Whilst Dominic was founding the Dominican order, St Francis of Assisi was organising another mendicant order, the Franciscans. Francis lived a life of preaching, extreme poverty, and penance, in imitation of the life of Christ. His Franciscan order followed a simple set of rules he left them: not to own property, even communally; preaching to the poor and needy; not to accept money as alms or for their work. As the order expanded, the prohibition against owning property became problematic, as the friars needed somewhere to live, and so a less stringent rule was written in the late 13th century.
However, the Franciscan order remained a stringently impoverished one, and the friars were by far the scruffiest of all medieval monks and friars. Their habits were brown or grey (hence the English sobriquet, Grey Friars), with a cord girding their waist, and some even refused to wear shoes. Franciscan Friaries also allowed normal people to attend their churches, as a nod to Francis’s original prohibition on property. Franciscans also had a positively un-medieval view of the natural world as a beautiful part of God’s creation, and their poverty and humility was supposed to ensure their compassion for other impoverished people.
Just as Dominican nuns were there from the start, so too Franciscan nuns have been around since the order’s foundation. Franciscan nuns were known as Poor Clares, after St Clare of Assisi, the childhood friend of Francis who founded the female order under his direction and wrote a set of rules. However, unlike their male counterparts, the Poor Clares were a contemplative order, which means that they lived a cloistered, monastic life dedicated to prayer and contemplation, rather than preaching to the world at large. Poverty, however, was still an important virtue, and alms were to be petitioned for.