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The Poor Clares

The Poor Clares

The Poor Clares: History, Way of Life

History of the Poor Clares

The Poor Clares are a religious order founded by Saint Clare in 1212 in Assisi, Italy, and are part of the Franciscan family. Saint Clare of Assisi (1193-1253) founded this new form of religious life according to the ideal proposed by Saint Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan friars. With a strong desire to follow Saint Francis on the path of poverty and a total dedication of the self to Christ, Claire joined him, in 1211, in giving her life to God. He sent her to the church of Saint Damien, where shortly after, some of Claire's sisters and friends joined her. The small community of origin is thus formed, Francis gives them a small "way of life".

At the time, women's orders had to have privileges and property in order to be recognized by the Church. Claire was forced to follow an existing rule: the rule of Saint Benedict. But this great friend of Saint Francis was firmly attached to evangelical poverty and wrote her own rule in 1248, asking Pope Innocent II for the Privilege of poverty for her order. It was only shortly before her death in 1253 that Clare saw her Way of Life approved by Pope Innocent IV: her much desired poverty. Claire was the first woman to write a religious way of life for women. Saint Claire never took advantage of being herself the founder of her order, she attributed all the credit to Saint Francis. In reality, she is indeed the founder of the Order of the Poor Clares, originally called the Order of the Poor Ladies.

Ten years after the death of Saint Claire, Pope Urban IV promulgated the Rule of the Order of Saint Claire, where property was again permitted. It was Saint Colette (1381-1447) who, two centuries later, reformed this new form of religious life in France and thus returned to the poverty of the origins and to the Rule of Claire. At the time there were 150 monasteries of Clares spread in Europe and as far as Jerusalem in the Holy Land. This form of religious life following "the path of holy simplicity, humility and poverty in the footsteps of poor Christ" (Testament of Claire) is now followed by 15,000 poor sisters in 76 countries and about a thousand in France.

The Way of Life of the Clares

The Poor Sisters are also called the Poor Sisters, it is these two words that best define them. They are cloistered contemplative sisters and lead a life of prayer, joyful and fraternal. The rule of life enacted by Saint Clare is very simple: it advocates poverty, begging, banishes all individual property and proposes a life withdrawn from the world in contemplation. In fact, until the Second Vatican Council, the sisters lived very poorly, exclusively from charity, gifts and begging. Following the Council, which forbade begging, the sisters began to carry out various works that brought them a little money.

The Spirituality of the Poor Clares

The Gospel ideal proposed by Saint Clare

This word of Saint Clare shows the way forward to the Poor Clares: “I warn and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ all my sisters… to always strive to imitate the way of holy simplicity, humility and poverty.”

Fraternal and community life

It is within communal life that the Clares seek to imitate Christ, in a life of service, fraternal, simple and poor. Saint Claire invited her daughters to live by "loving one another in the charity of Christ, the love you have within, manifest it outside in deeds".


The parishioners are invited to join Christ in the personal and community meditation of the Gospel, in worship and in participation in the sacraments, so that they wish to be at the heart of the Church and of the world an uninterrupted prayer.


Work is an important expression of sisters' lives. By doing so, they participate in the creative work of God, balance their personal and community lives, and provide part of their livelihood. Their tasks are mainly community services, making liturgical clothes, computer work, welcoming guests, and maintaining a vegetable garden.

The Franciscan family

From the very beginning, Claire wanted to be a servant of Christ and her sisters, the disciples of Saint Francis. The Clares maintain a deep and lasting bond of brotherhood with their Franciscan brothers and the whole Franciscan family.