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Penitent Saints

Saints Who Lived the Rule of 1221

In the year 1221, Saint Francis of Assisi wrote a Rule of Life for his friars. At Saint Francis’s request, Cardinal Hugolino de Conti de Segni, the Cardinal Protector of Saint Francis’s Order, wrote a Rule of 1221 for lay people. Francis accepted this Rule which was based on how lay penitents (also called converse or “converted ones”) were living at the time of Saint Francis. These penitents embraced lives of fasting, prayer, abstinence, community, and simplicity of possessions, dress, and lifestyle, in reparation for their own sins and for those of others. The Church considered them to be members of an Order of Penitents. The Rule called them “the Brothers and Sisters of Penance.” 

The Rule of 1221 was adopted by lay followers of Saint Francis and others. In a short time, these followers became known as Tertiaries or Third Order Members of Saint Francis’s Order. The Rule of 1221 thus became the first Third Order Franciscan Rule. In time, some of those living the Rule of 1221 took religious vows as consecrated virgins or as part of a religious community. However, most who lived the Rule continued to live it as laity. 

Canonized and Beatified Religious 

Many penitents who lived the Rule of 1221 have been beatified or canonized. There are dozens of consecrated virgins, religious, and priests who lived the Rule of 1221 and whose holiness has been recognized formally by the Catholic Church. Some of these include: 

  • St. Ivo of Brittany (priest, 1253-1303).

  • Blessed Angeline of Marsciano (consecrated virgin, 1377-1435)

  • Saint Hyacinth of Mariscotti (nun, 1585-1640)

  • Saint Peter Baptist (priest, martyr, died 1597)

  • St. Mary Ann of Jesus of Paredes (vowed religious, 1614-1645)

  • Saint Mary Frances of the Five Wounds (consecrated virgin, 1734-1791)

  • St. Joseph Benedict Cottolengo (priest, founder, 1786-1842)

  • Blessed Elisabetta Vendramini (nun, 1790-1860)

  • Saint Joseph Cafasso (priest, 1811-1860)

  • Blessed Mary Frances Schervier (nun, foundress, 1819-1876)

Saint Margaret of Cortona
Painting of Saint Elizabeth of Portugal , a Queen who lived the Rule of 1221.  
Saint Roch of Montpellier, a noble turned pilgrim who lived the Rule of 1221.

Canonized and Beatified Laity

 Some canonized and beatified laity who lived the Rule of 1221 include: 

  • Blessed Luchesio of Poggibonzi (? – 1242)—First to live the Rule of 1221. Merchant and husband. Exercised charity to the poor and the sick. Man of prayer and austerities.

  • Saint Virdiana (1182-1242)—Prayerful anchorite (walled-in hermit) gifted with miracles.

  • Blessed Jacoba de Settesoli (1190-1239)—Holy noblewoman, wife, mother. Support of St. Francis of Assisi and his friars. Buried in the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi.

  • Saint Ferdinand III of Spain (1199-1252)—Husband, father. Generous, just, gentle king who drove from Spain the Muslims who were threatening to exterminate Christianity. Insisted on discipline and Christian conduct among his soldiers. Sponsored founding of University of Salamanca. Rebuilt Cathedral of Burgos.

  • Blessed Novelon of Faenza (1200-1280)—Married, dissolute shoemaker who had a conversion when he became deathly ill at the age of twenty-four. Thereafter became generous almsgiver to the poor and sick, did many penances, made several pilgrimages.

  • Blessed Gerard of Villamagna (c. 1200-1242)—Humble, holy hermit and pilgrim. Used to visit three churches each week, praying for souls in Purgatory, remission of his own sins, and conversion of unbelievers.

  • Blessed Jutta of Thuringia (?-c. 1264)—Noble mother who reared her children to be good Christians. After being widowed, tended lepers, visited and financially supported poor. Became a hermit who prayed for conversion of the Prussians.

  • Blessed Peter of Siena (early 1200’s-1289)—Prayerful, widowed comb maker. Exercised works of charity. Accepted humiliations, contrary customers, and toil as penances. Made pilgrimages. Went to daily confession.

  • Saint Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231) –Daughter of the King of Hungary. Wed to Louis of Thuringia. Widowed at an early age. Founded a hospital. Known for her penances and her charity to the poor 

  • Blessed Torello of Poppi (1208-1282)—Lived dissolute life as a young man. Experienced conversion and became a hermit. Overcame spiritual attacks. Worked miracles.

  • Saint Louis IX of France (1215-1270)—King, husband, father, crusader. Founded hospitals, built churches, promoted learning. Peacemaker. Guided and taught his children. Ruled his kingdom with Christian values.

  • Saint Zita of Lucca (1218-1278)—Pious, generous, dedicated, meek household servant. Assisted poor, sick, and imprisoned.

  • Blessed Umiliana Cerchi (1219-1246) –Austere widow who lived as a hermit. Begged for alms for the poor. Experienced ecstasies at prayer.

  • Saint Rose of Viterbo (1234-1252)—Virgin preacher against the enemies of the Pope.

  • Blessed John Pelingotto (1240-1304)—Merchant turned holy hermit.

  • Blessed Raymond Lull (1236-1314)—Learned teacher, preacher, author, founder of a college, evangelizer of Muslims, martyr.

  • Saint Amato Roncoin (1226?-1292?)--Devoted to poor, lived from working in fields of others, ate only herbs and vegetables, practiced mortifications, gave hospitality to pilgrims, built a hospice near his house.

Painting of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, a Queen who lived the Rule of 1221.

Drawing of Saint Zita, a servant who lived the Rule of 1221.

History of the Rule of 1221

History of the Rule of 1221

In 1283, the Rule of 1221 was amended to require that the Visitor, the priestly authority for the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, be a Franciscan priest. The Rule itself, however, was not changed. Over the centuries, local statutes and constitutions were added in various locales to make living the Rule applicable in specific circumstances. The Rule of 1221 (in its 1283 form) remained in effect 1883 when Pope Leo XIII abrogated it (that is, removed the requirement that it be lived by those professing to follow Saint Francis of Assisi) and replaced it with a new Rule which has been popularly termed the Leonine Rule. This Rule was in effect until 1978 when, during the Pontificate of Pope Paul VI, the Leonine Rule was abrogated and a new Rule, the Pauline Rule, adopted. The Pauline Rule is the Rule which Secular Franciscans, one group of lay followers of Saint Francis of Assisi, follow today. Other Third Order Franciscan groups exist, which are following other Third Order Rules. 

Living the Rule of 1221 Today 

One group whose members follow the Rule of 1221 as lay people is the Confraternity of Penitents, a private Roman Catholic lay association of the faithful, whose Vision is:  

“To give glory to God and surrender to His Will through the living of a medieval, penitential Rule of Life, the Rule of 1221.  This Rule is lived as closely as possible to its original intent, and  in one's own home or CFP community house, in peace with all others, and in obedience to the Roman Catholic Church, its Pope, and its Magisterium.”

Holy card of Saint Angela of Foligno,

a widow and mystic who lived the Rule of 1221.


The Prayer, Motto, Mission, and Action of Penitents complete the Vision of the Confraternity:


"Most High, Glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my mind, give me right faith, a firm hope and perfect charity, so that I may always and in all things act according to Your Holy Will. Amen." (Saint Francis's prayer before the San Damiano Crucifix)


"You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind, (and) you shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Jesus's words as recorded in Matthew 22:37-38)


"Go and repair My House which, as you can see, is falling into ruin." (The message given to St. Francis in a voice from the San Damiano Crucifix.)


To pray for God's specific direction in one's life so that, through humbly living our Rule of Life, each penitent may help to rebuild the house of God by bringing love of God and neighbor to his or her own corner of the world.

Painting of Saint Thomas More,

Chancellor of England and martyr, who lived the Rule of 1221.

The Confraternity of Penitents is open to all who wish to explore living the Rule of 1221. The Rule, Constitutions, and other information about the Confraternity can be found at Please pray about what you find in those pages and contact the Confraternity when you feel so led.

May all the penitents of all ages intercede for you as you discern God’s perfect Will for your life! May the Lord bless you and grant you the desires of your heart! 

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