St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis is considered a legendary hero and a popular saint. He was born in
1181, the middle of a time of great increases and expansions in the medieval West, in
Assisi, the place where this was strongest. His parents were Pietro and Pica Bernardone.
His father was a wealthy silk merchant. St. Francis spent his childhood in extravagant
living and pleasure-seeking. He was always in trouble and ran around Assisi with his
friends, eating, drinking, and having a good time. He went to war to fight for Assisi
against Perugia and was taken prisoner in 1202. Eventually he was released and once
again, returned to his old carefree ways. He became seriously ill for a while but then
returned to the wars in 1205.
He experienced a vision of Christ at Spoleto which was then followed by another
vision while he returned to Assisi. One vision was of Christ telling him, "Go and rebuild
my church. It is falling down." These visions are what changed his lifestyle forever.
Despite his wealthy, comfortable life, St. Francis chose a life of poverty. He wore rags
and wooden shoes on his bare feet. His father became furious at this and threatened to
disown him. Francis returned his father's money and clothes that he had taken to help
rebuild the church and severed relations with his father.
St. Francis rebuilt San Damiano with money begged from his townsmen. He
went on a pilgrimage to Rome in 1206, identifying himself with the poor and helping to
take care of those who suffered from 'leprosy'. For two or three years he lived alone,
wandering. Eventually, seven disciples joined him. Some of them were older, some
middle-aged, but they lived together as a community at the Portiuncula in Assisi, near a
leper colony. Here, he devoted himself completely to his life's work of poverty and
preaching. St. Francis and the other preachers stood out from the other Italian poor
preachers of the time because they had respect for, and showed obedience to the Church
authorities and their doctrinal orthodoxy. They lived in simple huts and their churches
were small. They slept on the ground and had no tables or chairs, as well as very few
In 1209, St. Francis founded the order of Friars Minor, which took the people of
that time by surprise because by doing this, Francis presented poverty, chastity, and
obedience in terms of troubadours and courts of love. After this, St. Francis gained many
Francis wished to preach to more people from farther around. In 1212 he went
eastward, but was driven on to the Dalmatian coast. In 1214 he left once again, this time
for Morocco through Spain, but, he became very sick and was forced to come back home.
In 1219, he sailed from Ancona with twelve other friars, heading for Acre and Damietta.
Francis managed to pass through enemy lines and meet with the...