible. You also have to keep in mind, it’s a movie so it may not be 100% accurate to Franciscan life at that time


Yeah, that’s what I’m trying to figure out. I’m kind of hung up on accuracy on movies. I rarely watch movies about the legal profession as they generally have attorneys violating rules of ethics and evidence right and left to make a good story.


I’m a big fan of Law & Order and all their series. But I will be the first to admit, nearly every episode has some violation of privacy or search without a warrant.

To a certain extent, inaccuracies make these shows and movies flow faster and become more dramatic


That’s what I know about the Franciscans too. In their early days they were very devoted to a literal translation of the vow of poverty. St. Francis was also a “fool for Christ” and not believed to be for real even by the pope. He was on trial as a fake prophet or something like that.
Even today “fools for Christ” exist (Dobri Dobrev) and the Church lets them be. I think a group of Franciscans couls live even today without owning anything and no bishop would have a problem of that or other Franciscans. Why would they?
Why wouldn’t such “fools” could have been in 1800 Spain?


Although the original Law & Order (I didn’t watch the dozen spinoffs like Special Victims Unit and all that gunk, only the original series) was more accurate than most, it was laughable partly for the number of cases that the DAs wanted to take to trial over the advice of their superior who would invariably tell them to “Take a plea!” In real life, DAs do NOT want to be taking that many cases to trial. Trials are expensive and they might lose. They will plead out as many cases as they possibly can.

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