The Dulcinians were a religious sect of the Late Middle Ages, originating within the Apostolic Brethren. The Dulcinians, or Dulcinites, and Apostolics were inspired by Franciscan ideals and influenced by the Joachimites, but were considered heretical by the Catholic Church. Their name derives from the movement's leader, Fra Dolcino of Novara (ca. 1250–1307), who was burned as a heretic on the orders of Pope Clement V.



The Dulcinian sect began in 1300 when Gherardo Segarelli, founder of the Apostolic Brethren, was burned at the stake in Parma during a brutal repression of the Apostolics. His followers went into hiding to save their lives. Fra Dolcino had joined the Apostolics between 1288 and 1292, and became their leader. He published the first of his letters explaining his ideas about the epochs of history based on the theories of Gioacchino da Fiore.

Reunification with the Apostolics

Fra Dolcino, at the beginning of 1303, reunited the Apostolic movement near Lake Garda. He met Margaret of Trento (real name Margherita Boninsegna, his lover or sister in spirit), and wrote the second letter to the Apostolics. At the beginning of 1304, three Dulcinians were burned by the Inquisition, leading Dolcino to evacuate the community to the west side of the Sesia valley, near his native Novara. At the end of 1304, only 1400 survived on the top of Mount Parete Calva, in the fortified Piano dei Gazzari. They descended the mountain to pillage and kill the people in the valley, responsible in their eyes for not defending the group against the Episcopal troops. The villagers called them "Gazzari" (Cathars), and joined the soldiers in opposition.

Dolcino justified the acts committed by the Dulcinians by affirming their perfection and holiness based on Saint Paul's Epistle to Titus (1:15):

To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted.

The end

Margaret and Dolcino were captured and executed.


The main concepts of the Dulcinian heresy were:

Fra Dolcino was inspired by the millenarist theories of Gioacchino da Fiore. He viewed the history of humanity as 4 epochs:

In his first letter, Dolcino gave his interpretation of the seven Angels and seven Churches of the Apocalypse of John:

Following the death of Boniface VIII, Dolcino produced a schedule of 4 popes:

Thus, the advent of the "new holy pope" was postponed to the second pope after the death of Boniface VIII. Dolcino never proposed himself as the new Pope in his letters, although this was one of the accusations of the Inquisition.

The rallying cry Poenitentiam agite (make penitence) was attributed to them in The Name of the Rose, a novel by Umberto Eco.


External links

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