This mendicant order of friars was founded by Saint Francis of Assisi (about 1181 - 1226).
In 1210 Francis was authorised by Pope Innocent III to travel with 11 companions and preach the virtues of humility and austerity. They soon acquired many followers, who likewise renounced material belongings and spread the teachings of Francis across the peninsula and much of the rest of the continent.
Later in the century the Second Order of Franciscans of the Clare Nuns was founded by Saint Clare, and a third Order of lay members. Commonly represented are Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint Bernardino of Siena, Saint Louis of Anjou and Louis of Toulouse.
In spite of the humble ideals behind the foundation of the order, soon its institutions and churches (S. Francesco in Assisi) were richly embellished and Franciscan patronage of the arts flourished.
The habit is grey or brown with a knotted cord or girdle.