Saints for Today: James of the Marches, Religious (1391-1476)


Feast Day: November 28

Born James Gangala of a poor family in the march (or territory) or Ancona, Italy, James was a Franciscan friar and missionary who spent forty years as an evangelist throughout Italy. He joined the Franciscans at Assisi, studied under Bernardino at Fiesole, and later read law at Perugia, Italy.

James led a life of exemplary sanctity and set up enterprises to help the poor. He adopted a very penitential life-style and became a most effective preacher in and outside his homeland. His frequent fasting, denial of sleep, and wearing a threadbare habit were joined with an extreme zeal for souls. He was among the most active Franciscan preachers and missionaries of the Latter Middle Ages. He traveled widely across Italy as well as across much of central Europe and Scandinavia. He was also active in attempting, unsuccessfully, to reconcile with the Church, the more moderate Hussites of Hungary. He similarly strove to bring about close relations between Rome and the Greek Orthodox Church.

James’ life was controversial and perhaps best known for his role as inquisitor against the heretical Fraticelli, a breakaway group of Franciscans who, taking literally St. Francis’ strictures on poverty, objected violently to the wealth of the Church. James was involved in disputes between branches of the Franciscan Order, exacerbated by the addition of heretical elements to the Fraticelli who had already been condemned by the papacy. Some criticized James for being too severe and ruthless against them. Later he preached against the Bogomils in Bosnia and in several of these controversies, he had assisted John of Capistrano, whom he succeeded as papal legate in Hungary.

His denouncement to the Inquisition at Brescia in 1462 clouded James’ later years. He held unorthodox views on the divine nature of Christ’s blood after His death. Controversies between Dominicans and Franciscans followed, until the Holy See, after an inconclusive disputation, imposed silence on both parties. In 1473, James was moved to Naples. Here he died, and was buried in the church of Santa Maria Nuova. He was canonized a saint in 1726.

Bunson, Matthew, Margaret Bunson, and Stephen Bunson. “Encyclopedia of Saints-Revised.” Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2003.
Farmer, David. “Oxford Dictionary of Saints.” New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Heritage, Andrew, ed. “The Book of Saints: A Day-By-Day Illustrated Encyclopedia.” San Francisco: Weldonowen, 2012.

Featured Photo: Wikimedia Commons


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