Little Flowers of St. Francis

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The Little Flowers of St. Francis (Italian Fioretti di San Francesco) is a florilegium (excerpts of his body of work), divided into 53 short chapters, on the life of Saint Francis of Assisi which was composed at the end of the 14th century. The anonymous Italian text, almost certainly by a Tuscan author, is a version of the Latin Actus beati Francisci et sociorum eius, of which the earliest extant manuscript is one of 1390 AD. Luke Wadding ascribes the text to Fra. Ugolino da Santa Maria, whose name occurs three times in the Actus. Most scholars are now agreed that the author was Ugolino Brunforte (c. 1262 – c. 1348).

Written a century and a half after the death of Francis of Assisi, the text is not regarded as an important primary source for the saint’s biography.[1] However, it has been the most popular account of his life and relates many colourful anecdotes, miracles and pious examples from the lives of Francis and his followers (such as Brother Juniper). These poetic stories shed much light upon the genesis and development of the following of Saint Francis. Indeed, some stories contained in the Fioretti can be found in much earlier works; for example, Saint Francis preaching to the birds was described by Fra. Masseo, and written of by the Englishman Roger of Wendover, in 1236.

The text was the inspiration for the Roberto Rossellini’s 1950 film Francesco, giullare di Dio (“Francis, God’s Jester”) which was co-written by Federico Fellini. It was also used as a source for the libretto of Olivier Messiaen’s opera Saint-François d'Assise.


  1. ^ Madeleine L'Engle, and W. Heywood. The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi. New York: Vintage Spiritual Classic, 1998


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