In the summer of 1317, while under house arrest and ban of excommunication at Avignon, a much-tried hermit who protested that the greatest trial of all was life at the Roman Curia sat down to pen a defense of himself and his followers to the implacable Pope John XXII. Angelo of Clareno Letter of Defense brings us closer to the experience of the Franciscan zealots, or Spirituals as they are usually known, than any other contemporary document. 1 In at times gripping fashion, it recounts the story of the trials and tribulations of a group of Spirituals from the Province of the March of Ancona in east central Italy over the span of more than forty years. While it only touches on apocalyptic ideas in a few places ( John XXII would scarcely have been placated by an apocalyptic manifesto!), the context within which the work is to be understood is based on Angelo's hopes for vindication of his form of life at the imminent end of the present evil age. A glance at his life and times will make this evident.
Angelo was born Peter of Fossombrone probably around 1250. 2 As a young man he entered the Franciscans at the convent of Cingoli, and first appeared in history in the late 1270s when, along with a number of the more influential