Joachim of Fiore – March 30

Joachim of Flora, in a 15th-century woodcut

Bible connection

Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people.  He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

A second angel followed and said, “‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great,’ which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.”

A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.  And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.” This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.

Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”

“Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” — Revelation 14:6-13

All about Joachim of Fiore (1135-1202)

For most Christians, the New Testament book of Revelation has served as the go-to text for all things eschatological (the study of the end times). This was especially true of Europe in the Middle Ages. The leading authority on the matter was Joachim of Fiore, the legal secretary (notary), monk, abbot, hermit, theologian and prophet from Calabria, the toe of the boot in Southern Italy.

Joachim was a household name in his day for his alleged prophetic powers. He wrote many books, but his most influential was the Expositio in Apocalipsim (Exposition of the Book of Revelation), finished around 1196–1199. In this work he introduces his famous tripartite division of history into the Ages (status) of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He taught the fruition of the Age of the Holy Spirit was at hand — an era in which peace and love would prevail, and God’s secrets would finally be revealed to the world.

While Joachim was being educated to follow in his father’s footsteps as a notary in the Norman Kingdom of Naples, he took a trip to the Holy Land and was never the same. Like so many people who made the pilgrimage, he had a deep, spiritual experience that changed his course.

After returning to Italy, he decided to live in a cave, located near Mount Etna in Sicily. He lived as a hermit there for some time, before transferring to a Cistercian monastery. The Cistercians were born out of a restoration movement within the Benedictine observance. In 1098 a group of reformers founded an abbey at Cîteaux, near Dijon, France. The goal was to revert to what they considered the original spirit of St. Benedict’s Rule in three main ways: return to self-sufficiency, simplicity and separation from the world.

Joachim chose the Cistercians to use monastic contemplation as a way to experience God directly. His choice also highlights his enthusiasm for the spiritual revival taking place in Europe at the time, which centered on a widespread preoccupation with the life of the Apostles. From the year 1000, more and more people began to reject what they saw as the degeneration of Christian life which had occurred in the centuries before them and sought to return to the example set by Christ and his first followers. Primarily, that meant living in poverty (as in Mark 6: 8-10), engaging in the communal sharing of goods (as in Acts 2:44), and itinerant preaching (as in Luke 10). Francis of Assisi may be the best known convert.

After spending time as a Cistercian monk, Fiore took up the life of a wandering preacher. In 1171, he was elected as the abbot of another Cistercian monastery in Corazzo, back home in Calabria. He was now in his late thirties. It was during this time he began to write (17 works are extant!).

Joachim was particularly interested in discovering the hidden meanings behind scripture. For Fiore and his contemporaries, the Bible was not merely a collection of works, to be read in light of their respective historical contexts. Rather, it was one coherent and unified Word of God. Accordingly, many believed it was encoded with theological truths, some of which could be discovered through careful study. Joachim’s discoveries often came via encounters with God’s Spirit.

Joachim illustrates his theory of the three overlapping eras of history.

Central to his findings was the correspondence between the Old and New Testaments. Simply put, Fiore believed the events recorded in the Old Testament prefigured those of the New, which in turn, predicted the future. This was linked to Joachim’s famous tripartite division of history, with each epoch corresponding to a person of the Trinity. Thus, the Age (status) of the Father began with Adam, came to fruition with Abraham and ended with Christ, while the status of the Son began with King Uzziah of Judah, came to fruition with Zechariah—John the Baptist’s father—and was about to end in Joachim’s own time.

The last point accounts for the popularity of Fiore’s prophetic message. According to Joachim, the Age of the Holy Spirit, believed to have begun with Saint Benedict of Nursia, was soon to be fulfilled. In fact, this would occur in the year 1260 — and people needed to prepare. Why 1260? Revelation 12:1-6 reads: “A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun … and (she) fled into the wilderness … so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days.” It was that simple.

According to Fiore, in 1260 the Age of the Holy Spirit would fully unfold, ushering in a new world ruled by perfect, divine Love. There would be no more need for laws. Freedom, tolerance and peace would prevail. Life would be “without scandal, without worry or terror, since God shall bless it and He shall sanctify it.” At this time, the Gospel would become subordinate to a greater, “eternal gospel” (Revelation 14:6). Indeed, for Joachim, Jesus’s crucifixion was no longer the most important event in history. It was awesomely meaningful, for sure. But something else was coming. Something greater than even Christ himself. And that was the Holy Spirit, who would bestow on humankind a perfect and direct knowledge of God.

A 1573 fresco depicting Gioacchino da Fiore, in the Cathedral of Santa Severina, Calabria, Italy

Joachim became dissatisfied with his position as abbot, and received permission from the pope to once again become a hermit. In 1189, he built a hermitage (today, known as San Giovanni in Fiore Abbey). Since he had a number of disciples, it turned into an entire community of hermits. The strict regime that he set up for them was approved by Pope Celestine III in 1196, thereby creating the Florensian Order. He died in 1202. His remains were moved to San Giovanni in Fiore in 1226. His tomb is still visited there.

His followers continued and were called “Joachimites.” Many belonged to the new Franciscan Order. Some friars came to believe they had a special role to usher in the Age of the Holy Spirit, which  was supposed to bring an end to the Church in its entirety. The ecclesiastical establishment found these ideas quite threatening. As time went on, Joachim’s prophecies came under greater scrutiny by the authorities. In 1263, Joachim’s writings (not the man himself) were officially declared heretical.

The influence of Fiore’s ideas lived on and can be seen to this day. The Third Reich and Marxism have been called versions of his “new age” teachings, and some see him as a foretaste of the “age of Aquarius” and other “new age” ideas.


A Catholic vlogger under the title Sensus Fidelium complains that Vaticum II falls into the category of Joachimite excesses beginning in the 20th Century, quoting Pope John the XXIII calling for a new Pentecost.

Nice 10-minute comparison of Augustine’s and Fiore’s view of history:

An intriguing AI-generated bio from 2023 [link]

Details about the Florensian Abbey [link]

If you want to know everything, this dissertation should get you there.  [link]

What do we do with this?

Joachim had an international reputation in the late 12th century. He functioned as an “apocalyptic advisor” to a number of the popes of the 1180s and the 1190s. Despite living on a lonely mountaintop in his monastery in Calabria, the prophet’s fame had spread very wide. So it shouldn’t surprise us that King Richard the Lion Hearted, when he’s on his way to the Third Crusade and he has to spend the winter in Sicily (because you can’t sail during the winter on the Mediterranean), stops in Messina to asks for Joachim’s prophetic advice about what will happen. There are accounts of Joachim meeting with the king in the winter of 1190-1191. Richard, like any medieval figure, believed in prophetic visions which could provide guidance as to what was to come. One of the accounts says Joachim predicted a victory for Richard — and we know Richard achieved at best a kind of Pyrrhic victory. Consider your own experience with prophets. Do you despise them?

Scholars have traced how Joachim de Fiore’s influence has continued to impact Eurocentric thinking [see Paul Ziolo]. Our present Speaker of the House in the U.S. has been focused on the dawning of the Age to Come his entire life. [Rod’s post about this]. Ask Jesus how important his teaching about this is.

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