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Franciscan Studies

The CCS represents a viable permanent home for the future of Franciscan Studies in the English-speaking world and beyond.

Through our international conferences, scholarships, doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships, online summer schools and Distance Learning programme, we continue to build a global reputation as a centre for world-leading research into the Franciscan tradition in all its breadth and depth.

Working with a number of Franciscan partners since 2019, the CCS is establishing a growing programme in Franciscan Studies that builds on existing strengths across the Department of Theology and Religion. These range from the medieval Franciscan intellectual tradition, Franciscan spirituality, and Franciscan history, through to contemporary Franciscan perspectives on Catholic Social Thought and Practice.

We are fundraising to endow a professorial post as the foundation stone of a permanent and growing presence for Franciscan Studies at Durham University, providing the intellectual leadership to deliver quality research, outreach, and impact.

Research Projects

There are a number of innovative research projects in Franciscan Studies being undertaken at the CCS. Below is a flavour of a few of them.  

Capuchin Fellowship in the History of Catholicism

Dr Temple speaking at the conference.jpg

Since 2021 Dr Liam Temple has held the position of ‘Capuchin Fellow’ at the Centre for Catholic Studies, a position which has been made possible through the generous support of the Capuchin Delegation of Great Britain. Trained as a historian of religion, Liam’s project explores the history of the Capuchins in Britain from the early modern period through to the present day. Through this, he has also developed his wider interests in the Franciscan tradition and the history of the Franciscans more generally.

The first major output of Liam’s research is a solo-authored monograph under contract with Bloomsbury with the working title Radical Poverty: The Capuchins and Catholicism in Britain, 1850-2021. The book draws on a range of international archives to support its findings and recovers the important influence of the Capuchins on Catholicism in Britain in the past two centuries. It is due to be published in 2026. A second solo-authored monograph, tentatively entitled The Capuchins, Transnational Catholicism and Britain, 1580 1700, is currently undergoing peer-review with a leading academic press.

Liam wrote an article for the 150th anniversary of the English Province of Capuchins for The Tablet entitled ‘In the Footsteps of Francis’. The article can be read here. He has also worked with Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household, on the English edition of his papal sermons, to be published in 2024 as Faith, Hope, and Charity. He was the co-editor of Volume II of The Oxford History of British and Irish Catholicism with Professor John Morrill (Cambridge), which was published in 2023.

The Science of the Saints: St Bonaventure of Bagnoregio’s Quaestiones De Colore

Billy Crozier and Bonaventure

After completing his PhD at the CCS, Dr William (Billy) Crozier was awarded a three-year Leverhulme post-doctoral fellowship in Franciscan Theology in 2021. Billy’s project will lead to the production of an edition, translation, and commentary of the Quaestiones de Colore. These are found in a little Assisi manuscript which is believed to be a notebook belonging to St Bonaventure from his time as a student in Paris c.1250 and which is written in his own hand.

The scholarly consensus maintains that Bonaventure, unlike Thomas Aquinas and Albert the Great, produced no truly scientific or philosophical works, but instead confined his attention to ‘purely’ theological writings. The Quaestiones de Colore are the only example of a piece of ‘scientific’ work attributable to St Bonaventure and, thus, are highly important. If their authenticity is accepted, they would offer the basis for a fundamental shift in how we view Bonaventure’s place within the theological-philosophical milieu of the 13th century.

The project will also show how Bonaventure, as well as several other of the early Franciscans – Roger Bacon, Robert Grosseteste, Alexander of Hales, Richard Rufus of Cornwall etc. – all made important contributions, equal to those made by the Dominicans, Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas, to the scientific theories of light, colour, matter, vision, and motion.

The Theology and Spirituality of the Early Modern Capuchins

Br Benjamin Johnson, OFM. Cap (Australia Province) joined Durham in 2024 as a post-doctoral fellow. His project investigates the theological impulses within the early modern Capuchins. It has become a general maxim of scholars to say that the Capuchins had a particular reverence for the teachings of St Bonaventure (especially his mystical theological writings), yet this appears to be an oft-repeated tradition rather than based on modern scholarly analysis. A particular facet of this project will be to look at the early modern Capuchin relationship with the works of Bonaventure, investigating how and why they engaged with his works. Did they repurpose Bonaventure, or rehabilitate him for the religious upheaval of the early modern period? What influence did Bonaventure have on the Capuchins, in particular their spirituality? Special attention will be paid to how this affected the sacramental theology of Capuchins in the Catholic Reformation. As such, the project will break new ground, recovering the theological impulses behind one of the most significant new congregations of religious in the early modern period, potentially touching on areas as diverse as globalization, adaptation and inculturation within the Capuchin missions. It will also add to a recent scholarly trend to re-discover the innovation in early modern Catholic theology. The project will result in a book-length study.

Ratio finiendi: The Finality of the Holy Spirit in the Theology of St. Bonaventure

Br. Thomas Piolata, OFM. Cap (St Augustine’s Province, USA) joined Durham in 2021. He is pursuing a cotutelle doctorate in theology at Durham and the Pontifical Antonianum University (Rome) and is also a doctoral fellow of the Collegium Sancti Bonaventurae (Rome). His dissertation focuses on the finality of the Holy Spirit in St. Bonaventure’s theology. Br. Thomas holds a BA from Saint Louis University (2012), an MA in philosophy as well as an MA in theology from The Catholic University of America (2016 & 2018), and an STL from the Pontifical Gregorian University (2021). He has recently edited a volume with David B. Couturier entitled The Earlier Rule of 1221: History, Theology, Vision which was published in 2023 by the Franciscan Institute. His research is supported by a AHRC Northern Bridge 2 Doctoral Studentship.

FMDM Fellowship in the History of Catholicism

Between 2020 – 2024 Dr Brian Casey held a post-doctoral research fellowship exploring the history of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood (FMDM) as part of global Catholicism and within the context of shifting understandings of the Franciscan charism. The FMDM archives at Ladywell represent an important body of material evidence for research of the history of global Catholicism, and the Franciscan contribution to that movement. Brian researched and analysed this largely unexplored archive in order to develop a picture of the FMDM as a global congregation, to link the history of the Congregation to the wider global context, and to highlight the unique significance of the archival collections for the study of the history of Catholicism in this period, and the importance of the Franciscan vision that motivates its mission. With the primary focus of placing the FMDM and the Franciscan charism in the context of global Catholicism, the fellowship also allowed for the exploration of archives in various sites of FMDM activity around the world. Brian is currently preparing publications from this project. This position was generously funded by the FMDM.


In November 2019 we held our first Franciscan Studies conference with the title ‘The Franciscan Legacy from the 13th Century to the 21st’. The conference was funded by generous support from the Franciscan families of the UK and Ireland. Around 200 religious, academics, students, and lay people attended for an intellectually and spiritually lively three days, discussing the continuing significance of St Francis and Franciscan traditions of theology, spirituality, and action. One of the many themes of the conference was interfaith encounter and ecumenism, honouring as it did the 800th anniversary of St Francis’ meeting with Sultan Malek Al-Kamil. There are archive recordings and papers from the 2019 Franciscan Studies Conference available at this page.

In March 2024 we held our second Franciscan Studies conference with the title ‘Retrieval and Innovation’. The conference was supported by several Capuchin Franciscan families, the Community of St Francis, the FMDM, and the Society of St Francis. The programme for the conference is available here.

Recordings of the keynotes are available below, and at the CCS's Soundcloud account.

Mary Beth Ingham, CSJ (Franciscan School of Theology, University of San Diego): Reading Scotus today: Franciscan foundations for a renewed Christian humanism.

Giuseppe Buffon, OFM (Pontifical Antonianum University): A rule that saves? The Capuchin response to the institutional crisis.

Margaret Carney, OSF (St Bonaventure University): The Third Order Rule of 1982: Discovery, Disruption and Renewed Dedication.

Franciscan Summer School

Our first Franciscan Studies Summer School was held in May 2021. It built on the momentum of our first Franciscan Studies conference in 2019 and was designed to share the riches and significance of Franciscan theology with both lay and religious audiences.

The Summer School featured a public lecture by Professor Jacques Dalarun on the topic of ‘Clare of Assisi and Thomas of Celano: An Essential Relationship’ which is available online here.. It also included a joint Francis Studies/Teilhard Lecture by Sr Prof. Illia Delio OSF on the topic of ‘Teilhard’s Evolution and the Body of Christ’ which is available to watch here.

The Summer School had two weeklong courses on the themes of ‘Francis and Clare’, led by Br William Short, OFM (Franciscan School of Theology, University of San Diego), and ‘Franciscan Global Vision’, led by Br Daniel P. Horan, OFM, PhD (Catholic Theological Union, Chicago). Videos from both these courses can be viewed here (Francis and Clare) and here (Franciscan Global Vision). An advanced seminar on ‘Bonaventure: Love and Knowledge’ was led by CCS member Dr Billy Crozier.

We intend to build on the success of the Summer School with future events which will continue to share the riches of the Franciscan tradition with a wide range of audiences.

Distance Learning

Our DL MA in Catholic Theology includes a module on High Medieval Franciscan Theology. View our available distance learning options here.

St Francis' Friary

Visit the website of St Francis' Friary, based at the Parish of the Durham Martyrs, where four Franciscan Friars are currently in residence.