The Order of Friars Minor ("Little Brothers"), founded by St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), one of the most remarkable persons of the Middle Ages in the West. In 1210 Pope Innocent III (q.v.) allowed Francis to govern his followers as a religious order. Dedicated to serving the poor, the new order also turned its attention to missionary work in the East in an attempt to regain the Holy Land and bring about a union of the churches (q.v.). They established themselves in Constantinople during the Latin Empire (qq.v.) and soon the papacy (q.v.) found them useful as emissaries. In 1234 Pope Gregory IX sent a Franciscan mission to John III Vatatzes (q.v.) to discuss the union of the churches (q.v.). The most famous mission was by John Parastron, a Greek Franciscan, to Michael VIII (q.v.) to instruct the emperor (q.v.) in the theology (q.v.) of the Roman church prior to the Council of Lyons (q.v.). In this regard, the emperor also received Jerome of Ascoli, and Bonaventura da Mugello, the minister-general of the Franciscans, who negotiated the actual church union. The Council of Lyons only ratified what the Franciscans and Michael VIII had already agreed upon. The Franciscans continued as papal emissaries to Constantinople through the 14th century, maintaining a residence across the Golden Horn in Pera (qq.v.).

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