Brother Leo

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Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata, attributed to Jan van Eyck, c. 1430-32, Philadelphia Museum of Art. Brother Leo crouches to our right.

Brother Leo (died c. 1270) was the favorite disciple, secretary and confessor of St Francis of Assisi.

The dates of his birth and of his becoming a Franciscan are not known; but he was one of the small group of most trusted companions of the saint during his last years. He was a native of Assisi and was one of Francis's first companions, becoming his secretary and confessor.[1]

After Francis's death Leo took a leading part in the opposition to Elias of Cortona. It was Leo who broke in pieces the marble box which Elias had set up for offertories for the completion of the basilica at Assisi. For this Elias had him scourged, and this outrage on St Francis's dearest disciple consolidated the opposition to Elias. Leo was the leader in the early stages of the struggle in the order for the maintenance of St Francis's ideas on strict poverty, and the chief inspirer of the tradition of the Spirituals on St Francis's life and teaching.

A book sometimes attributed to Leo, Speculum perfectionis (The Mirror of Perfection) was likely compiled after his death based on stories that he told and on his writings.[2]

A little volume of his writings has been published by Lemmeus (Scripta fratris Leonis, 1901). Leo assisted at Saint Clara's deathbed, 1253; after suffering many persecutions from the dominant party in the order he died at the Porziuncola in extreme old age, and his remains are buried in the Basilica of St. Francis.

Much that is known concerning him is collected by Paul Sabatier in the "Introduction" to the Speculum perfectionis (1898).[3]

Brother Leo in Literature[edit]

Brother Leo figures prominently in Nikos Kazantzakis' book Saint Francis, or God's Little Pauper. In this book, Leo is portrayed as Francis' constant companion. Leo is utterly faithful and steadfast, and yet struggles with his own shortcomings while following Francis.


  1. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Robinson, Paschal (1910). "Brother Leo". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 
  2. ^ Goff, Jacques Le (2004). Saint Francis of Assisi. Psychology Press. pp. 22–24. ISBN 978-0-415-28473-8. 
  3. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainButler, Edward Cuthbert (1911). "Leo, Brother". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 16 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 440.