Jump to content

Francis of Assisi

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Francis of Assisi

A painting of Saint Francis[a] by Philip Fruytiers
Founder of the Franciscan Order
Confessor of the Faith and Stigmatist
BornGiovanni di Pietro di Bernardone
Assisi, Duchy of Spoleto, Holy Roman Empire
Died3 October 1226 (aged approximately 44 years)
Assisi, Umbria, Papal States[4]
Venerated in
Canonized16 July 1228, Assisi, Papal States by Pope Gregory IX
Major shrineBasilica of San Francesco d'Assisi
Feast4 October
AttributesFranciscan habit, birds, animals, stigmata, crucifix, book, and a skull
PatronageFranciscan Order, poor people,[5] ecology, animals, stowaways, merchants, Aguada, Naga, Cebu, Balamban, Cebu, Dumanjug, Cebu, General Trias, Cavite, and Italy
The oldest surviving depiction of St. Francis is a fresco near the entrance of the Benedictine abbey of Subiaco, painted between March 1228 and March 1229. He is depicted without the stigmata, but the image is a religious image and not a portrait.[6]

Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone (c. 1181 – 3 October 1226), known as Francis of Assisi, [b] was an Italian mystic, poet, and Catholic friar who founded the religious order of the Franciscans. Inspired to lead a Christian life of poverty, he became a beggar[7] and itinerant preacher.

One of the most venerated figures in Christianity,[8][4] Francis was canonized by Pope Gregory IX on 16 July 1228. He is commonly portrayed wearing a brown habit with a rope tied around his waist, featuring three knots symbolizing the three Franciscan vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

In 1219, he went to Egypt in an attempt to convert the sultan al-Kamil and put an end to the conflict of the Fifth Crusade.[9] In 1223, he arranged for the first live nativity scene as part of the annual Christmas celebration in Greccio.[c][10][11] According to Christian tradition, in 1224 Francis received the stigmata during the apparition of a Seraphic angel in a religious ecstasy.[12]

He founded the men's Order of Friars Minor, the women's Order of St. Clare, the Third Order of St. Francis and the Custody of the Holy Land. Once his community was authorized by Pope Innocent III, he withdrew increasingly from external affairs.

Francis is associated with patronage of animals and the environment. It became customary for churches to hold ceremonies blessing animals on his feast day of the fourth of October, which became World Animal Day. He is known for devotion to the Eucharist.[13] Along with Catherine of Siena, he was designated patron saint of Italy. He is also the namesake of the American city of San Francisco.


Francis (Italian: Francesco d'Assisi; Latin: Franciscus Assisiensis) was baptized Giovanni by his mother. His surname, di Pietro di Bernardone, comes from his father, Pietro di Bernardone. The latter was in France on business when Francis was born in Assisi, a small town in Italy. Upon his return, Pietro took to calling his son Francesco ("Free man" or "Frenchman"), possibly in honour of his commercial success and enthusiasm for all things French.[14]


São Francisco das Chagas, painted by Ducarmo Teles.

Early life[edit]

Francis of Assisi was born c. 1181,[15][16] one of the children of an Italian father, Pietro di Bernardone dei Moriconi, a prosperous silk merchant, and a French mother, Pica di Bourlemont, about whom little is known except that she was a noblewoman originally from Provence.[17]

Indulged by his parents, Francis lived the high-spirited life typical of a wealthy young man.[12] As a youth, Francis became a devotee of troubadours and was fascinated with all things Transalpine.[14] He was handsome, witty, gallant, and delighted in fine clothes. [citation needed] He spent money lavishly.[11] Although many hagiographers remark about his bright clothing, rich friends, and love of pleasures,[17] his displays of disillusionment toward the world that surrounded him came fairly early in his life, as is shown in the "story of the beggar". In this account, he was selling cloth and velvet in the marketplace on behalf of his father when a beggar came to him and asked for alms. At the conclusion of his business deal, Francis abandoned his wares and ran after the beggar. When he found him, Francis gave the man everything he had in his pockets. His friends mocked him for his charity; his father scolded him in rage.[18]

Around 1202, he joined a military expedition against Perugia and was taken as a prisoner at Collestrada. He spent a year as a captive,[19] during which an illness caused him to re-evaluate his life. However, upon his return to Assisi in 1203, Francis returned to his carefree life. In 1205, Francis left for Apulia to enlist in the army of Walter III, Count of Brienne. A strange vision made him return to Assisi and lose interest in worldly life.[12] According to hagiographic accounts, thereafter he began to avoid the sports and feasts of his former companions. A friend asked him whether he was thinking of marrying, to which he answered: "Yes, a fairer bride than any of you have ever seen", meaning his "Lady Poverty".[11]

On a pilgrimage to Rome, he joined the poor in begging at St. Peter's Basilica.[12] He spent some time in lonely places, asking God for divine illumination. He said he had a mystical vision of Jesus Christ in the forsaken country chapel of San Damiano, just outside Assisi, in which the Icon of Christ Crucified said to him, "Francis, Francis, go and repair My church which, as you can see, is falling into ruins." He took this to mean the ruined church in which he was presently praying, and so he sold some cloth from his father's store to assist the priest there.[20] When the priest refused to accept the ill-gotten gains, an indignant Francis threw the coins on the floor.[11]

In order to avoid his father's wrath, Francis hid in a cave near San Damiano for about a month. When he returned to town, hungry and dirty, he was dragged home by his father, beaten, bound, and locked in a small storeroom. Freed by his mother during Bernardone's absence, Francis returned at once to San Damiano, where he found shelter with the officiating priest, but he was soon cited before the city consuls by his father. The latter, not content with having recovered the scattered gold from San Damiano, sought also to force his son to forego his inheritance by way of restitution. In the midst of legal proceedings before the Bishop of Assisi, Francis renounced his father and his patrimony.[11] Some accounts report that he stripped himself naked in token of this renunciation, and the bishop covered him with his own cloak.[21][22]

For the next couple of months, Francis wandered as a beggar in the hills behind Assisi. He spent some time at a neighbouring monastery working as a scullion. He then went to Gubbio, where a friend gave him, as an alms, the cloak, girdle, and staff of a pilgrim. Returning to Assisi, he traversed the city, begging stones for the restoration of St. Damiano. These he carried to the old chapel, set in place himself, and so at length rebuilt it. Over the course of two years, he embraced the life of a penitent, during which he restored several ruined chapels in the countryside around Assisi, among them San Pietro in Spina (in the area of San Petrignano in the valley about a kilometre from Rivotorto, today on private property and once again in ruin); and the Porziuncola, the little chapel of St. Mary of the Angels in the plain just below the town.[11] This later became his favorite abode.[20] By degrees he took to nursing lepers, in the leper colonies near Assisi.

Founding of the Franciscan Orders[edit]

Friars Minor[edit]

One morning in February 1208, Francis was taking part in a Mass in the chapel of St. Mary of the Angels, near which he had by then built himself a hut. The Gospel of the day was the "Commissioning of the Twelve" from the Book of Matthew. The disciples were to go and proclaim that the Kingdom of God is at hand. Francis was inspired to devote himself to a life of poverty. Having obtained a coarse woollen tunic, the dress then worn by the poorest Umbrian peasants, he tied it around himself with a knotted rope and went about exhorting the people of the countryside to penance, brotherly love, and peace. Francis's preaching to ordinary people was unusual as he had no license to do so.[4]

His example attracted others. Within a year Francis had eleven followers. The brothers lived a simple life in the deserted leper colony of Rivo Torto near Assisi; but they spent much of their time wandering through the mountainous districts of Umbria, making a deep impression upon their hearers by their earnest exhortations.[11]

Pope Innocent III approving the statutes of the Order of the Franciscans, by Giotto

In 1209 he composed a simple rule for his followers ("friars"), the Regula primitiva or "Primitive Rule", which came from verses in the Bible. The rule was "to follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps." He then led eleven followers to Rome to seek permission from Pope Innocent III to found a new religious order.[23] Upon entry to Rome, the brothers encountered Bishop Guido of Assisi, who had in his company Giovanni di San Paolo, the Cardinal Bishop of Sabina. The Cardinal, who was the confessor of Pope Innocent III, was immediately sympathetic to Francis and agreed to represent Francis to the pope. After several days, the pope agreed to admit the group informally, adding that when God increased the group in grace and number, they could return for an official audience. The group was tonsured.[24] This was important in part because it recognized Church authority and prevented his following from accusations of heresy, as had happened to the Waldensians decades earlier. Though a number of the pope's counsellors considered the mode of life proposed by Francis to be unsafe and impractical, following a dream in which he saw Francis holding up the Lateran Basilica, he decided to endorse Francis's order. This occurred, according to tradition, on 16 April 1210, and constituted the official founding of the Franciscan Order.[4] The group, then the "Lesser Brothers" (Order of Friars Minor also known as the Franciscan Order or the Seraphic Order), were centred in the Porziuncola and preached first in Umbria, before expanding throughout Italy.[4] Francis was later ordained a deacon, but not a priest.[11]

Poor Clares and Third Order[edit]

From then on, the new order grew quickly. Hearing Francis preaching in the church of San Rufino in Assisi in 1211, the young noblewoman Clare of Assisi sought to live like them. Her cousin Rufino also sought to join. On the night of Palm Sunday, 28 March 1212, Clare clandestinely left her family's palace. Francis received her at the Porziuncola and thereby established the Order of Poor Clares.[25] He gave Clare a religious habit, a garment similar to his own, before lodging her, her younger sister Caterina, and other young women in a nearby monastery of Benedictine nuns until he could provide a suitable monastery. Later he transferred them to San Damiano,[4] to a few small huts or cells. This became the first monastery of the Second Franciscan Order, now known as Poor Clares.[11]

For those who could not leave their affairs, Francis later formed the Third Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance, a fraternity composed of either laity or clergy whose members neither withdrew from the world nor took religious vows. Instead, they observed the principles of Franciscan life in their daily lives.[4] Before long, the Third Order – now titled the Secular Franciscan Order – grew beyond Italy.[26]


Determined to bring the Gospel to all peoples and let God convert them, Francis sought on several occasions to take his message out of Italy. In approximately 1211, a captain of the Medrano family held the lordship of the castle and town of Agoncillo, situated near the city of Logroño, in the region of La Rioja, Spain. Medrano's son was suffering from a mysterious and untreatable ailment. In 1211, Saint Francis of Assisi roamed those very paths of Agoncillo. In a saintly manner, he visited Medrano's Agoncillo castle, placed his mystical hands upon the ailing Medrano boy, and miraculously healed him, securing the Medrano lineage in Agoncillo. As a result, the Medrano family are distinguished by their devotion to Saint Francis of Assisi.[27][28] The Medrano family generously donated some land, including a tower, situated close to the Ebro River within the city of Logroño as a gift to Saint Francis, where he established the first Spanish convent of his Order there. Unfortunately, despite its centuries-long legacy of glory and sanctity, the convent met its demise in the 19th century. Today, the remnants of its walls still remain.[28][29]

In the late spring of 1212, he set out for Jerusalem, but was shipwrecked by a storm on the Dalmatian coast, forcing him to return to Italy. On 8 May 1213, he was given the use of the mountain of La Verna (Alverna) as a gift from Count Orlando di Chiusi, who described it as "eminently suitable for whoever wishes to do penance in a place remote from mankind".[30] The mountain would become one of his favourite retreats for prayer.[31]

In the same year, Francis sailed for Morocco, but an illness forced him to break off his journey while in Spain.

In 1219, accompanied by Friar Illuminatus of Arce and hoping to convert the Sultan of Egypt or be martyred in the attempt, Francis went to Egypt during the Fifth Crusade where a Crusader army had been encamped for over a year besieging the walled city of Damietta. The Sultan, al-Kamil, a nephew of Saladin, had succeeded his father as Sultan of Egypt in 1218 and was encamped upstream of Damietta. A bloody and futile attack on the city was launched by the Christians on 29 August 1219, following which both sides agreed to a ceasefire that lasted four weeks.[32] Probably during this interlude Francis and his companion crossed the Muslims' lines and were brought before the Sultan, remaining in his camp for a few days.[33] Reports give no information about what transpired during the encounter beyond noting that the Sultan received Francis graciously and that Francis preached to the Muslims. He returned unharmed.[d] No known Arab sources mention the visit.[34]

Francis and others treating victims of leprosy or smallpox

Such an incident is alluded to in a scene in the late 13th-century fresco cycle, attributed to Giotto, in the upper basilica at Assisi.[e]

According to some late sources, the Sultan gave Francis permission to visit the sacred places in the Holy Land and even to preach there. All that can safely be asserted is that Francis and his companion left the Crusader camp for Acre, from where they embarked for Italy in the latter half of 1220. Drawing on a 1267 sermon by Bonaventure, later sources report that the Sultan secretly converted or accepted a death-bed baptism as a result of meeting Francis.[f]

Due to these events in Jerusalem,[citation needed] Franciscans have been present in the Holy Land almost uninterruptedly since 1217. They received concessions from the Mameluke Sultan in 1333 with regard to certain Holy Places in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and (so far as concerns the Catholic Church) jurisdictional privileges from Pope Clement VI in 1342.[35]

Reorganization of the Franciscan Order[edit]

St. Francis preaching to the birds outside of Bevagna (by Master of St. Francis).

The growing order of friars was divided into provinces; groups were sent to France, Germany, Hungary, and Spain and to the East. Upon receiving a report of the martyrdom of five brothers in Morocco, Francis returned to Italy via Venice.[36] Cardinal Ugolino di Conti was then nominated by the pope as the protector of the order. Another reason for Francis' return to Italy was that the Franciscan Order had grown at an unprecedented rate compared to previous religious orders, but its organizational sophistication had not kept up with this growth and had little more to govern it than Francis' example and simple rule. To address this problem, Francis prepared a new and more detailed Rule, the "First Rule" or "Rule Without a Papal Bull" (Regula prima, Regula non bullata), which again asserted devotion to poverty and the apostolic life. However, it also introduced a greater institutional structure, though this was never officially endorsed by the pope.[4]

On 29 September 1220, Francis handed over the governance of the order to Brother Peter Catani at the Porziuncola, but Peter died only five months later.

Brother Peter was succeeded by Brother Elias as Vicar of Francis. Two years later, Francis modified the "First Rule", creating the "Second Rule" or "Rule With a Bull", which was approved by Pope Honorius III on 29 November 1223. As the order's official rule, it called on the friars "to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, living in obedience without anything of our own and in chastity". In addition, it set regulations for discipline, preaching, and entering the order. Once the rule was endorsed by the pope, Francis withdrew increasingly from external affairs.[4] During 1221 and 1222, he crossed Italy, first as far south as Catania in Sicily and afterwards as far north as Bologna.[37]

Stigmata, final days, and sainthood[edit]

Francis considered his stigmata part of the Imitation of Christ.[38][39] by Cigoli, 1699

While he was praying on the mountain of Verna, during a forty-day fast in preparation for Michaelmas (29 September), Francis is said to have had a vision on or about 13 September 1224, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, as a result of which he received the stigmata. Brother Leo, who had been with Francis at the time, left a clear and simple account of the event, the first definite account of the phenomenon of stigmata. "Suddenly he saw a vision of a seraph, a six-winged angel on a cross. This angel gave him the gift of the five wounds of Christ."[40] Suffering from these stigmata and from trachoma, Francis received care in several cities (Siena, Cortona, Nocera) to no avail. In the end, he was brought back to a hut next to the Porziuncola. Here he spent his last days dictating his spiritual testament. He died on the evening of Saturday, 3 October 1226, singing Psalm 141, "Voce mea ad Dominum".

On 16 July 1228, he was declared a saint by Pope Gregory IX (the former cardinal Ugolino di Conti, a friend of Francis and Cardinal Protector of the Order). The next day, the pope laid the foundation stone for the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. Francis was buried on 25 May 1230, under the Lower Basilica, but his tomb was soon hidden on orders of Brother Elias, in order to protect it from Saracen invaders. His burial place remained unknown until it was rediscovered in 1818. Pasquale Belli then constructed a crypt for the remains in the Lower Basilica. It was refashioned between 1927 and 1930 into its present form by Ugo Tarchi. In 1978, the remains of Francis were examined and confirmed by a commission of scholars appointed by Pope Paul VI, and put into a glass urn in the ancient stone tomb.[41]

Character and legacy[edit]

St. Francis talking to the wolf of Gubbio (Carl Weidemeyer, 1911)
Francis led semi-naked for humility

Francis set out to imitate Christ and literally carry out his work. This is important in understanding Francis' character, his affinity for the Eucharist and his respect for the priests who carried out the sacrament.[4] He preached: "Your God is of your flesh, He lives in your nearest neighbour, in every man."[42]

He and his followers celebrated and even venerated poverty, which was so central to his character that in his last written work, the Testament, he said that absolute personal and corporate poverty was the essential lifestyle for the members of his order.[4]

He believed that nature itself was the mirror of God. He called all creatures his "brothers" and "sisters", and even preached to the birds[43][44] and supposedly persuaded a wolf in Gubbio to stop attacking some locals if they agreed to feed the wolf. His deep sense of brotherhood under God embraced others, and he declared that "he considered himself no friend of Christ if he did not cherish those for whom Christ died".[4]

Francis's visit to Egypt and attempted rapprochement with the Muslim world had far-reaching consequences, long past his own death, since after the fall of the Crusader Kingdom, it would be the Franciscans, of all Catholics, who would be allowed to stay on in the Holy Land and be recognized as "Custodians of the Holy Land" on behalf of the Catholic Church.[45]

At Greccio near Assisi, around 1220, Francis celebrated Christmas by setting up the first known presepio or crèche (Nativity scene).[46] His nativity imagery reflected the scene in traditional paintings. He used real animals to create a living scene so that the worshipers could contemplate the birth of the child Jesus in a direct way, making use of the senses, especially sight.[46] Both Thomas of Celano and Bonaventure, biographers of Francis, tell how he used only a straw-filled manger (feeding trough) set between a real ox and donkey.[46] According to Thomas, it was beautiful in its simplicity, with the manger acting as the altar for the Christmas Mass.[47]

Nature and the environment[edit]

A garden statue of Francis of Assisi with birds

Francis preached the Christian doctrine that the world was created good and beautiful by God but suffers a need for redemption because of human sin. As someone who saw God reflected in nature, "St. Francis was a great lover of God's creation ..."[48] In the Canticle of the Sun he gives God thanks for Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother Wind, Water, Fire, and Earth, all of which he sees as rendering praise to God.[49]

Many of the stories that surround the life of Francis say that he had a great love for animals and the environment.[43] The Fioretti ("Little Flowers") is a collection of legends and folklore that sprang up after his death. One account describes how one day, while Francis was travelling with some companions, they happened upon a place in the road where birds filled the trees on either side. Francis told his companions to "wait for me while I go to preach to my sisters the birds."[43] The birds surrounded him, intrigued by the power of his voice, and not one of them flew away. He is often portrayed with a bird, typically in his hand.[44]

Another legend from the Fioretti tells that in the city of Gubbio, where Francis lived for some time, was a wolf "terrifying and ferocious, who devoured men as well as animals". Francis went up into the hills and when he found the wolf, he made the sign of the cross and commanded the wolf to come to him and hurt no one. Then Francis led the wolf into the town, and surrounded by startled citizens made a pact between them and the wolf. Because the wolf had "done evil out of hunger", the townsfolk were to feed the wolf regularly. In return, the wolf would no longer prey upon them or their flocks. In this manner Gubbio was freed from the menace of the predator.[50]

On 29 November 1979, Pope John Paul II declared Francis the patron saint of ecology.[51] On 28 March 1982, John Paul II said that Francis' love and care for creation was a challenge for contemporary Catholics and a reminder "not to behave like dissident predators where nature is concerned, but to assume responsibility for it, taking all care so that everything stays healthy and integrated, so as to offer a welcoming and friendly environment even to those who succeed us."[52] The same Pope wrote on the occasion of the World Day of Peace, 1 January 1990, that Francis "invited all of creation – animals, plants, natural forces, even Brother Sun and Sister Moon – to give honour and praise to the Lord. The poor man of Assisi gives us striking witness that when we are at peace with God we are better able to devote ourselves to building up that peace with all creation which is inseparable from peace among all peoples."[53]

In 2015, Pope Francis published his encyclical letter Laudato Si' about the ecological crisis and "care for our common home, which takes its name from the Canticle of the Sun, which Francis of Assisi composed. It presents Francis as "the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically".[54] This inspired the birth of the Laudato Si' Movement, a global network of nearly 1000 organizations promoting the Laudato Si' message and the Franciscan approach to ecology.[55]

It is a popular practice on his feast day, 4 October, for people to bring their pets and other animals to church for a blessing.[56]

Feast day[edit]

Francis' last resting place at Assisi

Francis' feast day is observed on 4 October. A secondary feast in honour of the stigmata received by Francis, celebrated on 17 September, was inserted in the General Roman Calendar in 1585 (later than the Tridentine calendar) and suppressed in 1604, but was restored in 1615. In the New Roman Missal of 1969, it was removed again from the General Calendar, as something of a duplication of the main feast on 4 October, and left to the calendars of certain localities and of the Franciscan Order.[57] Wherever the Tridentine Missal is used, however, the feast of the Stigmata remains in the General Calendar.[58]

Francis is honoured with a Lesser Festival in the Church of England,[59] the Anglican Church of Canada, the Episcopal Church USA, the Old Catholic Churches, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and other churches and religious communities on 4 October.[60][61]

Papal name[edit]

On 13 March 2013, upon his election as Pope, Archbishop and Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina chose Francis as his papal name in honor of Francis of Assisi, becoming Pope Francis.[62][63]

At his first audience on 16 March 2013, Pope Francis told journalists that he had chosen the name in honor of Francis of Assisi, and had done so because he was especially concerned for the well-being of the poor.[63][64][65][66] The pontiff recounted that Cardinal Cláudio Hummes had told him, "Don't forget the poor", right after the election; that made Bergoglio think of Francis.[67][68] It is the first time a pope has taken the name.[g]


A relic of Francis of Assisi

On 18 June 1939, Pope Pius XII named Francis a joint patron saint of Italy along with Catherine of Siena with the apostolic letter "Licet Commissa".[70] Pope Pius also mentioned the two saints in the laudative discourse he pronounced on 5 May 1949, in the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.[citation needed]

Francis is the patron of animals and ecology.[71] As such, he is the patron saint of the Laudato Si' Movement, a network that promotes the Franciscan ecological paradigm as outlined in the encyclical Laudato Si'.[72]

He is also considered the patron against dying alone; against fire; patron of the Franciscan Order and Catholic Action;[73] of families, peace, and needleworkers.[74] and a number of religious congregations.[73]

He is the patron of many churches and other locations around the world, including: Italy;[74] San Pawl il-Baħar, Malta; Freising, Germany; Lancaster, England; Kottapuram, India; General Trias, Philippines; San Francisco;[74] Santa Fe, New Mexico; Colorado; Salina, Kansas; Metuchen, New Jersey; and Quibdó, Colombia.

Outside Catholicism[edit]


One of the results of the Oxford Movement in the Anglican Church during the 19th century was the re-establishment of religious orders, including some of Franciscan inspiration. The principal Anglican communities in the Franciscan tradition are the Community of St. Francis (women, founded 1905), the Poor Clares of Reparation (P.C.R.), the Society of St. Francis (men, founded 1934), and the Community of St. Clare (women, enclosed).[75][citation needed]

A U.S.-founded order within the Anglican world communion is the Seattle-founded order of Clares in Seattle (Diocese of Olympia), The Little Sisters of St. Clare.[76]

The Anglican church retained the Catholic tradition of blessing animals on or near Francis' feast day of 4 October, and more recently Lutheran and other Protestant churches have adopted the practice.[77]


Several Protestant groups have emerged since the 19th century that strive to adhere to the teachings of St. Francis.[78]

There are also some small Franciscan communities within European Protestantism and the Old Catholic Church. There are some Franciscan orders in Lutheran Churches,[79] including the Order of Lutheran Franciscans, the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, and the Evangelische Kanaan Franziskus-Bruderschaft (Kanaan Franciscan Brothers).[80]

Orthodox churches[edit]

Francis is not officially recognized as a saint by any Orthodox Church and stigmata are considered foreign to the faith.[81] Orthodox Saint, bishop, and theologian Ignatius Brianchaninov referred to a particular vision of Francis of Assisi as a delusion:

"'When Francis was caught up to heaven,' says a writer of his life, 'God the Father, on seeing him, was for a moment in doubt to as [sic] to whom to give the preference, to His Son by nature, or to His son by grace-Francis.' What can be more frightful or madder than this blasphemy, what can be sadder than this delusion?".[82]

However, this specific vision is not mentioned in the official biography of Francis, the Omnibus of Sources, and appears to be apocryphal.

Francis' feast is celebrated at New Skete, an Eastern Orthodox monastic community in Cambridge, New York founded by Catholic Franciscans in the 20th century.[83]

Other religions[edit]

Outside of Christianity, other individuals and movements are influenced by the example and teachings of Francis. These include the popular philosopher Eckhart Tolle, who has made videos on the spirituality of Francis.[84]

The interreligious spiritual community of Skanda Vale in Wales also takes inspiration from the example of Francis, and models itself as an interfaith Franciscan order.[85]

Main writings[edit]

Francisci Assisiatis opuscula, Antverpiae, apud Balthasarem Moretum, 1623
  • Canticum Fratris Solis or Laudes Creaturarum; Canticle of the Sun, 1224
  • Oratio ante Crucifixum, Prayer before the Crucifix, 1205 (extant in the original Umbrian dialect as well as in a contemporary Latin translation)
  • Regula non bullata, the Earlier Rule, 1221
  • Regula bullata, the Later Rule, 1223
  • Testament, 1226
  • Admonitions, 1205 to 1209[86]

For a complete list, see The Franciscan Experience.[87]

Francis is considered the first Italian poet by some literary critics.[88] He believed commoners should be able to pray to God in their own language, and he wrote often in the dialect of Umbria instead of Latin.[89]

The anonymous 20th-century prayer "Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace" is widely attributed to Francis, but there is no evidence for it.[90][91]

In art[edit]

The Franciscan Order promoted devotion to the life of Francis from his canonization onwards, and Francis appeared in European art soon after his death.[92] The order commissioned many works for Franciscan churches, either showing him with sacred figures or episodes from his life. There are large early fresco cycles in the Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi, parts of which are shown above.

There are countless seventeenth- and eighteenth-century depictions of Saint Francis of Assisi and a musical angel in churches and museums throughout western Europe. The titles of these depictions vary widely, at times describing Francis as "consoled", "comforted", in "ecstasy" or in "rapture"; the presence of the musical angel may or may not be mentioned.[93]


Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi
Statue of St. Francis in front of the Catholic church of Chania



Selected biographical books[edit]

Hundreds of books have been written about him. The following suggestions are from Franciscan friar Conrad Harkins (1935–2020), director of the Franciscan Institute at St. Bonaventure University.[98]

  • Paul Sabatier, Life of St. Francis of Assisi (Scribner's, 1905).
  • Johannes Jurgensen, St. Francis of Assisi: A Biography (translated by T. O’Conor Sloane; Longmans, 1912).
  • Arnaldo Fortini, Francis of Assisi (translated by Helen Moak, Crossroad, 1981).
  • Nikos Kazantzakis, Saint Francis (Ο Φτωχούλης του Θεού, in Greek; 1954)
  • John Moorman, St. Francis of Assisi (SPCK, 1963)
  • John Moorman, "The Spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi" (Our Sunday Visitor, 1977).
  • Erik Doyle, St. Francis and the Song of Brotherhood (Seabury, 1981).
  • Raoul Manselli, St. Francis of Assisi (translated by Paul Duggan; Franciscan, 1988).


  • In Rubén Darío's poem "Los Motivos del Lobo" ("The Reasons of the Wolf") St. Francis tames a terrible wolf only to discover that the human heart harbours darker desires than those of the beast.
  • In Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan Karamazov invokes the name of "Pater Seraphicus", an epithet applied to St. Francis, to describe Alyosha's spiritual guide Zosima. The reference is found in Goethe's Faust, Part 2, Act 5, lines 11,918–25.[99]
  • In Mont Saint Michel and Chartres, Henry Adams' chapter on the "Mystics" discusses Francis extensively.
  • Francesco's Friendly World was a 1996–97 direct-to-video Christian animated series produced by Lyrick Studios that was about Francesco and his talking animal friends as they rebuild the Church of San Damiano.[100]
  • Rich Mullins co-wrote Canticle of the Plains, a musical, with Mitch McVicker. Released in 1997, it was based on the life of St. Francis of Assisi, but told as a Western story.
  • Bernard Malamud's novel The Assistant (1957) features a protagonist, Frank Alpine, who exemplifies the life of St. Francis in mid-20th-century Brooklyn, New York City.[citation needed]
  • G. K. Chesterton's book St. Francis of Assisi, a biographical and philosophical explanation of St. Francis[101]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ The tunic that Saint Francis actually wore was simpler.[1] It reportedly was made by himself to be unattractive and uncomfortable,[2] unlike today's Franciscan habits.[3]
  2. ^ His mother was French and that may be why he was known as Francesco (Francis), a name with the possible meaning "Frenchman".
  3. ^ The Christmas scenes made by Saint Francis at the time were not inanimate objects, but live ones, later commercialised into inanimate representations of the Blessed Lord and His parents.
  4. ^ e.g., Jacques de Vitry, Letter 6 February or March 1220 and Historia orientalis (c. 1223–1225) cap. XXII; Tommaso da Celano, Vita prima (1228), §57: the relevant passages are quoted in an English translation in Tolan 2009, pp. 19– and Tolan 2009, p. 54 respectively.
  5. ^ e.g., Chesterton, Saint Francis, Hodder & Stoughton (1924) chapter 8. Tolan 2009, p. 126 discusses the incident as recounted by Bonaventure, an incident which does not extend to a fire actually being lit.
  6. ^ For grants of various permissions and privileges to Francis as attributed by later sources, see, e.g., Tolan 2009, pp. 258–263. The first mention of the Sultan's conversion occurs in a sermon delivered by Bonaventure on 4 October 1267. See Tolan 2009, p. 168
  7. ^ On the day of his election, the Vatican clarified that his official papal name was "Francis", not "Francis I". A Vatican spokesman said that the name would become Francis I if and when there is a Francis II.[65][69]


  1. ^ Bryner, Jeanna (10 September 2007). "Tunic Worn by Saint Francis Identified". LiveScience. Retrieved 18 December 2023.
  2. ^ Wolf, Kenneth (March 2003). "St. Francis and His Tunic". Oxford Academic. Retrieved 18 December 2023.
  3. ^ Graves, Jim (22 March 2019). "7 Religious Talk About the Habits They Wear". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 18 December 2023. but our habits are comfortable to wear
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Brady & Cunningham 2020.
  5. ^ Pavia, Will (14 March 2013). "St Francis of Assisi: patron saint of the poor". thetimes.co.uk. News Corporation. Retrieved 29 May 2023.
  6. ^ Brooke 2006, pp. 161–162.
  7. ^ Zielinski, Karen (23 January 2019). "Begging like St. Francis". Global Sisters Report.
  8. ^ Delio 2013.
  9. ^ Tolan 2009.
  10. ^ Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Christmas" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "St. Francis of Assisi" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  12. ^ a b c d Cross, F. L., ed. (2005). "Francis of Assisi". The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199566712.
  13. ^ "St. Francis of Assisi – Franciscan Friars of the Renewal". Franciscanfriars.com. Archived from the original on 15 December 2019. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
  14. ^ a b Chesterton, Gilbert Keith (1924). St. Francis of Assisi (14 ed.). Garden City, New York: Image Books. p. 158.
  15. ^ "St. Francis of Assisi". Catholic Online. Retrieved 22 September 2023.
  16. ^ Dagger, Jacob (November–December 2006). "Blessing All Creatures, Great and Small". Duke Magazine. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  17. ^ a b Englebert, Omer (1951). The Lives of the Saints. New York: Barnes & Noble. p. 529. ISBN 978-1-56619-516-4.
  18. ^ Chesterton (1924), pp. 40–41
  19. ^ St. Bonaventure; Cardinal Manning (1867). The Life of St. Francis of Assisi (from the Legenda Sancti Francisci) (1988 ed.). Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books & Publishers. p. 190. ISBN 978-0-89555-343-0.
  20. ^ a b Chesterton (1924), pp. 54–56
  21. ^ de la Riva, Fr. John (2011). "Life of St. Francis". St. Francis of Assisi National Shrine. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  22. ^ Kiefer, James E. (1999). "Francis of Assisi, Friar". Biographical sketches of memorable Christians of the past. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  23. ^ Chesterton (1924), pp. 107–108
  24. ^ Galli (2002), pp. 74–80
  25. ^ Chesterton (1924), pp. 110–111
  26. ^ "Secular Franciscan Order". Secular Franciscan Order US. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  27. ^ Recoge esta historia, entre otros, D. Cesáreo Goicoechea en "Castillos de la Rioja, Logroño, 1949, y Fray Domingo Hernáez de Torres en "Primera parte de la Crónica ·[franciscana] de la Provincia de Burgos". Madrid, 1772.
  28. ^ a b Revista Hidalguía número 9. Año 1955 (in Spanish). Ediciones Hidalguia. pp. 181–182.
  29. ^ Rioja, El Día de la (19 February 2024). "Un convento de armas tomar". El Día de la Rioja (in Spanish). Retrieved 28 April 2024.
  30. ^ Fioretti quoted in: St. Francis, The Little Flowers, Legends, and Lauds, trans. N. Wydenbruck, ed. Otto Karrer (London: Sheed and Ward, 1979) 244.
  31. ^ Chesterton (1924), p. 130
  32. ^ Runciman, Steven. History of the Crusades, vol. 3: The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades, Cambridge University Press (1951, paperback 1987), pp. 151–161.
  33. ^ Tolan 2009, pp. 4–.
  34. ^ Tolan 2009, p. 5.
  35. ^ Bulla Gratias agimus, commemorated by Pope John Paul II in a Letter dated 30 November 1992. See also Tolan 2009, p. 258. On the Franciscan presence, including a historical overview, see, generally the official website at Custodia and Custodian of the Holy Land
  36. ^ Bonaventure (1867), p. 162
  37. ^ Ruggeri, Francesco Rocco (2018). Sicilian Visitors Volume 2. Lulu.com. ISBN 978-1-387-97789-5.
  38. ^ Le Goff, Jacques. Saint Francis of Assisi, 2003 ISBN 0-415-28473-2 p. 44
  39. ^ Miles, Margaret Ruth. The Word made flesh: a history of Christian thought, 2004 ISBN 978-1-4051-0846-1 pp. 160–161
  40. ^ Chesterton (1924), p. 131
  41. ^ "Key to Umbria: Assisi". www.keytoumbria.com. Retrieved 9 May 2021.
  42. ^ Eimerl, Sarel (1967). The World of Giotto: c. 1267–1337. et al. Time-Life Books. p. 15. ISBN 0-900658-15-0.
  43. ^ a b c Bonaventure (1867), pp. 78–85
  44. ^ a b Brunforte, Ugolino (1958). The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi. Calvin College: CCEL. ISBN 978-1-61025212-6.
  45. ^ "Custody of the Holy Land". terrasanta.edu.jo. Archived from the original on 28 September 2021. Retrieved 9 May 2021.
  46. ^ a b c Bonaventure (1867), p. 178
  47. ^ Thomas of Celano (1228–1229). "The Life of Saint Francis". In Armstrong, O.F.M. Cap., Regis J.; Hellmann, O.F.M. Conv., J. A. Wayne; Short, O.F.M., William J. (eds.). Francis of Assisi: Early Documents. Vol. 1. New City Press (published 2001). p. 255. ISBN 1-56548-115-1.
  48. ^ Warner OFM, Keith (April 2010). "St. Francis: Patron of ecology". U.S. Catholic. 75 (4): 25.
  49. ^ Doyle, Eric (1996). St. Francis and the Song of Brotherhood and Sisterhood. Franciscan Institute. ISBN 978-1576590034.
  50. ^ Hudleston, Roger, ed. (1926). The Little Flowers of Saint Francis. Archived from the original on 5 July 2019. Retrieved 19 September 2014.
  51. ^ Pope John Paul II (29 November 1979). "Inter Sanctos (Apostolic Letter AAS 71)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 August 2014. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  52. ^ Pope John Paul II (28 March 1982). "Angelus". Retrieved 9 June 2020.
  53. ^ Pope John Paul II (8 December 1989). "World Day of Peace 1990". Retrieved 24 October 2012.
  54. ^ Pope Francis, "Laudato Si': On care for our common home", Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
  55. ^ "Global Catholic climate group rebrands as Laudato Si' Movement", National Catholic Reporter, August 2, 2021.
  56. ^ Pappas, William. "The Patron Saint of Animals and Ecology", Earthday.org, October 6, 2016
  57. ^ Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana), p. 139
  58. ^ "The Stigmata of Saint Francis, Appearing and Disappearing in the Liturgy". Retrieved 9 May 2021.
  59. ^ "The Calendar". The Church of England. Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  60. ^ "St. Francis of Assisi". St. Francis of Tejas Church. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  61. ^ Robinson, Michael (1999). St. Francis of Assisi: The Legend and the Life. Great Britain: A&C Black. p. 267. ISBN 0-225-66736-3.
  62. ^ Pope Francis (16 March 2013). "Audience to Representatives of the Communications Media". Retrieved 9 August 2014.
  63. ^ a b Marotta, Giulia (2016). "Revolutionary Monasticism?: Franciscanism and Ecclesiastical Hierarchy as a Hermeneutic Dilemma of Contemporary Catholicism". In Hunt, Stephen J. (ed.). Handbook of Global Contemporary Christianity: Movements, Institutions, and Allegiance. Brill Handbooks on Contemporary Religion. Vol. 12. Leiden: Brill Publishers. pp. 165–184. doi:10.1163/9789004310780_009. ISBN 978-90-04-26539-4. ISSN 1874-6691.
  64. ^ "Pope Francis explains decision to take St Francis of Assisi's name". The Guardian. London. 16 March 2013. Archived from the original on 17 March 2013.
  65. ^ a b "New Pope Francis visits St. Mary Major, collects suitcases and pays bill at hotel". News.va. 14 March 2013. Archived from the original on 17 March 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  66. ^ Michael Martínez, CNN Vatican analyst: Pope Francis' name choice 'precedent shattering', CNN (13 March 2013). Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  67. ^ Laura Smith-Spark et al. : Pope Francis explains name, calls for church 'for the poor' CNN,16 March 2013
  68. ^ "Pope Francis wants 'poor Church for the poor'". BBC News. 16 March 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2013.
  69. ^ Alpert, Emily (13 March 2013). "Vatican: It's Pope Francis, not Pope Francis I". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 15 March 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  70. ^ Pope Pius XII (18 June 1939). "Licet Commissa" (Apostolic Letter AAS 31, pp. 256–257)
  71. ^ "Saint Francis of Assisi". Franciscan Media. Retrieved 20 March 2019.
  72. ^ Laudato Si' Movement, "Who we are", retrieved March 2, 2023
  73. ^ a b "Feast of St. Francis of Assisi", Catholic News Service, October 4, 2018
  74. ^ a b c "Saint Francis of Assisi", Newman Connection
  75. ^ "Society of St Francis". anglicanfranciscans.org. Retrieved 25 January 2024.
  76. ^ "The Little Sisters of St. Clare". Archived from the original on 2 September 2010. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  77. ^ Bliss, Peggy Ann (3 October 2019). "Animals to be blessed Saturday at Episcopal Cathedral" (PDF). The San Juan Daily Star. p. 20. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 October 2019. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  78. ^ Heimann, Mary (May 2017). "The secularisation of St Francis of Assisi". British Catholic History. 33 (3): 401–420. doi:10.1017/bch.2017.4. ISSN 2055-7973.
  79. ^ "Order of Lutheran Franciscans". Lutheranfranciscans.org. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
  80. ^ Robson, Michael J. P. (2011). The Cambridge Companion to Francis of Assisi. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780511978128.
  81. ^ "Manifestations - Questions & Answers".
  82. ^ Chapter 11 from "The Arena" by Ignatius Brianchaninov.
  83. ^ "Events, New Skete Monastery". newskete.org. Archived from the original on 19 November 2021. Retrieved 21 December 2019.
  84. ^ "St Francis of Assisi – What is Perfect Joy!". Eckhart Tolle Now. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  85. ^ "Skanda Vale – Frequently asked questions". Skanda Vale. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  86. ^ "Essay about St. Francis and the Franciscan Admonitions | Bartleby".
  87. ^ "Writings of St. Francis – Part 2". Archived from the original on 28 January 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  88. ^ Brand, Peter; Pertile, Lino, eds. (1999). "2 – Poetry. Francis of Assisi (pp. 5ff.)". The Cambridge History of Italian Literature. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-52166622-0. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  89. ^ Chesterton, G.K. (1987). St. Francis. Image. pp. 160 p. ISBN 0-385-02900-4. Archived from the original on 12 August 2013.
  90. ^ Renoux, Christian (2001). La prière pour la paix attribuée à saint François: une énigme à résoudre. Paris: Editions franciscaines. ISBN 2-85020-096-4.
  91. ^ Renoux, Christian. "The Origin of the Peace Prayer of St. Francis". Retrieved 9 August 2014.
  92. ^ Zutshi, Patrick (10 July 2018). "Images of Franciscans and Dominicans in a manuscript of Alexander Nequam's Florilegium (Cambridge University Library, MS Gg.6.42)". In Zutshi, Patrick; Robson, Michael (eds.). The Franciscan order in the medieval English province and beyond. Amsterdam University Press. pp. 51–66. doi:10.1017/9789048537754.004. ISBN 978-90-485-3775-4. S2CID 240379755.
  93. ^ Roberts, Holly (2020). "The Musical Rapture of Saint Francis of Assisi: Hagiographic Adaptations and Iconographic Influences". Music in Art: International Journal for Music Iconography. 45 (1–2): 72–86. ISSN 1522-7464.
  94. ^ "L'ami (2016)". imdb.com. 2016. Retrieved 25 November 2023. The movie follows from 1209 to 1226 Elia da Cortona, one of the most faithful followers of S. Francis.
  95. ^ a b St. Francis of Assisi: Sign of Contradiction, retrieved 12 September 2023
  96. ^ In Search of Saint Francis of Assisi, Green Apple Entertainment. Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  97. ^ "Pope Francis YouTube Doc 'The Letter: A Message For Our Earth' Launches From Vatican City – Trailer". Variety. 4 October 2022. Retrieved 25 November 2022.
  98. ^ Harkins, Conrad (1994). "Francis of Assisi: Recommended Resources". Christianity Today. Archived from the original on 11 April 2021. Retrieved 11 April 2021.
  99. ^ Медведев, Александр (2015). ""Сердце милующее": образы праведников в творчестве Ф. М. Достоевского и св. Франциск Ассизский". Известия Уральского федерального университета. Серия 2: Гуманитарные науки. 2 (139): 222–233. Retrieved 11 July 2019 – via www.academia.edu.
  100. ^ "Mark Bernthal" (Video). www.markbernthal.com.
  101. ^ "St. Francis of Assisi by G. K. Chesterton". 1923.

General references[edit]

  • Brady, Ignatius Charles; Cunningham, Lawrence (29 September 2020). "St. Francis of Assisi". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  • Brooke, Rosalind B. (2006). The Image of St Francis: Responses to Sainthood in the Thirteenth Century. Cambridge: University Press.
  • Delio, Ilia (20 March 2013). "Francis of Assisi, nature's mystic". The Washington Post..
  • Scripta Leonis, Rufini et Angeli Sociorum S. Francisci: The Writings of Leo, Rufino and Angelo Companions of St. Francis, original manuscript, 1246, compiled by Brother Leo and other companions (1970, 1990, reprinted with corrections), Oxford: Oxford University Press, edited by Rosalind B. Brooke, in Latin and English, ISBN 0-19-822214-9, containing testimony recorded by intimate, longtime companions of St. Francis.
  • Francis of Assisi, The Little Flowers (Fioretti), London, 2012. limovia.net ISBN 978-1-78336-013-0.
  • Bonaventure; Cardinal Manning (1867). The Life of St. Francis of Assisi (from the Legenda Sancti Francisci) (1988 ed.). Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books & Publishers ISBN 978-0-89555-343-0.
  • Chesterton, Gilbert Keith (1924). St. Francis of Assisi (14th ed.). Garden City, New York: Image Books.
  • Englebert, Omer (1951). The Lives of the Saints. New York: Barnes & Noble.
  • Karrer, Otto, ed., St. Francis, The Little Flowers, Legends, and Lauds, trans. N. Wydenbruck (London: Sheed and Ward, 1979).
  • Tolan, John V. (2009). Saint Francis and the Sultan: The Curious History of a Christian-Muslim Encounter. Oxford: University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-923972-6.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]