Joachimites

A medieval millenarian movement predicting a new age of the Holy Spirit


Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Catholicism
Founder: based around the teachings of Joachim of Fiore
Founded: 12th Century
Location: Italy
Offshoots: Franciscan Spirituals, Amalricians
Other Names: Joachites, Joachimists


The Joachimites were a religious movement that emerged in the 13th century, deeply influenced by the apocalyptic prophecies of Joachim of Fiore, an Italian theologian. Their beliefs centered around the idea of a new age of the Holy Spirit, which would bring about a radical transformation of the Church and society.

Origins and Beliefs

The movement originated from the teachings of Joachim of Fiore (c. 1135–1202), who proposed a unique interpretation of Christian history. According to Joachim, history was divided into three ages: the Age of the Father (the Old Testament), the Age of the Son (the New Testament), and the forthcoming Age of the Holy Spirit. This final era, as prophesied by Joachim, would be a time of universal peace and spiritual enlightenment, where the hierarchical and corrupt Church would be replaced by a community of free and equal spiritual men.

Joachim’s ideas, especially his concept of the three ages, gained considerable attention and following after his death, leading to the formation of the Joachimites. This group was not a formal organization but rather a loose collection of individuals and smaller sects that shared a common belief in Joachim’s prophecies.

Spread and Influence

The Joachimites were most active in the 13th and 14th centuries, primarily in Southern Italy and parts of France. Their ideas found a receptive audience among various social groups, including some clerics, due to the widespread dissatisfaction with the institutional Church’s corruption and materialism.

Joachim’s prophecies were initially welcomed by some within the Church, including influential figures like Pope Innocent III, who saw in them a call for spiritual renewal. However, as the movement grew, it increasingly came into conflict with the Church, leading to condemnation and persecution. The Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 and subsequent papal bulls specifically condemned some of Joachim’s teachings and those of his followers.

Persecution and Decline

The Joachimites, due to their radical ideas and challenge to the established Church order, faced significant persecution. The movement was declared heretical, and its followers were subjected to various punitive measures, including excommunication, imprisonment, and in some cases, execution.

The movement’s decline was further hastened by the failure of its prophecies. Joachim had predicted significant events, including the arrival of the Antichrist and the beginning of the Age of the Holy Spirit, within specific time frames. When these predictions did not materialize, the movement lost credibility and support.

Legacy

While the Joachimites as a distinct movement dissipated by the end of the 14th century, their ideas had a lasting impact on Christian thought. The concept of an impending transformative age influenced later millenarian and spiritual movements. Elements of Joachim’s teachings can be traced in various subsequent movements, including the Spiritual Franciscans and some strands of Protestantism.

The Joachimites, despite their eventual decline, represent a significant chapter in the history of medieval Christianity, reflecting the era’s spiritual unrest and the desire for reform within the Church.