The sect of the Apostolics, or false Apostles, was started in 1260, at Parma, Italy, by an ignorant man of low extraction named Gerard Segarelli (also written Segalelli, Sagarelli, Cicarelli), who strove to reproduce the life of the Apostles. He adopted a white cloak and grey robe, let his beard and hair grow, and wore the sandals and cord of the Franciscans. He sold his house, gave away the price he received, and traversed the streets preaching penance and Apostolic poverty. He had followers to such an extent that in 1287 the Council of Würzburg forbade them to continue their mode of life and prohibited the faithful from aiding them. Segarelli remained at Parma, was in prison for awhile, and then in the bishop‘s palace, where he was regarded as an object of amusement. The sect increased, and Honorius IV (11 March 1286) and Nicholas IV (1290) condemned it. Segarelli was again imprisoned in 1294, escaped, was retaken, abjured his errors, but relapsed, and the secular authorities burned him at Parma, 18 July 1300.
Dulcin, a bold, mediocre, and unscrupulous man, assumed control of the false Apostles, issued manifestos, and finally collecting his partisans withdrew with them to the mountains of Vercelli and Novara, until 1306, when Clement V organized a crusade against him. He was captured, his body broken and delivered to the flames, and his disciples crushed. Some of the sect appeared, however, in Spain, 1315; John XXII took measures against them in 1318, and they are mentioned by the Council of Narbonne, 1374. Their characteristic from the start was a declaration of a return to the life, and especially the poverty, of the Apostles. Honorius IV and Nicholas IV charged them with violating a decree of the Second Ecumenical Council of Lyons in founding a new mendicant order and with heretical teaching. Dulcin’s tenets were:
- the imitation of Apostolic life
- poverty was to be absolute, obedience, interior
- one engaged himself, though by no vow, to live by alms
Dulcin also taught that the course of humanity is marked by four periods:
- that of the Old Testament
- that of Jesus Christ and the Apostles
- that beginning with Popes Sylvester and Constantine, in which the Church declined through ambition and love of riches
- the era of Segarelli and Dulcin, to the end of the world.
He uttered several false prophecies and professed liberty of thought. Free morals have been imputed to this sect by the Franciscan Salimbene and Bernard Gui, but the papal bulls are silent on this head.