In advanced religion, indeed, prayer is the chosen vehicle of the free spirit of worship. Its mechanism is not unduly rigid, and it is largely autonomous, being rid of subservience to other ritual factors.
The sect of the New Spirit, or of the Free Spirit as it was afterwards called, spread widely through the north of France and into Switzerland and Germany.
They were especially numerous in the Rhineland in the end of the 13th and during the 14th century; and they seem to have corrupted the originally orthodox communities of Beghards, for Beghards and Brethren of the Free Spirit are used henceforward as convertible terms, and the same immoralities are related of both.
For the further growth of the commune, the action of the great archbishop, Heribert (1018-1045), the establishment of the carroccio, the development of Milanese supremacy in Lombardy, the destruction of Lodi, Como, Pavia and other neighbouring cities, the exhibition of free spirit and power in the Lombard league, and the battle of Legnano, see the articles Italy and Lombards.
More serious still, from the point of view of the Church, was the association of these wandering mendicants with the mystic heresies of the Fraticelli, the Apostolici and the pantheistic Brethren of the Free Spirit.