FRANCISCANS. Franciscans is the popular name of the priests and brothers of the Order of Friars Minor, founded by St. Francis of Assisi in 1209. In 1517 Pope Leo X divided the order into two autonomous branches, Observant Friars Minor and Conventual Friars Minor. A third branch, the Capuchin Friars Minor, begun in 1525, became autonomous in 1619. Within the ranks of the Observants, three stricter groups were formed in the sixteenth century: the Discalced or Alcantarine, the Reformati, and the Recollect Friars Minor. All the Franciscans in New Spain, except those who belonged to the Discalced Province of San Diego in Mexico beginning in 1599, were Observants. A Franciscan province comprises a number of conventos or friaries in a certain area, and these are under the jurisdiction of a minister provincial. No fewer than six provinces were established in Mexico between 1534 and 1606. The Franciscan missionary colleges, of which seven were founded in Mexico between 1683 and 1860, did not belong to a province but were the equivalent of a small province; each consisted of only one large convento or colegio, governed by a father guardian. The colleges ceased to exist in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The members of the colleges wore a grey Franciscan habit, while those of the Observant provinces had a habit of a bluish color; the Discalced Friars' habit was light brown. In 1897 Pope Leo XIII reunited the Discalced, Reformati, and Recollect Franciscans with the Observants in one Order of Friars Minor, simply so-called; and dark brown was made the common color of the habit of all its members.
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