A-Z: General definitions: Friar


A man belonging to a Christian religious group who, instead of living within an enclosed religious house, travelled round teaching the Christian faith, and sustaining himself by begging for charity.

The friars or mendicant (begging) orders which appeared in early thirteenth century, represented a radical departure from the monastic tradition in that they rejected the ownership of property and committed themselves to carrying the spiritual life out to lay people in the everyday world, through preaching and service. Popular due to their sacrificial lifestyle, lively sermons and skill in hearing confessions, they were regarded as a threat by some parish priests and were subsequently criticised by many for failing to live up to their ideals.


Latin: frater, Middle English: frere, 'brother'.
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