The Order of Hermits of Brother John the Good - the "Gianboniti" (2)
In the seventeenth century this claim excited a lively controversy between the famous Franciscan historian Luke Wadding and the Augustinian Thomas Herrera O.S.A.. It has now been definitely settled that the so-called Augustinian Monachism of St Francis was added to certain Italian manuscripts over a hundred years after the text had been compiled.
In any case, the historical evidence of the Acts of the Process of Canonization of John Bonus (John the Good) leaves no doubt that John Bonus started his life of penance about the year 1209, the very year in which St Francis began his Order. Therefore, Francis could not have been a disciple of John Bonus whose brethren started to gather only about 1217.)
The Boniti wore a habit (outer garment) of grey sackcloth, which was the cheapest material available. Soon John the Good obtained permission from the Bishop of Cesana to form a religious community and a small church. Soon he needed to build branch communities in order to house all those who joined him.
He realised that the foundation of a new religious order was inevitable. Since his followers had not adopted one of the approved rules of life set out by the Second Lateran Council of 1215, John the Good sent a delegation to Rome to ask for the Rule of Saint Augustine.
This request was granted in about the year 1225, and they thereby were regarded as mendicants. They adopted Augustine's Rule, and also had their own Constitutions, about which little is now known.They laid aside the habit of penitence and took up the habit of hermits, which was grey in colour.
This habit was almost like that of the Franciscans, and since the Zanbonini were also mendicants it was unavoidable that they mistakenly received alms that were intended for the Franciscans. The resulting quarrel was laid before the papal legates, Cardinal Thomas of Sabina and Rainald of Ostia, whereupon in 1240 Pope Gregory IX prescribed a black or white habit, a wide cincture and stave (a hermit's walking stick).
The Franciscans were also convinced that the similarity of habit deprived them of candidates and did not hesitate to come to Butrioli and brazenly take candidates of the Zanbonini away to place them in their own Order.
From various sources a picture can be pieced together of a Gianboniti community.
All of their communities were situated away from the cities, yet close enough to obtain food and to go inside the city walls during the frequent regional wars of that period.
As a visitor approached a Gianboniti settlement, he was met at the gate and taken to the guesthouse, which was built next to the church.
A guest did not dine in the common refectory, as this was prohibited in the constitutions of the Gianboniti.
(Continued on the next page.)