Francis of Assisi

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Francis of Assisi

Philip Fruytiers - St. Francis of Assisi.jpg
A painting of Saint Francis [lower-alpha 1] 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
Canonized 16 July 1228, Assisi, Papal States by Pope Gregory IX
Major shrine Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi
Feast 4 October
Attributes Franciscan habit, birds, animals, stigmata, crucifix, book, and a skull
Patronage Franciscan Order, poor people, [5] ecology, animals, stowaways, merchants, Aguada, Naga, Cebu, Balamban, Cebu, Dumanjug, Cebu, General Trias, 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. S.Francesco speco.jpg
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.

Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone (c.1181 – 3 October 1226), known as Francis of Assisi, [lower-alpha 2] was an Italian mystic, poet and Catholic friar who founded the religious order of the Franciscans. He was inspired to lead a Christian life of poverty as 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 that symbolize 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. [lower-alpha 3] [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. 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 surnames, di Pietro di Bernardone, come 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 honor of his commercial success and enthusiasm for all things French. [14]

His full name contemporarily could be translated to John Peter "Francis" Bernardone.


Sao Francisco das Chagas, painted by Ducarmo Teles. Pintura Ducarmo Teles 1.jpg
São Francisco das Chagas, painted by Ducarmo Teles.

Early life

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. 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 the 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 kilometer 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

Friars Minor

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 woolen 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, 1295-1300 Legend of St. Francis by Giotto.jpg
Pope Innocent III approving the statutes of the Order of the Franciscans, by Giotto, 1295–1300

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 counselors 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 centered 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

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 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". [27] The mountain would become one of his favourite retreats for prayer. [28]

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. [29] 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. [30] 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. [lower-alpha 4] No known Arab sources mention the visit. [31]

Francis and others treating victims of leprosy or smallpox Leprosy in La Franceschina.jpg
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. [lower-alpha 5]

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. [lower-alpha 6]

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. [32]

Reorganization of the Franciscan Order

St. Francis preaching to the birds outside of Bevagna (by Master of St. Francis). Francis preaching the birds.fresco. master of st francis. Assisi.jpg
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. [33] 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 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 afterward as far north as Bologna. [34]

Stigmata, final days, and sainthood

Francis considered his stigmata part of the Imitation of Christ. by Cigoli, 1699 Cigoli, san francesco.jpg
Francis considered his stigmata part of the Imitation of Christ . 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." [37] 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. [38]

Character and legacy

St. Francis talking to the wolf of Gubbio (Carl Weidemeyer, 1911) Francis wolf.JPG
St. Francis talking to the wolf of Gubbio (Carl Weidemeyer, 1911)
Francis led semi-naked for humility Sacro Monte Orta - Kapelle 13 Karneval 1.jpg
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 respect for the priests who carried out the sacrament. [4] He preached: "Your God is of your flesh, He lives in your nearest neighbor, in every man." [39]

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 [40] [41] 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' 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. [42]

At Greccio near Assisi, around 1220, Francis celebrated Christmas by setting up the first known presepio or crèche (Nativity scene). [43] 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. [43] 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. [43] According to Thomas, it was beautiful in its simplicity, with the manger acting as the altar for the Christmas Mass.[ citation needed ]

Nature and the environment

A garden statue of Francis of Assisi with birds St Francis Statue 2.JPG
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 ..." [44] 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. [45]

Many of the stories that surround the life of Francis say that he had a great love for animals and the environment. [40] 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." [40] 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. [41]

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. [46]

On 29 November 1979, Pope John Paul II declared Francis the patron saint of ecology. [47] 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." [48] 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." [49]

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". [50] 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. [51]

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. [52]

Feast day

Francis' last resting place at Assisi Tomb of Saint Francis - Basilica di San Francesco - Assisi 2016.jpg
Francis' last resting place at Assisi

Francis' feast day is observed on 4 October. A secondary feast in honor 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. [53] Wherever the Tridentine Missal is used, however, the feast of the Stigmata remains in the General Calendar. [54]

Francis is honored with a Lesser Festival in the Church of England, [55] 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. [56] [57]

Papal name

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. [58] [59]

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. [59] [60] [61] [62] 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. [63] [64] It is the first time a pope has taken the name. [lower-alpha 7]


A relic of Francis of Assisi Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church (Grove City, Ohio) - St. Francis of Assisi relic.jpg
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". [66] 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. [67] 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'. [68]

He is also considered the patron against dying alone; against fire; patron of the Franciscan Order and Catholic Action; [69] of families, peace, and needleworkers. [70] and a number of religious congregations. [69]

He is the patron of many churches and other locations around the world, including: Italy; [70] San Pawl il-Baħar, Malta; Freising, Germany; Lancaster, England; Kottapuram, India; General Trias, Philippines; San Francisco; [70] Santa Fe, New Mexico; Colorado; Salina, Kansas; Metuchen, New Jersey; and Quibdó, Colombia.

Outside Catholicism


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). [71] [ 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. [72]

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. [73]


Several Protestant groups have emerged since the 19th century that strive to adhere to the teachings of St. Francis. [74]

There are also some small Franciscan communities within European Protestantism and the Old Catholic Church. There are some Franciscan orders in Lutheran Churches, [75] including the Order of Lutheran Franciscans, the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, and the Evangelische Kanaan Franziskus-Bruderschaft (Kanaan Franciscan Brothers). [76]

Orthodox churches

Francis is not recognized as a saint by any Orthodox Church and stigmatas are considered foreign to the faith. [77] Orthodox Saint, bishop, and theologian Ignatius Brianchaninov called Francis of Assisi's claims delusions. [78]

Francis' feast is celebrated at New Skete, an Orthodox Christian monastic community in Cambridge, New York founded by Catholic Franciscans in the 20th century. [79]

Other religions

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. [80]

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. [81]

Main writings

Francisci Assisiatis opuscula, Antverpiae, apud Balthasarem Moretum, 1623 Lucas wadding, francisci assisiatis opuscula, per balthasar moretus, anversa 1623 (coll. rpiv.).jpg
Francisci Assisiatis opuscula, Antverpiae, apud Balthasarem Moretum, 1623

For a complete list, see The Franciscan Experience. [83]

Francis is considered the first Italian poet by some literary critics. [84] 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. [85]

The anonymous 20th-century prayer "Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace" is widely attributed to Francis, but there is no evidence for it. [86] [87]

In art

The Franciscan Order promoted devotion to the life of Francis from his canonization onwards, and Francis appeared in European art soon after his death. [88] 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. [89]


Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi Assisi San Francesco BW 2.JPG
Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi
Statue of St. Francis in front of the Catholic church of Chania Chania - Katholische Kirche - Innenhof.jpg
Statue of St. Francis in front of the Catholic church of Chania



Selected biographical books

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. [94]


See also



  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), 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. [61] [65]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Franciscans</span> Group of religious orders within the Catholic Church

The Franciscans are a group of related mendicant religious orders of the Catholic Church. Founded in 1209 by the Italian saint Francis of Assisi, these orders include three independent orders for men, orders for nuns such as the Order of Saint Clare, and the Third Order of Saint Francis open to male and female members. They adhere to the teachings and spiritual disciplines of the founder and of his main associates and followers, such as Clare of Assisi, Anthony of Padua, and Elizabeth of Hungary. Several smaller Protestant Franciscan orders or other groups have been established since late 1800's as well, particularly in the Anglican and Lutheran traditions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Order of Friars Minor Capuchin</span> Religious order of Franciscan friars

The Order of Friars Minor Capuchin is a religious order of Franciscan friars within the Catholic Church, one of three "First Orders" that reformed from the Franciscan Friars Minor Observant, the other being the Conventuals (OFMConv). Franciscans reformed as Capuchins in 1525 with the purpose of regaining the original Habit (tunic) of St. Francis of Assisi and also for returning to a stricter observance of the rule established by Francis of Assisi in 1209.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thomas of Celano</span> Italian Franciscan friar and writer

Thomas of Celano was an Italian friar of the Franciscans as well as a poet and the author of three hagiographies about Francis of Assisi.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Canticle of the Sun</span> Religious song

The Canticle of the Sun, also known as Canticle of the Creatures and Laudes Creaturarum, is a religious song composed by Saint Francis of Assisi. It was written in an Umbrian dialect of Italian but has since been translated into many languages. It is believed to be the first work of literature written in the Italian language with a known author.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi</span> Catholic church of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual in Assisi

The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Minor Conventual in Assisi, a town in the Umbria region in central Italy, where Saint Francis was born and died. It is a papal minor basilica and one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage in Italy. With its accompanying friary, Sacro Convento, the basilica is a distinctive landmark to those approaching Assisi. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Order of Friars Minor Conventual</span> Branch of the Catholic Order of Friars Minor, founded by Francis of Assisi in 1209

The Order of Friars Minor Conventual (O.F.M.Conv.) is a male religious fraternity in the Catholic Church and a branch of the Franciscan Order. Conventual Franciscan Friars are identified by the affix O.F.M.Conv. after their names. They are also known as Conventual Franciscans or Minorites.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brother Leo</span> Disciple of Francis of Assisi

Brother Leo was the favorite disciple, secretary and confessor of Francis of Assisi. The dates of his birth and of his becoming a Franciscan are not known; a native of Assisi, he was one of the small group of most trusted companions of the saint during his last years.

Pacificus was a disciple of St. Francis of Assisi, born probably near Ascoli, Italy, in the second half of the twelfth century; died, it is thought, at Lens, France, around 1234.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">La Verna</span> Mountain in Italy

La Verna is a locality on Mount Penna, an isolated mountain of 1,283 metres (4,209 ft) situated in the centre of the Tuscan Apennines, rising above the valley of the Casentino, central Italy. The place is known especially for its association with Saint Francis of Assisi and for the Sanctuary of La Verna, which grew up in his honour. Administratively it falls within the Tuscan province of Arezzo and the comune of Chiusi della Verna, Italy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Papal Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels in Assisi</span> Church in Assisi, Italy

The Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels is a papal minor basilica situated in the plain at the foot of the hill of Assisi, Italy, in the frazione of Santa Maria degli Angeli.

<i>Little Flowers of St. Francis</i>

The Little Flowers of St. Francis is a florilegium, divided into 53 short chapters, on the life of Saint Francis of Assisi that 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 Ugolino da Santa Maria, whose name occurs three times in the Actus. Most scholars are now agreed that the author was Ugolino Brunforte.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sacro Convento</span> Franciscan friary in Assisi, Umbria, Italy

The Sacro Convento is a Franciscan friary in Assisi, Umbria, Italy. The friary is connected as part of three buildings to the upper and lower church of the Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi, which contains the body of Saint Francis. St. Francis wanted to be buried at this location outside of Assisi's city walls, called Hill of Hell, because his master Jesus of Nazareth also was killed like a criminal outside of the city of Jerusalem.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elias of Cortona</span>

Elias of Cortona was a friend of St. Francis of Assisi and among the first to join his newly founder Order of Friars Minor. He was a lay friar and became vicar general and minister general of the Order. Saint Francis himself appointed Elias vicar general in 1221.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mary Frances of the Five Wounds</span> Christian saint

Mary Frances of the Five Wounds, TOSF,, was an Italian Third Order Franciscan who is honored as a saint in the Catholic Church.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Secular Franciscan Order</span> Third branch of the Franciscan Family

The Secular Franciscan Order is the third branch of the Franciscan Family formed by Catholic men and women who seek to observe the Gospel of Jesus by following the example of Francis of Assisi. Secular Franciscans are not like the other third orders, since they are not under the higher direction of the same institute. Brothers and sisters of the Secular Franciscan Order make a spiritual commitment (promises) to their own Rule, and Secular Franciscan fraternities can not exist without the assistance of the first or second Franciscan Orders. The Secular Franciscan Order was the third of the three families founded by Francis of Assisi 800 years ago.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Franciscan spirituality in Protestantism</span> Influence of the spirituality of Catholic saint Francis in Protestant Christians

Emerging since the 19th century, there are several Protestant adherent and groups, sometimes organised as religious orders, which strive to adhere to the teachings and spiritual disciplines of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Francesco da Fabriano - born Francesco Venimbeni - was an Italian Roman Catholic professed member from the Order of Friars Minor. He was a noted writer on various theological and biblical matters and was known for his great breadth of theological knowledge that characterized his religious life.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Clare of Assisi</span> Foundress of the Franciscan Second Order and saint

Chiara Offreduccio, known as Clare of Assisi, was an Italian saint who was one of the first followers of Francis of Assisi.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Order of Friars Minor</span> Mendicant Catholic religious order formed in 1209

The Order of Friars Minor is a mendicant Catholic religious order, founded in 1209 by Francis of Assisi. The order adheres to the teachings and spiritual disciplines of the founder and of his main associates and followers, such as Clare of Assisi, Anthony of Padua, and Elizabeth of Hungary, among many others. The Order of Friars Minor is the largest of the contemporary First Orders within the Franciscan movement.

The patronal feast of Saint Francis and Saint Catherine is a religious and civil celebration annually held on 4 October in Italy and other locations influenced by Christianity.


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General references

  • 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. 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