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Matteo Serafini (Matteo da Bascio) (b. in 1495, at Molino di Bascio, Diocese of Montefeltro, in the Duchy of Urbino; d. at Venice in 1552) was the co-founder and first Superior-General of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins, the principal branch of the Franciscans issued from the Reform of the Observance.
Moved by the need for reform which was felt almost all through the Franciscan family, he resolved, in 1525, the year of the Jubilee, to begin a more austere life, choosing a form of garb more resembling that of Francis of Assisi. Pope Clement VII granted his request and also permitted him to preach everywhere and to have a companion. Some other members of the Observance asked and obtained permission to join him, and on the 3rd of July, 1528, the pope issue the Bull "Religionis zelus", by which the new Reform was canonically approved and placed under the nominal jurisdiction of the Conventuals. The name "Capuchin", at first given by the people to the new Franciscan friars, was afterwards officially adopted. In the pontifical decrees Bassi's followers are variously styled "Capucini", "Capuciati", "Capulati", and "Fratres de Observantiâ Capucinorum".
In April, 1529, the new order held its first chapter at Albacina, where Matteo was elected vicar-general by acclamation. A code of constitutions which was to serve as a basis to the Reform was elaborated. But the founder did not hold his charge very long. After visiting his brethren, wishing to resume his apostolic career, and perhaps feeling powerless against the difficulties which menaced his disciples, he resigned his office. Thenceforward he took no part in the government of the order.
He even decided, about 1537, to return to the obedience of the Observants, through fear of incurring some ecclesiastical censure. As it was, these last had obtained, at different times, Bulls or Decrees against the new Reform.
Matteo preached through the whole of Italy and part of Germany. He died at Venice, in the midst of his labours, and was buried in the Church of the Observants of that city in the presence of a vast concourse of people attracted by his reputation as a saint. The following eulogy by Arthur du Monstier is read in the Franciscan Martyrologium (3 August: "There died at Venice, Blessed Matthew, confessor, founder of the congregation of Capuchins. His continual fastings, vigils and prayer, his most high poverty and ardent zeal for souls, lastly his extraordinary holiness and the gift of miracles made his memory glorious".
He is buried in the church of San Francesco della Vigna in Venice.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Matthew of Bassi". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton. This entry cites:
- JOAN DE TERRANOVA, Chronica de origine fratrum capucinorum s. Francisci, in Acta SS., VIII, 4 Maii, 281-289;
- DE LISBONNE, Chronica dos Menores (Lisbon, 1615);
- Boverius, Annales Capucinorum, (Lyons, 1632);
- Luke Wadding, Annales Minorum (Lyons, 1647);
- Bullarium Capucinorum (Rome);
- Chronica historico-legalis seraphici Ordinis FF. Min.(Naples, 1650), I, 258;
- DA CESINALE, Storia delle Missione dei Cappucincini (Paris, 1867);
- PATREM, Tableau synoptique de l'histoire de tout l'Ordre séraphique (Paris, 1879);
- Analecta Ord. Min. Capuc.;
- PALOMÈS, Des fréres mineurs et de leurs dénominations (Palermo, 1901);
- DE PAVIE, L'Aquitaine séraphique (Vanves, 1905), II, xi, 183.