The Hermits of Brettino - the "Brettini" (2)
The Brettini practised mendicancy (i.e., begging) from the beginning.
None of the other groups joining the Augustinian Grand Union of 1256 insisted on a practical poverty as much as they did.
Almost every relevant papal document spoke favourably and with deep reverence of their great poverty.
This love of poverty was expressed in two of their greatest recruits for the Order of Saint Augustine.
The men of Brettino added to their very strict life of penance some extraordinary modes of self-denial.
For example, they drove a long corridor, which still exists, into the hill outside of Fano in the Marches of Ancona.
At right angles from the corridor they made small cubicles that were only large enough to allow a person to lie down.
These were cells intended to restrict bodily movement to the greatest possible extent, a mortification made more severe by their strict regimen of fasting.
Similar mortification holes were mentioned in the life of the lay penitent, Brother John the Good (who founded the Boniti, mentioned on the previous page.)
The holy life of these men made such a deep impression upon their contemporaries that people flocked to join them.
More than thirty new foundations were established in the twenty years prior to 1245, and whole new communities of smaller religious orders also joined their congregation. They thus had foundations not only in the Marches of Ancona but also further afield in Umbria, Romagna and the Veneto.
The papal bull, Religiosam vitam eligentibus was applied to them in 1245, which accorded them the exemption and privileges of other large religious orders.
There is evidence that the Brettini divided themselves into provinces soon after 1245.
The indifference to the color of their habit, which their constitutions demanded and which was approved by the Holy See, brought the brethren into sharp conflict with the Franciscans; for their habits were almost identical and, since both Orders depended on mendicancy for their living, the Franciscans felt that they were often deprived of the alms which people had set aside for them but mistakenly gave to the Brettini.
Akin to the situation of David and Goliath, the Brettini were of a mind that the far more numerous Franciscans were of more recent origin than the Brettini, hence it was the Franciscan habit that was causing the problem. (This does nor refer to the present-day brown habit of the Friars Minor, which was adopted later.)
(Continued on the next page.)