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Saint Francis of Assisi

1182 - 1226 (44)

 

Feast Day - 4 October

 

 

Saint Francis Portrait, Subiaco

Photo - Subiaco monastery guide book

 

 

Saint Francis of Assisi, Subiaco

Photo Holly Hayes - Sacred Destinations

 

 

Saint Francis of Assisi (1182 - 1226 (44)) frescoed by the Maestro di Frate Francesco in the Capella di San Gregorio at the Monastero di San Benedetto near Subiaco (also known as Sacro Speco) - this particular image of the much imaged Saint and Paradox's "greatest Christian" is both arresting and unique because it is the only existing image that must have been completed during his life.  The saint is shown without a halo or the marks of the stigmata - which means the painting was done before 1224. 

 

Photo Holly Hayes - Sacred Destinations - where there is a very good information page and lots more photos.

 

Francis was founder of the mendicant Franciscan Order ("Friars Minor" et al) and is the Patron Saint of Italy (Saints' Day October 4th).  Unlike Benedict, Bernard and others Francis was no intellectual, promoter, soldier or organizer, but a member of the merchant class who became a radical reformer and whose personality and magnetism towered above his contemporaries (and indeed those who went before and came after him).

 

Francis had started out in 1211 in a little abandoned chapel in a forest on the plain below Assisi, said to date back to the 350s, and around it the huts of the first Franciscan Monastery sprang up.  This chapel, called the Porziuncola Chapel, no longer in a forest, can still be visited.

 

 

Assisi itself is a beautiful little town, though the days of finding visiting times that avoid the hoards of pilgrims seem to be over!

 

 

The tiny painted church of the Vittorino in Gubbio was where Saint Francis visited with a wolf who had been eating people, and persuaded the beast to reform its behaviour (see the Book of the Little Flowers).

 

 

In the Duomo in Spoleto there is a letter written by Saint Francis, and there is another one plus memorabilia in his Basilica in  Assisi.  A much more atmospheric (though artefact free) experience can be had if you keep going East to the Gargano, where you can descend to San Michele's Sanctuary on the same stone stairs as Francis.

 

 

And if staying around the hills of Southern Umbria grabs you more, it is possible to walk the "Cammino di Francesco" (sic) - an 80 km circular hike around "the Sacred Valley" through beautiful south Umbrian countryside and medieval hamlets.  The route includes four of San Francesco's sanctuaries and is run from the town of Rieti.  You can also live the experience via DVD which can be bought via their website.

 

Further afield Francis featured briefly in the 5th Crusade when he appeared in Egypt in 1219.  He told the Franks that they were about to lose the next battle (which they did) and counselled the Egyptian Sultan to convert to Christianity (which he did not) then went home.  The event is portrayed, inter alia, on the pulpit of Santa Croce in Florence and on an "Episodes in the Life of San Francesco" painting in the same Franciscan Basilica.

 

San Francesco also travelled to Santiago de Compostela in 1213-14.

 

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All original work Adrian Fletcher 2000-2015 - not to be reproduced without permission