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Francis of Assisi, Saint

vision death poverty life

Founder of the Franciscan Order (Friars Minor), Francis of Assisi , son of a wealthy Italian merchant, spent his youth in business and military service. After being captured in battle, held for a year as a prisoner of war, he returned to Assisi in ill health in 1205 and received a vision of *Christ, who appeared to him in church and instructed him to “Repair my home, which is in disrepair.” Francis renounced his inheritance, became a *pilgrim and a beggar, raised money to rebuild the church of San Damiano in Assisi, continued to live in poverty, and attracted followers who formed a community of mendicants. Pope Innocent III sanctioned Francis’s work in c.1210. In 1212, he established, with Saint *Clare, the order of Poor Clares, then went on a *pilgrimage and missionary journey to Egypt and the Holy Land and returned to find the number of Franciscans enormously expanded. In the rule was officially approved by Pope Honorius III, and the Franciscan Order   continued to expand through the later medieval period. Francis was canonized two years after his *death and became immediately popular in art; detailed cycles of scenes from his life are found as early as ten years after his death.


As a single figure, Francis is recognizable by his brown robes (the Franciscan habit) and rope belt with three knots symbolizing the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. He may hold a crucifix (indicating his inspirational vision of Christ as well as his devotion to *prayer) or a lily (symbol of purity). Early stories of his life were collected and expanded in his authorized biography, composed by Saint *Bonaventura in the mid-thirteenth century. Among the many scenes from his life found in cycles from the early thirteenth century onward are: his vision of Christ speaking to him from a crucifix, his renunciation of worldly goods, his “marriage” to “Lady Poverty,” Pope Innocent III’s vision of Francis supporting the crumbling church, his charity in dividing his cloak with a beggar, his apocryphal meeting with Saint *Dominic, his *preaching to the birds, his pact with the wolf of Gubbio, his being tested by walking through fire before the Egyptian sultan, his construction of a *Nativity scene (Christmas crib) at Greccio, receiving the *stigmata, his death, funeral, the vision reported of his *ascension to *heaven in a fiery chariot, and various posthumous *miracles.

Francis, Philip L. - President and Chief Executive Officer of PetSmart, Career, Sidelights [next] [back] Francis, John R.(1856–1913) - Physician, educator, Chronology

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