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Christian Saints

St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi was born into a wealthy family in Umbria, Italy, in 1182. His father was a prosperous merchant, and Francis planned to follow him in his trade, although he also dreamt of becoming a troubadour or a knight. In 1201 he took part in an attack on Perugia, was taken hostage, and remained a captive there for a year. As a result of his captivity and a severe illness his mind began to turn to religion, but around 1205 he enlisted in another military expedition, to Apulia. However, he had a dream in which God called him to His service, and he returned to Assisi and began to care for the sick. In 1206, he had a vision in which Christ called him to repair His Church. Francis resolved to become a hermit, and devoted himself to repairing the church. His father, angry and embarrassed by Francis' behavior, imprisoned him and brought him before the bishop as disobedient. Francis abandoned all his rights and possessions, including his clothes.
        Two years later he started to preach, and was soon joined by several disciples. When they numbered eleven he gave them a short Rule and received approval from pope Innocent III for the brotherhood, which Francis called the Friars Minor. The friars  travelled throughout central Italy and beyond, preaching for people to turn to Christ. In his life and preaching, Francis emphasized simplicity and poverty, relying on God's providence rather than worldly goods. The brothers worked or begged for what they needed to live, and any surplus was given to the poor. His poetical gift Francis turned to the writing of prayers and hymns. In 1212, Chiara (Clare) di Offreduccio, a girl from a noble family of Assisi, became his spiritual student. Francis founded the Second Order for her, a sisterhood at San Damiano, the Poor Ladies, later the Poor Clares. In 1219, Francis joined the crusaders and preached to the Sultan of Egypt.
        In time the brotherhood became very large, as more and more people, attracted by the preaching and example of Francis, joined him. The small brotherhood grew into a large order.  Eventually Francis wrote a more detailed Rule of the Franciscans. He gave up leadership of the Order and went to the mountains to live in secluded prayer. There, on Mount La Verna, in 1224, during one of his prayers he got the impression of the stigmata, marks similar to those of the five wounds of Christ Crucified. He returned to visit the Franciscans, and Clara and her sisters, and a few of his followers remained with him. He died at the Porziuncula on October 3, 1226.
        St. Francis was canonized in 1228 and soon became the most honored saint in Christendom. The order founded by him is the largest of all the religious orders to our days.
        In fine art he is always depicted wearing a homespun robe, tied round his waist with a thrice-knotted cord, which evoke the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. He bears the stigmata on his hands and feet, his chest wound is often depicted visible though a gash in his habit.

Franciscans, a Roman Catholic order of mendicant friars founded by St. Francis of Assisi, received papal approval in 1223. Committed to charitable and missionary work, they stressed the reverence of the Holy Virgin. Franciscans became some of the most important patrons of art in the early Renaissance.

See: Albrecht Altdorfer The Stigmatization of St. Francis.
Fra Bartolommeo The Annunciation, with Saints Margaret, Mary Magdalene, Paul, John the Baptist, Jerome and Francis.
Giovanni Bellini. St. Francis in the Wilderness.
Alessandro Botticelli Madonna and Child with Six Saints.
Caravaggio Nativity with Saints Francis and Lawrence, St. Francis in Ecstasy.
Cimabue Madonna and Child Enthroned with Two Angels and St. Francis and St. Dominic, Madonna with Angels and St. Francis.
Benozzo Gozzoli. Madonna and Child between St. Francis and St. Bernardine of Siena. Birth of St. Francis, Prophecy of the Birth by a Pilgrim, Homage of the Simple Man. St. Francis Giving Away His Clothes, Vision of the Church Militant and Triumphant. Renunciation of Worldly Goods and The Bishop of Assisi Dresses St. Francis. Vision of St. Dominic and Meeting of St. Francis and St. Dominic. Dream of Innocent III and the Confirmation of the Rule. The Expulsion of the Devils from Arezzo. Preaching to the Birds and Blessing Montefalco. Death of the Knight of Celano. Establishment of the Manger at Greccio. Trial by Fire Before the Sultan. Stigmatization of St. FrancisDeath and Ascention of St. Francis.
El Greco St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata. St. Francis in Meditation. St. John the Evangelist and St. FrancisSt. Francis and Brother Leo Meditating on Death. St. Andrew and St. Francis.
Domenico Ghirlandaio The Confirmation of the Rule of the Order of St. Francis by Pope Honorius III.
Domenico Veneziano. St. John the Baptist and St. Francis. St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata. The Madonna and Child Enthroned with SS. Francis, John the Baptist, Zenobius and Lucy.
Giotto St. Francis Giving His Cloak to a Poor Man, Death of St. Francis, St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata. St. Francis before Sultan. Preaching before Pope Honorius III. The Apparition at Arles. Receiving the Stigmata. The Death of St. Francis. Stigmatization. St. Francis in Glory.
Georges de La Tour. St. Francis in Extasy.
Bartolomé Esteban MurilloThe Vision to St. Francis at Porziuncola, Vision to St. Francis.
Raphael Madonna with the Christ Child Blessing and St. Jerome and St. Francis (Von der Ropp Madonna).
Jusepe de Ribera. St. Francis.
Jan van Scorel. The Stigmata of St. Francis.
Francisco de Zurbarán The Ecstasy of St. Francis, St. Francis Kneeling.

Recommended reading:
St. Francis of Assisi: A Biography by Omer Englebert. Servant Publications, 1982.
The Lessons of St. Francis: How to Bring Simplicity and Spirituality into Your Daily Life by John Michael Talbot, Steve Rabey. Plume, 1998.
The Way of St. Francis: The Challenge of Franciscan Spirituality for Everyone by Murray Bodo. Galilee, 1985.
To Live As Francis Lived: A Guide for Secular Franciscans by Leonard Foley, Jovian Weigel, Patti Normile. St Anthony Messenger Press, 2000.
The Sun and Moon over Assisi: A Personal Encounter With Francis and Clare by Gerard Thomas Straub. St Anthony Messenger Press, 2000.
Francis of Assisi: A Revolutionary Life by Adrian House, Karen Armstrong (Foreword). Hidden Spring, 2001.
God's Fool : The Life of Francis of Assisi by Julien Green (Author). Harper SanFrancisco, 1987.
Brother Sun, Sister Moon: The Life and Stories of St. Francis by Margaret Mayo, Peter Malone (Illustrator). Little Brown & Company, 2000.
Francis and Islam by J. Hoeberichts. Franciscan Press, 1997.

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