Poor brides of Christ : distinctive forms of Franciscan mysticism in Bonaventure and Angela of Foligno

  • Michael Stephen Hahn

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis examines the distinctive nature of early Franciscan mystical theology. Working from Bernard McGinn and Kevin Hughes’ argument that there is little in Francis of Assisi’s own writings that can be considered mystical but that he creates a spiritual milieu, I argue that Francis (1181/2-1226) and Clare of Assisi (1193/4-1253) develop a theological outlook grounded in their emphasis of physical and interior poverty. I then examine how this tradition is inherited by two Franciscan mystics: Bonaventure (c.1217-1274) and Angela of Foligno (d.1309). Part One explores the origins of the Franciscan order and the development of what can be called its ‘theology of poverty.’ Chapter One examines Francis through his own texts, and the hagiographic texts written about him. Chapter Two focusses on Clare as developing Francis’s focus on poverty, in her forma vitae and letters. Part Two argues that Bonaventure and Angela develop Francis and Clare’s theology of poverty into overtly mystical writings. Chapter Three presents Bonaventure as a scholastic expression of Franciscan mysticism, taking influence from both Francis and Clare in the many genres in which he presents his mystical theology. Chapter Four then compares Bonaventure to his contemporary and fellow scholastic mystic, Meister Eckhart. Chapter Five examines the Franciscan nature of Angela’s vernacular mystical theology, presenting the central roles poverty and a focus on Francis as alter Christus play in her theology. Chapter Six compares Angela to her contemporaries from Northern Europe, most notably Hadewijch, Mechthild of Magdeburg, and Marguerite Porete. Bonaventure and Angela share key components that are characteristic of Franciscan mysticism in this period. Namely, this includes self-annihilation as imitating Christ’s kenosis, and a focus on the enduring quality of penitential and ascetical practices.
Date of Award30 Jul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorWilliam Patrick Hyland (Supervisor)


  • Franciscan theology
  • Mystical theology
  • Medieval mysticism
  • Francis of Assisi
  • Clare of Assisi
  • Bonaventure
  • Angela of Foligno
  • Franciscam mysticism

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 1st June 2025

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