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Many groups of pious individuals adopt the convention of wearing a knotted cord in recognition of the ropes that bound Jesus and as a reminder of their commitment. The white cord worn by dedicated Franciscans has from one to five knots that are tied in a bullion style. The three knots on the friar's cord represent his vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The Poor Clares wear a fourth knot that represents a commitment of enclosure. The Secular Franciscans wear a cord of five knots that represent the same as the friars' three as well as one for penance and one for detachment.
"The Five Knots of the Franciscan Cord." The Secular Franciscan, http://rhinoweb.org/the-five-knots-of-the-franciscan-cord
"Franciscan Symbols: Franciscan Cord." Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception,http://www.mficaust.org.au/symbols/franciscan_cord.html
Image caption: Saint Clare wears a fourth knot that represents a commitment to enclosure. Maestro di Gualdo Tadino, Santa Chiara Dossal, Santa Chiara, Assisi, Italy.