This article claims that the initial religious aspirations of the Friars Minor were heavily indebted to eremitical ideals, and that these ideals were never totally forgotten, notwithstanding the quick transformation of the Franciscan movement into an order of professional priests and theologians. The article sketches first of all the eremitical roots of the early Franciscan life. Then it covers the representation of early Franciscan hermitages and the eremitical life in the Vitae of Francis, pointing out specific parallels with Athanasius's Life of Antony. Subsequently, it analyses Francis's conception of the eremitical life according to his Regula pro eremitoriis data. It closes with a review of the ways in which eremitical traditions were retained, both as formative elements in the Franciscan handbooks of religious instruction, and as statements of protest and escape from dominant developments within the Order.