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Our origins


Francis, "madly in love the Jesus Christ, who died for us on the Cross, burned with such a love that he wanted to imitate Christ" - one day stigmata brought about a perfect resemblance - an all-conquering love that would pour across the world to lead us to our beloved Lord.

françois d’assiseFrancis went, preaching and singing the Gospel. To rich and poor alike, He preached "Holy poverty". He encouraged forgiveness, reconciliation, humility, simplicity and minority. He preached life through the Church submitting to "His Holiness the Pope". To everyone he wished "Peace and Goodwill".

Many people joined him, nobles, the bourgeoisie, country folk who asked to live with him and like him. Francis then founded, the Order of Friars Minor.

Then Clare and her sister, Agnes of Assisi, from a noble family, wanted to live according to his ideal. They became the "Poor Ladies" or Clarisses.

Men and women with a family and professional life also wanted to commit to bringing about the spirit of Francis: this was theThird Franciscan Order.

This Third Order witnessed a similar expansion to the two previous ones, first in Italy, then in Germany, where Elizabeth of Hungary lived. (1207 – 1231). She became the patron of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis, from which many religious communities arose.


egliseTo Italy….

Around Francis, the number of Friars continued to multiply. He blessed them and sent them to preach the Gospel.

Italy was not big enough.

The world was the target of the overflowing love of Francis.

…and worldwide….

At a period when intolerance between religions was very much alive, he decided to go to the Muslims to convert the Sultan of Egypt or become a martyr. The Sultan received him with admiration and returned his wishes.

Upon his return to Italy, Francis set out on the roads of the world with his Friars… Five Friars were decapitated in Morocco - they were the first martyrs of the Order (1220)

…without forgetting France…

Among all the countries known at that time, there was one that Francis particularly liked - France, where he had some roots: his mother, Lady Pica, was from Provence.
He decided to go there, but was prevented.

He therefore sent some of his closes companions in his stead, including Brother Pacific. They arrived at Vezelay in 1217 where they established the first Franciscan monastery in France.

In 1219, Brother Pacific came to Paris, then to Saint Denis. In around 1223, he found himself at Lens in Artois, in northern France.

Brother Pacific and the Third Order

Under the inspiration of Brother Pacific, who had been named Provincial of the Order in France, the brothers and their monasteries multiplied.. The needs of the French people were great.

With the poor so hungry… the diseased so unhappy…, orphans so neglected… the Brothers could not do enough quickly enough, Brother Pacific women who worked to relieve the misery of the people. Once established, they became the Third Order Secular.

paysageAccording to an ancient tradition, the first Sisters of the Third Order, called the Grey Nuns, established themselves at Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise in the north of France in around 1223-1224, before the death of Saint Francis (1226).

In 1430, the Black Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis came from Saint-Omer and established themselves at Saint-Pol where they lavished their care on the sick.

From Saint-Pol some Sisters were sent to Béthune, to Arras, to Lens… Others went to the north and to Belgium. Others still went to Picardy.

Rapid development continued from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century. After the thirty Years' war, in about 1650, there were seventy convents in Flanders and nearly 1200 nuns.

Later, some following the example of Elizabeth of Hungry, adopted a Rule of Life, retired into convents and gave themselves to the works of mercy. They formed a Third Order "Regular". They generally dressed like the widows in the places where they lived.

They had different names: The Manteled Sisters, Grey Nuns, Black Nuns, White Nuns, Nuns of the Cell, Nuns of the Faille, the Sisters of St. Francis, Sisters of St. Catherine.

Among these houses were the seven autonomous houses of Pas-de-Calais which, after the revolution, reclaimed the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi and became the beginning of the Congregation of the Franciscans of Calais.