Friars Minor, b. at Bagnorea in the vicinity of Viterbo in 1221; d. at Lyons, 15 July, 1274.
Nothing is known of Bonaventure's parents save their names: Giovanni di Fidanza and Maria Ritella. How his baptismal name of Jolin came to be changed to that of Bonaventure is not clear. An attempt has been made to trace the latter name to the ex- clamation of St. Francis, O buona ventura, when Bonaventure was brought as an infant to him to be cured of a dangerous illness. This derivation is highly improbable; it seems based on a late fifteenth- century legend. Bonaventure himself tells us (Legenda S. Francisci Prolog.) that while yet a child he was preserved from death through the in- tercession of St. Francis, but there is no evidence that this cure took place during the lifetime of St. Fran- cis or that the name Bonaventure originated in any prophetical words of St. Francis. It was certainly borne bj' others before the Seraphic Doctor. No details of Bona- venture's youth ha\e been preserved. He entered the Order of Friars Minor in 1238 or 1243; the e.xact year is uncertain. Wadding and the Bol- landists hold for tlie later date, but the ear- lier one is support id by Sbaralea, BoncUi, Panfilo da Magliano, and Jeiler, and appears more probable. It is certain that Bonaven- ture was sent from the Roman Province, to which he belonged, to complete his stud- ies at the I'niversity of Paris under Ali\- ander of Hales, I lie great founder of the Franciscan Schcuil. The latter died m 1245, according to the opinion generally re- ceived, though not yet definitely estab- lished, and Bonaven- ture seems to have become his pupil about 1242. Be this as it may, Bonaventure re- ceived in 1248 the "licentiate" which gave him the right to
teach publicly as. l/ayi'.s/cr rcf/cH.*:, and he continued to lecture at the university with great success until 12.55, when he was compelled to discontinue, owing to the then violent outburst of opposition to the Mendicant orders on the part of the secular professors at the imi- versity. The latter, jealous, as it seems, of the aca- demic successes of the Dominicans and Franciscans, sought to exclude them from teaching publicly. The smouldering elements of discord had been fanned into a flame in 1255, when Guillaume de Saint- Amom- published a work entitled "The Perils of the Last Times", in which he attacked the Friars with great bitterness. It was in connexion with this dispute that Bonaventure wTOte his treatise, "De paupertate Christi". It was not, however, Bonaventure, as some have erroneously stated, but Blessed Jolm of Parma, who appeared before Alexander IV at Anagni to defend the Franciscans against their adversary. The Holy See having, as
is well known, re-established the Mendicants in all their privileges, and Saint-Amour's book having been formally condemned, the degree of Doctor was solemnly bestowed on St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas Aquinas at the university, 23 October, 1257. In the meantime Bonaventure, though not yet thirty-six years old, had on 2 February, 1257, been elected Minister General of the Friars Minor — an office of peculiar difficulty, owing to the fact that the order was distracted by internal dissensions between the two factions among the Friars designated re- spectively the Spirituales and the Relaxti. The former insisted upon the literal observance of the original Rule, especially in regard to poverty, while the latter wished to introduce innovations and miti- gations. This lamentable controversy had moreover been aggravated by the enthusiasm with which many of the ".Spiritual" Friars had adopted the doctrines con- nected with the name of Abbot Joachim of Floris and set forth in the so-called "Evange- lium iseternum". The introduction to this pernicious book, which proclaimed the ap- proaching dispensa- tion of the Spirit that was to replace the Law of Christ, was falsely attributed to Bl. John of Parma, who in 1257 had re- tired from the gov- ernment of the orde> in favour of Bona- venture. The new gc'neral lost no time in striking vigorously at both extremes within the order. On the one hand, he proceeded against sev- eral of the Joachi- mite "Spirituals" as heretics before an ec- clesiastical tribunal at Citta-clclla-Pieve; two of their loaders were condemned to perpet- ual imprisonment, and John of Parma was only saved from a like fate through the per- .^oiial intervention of Cardinal Ottoboni, af- terwards Adrian V. On the other hand, Bonaventure had, in an encyclical letter issued immediately after his election, outlined a programme for the reformation of the Relaxti. These re- forms he sought to enforce three years later at the General Chapter of Narbonne when the con- stitutions of the order which he had revised were promulgated anew. These so-called "Constitu- tiones Narbonenses" are distributed under twelve heads, corresponding to the twelve chapters of the Rule, of which they form an enlightened and prudent exposition, and are of capital importance in the his- tory of Franciscan legislation. The chapter which issued this code of laws requested Bonaventure to WTite a "legend" or life of St. Francis which should supersede tliose then in circulation. This was in 1260. Three years later Bonaventure, having in the meantime visited a great part of the order, and having assisted at the dedication of the chapel on La Verna and at the translation of the remains