Celestines, the name given to certain extreme “Spiritual” Franciscans of the Marches, because they were taken by Celestine V under his special protection. These Franciscan Celestines are not to be confounded with the Order of Celestine hermits, a branch of the Benedictine Order, which the same pope founded about 1254 before his accession to the papacy. It was in the autumn of 1294 that Pietro da Macerata, Pietro da Fossombrone, and some other “Spiritual” Franciscans who had lately returned from Armenia made their way to the Papal Curia, then at Aquila, and obtained from Celestine V leave to live as hermits under the Rule of St. Francis, but as a separate fraternity and without dependence upon the superiors of the Minorite Order. They were to obey Celestine V and, under him, Pietro da Macerata, who changed his name to Liberato, while his companion Pietro da Fossombrone took the name of Angelo Clareno, by which he is better known (see Angelo Clareno da Cingoli). Liberato, when placed at the head of the new fraternity, was given full power by the pope to receive new members. Celestine, moreover, appointed Cardinal Nicholas Orsini, protector of the Pauperes Heremitae Domini Coelestini (Poor hermits of the Lord Celestine), as Liberato, Angelo, and their followers were called, and he charged the abbot of his own order of (Benedictine) Celestines to put some hermitages at their disposal. The statues of the new foundation were somewhat peculiar. Strictly speaking, these “Poor Hermits” could not be called either Celestines or Minorites for they did not depend upon the authority of either order and, although professing the Rule of the Friars Minor, they lived in hermitages like the Celestines.
After the “great renunciation” of Pope Celestine (December 13, 1294) the Poor Hermits lost their protector, and his successor Boniface VIII revoked and nullified in 1295 all the concessions made in their favor by Celestine unless the same were approved anew by himself. Thereupon Liberato, Angelo, and some others for not all of their followers seem to have accompanied them betook themselves to the Island of Trixoma in the Gulf of Corinth and later to Thessaly. After many vicissitudes they returned to Italy in 1303 and attempted a vindication of their rights. In 1307 Liberato died and Angelo became the head of the fraternity, which was suppressed by John XXII in 1317. The subsequent history of the “Poor hermits of the Lord Celestine” is merged in that of the Fraticelli (see Fraticelli; Order Friars Minor; Spirituals).