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The Life of Saint Francis: Introduction


1 The standard historical overview of the English religious orders from the tenth century to the end of the Middle Ages is still Knowles, The Monastic Order in England and The Religious Orders in England.

2 For an excellent survey, see Brooke, The Coming of the Friars, pp. 3-88. For another attempt at contextualization, placing the Franciscans and the Dominicans in relation to the Augustinian Canons and the Cistercians, see Southern, Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages, pp. 240-99.

3 On Dominic's career and the relation of his order to that of Francis, see Brooke, Coming of the Friars, pp. 89-113.

4 Moorman, A History of the Franciscan Order, pp. 41- 42.

5 For a contemporary chronicler's account of the Humiliati and Poor Men as precursors of the Franciscans and Dominicans, see Brooke, Coming of the Friars, pp. 201-02.

6 This is the Regula Bullata, approved by Pope Honorius III, who insisted that Francis delete a clause permitting friars to observe the rule literally even if their superiors ordered them to interpret it more loosely for practical reasons (Moorman, History, p. 57). In 1230, after Ugolino became pope, he himself issued a further commentary on the rule, making its requirements even less stringent.

7 Compare the Friar in Chaucer's Summoner's Tale: "Glosynge is glorious thyng, certeyn" (CT III [D]1793).

8 On religious poverty as it affected the medieval monastic and mendicant orders, see Lester K. Little, Religious Poverty.

9 Still the best English account of all this is Moorman's History, pp. 53-204.

10 See Moorman, History, pp. 171-74.

11 These include: lines 23-24 (ironic humor); 41-44 (exegesis); 57-60 (homiletic aside on lepers); 67-72 (exegesis and endorsement of Franciscan order); 189-90 (endorsement of the order); 299-302 (satire on proud "pigasours"); and 317-18 (sarcasm about merchants' lack of fear of the Devil).

12 As first pointed out by Carl Horstmann, ESEL p. 53n1. See also Manfred Görlach, Textual Tradition, p. 195. In our view, the SEL-poet may also have been influenced in places by Thomas of Celano's two earlier lives of Francis: see below, the explanatory notes to our edition, lines 273-86 (on "Brother Fly"), and 371-90 (Francis preaching to the birds).

13 For a critical overview of the early biographical literature on Francis, see Moorman, History, pp. 278-94. See also Fleming, An Introduction to the Franciscan Literature of the Middle Ages, pp. 32-72.

14 Marion A. Habig, St. Francis of Assisi, p. 626.

15 Bonaventure, Legenda Maior.

16 Bonaventure identifies the chapter themes in the last section of his Prologue (see Habig, St. Francis of Assisi, p. 634).

17 Habig, St. Francis of Assisi, p. 648.

18 Sends us [the] grace [to know] on what sort of conditions we must found this order

19 Habig, St. Francis of Assisi, p. 698

20 Legenda major VIII.11; Habig, St. Francis of Assisi, pp. 697-98.

21 See also Legenda major VIII.1; Habig, St. Francis of Assisi, p. 688.

22 Lucille Guilbert, "L'animal dans Légende dorée," p. 87 and n. 40 for further references. On the various and changing roles of animals in saints' lives, see, in addition to Guilbert, Sorrell, St. Francis of Assisi and Nature, pp. 9-38 and (on Francis' sermon to the birds) 55-68.

23 Of the four surviving medieval English mural paintings that depict scenes from Francis' life, two depict the stigmata, two the sermon to the birds. Similar preferences are exhibited in surviving English manuscript illuminations. See A. G. Little, ed., Franciscan History, chapter 1, plates 1-4 (murals), and chapter 4, plates 8-12 (illuminations), including drawings of each episode by Matthew Paris himself. See also Little's comments, pp. 42-43.

24 Legenda major XIII.2-3; Habig, St. Francis of Assisi, p. 730.

25 Compare The Harley Lyrics, ed. Brook, pp. 57-59, lyric no. 21 (Iesu, for þi muchele miht) throughout which the word think is used apparently to mean "meditate."

26 See our explanatory note on the text, line 422.

27 See Brown, ed., English Lyrics of the XIIIth Century, pp. 120-21, lines 12 and 41; p. 123, line 46.
St. Francis (feast day October 4) and the Order of Friars Minor
Francis of Assisi is one of two saints in this volume - the other is Benedict - who were founders of religious orders. Benedict's rule and Benedictine monasticism in one form or another (e.g., that of the Cistercians) dominated the religious culture of the Middle Ages through the twelfth century but began to decline with the rise of the cathedral schools and universities. The Benedictines' preeminent position among the orders was taken over in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries by the new orders known as friars (from ME and OF frere, "brother"), especially the Franciscans and Dominicans.1

The Franciscans are named for St. Francis, who was born c. 1182, the son of Pietro Bernardone, a prosperous cloth merchant of Assisi, in Umbria, Italy. In his youth Francis was something of a free-spending playboy and a leader of the city's revelers (he was apparently indulged in this by his parents); he also had knightly ambitions and endured a year as a prisoner of war after a battle between Assisi and the neighboring city-state of Perugia (1202). But according to several thirteenth-century biographers, Francis' extravagance and penchant for role-playing also expressed itself in charitable gestures towards the poor and other social outcasts. In his mid-twenties, after a long illness apparently brought on by his stint in the Perugian prison, he became more introspective, began experiencing religious visions, and in 1204 turned back abruptly from a military expedition to Apulia, where he had hoped to be knighted in the papal forces. Thereafter he became progressively alienated from his former lifestyle and from the moneyed world of his father's cloth business, as he actively if uncertainly sought ways to dedicate himself to a religious life. Finally, the elder Bernardone, after quarreling with his son over some cloth he had appropriated for rebuilding the dilapidated church of St. Damian, lost patience and the two formally repudiated their relationship in the local bishop's court (January or February, 1206), where Francis renounced all his legal claims on the family fortune, dramatically stripped off his expensive clothes and handed them to his father.

From then on, at first alone, then with a small band of followers (comprising mainly laymen from in and around Assisi), the formerly popular and fashionable young cloth merchant came to adopt a life modeled (selectively) on that of Jesus and the apostles in the Gospels, devoted to poverty and asceticism, the preaching of repentance, and compassion for the poor and sick (especially, in Francis' case, the lepers). For himself and his followers, Francis coined the name fratres minori (the inferior brothers), as a token of their great dedication to the virtues of humility and simplicity, and their utter lack of ambition for the dignities of rank in society or the church. Foreswearing any earthly possessions other than a rough habit and a pair of trousers, with a rope for a belt, and going barefoot even in the depths of winter, they lived in considerable hardship in makeshift shelters at the church of St. Mary of the Angels, at Portiuncula just outside Assisi. They frequently traveled great distances on foot on preaching tours and to work in hospitals. In 1209 Francis wrote a rule for his fledgling order, based closely on Jesus' instructions to His apostles in the Gospels, and succeeded in having it orally approved by Pope Innocent III in 1210 (or 1209). Twenty years later, Francis died at the age of forty-five (4 October 1226), virtually blind, wracked with the pain of the stigmata (Christ-like wounds he had received after a mystic vision on September 14, 1224), emaciated and exhausted by illness, self-privation, the strain of his responsibilities, and continual travel in Italy and abroad (including Spain and Syria). But his small band had already grown into the international Order of Friars Minor, with thousands of members living and working in virtually every country in Europe, drawn from all walks of life but increasingly (and especially north of the Alps) from the ranks of the educated clergy and university faculty. In addition to the Order of Friars Minor, the larger Franciscan movement had also produced an order of nuns, the Poor Sisters of St. Clare (the Second Order), and an order of lay people, the Order of Penitence, or Third Order (the "Tertiaries"). Less than two years after his death Francis was canonized as a saint by Pope Gregory IX, formerly Cardinal Ugolino, Francis' friend and papal "Protector" of the order for several years. Under the energetic supervision of Friar Elias, Minister General of the order, Francis' tomb became the centerpiece of the great new basilica of San Francesco in Assisi, completed by May, 1230.

St. Francis in Historical Context

The Franciscan phenomenon is presented by the hagiographers of Francis' cult (and by some modern biographers) as a unique and providential event, by which God chose an ordinary layman as the vessel of a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But in the context of late-twelfth- and early-thirteenth-century ecclesiastical history, Francis' experience can also be seen as the culmination of a well-marked trend.2 Beginning in the eleventh century, but more frequently in the twelfth, barefoot, unkempt, charismatic itinerant preachers, professing to follow in the footsteps of Christ's apostles, were a recurring feature of the European scene and became a major problem for the church hierarchy by the end of the twelfth century. What all had in common was a dissatisfaction with the opportunities for spiritual life and expression available within existing ecclesiastical and social structures; they also shared a tendency to be critical of the wealth and worldliness of the church, and to deviate in certain ways from orthodox church doctrine. But whereas early itinerants (such as Robert of Arbrissel and Norbert of Xanten) ended up channeling their energies, and shepherding their male and female followers, into new monastic foundations, later representatives remained in the outside world where they often became troublesome to the church hierarchy.

The most notorious were the Catharist heretics of southern France and northern Italy, along with other groups who formed around Peter of Bruis, Henry of Lausanne, Arnold of Brescia, and Waldo of Lyon. Waldo, a rich, married merchant, was moved one day by hearing a street entertainer sing the story of St. Alexis to abandon his secular life; he became a lay preacher, relying on two priest companions for French translations of the Scriptures. Waldo spent much of his life thereafter trying to convince the church hierarchy that he was not a heretic, like the others. Against these last a violent persecution was eventually launched in the form of the infamous Albigensian crusade in which northern knights accompanied monks and other clergy charged with reconverting or purging the recalcitrant heretics. In the midst of this process emerged the figures of two Spanish clerics, Bishop Diego of Osma and his friend, Dominic of Caleruago, a learned and zealous Augustinian canon. They suggested that the heretics needed to be swayed not just by coercion but also by the preaching of orthodox clergy who evinced the same apostolic poverty, simplicity, and zeal that many of the heretics themselves favored. In November of 1206, the same year that Francis broke with his father and adopted a life of poverty and service of the poor, Pope Innocent III sent his Cistercian emissaries on a new mission to the Cathars with instructions to adopt the evangelical approach suggested by Diego and Dominic. The latter, of course, would shortly found the Order of Friars Preachers, the Dominicans.3

A few years previously, in 1201, the pope had formally approved the reconciliation and reorganization, into three orders, of a group of religious zealots from northern Italy, the Humiliati, who had been condemned as heretics along with many others by Pope Lucius III in 1184. The three orders comprised, respectively, canons serving their own churches, lay people living in separate male and female communities, and married lay people leading normal working lives at home but meeting together on Sundays to hear sermons delivered by members of their congregations. In return for being allowed to pursue their way of life unmolested, the Humiliati observed strict orthodoxy in doctrine and supported the established clergy in combating heresy in their districts. Thus Francis' three orders, and especially the Tertiaries, were anticipated by the Humiliati.4 In 1208 Innocent III formally approved the reconstitution of another group of suspected heretics, the Poor Catholics, comprising disaffected clerics from Languedoc, when their leader, Durand of Huesca, swore loyalty to the pope and fidelity to orthodox doctrine. In 1210, yet another such group, mainly laymen called the Poor Men of Lyon, under Bernard of Prim, likewise received the pope's approval in return for various loyalty oaths.5

Thus the period in which Francis grew up was one of great spiritual ferment, in which the church hierarchy was struggling to find ways to combat a rising tide of heterodox opposition and religious diversity, in which evangelical poverty and the preaching of repentance were leading themes. Francis was only one of a succession of grassroots religious leaders who headed to Rome for papal approval early in the new century. Although the pope and local bishops at times resorted to violence to suppress these proliferating dissident groups, they also saw the value of harnessing the spiritual energy of zealots like Francis who were amenable to being drawn, with their followers, into the structure of the church while retaining the apostolic identity that was evidently so appealing to the general populace. The Franciscans would become one of the papacy's most important and effective tools for implementing the new standards of pastoral care and parish life that were enunciated in the decrees of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, and the order's development fell increasingly under the influence of the church hierarchy.

Francis wrote the original rule of his order himself, but the most important revision, the so-called Second Rule of 1223, was a joint composition of Francis and Cardinal Ugolino.6 In the end, not many years after Francis' death, the order founded by this indifferently educated layman, whose early followers and co-leaders were likewise mainly layfolk, became completely dominated by sophisticated and learned clerics. After 1242, laymen were barred from holding office in the order, and very few were recruited henceforth. At the same time, a succession of adjustments to the rule gradually modified Francis' original ideal that the friars should live in abject poverty, physical deprivation, and utter dependence on the charity of the people to whom they strove to bring the Gospel message.

Such changes led to friction within the order between those (the majority) who favored modification of the rule and more flexible interpretations of its strictures (later known as glossing),7 and a minority who clung to what they took to be Francis' original ideals. Eventually, this split would widen and by the end of the thirteenth century the "Spirituals," as the radical conservative wing became known, were more and more subject to persecution and charges of heresy, as the complex problem of clerical poverty and church possessions became one of the most volatile and crucial of the age.8 But the ideological fissures in the order were already visible during Francis' own lifetime and the decades following his death.9

The Middle English Life of Francis discussed and edited below dwells repeatedly on the founding of the Franciscans, on the rule and matters of its observance, and on the physical deprivation and verbal abuse willingly suffered by Francis and his followers. Overall the account seems to display some sympathy with stricter interpretations of the Franciscan way of life, while at the same time endorsing the presence of learned men in the order. This does not necessarily imply Franciscan authorship, but it may well reflect the poet's respect for the zeal, austerity, and learned character of the Franciscans in England in the thirteenth century.10

St. Francis in SEL

The St. Francis legend seems to belong to the earliest layer of SEL, the work of the Z-poet, as represented in the Bodleian manuscript, Laud Miscellany 108 (late thirteenth century). Our working text, however, is taken not from this earliest version but, as in some other chapters of this volume, from the somewhat revised version in another Bodleian manuscript, Ashmole 43, of the early fourteenth century, the language of which is somewhat more "modern" and the text expanded by the addition of several short authorial comments totaling about two dozen lines.11 For further information on the Ashmole manuscript and its language, see the Introduction to I(a), the Martyrdom of St. Andrew, above.

As explained earlier, in the General Introduction, Jacobus de Voragine's LA seems to have become available to the SEL-poet after he had completed work on the saints in the first half of the church calendar. Although Francis is an October saint, however, the SEL Life of St. Francis was translated not from LA but from the Legenda major, the full and official Franciscan life of Francis (BHL 3017), written by Friar Giovanni Fidanza, better known as St. Bonaventura (henceforth Bonaventure), who at the time was Minister General of the Franciscans.12 Finished in 1263, in Paris, and distributed to the thirty-four provinces of the order, Bonaventure's Legenda major was designated in 1266 as the only authoritative Life of Francis, superseding the two Vitae upon which most of it is based, the First and Second Lives by Thomas of Celano, written during the twenty years following Francis' death in 1226.13 Hundreds of copies of the Legenda major were produced for distribution to Franciscan houses during the thirteenth century, and even today there remain over four hundred extant.14 Modern translations of this and the other lives of Francis, along with a great deal of additional Franciscan literature, including the works attributed to Francis himself, are conveniently collected in the Omnibus of Sources edited by Marion Habig, to which frequent reference is made below. The latest critical edition of the Latin text of Legenda major is that of Michael Bihl.15

Bonaventure organized his Legenda major into two parts, the first dealing with the saint's life, the second with his posthumous miracles, which the Middle English poet omitted completely and is therefore not discussed here. Part One is divided into fifteen chapters (I-XV) which Bonaventure explains in his prologue are arranged according to themes, such as poverty, asceticism, humility, mystical devotion to the body of Christ, etc.,16 but chronology and strictly historical concerns, in typical hagiographic fashion, remain vague throughout the work. Each chapter is further subdivided into sections (with arabic numerals) of varying length and containing one or more episodes. Habig has conveniently provided a comprehensive table (pp. 1638-48) listing the individual episodes as they occur in the successive chapters of the Legenda major and identifying the corresponding sections in Bonaventure's main sources, the lives by Thomas of Celano.

Because the SEL Life of St. Francis allows us an unusual opportunity to compare the poet's work with that of his Latin source, we have followed Habig's example and provided in the Table below (pp. 264-65) a detailed breakdown of the sequence of episodes in the SEL poem, showing the corresponding source passages in the Legenda major, indicated by chapter (Roman numeral) and section (Arabic numeral) as these appear in Habig's translation.

It will be seen that the SEL-poet has selected a substantial amount of material from Bonaventure's initial and final chapters and follows them quite closely in places, but he omits a great deal, especially from the middle sections of the Legenda major. From chapters I-III, comprising about sixty episodes in Habig's edition, almost thirty episodes reappear in the SEL Life of St. Francis. This portion of the Middle English Life, verses 1-228, covers the events of Francis' early life, leading to his conversion and rupture with his father, his time spent repairing churches, then his founding of the order, recruitment of followers, and experiences in Rome securing confirmation of the order and the first rule. The SEL-poet seems particularly interested in the order itself, mentioning it in places where Bonaventure does not, and elaborating on it elsewhere. For example, he renders closely the episode from Legenda major III.3 in which Francis and his first disciple, Bernard, open a Gospel book at random three times to find passages dictating the basic rules of their new order, after which Francis says to Bernard:
This is our life and our rule (vita et regula) . . . and everyone who comes to join our company (societati conjungi) must be prepared to do this. And so, if you have a mind to be perfect, go home and do as you have heard.17
This simple sentence is expanded to eight verses in the Middle English version (lines 183-90):
"Thou sucst," quath Seyn Franceis, "her, hou our Lord in a stounde
Send ous grace up wuch thinge we schulle this ordre founde.18
Up this thre Godspelles, thou sucst, that we habbeth thar verst ifounde,
We schulle founde oure ordre and up an stronge grounde."
Up this thre Godspell he made his ordre and his reule vorsoth,
And Frere Menour breketh his ordre that out theragen doth.
Noble an ordre it aghte be that so noblich ifounde was,
Verst thoru toknynge of Jhesu Crist and seththe thoru such cas.
see; moment

Upon these; there first
upon a

aught (anything); against it
a noble order
The SEL Life of St. Francis also makes liberal use of chapters XIII-XIV, which focus on Francis' ecstatic vision of the fiery seraph on Monte Alverna, his reception of the stigmata, then his final suffering and death (lines 391-496). From chapters IV-XII, however, comprising some 191 Legenda major episodes (almost 60% of the whole work), the SEL version uses only seventeen episodes, occupying lines 229-390, of which about thirty lines describe the brothers' missionary life after their return from Rome. The rest recount Francis' colorful contempt for his body (Brother Ass) and for idleness (Brother Fly), and his humble preference for being insulted rather than praised. From the chapter on poverty (VII) only one story appears in the Middle English (of the snake found in a bag of money: lines 303-18), while from chapter VIII, on Francis' piety, the poet recounts only the episodes involving Francis' sympathetic involvement with lambs, sheep, and birds (lines 319-70), to which is added (lines 371-90) an episode, recounted much later by Bonaventure (ch. XII), in which Francis preaches to the birds.

Thus the contents of four whole chapters (IX, X, XI, and most of XII) of the Legenda major are almost completely omitted from the SEL version. Yet it is in these central sections that Bonaventure most clearly depicts Franciscan spirituality, and the sanctity of Francis himself, in the lush, quasi-erotic vocabulary of affective mysticism (e.g., "the passionate love with which Francis burned for Christ, his Spouse").19 Omitted also from the Middle English is any mention of the saint's special devotions, his early struggles to tame his sexual urges, his desire for martyrdom and his missionary journey to Egypt, his love of solitude and ecstatic experiences of God's presence, his spirit of prophecy, and his preaching and healing powers. The Monte Alverna vision, with the resulting stigmata, is presented in Legenda major as the climax of a long process of spiritual preparation (chs. VIII-XII), ascending steadily from love of God's creatures (inanimate, animal, and human) to love of the Creator. But in the SEL Life of St. Francis the saint's climactic vision of the crucified seraph follows directly after his series of droll encounters with the animal world.

Francis' love for animals, recounted several times in Legenda major, is interpreted by Bonaventure as reflecting the saint's sense of identity with all beings and things created by God (Legenda major VIII.6): hence the well-known language of his Canticle of Brother Sun in which sun, moon, stars, wind, air, fire, water, earth, and even death itself, are named as his brothers and sisters. Moreover his uncanny ability to communicate with animals and birds and their obedience to him are explained in terms of the dominion over creatures enjoyed by mankind before the fall, after which the beasts, in Bonaventure's words, "had rebelled against fallen mankind" (homini iam lapso rebellem).20 Through his virtue of compassion or pietas, "which subjects all creation to itself," Francis moves, in effect, in an Edenic world,21 like some unfallen Adam. It has also been suggested that the hagiographer's images of Francis "at peace with all creation" were intended to inculcate in the order's members attitudes of reconciliation and peaceful coexistence, and to allay the factional antagonism disrupting the unity of the Franciscan order.22

The SEL-poet, however, appears to bypass such concerns, preserving only Bonaventure's explanation as to why Francis was especially fond of lambs: because Christ compared himself to a lamb (in the words of John the Baptist), and because they are "withthoute felonye and mylde as Jhesu Crist" (line 322). Of the eleven animal episodes in Legenda major VIII, SEL preserves three, concerning the saint's vengeance for a slaughtered lamb, another lamb fond of attending church services, and a flock of noisy birds that interferes with Francis' own liturgical devotions. This is followed immediately in SEL with a much later episode, mentioned above, drawn from Legenda major XII: Francis preaching to a flock of birds. It is also noteworthy that in addition to these four animal anecdotes (lines 319-90), the Middle English poet has chosen others preceding them (lines 261-86, 303-18) that also involve animals metaphorically, as images for, respectively, the human body (Brother Ass), idleness (Brother Fly), and the devil (serpent in a coin purse). In addition, of the three miracles Bonaventure recounts following the stigmata episode, the only one rendered in the SEL Life of St. Francis again concerns animals: the healing of sick cattle with the water from Francis' laundry (lines 439-50). Even the vision of the fiery seraph following the saint's sermon to the birds is linked to the latter by the imagery of wings, of which the seraph has no less than six, duly emphasized by the poet (lines 399-401). Finally, in almost the closing lines of the poem, we are given the story of the flock of swallows that settle on the church roof the night of Francis' death (lines 475-82). The poet's choice of these animal episodes in preference to more exalted stories may be partly a reflection of popular devotion, for, along with the vision of the seraph on Alverna, the episode of Francis preaching to the birds seems to have been a favorite with artists and their patrons, and indeed the poet alludes to the popularity of the stigmata scene in English church murals: "As me such ofte in chirch ipeynt" ("As is often seen painted in church," line 402).23

The SEL-poet's highly selective treatment of Legenda major as a whole is echoed in many of his greatly abbreviated renderings of individual episodes. For example, in the Stigmata episode (lines 391-424) he eliminates almost entirely the language of fiery love with which Bonaventure evokes the saint's longing for union with Christ through martyrdom, which culminated in his mystical experience on La Verna: e.g., his "unquenchable fire of love for Jesus . . . blazing light of flame. . . . The fervor of his seraphic longing raised Francis up to God and, in an ecstasy of compassion, made him like Christ who allowed himself to be crucified in the excess of his love."24 SEL, on the other hand, attributes the vision to Francis' habit of "deep" and "steadfast . . . thought" (lines 392-93, 397)25 on the wounds of Christ. Thus the poet reduces the saint's passionate and ecstatic love for Jesus to the level of a popular late medieval devotional practice familiar to his lay audience.26 But even in this context, his avoidance of any mention of Francis' "love" for Christ is striking, since at the time and later it was a common motif in vernacular meditations on the crucified and wounded Savior. Examples are plentiful among surviving Middle English lyric collections in which Jesus is addressed as "sweet lover" ("lefman, suete") and in other terms borrowed from secular love lyrics, as, e.g., "fayr and fre, / sweetest of alle þynge and ihesu mi suete."27

Yet the poet is not always so blandly reductive. As we have pointed out earlier, the SEL Life of St. Francis deals quite elaborately with some episodes emphasizing the founding of the Franciscan order, and while it omits entirely Francis' conquest of his sexual urges and his diatribes against women, it dwells on the way he would subject his body, as if it were a pack ass, to harsh extremes of toil and travel (lines 261-72). Another such example is in the episode of the Bending Tree (lines 194-210), where the Middle English version enhances Francis' courage and determination in undertaking the journey to Rome and the saint's own will power is a greater factor than in Legenda major (III.8) where it is God's favor and grace, rather than his own will-power, that smooth his path.

For further commentary on the SEL-poet's treatment of his source, see the explanatory notes to our text.

Indexed in

IMEV 2899.


Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 43 (SC 6924), fols. 142v-149r.

Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Laud Misc. 108 (SC 1486), fols. 41v-46v.

Previous edition

The Early South-English Legendary. Ed. Horstmann. Pp. 53-67. [Based on Laud Misc. 108.; here abbr. ESEL]

Table of Correspondences between SEL Life of St. Francis and Bonaventure's Legenda Major

SEL Life of St. Francis episode SEL Lines Legenda Major
Francis, though a merchant, never refuses requests for alms.
Gives his cloak to a poor knight.
His vision of arms; resolves to become a knight; his journey
     to Apulia; voice bids him return home.
Beginning of his conversion.
(poet's addition)
He embraces a leper.
His service of lepers.
(poet's addition)

Crucifix at church of S. Damian urges him to rebuild the church.
(poet's addition)
F. sells cloth to raise money for S. Damian.
Hides from his father in ditch; returns to Assisi; imprisoned by
     his father at home.
Freed by his mother, he returns to the ditch, but is confronted by
     his father again.
Cited by his father before bishop's court, F. disrobes himself and
     renounces his father.
F. becomes a beggar at Assisi, and helps rebuild churches of S.
     Damian and S. Peter.
Begins living in church of S. Mary ("in Desert," i.e. Portiuncula).

Hears gospel of feast of Matthias regarding apostolic life.
Brother Bernard joins F.; the beginnings of the rule.
(poet's addition)
Brother Giles joins (and three others).
F. resolves to go to Rome to have his order approved; vision of
     the tree that he bends to the ground.
The order approved by Pope Innocent III (with intercession of
     Cardinal John of St. Paul; pope's vision).

The hungry brothers fed by a mysterious man (near Spoleto).
In Assisi, the brothers suffer from lack of food and books.
They resume residence at "S. Mary in Desert" (Portiuncula); F's
     preaching, the brothers' love of adversity.
F. hates idleness; Brother Ass (his own body); Brother Fly, the
     idler [expanded by the poet].

His love of being insulted and of publicly confessing his faults.
(poet's addition)

Roadside purse found to contain a snake.

F's compassion for lambs; curses a sow that killed a lamb.
His pet lamb that liked to hear the friars' chanting and knelt
     during Mass.
(poet's addition)
F. quiets the birds until he finishes reciting his hours.

He preaches to a flock of birds.

The vision of the seraph at La Verna; receives the Stigmata, which
     he conceals from others.
Cure of cattle plague through F's bathwater.

Length of his life in the order [poet changes narrative order].
His suffering; flings himself on bare ground to sharpen the pain
     and thank God.
Has himself brought to S. Mary's church to die (naked on
     the ground).
F. dies after preaching to his brethren and reciting the psalm
     Voce mea.
Date and day of his death and burial [poet changes narrative order
     here and below
Flock of larks on the night of his death.
Brother Austin's vision and death.
(poet's closing prayer)









































XIII.3., XIII.5.






XIV.6. (¶ 4)
XIV.6. (¶ 2)

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