Francis of Assisi
Posted on 2nd February 2021
Francis of Assisi was a Roman Catholic preacher who was to become one of the most well-known historical religious figures.
He was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone around 1181 to wealthy parents. His father was a cloth merchant named Pietro di Bernardone. Although born Giovanni, he was known by his father as Francesco.
Being born into a wealthy family, he spent much of his youth partying and drinking and was known to buy the best clothes as befitting a young man of his station. He spent his money freely and was not interested in following in his father’s footsteps.
He did however join the military and when fighting against Perugia in 1201, he was imprisoned for a year. During his imprisonment is when It is believed he started to receive visions from God. When his father finally paid a ransom, Francis was released, but after leaving prison he became seriously ill. This illness and his time in captivity made him think deeply about spiritualism.
Francis travelled on a pilgrimage to Rome. He saw first-hand how the poor lived and joined the beggars on the streets. He was so moved by what he saw that he decided to give up his empty, wealthy lifestyle and began living in poverty.
When he returned to Assisi, Francis started preaching on the streets, gaining followers with his teachings of the Christian Gospels.
One day while praying at the small country chapel of San Damiano outside of Assisi, Francis stated that Jesus Christ spoke to him ‘Francis, Francis, go and repair my house which as you can see is falling into ruins’.
Francis took cloth from his father’s store and sold it, giving the money to the priest to restore the church. The priest refused to accept the money, so Francis threw the money away.
When Francis returned, his father was angry, he beat him and locked him in a cupboard, also taking legal proceedings against him, but this just made Francis more determined to preach God’s words.
During the proceedings Francis renounced his father, stripped off his clothes, handed them to his father and stood bare; the bishop of Assisi then covered Francis in his cloak.
Francis walked off into the woods spending the next few months wandering as a beggar. He also spent time caring for the sick, elderly and lepers.
He helped repair many chapels including San Pietro and the Porziuncola, the chapel of St Mary of the Angels.
By 1209 Francis started to attract followers; he led these followers to Rome to gain a blessing from the Pope to found the Franciscan Order.
In 1211 while Francis was preaching at the church in San Rufino, a young noblewoman, Clare of Assisi was touched by the message he preached and knew where her future lie. In 1212 she left her family home, joined Francis and together they established an order for women, the ‘Order of the Poor Ladies’, later known as the ‘Poor Clares’. Around 1221 Francis also formed the ‘Third Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance’.
Francis travelled outside of Italy on many occasions to bring the gospel to the world. In 1219 he travelled to Egypt during the Fifth Crusade, hoping to convert the Sultan and bring an end to the hostilities.
In September 1224, while praying on the mountain of Verna, Francis had a vision during the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross. It is at this time that he received the Stigmata (Crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ on the hands, wrists and feet).
Francis also suffered from trachoma and his health deteriorated. He was cared for in many different cities but his health did not improve.
He returned to the hut by the Porziuncola to die, spending his last days dictating his spiritual testament. Francis of Assisi died on 3rd October 1226.
Francis of Assisi was canonised a Saint by Pope Gregory IX on 16 July 1228. The following day the Pope laid the foundation stone for the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi.
He was buried on 25 May 1230 under the lower Basilica.
Tagged as: Junior Middle Ages
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