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 Francis of Assisi

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Francis of Assisi

  • Original Name Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone
  • Birth c.26 Nov 1181 Assisi, Provincia di Perugia, Umbria, Italy
  • Death 3 Oct 1226 Assisi, Provincia di Perugia, Umbria, Italy
  • Burial Assisi, Provincia di Perugia, Umbria, Italy
  • Plot Lower level of the basilica, behind an altar
  • Memorial ID 5115

Religious Figure, Roman Catholic Saint. He is remembered as the patron saint of animals and the environment and is one of the two patron saints of Italy (the other being Catherine of Sienna). He was also the founder of the men's Order of Friars Minor, the women's Order of St. Clare, and the Third Order of Saint Francis for men and women not able to live the lives of itinerant preachers, followed by the early members of the Order of Friars Minor, or the monastic lives of the Poor Clares. Though he was never ordained to the Catholic priesthood, he became one of the most venerated religious figures in history. Born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone into a wealthy family, his father was a prosperous silk merchant. His date of birth is unknown and little is known of his childhood and adolescence other than he lived a typical high-spirited life of a wealthy young man. In 1201 he joined a military expedition against Perugia in central Italy and was taken as a prisoner at Collestrada, spending a year as a captive. Upon his return to Assisi in 1203, he returned to his carefree life. In 1205 he left for Puglia to enlist in the army of Walter III, Count of Brienne. A strange vision made him return to Assisi, deepening his ecclesiastical awakening and be began avoiding the sports and feasts of his friends. He spent time in lonely places, asking God for enlightenment and took to nursing lepers, the most repulsive victims in the lazar houses near Assisi. After a pilgrimage to Rome, where he joined the poor in begging at the doors of the churches. When he returned home, he had a mystical vision of Jesus Christ in the country chapel of San Damiano, just outside of Assisi, asking for the chapel to be repaired and he sold some cloth from his father's store to assist the priest there for this purpose. His father became highly indignant, attempted to change his mind, first with threats and then with beatings. In the midst of legal proceedings before the Bishop of Assisi, he renounced his father and his patrimony, laying aside even the garments he had received from him in front of the public. For the next couple of months he lived as a beggar around Assisi. Returning to the countryside around the town for two years, he embraced the life of a penitent, during which he restored several ruined chapels, among them the Porziuncola, the little chapel of St. Mary of the Angels just outside the town, which later became his favorite abode. In February 1209, according to Jordan of Giano, he heard a sermon that changed his life forever. The sermon was about Matthew 10:9, in which Christ tells his followers they should go forth and proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven was upon them, that they should take no money with them, nor even a walking stick or shoes for the road. Francis was inspired to devote himself to a life of poverty. Clad in a rough garment, barefoot, and, after the Gospel precept, without staff or money, he began to preach repentance. He was soon joined by his first follower, a prominent fellow townsman, the jurist Bernardo di Quintavalle, who contributed all that he had to the work, and within a year he had eleven followers. He chose never to be ordained a priest, and the community lived as "lesser brothers," in the deserted lazar house of Rivo Torto near Assisi but spent much of their time wandering through the mountainous districts of Umbria, always cheerful and full of songs, yet making a deep impression upon their hearers by their earnest exhortations. Later in 1209 he led his first eleven followers to Rome to seek permission from Pope Innocent III to found a new religious Order which, according to tradition was done in April 1210 and was named the Franciscan Order. In March 1211 after meeting Clare of Assisi, established the Order of Poor Ladies, later called Poor Clares. In the late spring of 1212, he set out for Jerusalem, but was shipwrecked by a storm on the Dalmatian coast, forcing him to return to Italy. In 1219 he traveled to Egypt in an attempt to convert Sultan al-Kamil to Christianity and to put an end to the conflict of the Crusades. By this point, the Franciscan Order had grown to such an extent that its primitive organizational structure was no longer sufficient and he returned to Italy to organize the Order. Once his community was authorized by the Pope, he withdrew increasingly from external affairs. In 1220 he arranged for the first Christmas nativity scene and in 1224 he received the stigmata, making him the first recorded person to bear the wounds of Christ's Passion. Suffering from these stigmata and from trachoma, he received care in several cities (Siena, Cortona, Nocera) to no avail. In the end, he was brought back to a hut next to the Porziuncola where he spent the last days of his life dictating his spiritual Testament and he died around the age of 44. On July 16, 1228 he was pronounced a saint by Pope Gregory IX and the next day, the Pope laid the foundation stone for the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi. He was buried on May 25, 1230, under the Lower Basilica, but his tomb was soon hidden to protect it from Saracen invaders. His exact burial place remained unknown until it was re-discovered in 1818 and a crypt was constructed for the remains in the Lower Basilica. It was refashioned between 1927 and 1930 into its present form, with the walls stripped marble decorations. In 1978 the remains of Saint Francis were examined and confirmed by a commission of scholars appointed by Pope Paul VI, and put into a glass urn in the ancient stone tomb. On November 29, 1979, Pope John Paul II declared Saint Francis to be the Patron of Ecology. His feast day is observed on October 4th and is honored in the Church of England, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Episcopal Church USA, the Old Catholic Churches, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He has been depicted numerous times in paintings, sculptures, and stained glass windows. His life has been the subject of at least eight films, numerous books, and composed music.

Bio by: William Bjornstad





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 15 Apr 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 5115
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Francis of Assisi (c.26 Nov 1181–3 Oct 1226), Find A Grave Memorial no. 5115, citing Basilica di San Francesco d'Assisi, Assisi, Provincia di Perugia, Umbria, Italy ; Maintained by Find A Grave .