Peter of Alcantara

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Monument to St. Peter in his hometown of Alcántara in the Extremadura region

Peter of Alcantara (before entering the order: Juan de Garavito y Vilela de Sanabria) (* 1499 in Alcántara , western Spain , †  October 18, 1562 in Arenas de San Pedro near Ávila ) was a Spanish mystic , penitential preacher and Franciscan order reformer. He was canonized in 1669 . His feast is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church on October 19th.


Juan came from a noble family in Extremadura . From an early age he practiced the toughest asceticism . After two years of training at the University of Salamanca , he entered the Franciscan order at the age of 15 and was initially a porter in the small monastery of San Francisco de los Majarretes near Valencia de Alcántara . In 1524 he was ordained a priest . He worked as a priest and superior in various monasteries and was soon a sought-after preacher . As such, he was called to the Portuguese royal court by King John the Pious , where he is said to have persuaded prominent courtiers, including members of the royal family, to repentance and penance, and where he gained a high reputation.

After his return to Spain he campaigned for the reform of the Franciscan order. As early as 1540, under his aegis, the constitutions of the Franciscan Order Province of St. Gabriel were tightened. In addition, Peter gave the impetus to found numerous monasteries. He wandered barefoot across the Pyrenees to Rome to be met by Pope Julius III. to obtain permission for his reform work. In 1555 a reform congregation was founded, from which the Province of St. Joseph, founded in 1561 and approved by the papal government in 1563, grew. From 1557 he was the general commissioner responsible for the reform monasteries he oversaw in Spain.

He himself withdrew to the Pedroso Monastery in northwestern Portugal, where he lived in the strictest asceticism in a tiny monastery cell . It is reported, among other things, that he only ate something every three days and slept on the floor with his head against a board in his cell, where he could not stretch out due to the tightness, only one and a half or two hours a night. In addition, horrific self-mortification has been handed down. The cell can still be viewed.

On the question of authorship of sustainable acting on piety and mysticism and Spanish written Tratado de la oración y meditación ( "Treatise on prayer and meditation"), who also Louis of Granada was attributed to Peter comes to the priority prevailing opinion. Peter believed that women were better suited than men for the spiritual life as ascetics and mystics in general.

In 1557, the religious reformer, who was later canonized, met Teresa of Ávila Petrus at an old age and valued him as an advisor. The religious, respected at court and in the Vatican, supported Teresa's own reform projects as a weighty advocate, and even after his death she often referred to him as an informant for their concerns to church and secular authorities. As the confessor of the resigned emperor, Peter of Alcantara was also called to the refuge of Charles V (r. 1516–1556) in the monastery of Yuste . He spent the last years of his life in the small town of Arenas , which later received his name.

Beatification and Canonization

In 1622 he was appointed by Pope Gregory XV. Beatified and 1669 by Pope Clement IX. canonized. He is considered the patron saint of Brazil and the protector of the night watchmen and night workers; the latter is justified by the fact that he often kept watch through the nights in prayer. He is also called against febrile illnesses.


From the Franciscan Association reformed by Petrus von Alcantara emerged the "Alcantariner" named after him, which was also known as " (Franciscan) Discalceaten " (barefooted, barefooted) or "Minorites of the strictest observance" and was an independent branch until 1897 of the Franciscan Order . With the other two branches of the Franciscan Observance Movement, the Franciscan Reformates in Italy, Tyrol, Austria, Bavaria and Poland as well as the Franciscan Recollects in Western and Northern Europe (Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, England, Ireland), the Alcantarines were under one single general minister . The Alcantariner remained restricted to the Iberian Peninsula and worked from there as missionaries in America and the Far East. In the 19th century the differences between the branches of the order were put into perspective, so that Pope Leo XIII. with his bull Felicitate quadam of October 4, 1897, they united them into a uniform order, the Ordo Fratrum Minorum with uniform general statutes ( Unio Leonina ). The German Aloys Lauer from the province of Thuringia became the first general minister after the union .

Since the 17th century there has also been a female branch in Spain and Portugal, the "Alcantarine women".

Following his example, the reform branches of other orders that arose in the late 16th and early 17th centuries were also referred to as "barefoot", for example the " Discalced Carmelites ".


  • Main work: Tratado de la oración y meditación (Latin: De meditatione et oratione, 1843, German: The golden booklet on contemplation and inner prayer . Edited from the Spanish and translated by Philibert Seeböck, 1900).


Web links

Commons : Petrus von Alcantara  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Karl Suso Frank : Franciscans. IV. Story . In: Walter Kasper (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church . 3. Edition. tape 4 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1995, Sp. 33 .
  2. ^ Herbert Schneider : The Franciscans in the German-speaking area. Life and goals. Dietrich-Coelde-Verlag, Werl 1988, pp. 61-87.