'Hervaeus Natalis': The Poverty of Christ and the Apostles

Document Type

Book Review


History (Pomona)

Publication Date



Hervaeus Natalis, Dominicans, Franciscans, poverty, Bonaventure, Nicholas III, John XXII


This translation of the Hervaeus Natalis's Liber de Paupertate Christi et apostolorum is a welcome addition to the growing bibliography of English-language resources related to the famous Franciscan poverty controversy. As the translator's brief introduction explains, the Order of the Friars Minor pointedly distinguished its poverty from that practiced by the monastic orders by renouncing not only personal but communal ownership of property. Innocent IV's Ordinem vestrum (1245), by which the papacy assumed dominion over all donations to the Franciscans, provided the legal basis for the friars' claim that although they made use of material goods, they owned none of them. Heated debates between Franciscans and the secular masters at the University of Paris ultimately led Bonaventure to write his Apologia pauperum (1269), in which he argued at length for the primacy of Franciscan poverty on the grounds that it most accurately reflected the "perfect poverty" of Christ and the apostles, who, Bonaventure was convinced, owned nothing either personally or communally. When Nicholas III confirmed this understanding of Franciscan poverty with the bull Exiit qui seminat (1279), he thought that he was closing the door on any future discussion of this issue. But in 1321, a Dominican inquisitor in Provence condemned as heretical the idea that Christ and the apostles owned nothing. The Franciscans were quick to challenge this ruling. John XXII took advantage of the controversy to re-open the discussion about Franciscan poverty, soliciting learned opinions about this matter from a number of university-trained scholars. One of these was the Dominican Minister General himself, Hervaeus Natalis (d. 1323).

Rights Information

© 2011 The Trustees of Indiana University