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The Symbolic Beard: Unveiling the Identity of Franciscan Brothers

The sight of a Franciscan brother, with his flowing brown robe and a serene smile complemented by a full beard, is unmistakably iconic. This timeless image carries a deeper significance beyond mere aesthetics. In this blog post, we will explore the reasons why Franciscan brothers wear a beard, shedding light on the spiritual and historical significance behind this distinctive feature of their identity.

A Symbol of Simplicity and Humility

At the core of St. Francis of Assisi’s teachings lies the value of simplicity and humility. The beard, being a natural and unpretentious aspect of one’s appearance, symbolizes these cherished Franciscan virtues. By embracing a beard, the brothers humbly acknowledge their connection with nature and their commitment to a life devoid of vanity and superficiality.

Emulating the Image of St. Francis

St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order, is often depicted with a beard in traditional Christian art. By donning a beard, Franciscan brothers seek to emulate their beloved patron’s image and teachings. This serves as a constant reminder of their desire to imitate the life of St. Francis, who epitomized simplicity, selflessness, and devotion to God.

A Mark of Distinctive Identity

In religious orders, outward signs like habits, symbols, and attire are used to distinguish members from the secular world. The Franciscan beard serves as one such unique identifier, setting the brothers apart in their devotion to God and their commitment to the Franciscan way of life. It signifies that they have chosen to walk a path of dedication to God and His creation.

Historical and Cultural Roots

The tradition of wearing beards has historical and cultural roots that trace back to the time of St. Francis. During the medieval era, beards were commonplace among men, and the clean-shaven look was relatively rare. By maintaining this aspect of their appearance, Franciscan brothers maintain a connection with their order’s history and heritage, reinforcing the continuity of their spiritual tradition.

Respecting the God-given Gift of Nature

In the Franciscan worldview, nature is seen as a divine gift, reflecting God’s creativity and love. Wearing a beard aligns with the order’s philosophy of respecting and appreciating the natural world as part of God’s creation. The beard serves as a visible sign of their commitment to reverence for all living things, mirroring St. Francis’ intimate relationship with nature.

For the early Capuchin Franciscans, the beard was considered “severe, austere, manly, natural, and despised.” This description further emphasizes the significance of the beard in the life of a Franciscan brother. The quote beautifully expresses the belief that God has adorned man with a beard as a sign of strength, rule, and manhood, while women rejoice in the beauty of their natural locks.


The beard worn by Franciscan brothers is not simply a matter of tradition or style; it carries profound symbolic meaning deeply rooted in their spiritual journey. As they walk in the footsteps of their beloved founder, the beard becomes a visible representation of their identity as Franciscan brothers, exemplifying the values they hold dear and the path they have chosen to follow.

In a world often dominated by materialism and superficiality, the bearded countenance of the Franciscan brother stands as a symbol of counter-cultural values, embracing the virtues of humble devotion and the rejection of excessive adornment. Through their bearded countenance, these brothers inspire others to embrace a simpler, more authentic way of life, guided by the spirit of St. Francis and the timeless wisdom of their order.

As we encounter the sight of a Franciscan brother with his serene smile and a beard that speaks volumes of spiritual depth, let us be reminded of the profound teachings embodied by this seemingly simple feature. It is a reminder that the true essence of life lies not in the pursuit of fleeting vanities but in the pursuit of God’s will, service to others, and love for all of God’s creation. The beard serves as a constant witness to their dedication to a life of simplicity, manly strength, and adherence to the virtues exemplified by their revered patron, St. Francis of Assisi.


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