The Witness of Jacques de Vitry (1216) - 427 

The Witness of Jacques de Vitry

Jacques de Vitry (c.1170 1240) is one of the important commentators on the religious life of the early thirteenth century. Before being made Cardinal Bishop of Tusculum in 1228, he was Bishop of Acre for twelve years and had made numerous journeys throughout Europe and the Middle East which he described in his Historia orientalis et occidentalis. The second part of that work devotes considerable attention to the religious movements present in Western Europe at the time and describes in particular his impressions of the Beguines, the Humiliati, and the Lesser Brothers and Sisters. The observations of Jacques de Vitry are all the more important when we consider his intense interest in the female religious movements of the early thirteenth century.a He was personally influenced by the life of Marie d'Oignies (+1213) whose biography he wrote and whom he proposed as a model for women interested in the new religious movements represented by the Beguines.b

This excerpt is taken from a letter written by Jacques de Vitry in Genoa, October 1216, to his friends in Liège. It recounts his personal experiences in the Umbrian Valley where he no doubt encountered the Poor Ladies of San Damiano.c




Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, p. 427