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Poor Clares

(Les Clarisses). The second Order of St. Francis,* founded by him and St. Clare* about 1213. Beginning at the church of St. Damien, the order spread rapidly through Italy and into France and Spain. Cardinal Ugolino (later Gregory IX*) placed Clare and her nuns temporarily under the Rule of St. Benedict, adding some very strict austerities, e.g., perpetual fasting, lying on boards, and almost complete silence. In 1224 Francis gave a written rule to Clare easing some of these restrictions. In 1247 and in 1253 further rules were sanctioned calling for complete poverty of the individual and the group. In 1263 Urban IV sanctioned a rule which was less severe and was followed by the majority, the Urbanists. The minority, who adhered to the stricter rules, were known as Clarisses. In 1436 the reform of St. Colette brought back many of the houses to the strict observance of the Rule of St. Francis. The two branches of the order are the Urbanists and the Colettines. The life of the Poor Clares is contemplative and most austere, including penance, manual work, and severe fasts. They wear a dark frieze habit, black veil, and cloth sandals on bare feet.

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