By of Assisi Saint Francis; Vauchez, André; Cusato, Michael F.; of Assisi Saint Francis

First released in France, the place it was once provided the Prix Chateaubriand, this masterful new biography of Francis is now to be had in English

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Extra info for Francis of Assisi : the life and afterlife of a medieval saint

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The age of fervor had passed and most abbeys had become unattractive to a person intent on perfection. Moreover, when, after having broken with his family, he sought refuge among the Benedictines of the abbey of San Verecundo to the north of Assisi, working there as a servant in order to stave off hunger and cold, he was so roughly treated that he left after a little while. He then visited a friend in Gubbio, where he got himself hired at the leprosarium of San Lazarus. On the other hand, leaving for the East in order to avenge the honor of God—as preachers were urging people to do—hardly had much meaning anymore, either.

By placing himself outside the protection of the institutions of the city, he became a wild man, a kind of savage closer to nature than to civilization, which was at that time equated with urban and cultured life. “To leave the world,” at this time, was to lead a life consecrated to God. Early on, as we have seen, Francis had rejected the bourgeois values of his father and made the knightly ideal his own. ” There was nothing original in this: since the eleventh century, the choice of a religious vocation was presented in these terms for numerous laity belonging to the ruling classes of the society.

Going to Rome on pilgrimage, he was shocked by the small number of offerings that visitors were placing at the tomb of Saint Peter. He thus flung the whole content of his purse through the grill surrounding the altar. Then, as he left the church, he exchanged his clothes for the rags of a beggar who was standing outside and, taking his place, began to ask for alms in 22 A Biographical Sketch French—which was the best way for him to be neither understood nor recognized. The episode has perhaps been made up by the author of the Legend of the Three Companions to highlight the piety and orthodoxy of his subject, as well as to foreshadow his attachment to poverty and the process that was going to lead him from generosity to charity.

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