At the beginning of the 16th century, there was unrest within the Franciscan Order. Many friars saw the great ideal of Francis of Assisi betrayed and longed for a simple life of service to the poor and needy.

Therefore, in the spring of 1525, the monk Mateo de Bascio left the order without permission, because he wanted to travel the world penniless and serve the people, following the example of St. Francis.


Soon two other monks joined him, and to put a stop to this disobedience, their abbot decided to banish them from the order.

Despised and shunned, they now roamed the country until they voluntarily risked their lives during a plague epidemic in 1527 to care for the sick and accompany them on their last journey.

As a reward for their efforts, they received a letter of protection from the pope for their further work.


They were now allowed to travel the country as itinerant preachers, elect their own superiors and take in other brothers.

They were also allowed to wear their own religious habit, which consisted of a maroon robe and a pointed hood.

Because of this hood they were called Capuchins by the common people, and as they passed through the villages, the children would run up and shout “Cappucini, cappucini! (The hoods are coming!).


More than three hundred years later Vienna is the capital of the most Christian king and the Capuchins are highly respected by the people.

This is probably one of the reasons why the new coffee specialty, which consists of a mocha to which a few drops of whipped cream have been added and whose color is reminiscent of the light brown habit of the mendicant order, was called Capuchin.


But that is not the end of the story.

During the First World War many Austrian soldiers were stationed in Italy. Even there they did not want to give up their usual specialties and above all it was the Viennese coffee they longed for.

Therefore, the Italian coffee house owners tried to fulfill this wish and learned to prepare the Capuchin.

They also translated his name back into its original form and called him “Capuccio”, meaning hood, from which the word cappuccino was later derived.


When modern espresso machines appeared in the 1960s, they developed a less opulent Capuccio variant with frothed milk instead of cream.

And it was from here that cappuccino was eventually spread by vacationers and Italian guest workers in all European countries and became the drink we love today.


The variant with a cap of whipped cream instead of the milk foam, which was later created in Germany and quickly spread to Austria, is no longer a cappuccino but a “Franciscan”.

And so the circle has finally come full circle!


You can read more about this in my book: Cultural histories of European coffee house culture