Olivi's Peaceable Kingdom: A Reading of the Apocalypse Commentary

Olivi's Peaceable Kingdom: A Reading of the Apocalypse Commentary

Olivi's Peaceable Kingdom: A Reading of the Apocalypse Commentary

Olivi's Peaceable Kingdom: A Reading of the Apocalypse Commentary

Synopsis

Petronius Iohannes Olivi's commentary on the biblical Apocalypse was censured, and all his writings condemned after his death in 1298; yet his tomb quickly became a major pilgrimage site. The peculiar situation has been discussed by scholars ever since, but Burr offers another study for three reason

Excerpt

Everyone who knows anything at all about Petrus Iohannis Olivi knows that his Apocalypse commentary was censured; yet opinions on that condemnation vary. the basic facts are clear. After Olivi's death in 1298, his writings were suppressed by the Franciscan order, yet his tomb at Narbonne became such a popular pilgrimage site that by the second decade of the fourteenth century the crowds were said to rival those at the Porziuncula in Assisi.

The hiatus between these two attitudes toward Olivi reflected a conflict within the order between the spiritual Franciscans and their leaders. Between 1309 and 1312, Pope Clement V tried to end the dispute through a compromise, but the arrangement barely outlived Clement. By 1516, when John xxii became Clement's successor after a two-year papal vacancy, some spiritual Franciscans, driven to extremes by their superiors, had forcibly taken control of several convents in France and Italy. They administered these convents as little islands of strict observance. John xxii, who saw the spirituals mainly as a disciplinary problem, cooperated with the Franciscan leaders in their attempt to crush dissent. the spirituals were told to submit, and those who refused were burned at the stake. in 1318 Olivi's body was unobtrusively exhumed and removed to an undisclosed location.

The attacks on Olivi had come to concentrate on his Revelation commentary, and with good reason. the spirituals found it increasingly relevant to their situation. By 1318 John had ordered an investigation which led to the report of an eight-man commission in 1319. He then submitted particular passages from Olivi's commentary to individual theologians before he himself condemned it in 1326.

These are the facts, but what can we make of them? the question has been asked and answered before, but the present seems an auspicious moment to reconsider it. It is in some ways a dangerous moment to do so, since circumstances have conspired to produce a more knowledgeable and therefore more critical set of readers than ever before. Until 1955 scholars who wanted to know something about Olivi's apocalyptic thought with-

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