ABSTRACT

The debate regarding the social origins and motivation for membership in the Humiliati is constructed on a largely theoretical model of the institutional structure of the order based on prescriptive and anecdotal evidence. Both sides provide a theoretical construct that best illustrates their viewpoints. For Herbert Grundmann and his followers, the institutional structure of the group most resembled a semi-cloistered organization that followed set rules and focused on following their chosen spiritual path while aiding their fellow citizens. They envisioned groups of men and women, literate and fairly well off, who renounced their old way of life and came together for the purpose of following an apostolic lifestyle of voluntary poverty and evangelism. These scholars acknowledged the group’s presence in the economy in the role of wool workers, but suggested that this role was undertaken as a simple and necessary form of group selfpreservation. The evidence cited for this model is mainly garnered from ecclesiastical documents, along with direct and indirect evidence of a handful of houses of the first or second orders.