CAPISTRANO, GIOVANNI DI (1386–1456), Italian friar, theologian and inquisitor, was born in the little village of Capistrano in the Abruzzi, of a family which had come to Italy with the Angevins. He lived at first a wholly secular life, married, and became a successful magistrate; he took part in the continual struggles of the small Italian states in such a way as to compromise himself. During his captivity he was practically ruined and lost his young wife. He then in despair entered the Franciscan order and at once gave himself up to the most rigorous asceticism, violently defending the ideal of strict observance. He was charged with various missions by the popes Eugenius IV. and Nicholas V., in which he acquitted himself with implacable violence. As legate or inquisitor he persecuted the last Fraticelli of Ferrara, the Jesuati of Venice, the Jews of Sicily, Moldavia and Poland, and, above all, the Hussites of Germany, Hungary and Bohemia; his aim in the last case was to make conferences impossible between the representatives of Rome and the Bohemians, for every attempt at conciliation seemed to him to be conniving at heresy. Finally, after the taking of Constantinople, he succeeded in gathering troops together for a crusade against the Turks (1455), which at least helped to raise the siege of Belgrade, which was being blockaded by Mahommed II. He died shortly afterwards (October 23, 1456), and was canonized in 1690. Capistrano, in spite of this restless life, found time to work both in the lifetime of his master St Bernardino of Siena and after, at the reform of the order of the minor Franciscans, and to uphold both in his writings and his speeches the most advanced theories upon the papal supremacy as opposed to that of the councils.
See E. Jacob, Johannes von Capistrano, vol. i.: “Das Leben und Wirken Capistrans;” vol. ii.: “Die handschriftlichen Aufzeichnungen von Reden und Tractaten Capistrans,” (1st series, Breslau, 1903–1905). (P. A.)