San Francesco d'Assisi
To read the story of Saint Francis and the wolf, click HERE
Saint Francis of Assisi.
The patron saint of Italy is San Francesco: Saint Francis.
The family was very wealthy. Pietro was a cloth merchant, selling fine fabrics to the rich. This meant that the family was always dressed in the finest clothes. Pietro probably travelled to France or had dealings with the French in order to buy his special fabrics.
So, Francesco grew up in a wealthy household where he heard the French language. As a young child, he would sing French songs and this impressed the people of Assisi.
Francesco had lots of friends. Most of them were the sons of the other rich families of Assisi. They loved to go to parties - staying out all night and sleeping during the day. They had grown up as spoilt youths who didn't need to work because their parents were rich. They spent lots of money on having a good time.
In 1202, the town of Perugia declared war on Assisi.
Later, he was expected to fight once again in another battle. His father bought him a magnificent horse and expensive armour. In those times, parents were very proud of their sons who went to battle. It was a sign of bravery and added prestige and honour to the family name.
So, Francesco left Assisi looking like a hero and accompanied by the cheers of the people.
However, something strange and mysterious happened!
Nobody knows what happened to Francesco.
As he recovered, Francesco grew more and more interested in animals and nature. The sound of birds singing and the beauty of nature made him feel better.
Living outside the town, Francesco's time was spent helping lepers and rebuilding old, ruined chapels. In those days, the most feared disease was leprosy. Anyone who caught the illness was forced to live outside the town in caves or huts. The lepers were forced to wear a bell around their necks so that people could hear them from a distance and run away before they came too close.
Francesco believed that God had told him to help lepers and to rebuild ruined chapels in the countryside outside Assisi.
Francesco obeyed the words spoken by the cross and rebuilt a total of three chapels, stone by stone.
Was Francesco suffering during his new lifestyle? Absolutely not! He was very happy!
The female companions all lived in the rebuilt chapel called San Damiano. These ladies became known as The Poor Clares. In Italian they are called Le Clarisse. Their Order still exists today.
There are many famous stories about Francesco. It is said that he loved animals and he knew how to speak to them.
Francesco loved to sing and to write poetry.
Saint Francis was the person who invented the tradition of the Christmas crib (il presepe) in 1223. To find out more click HERE.
Everybody was fascinated by Francesco. People travelled from all over Europe to visit him and to hear what he had to say. One of those people was a Portuguese man called Antonio. He was so impressed by Francesco's words that he stayed in Italy as one of his supporters. Antonio is now called Saint Anthony of Padua (Sant' Antonio di Padova.)
Francesco believed that:-
Francesco called everything a 'brother' or a 'sister'. For example: Frate Sole (Brother Sun), Sora Luna (Sister Moon), Frate Vento (Brother Wind), Sora Aria (Sister Air), etc.... In other words, if a noun was masculine it was a brother, if it was feminine it was a sister.
San Francesco died on 3 October 1226 at the age of forty-four, shortly after writing his famous poem Cantico delle Creature. In the final period of his life, he lost his sight and suffered from ill-health.
His shrine is in the
In the Basilica you can also see the very tunic that Francesco wore every day.
2. San Francesco lived happily with no money. Although he came from a very rich family, he gave away everything he owned to the poor. He wore a simple tunic and shaved the top of his head to show that he was not vain.
3. San Francesco was not frightened to work with lepers.
4. He began the tradition of celebrating Christmas with a crib and a stable with animals. Nowadays, it is normal to celebrate Christmas with the Nativity Scene because of Saint Francis.
5. San Francesco believed that EVERYTHING was equally important, so he called everything either a 'brother' or a 'sister.' For example, Sister Air, Brother Wind, Sister Earth, Brother Sea, Sister Moon, Brother Sun.
6. Saint Francis loved all creatures and took care not to step on insects when he was walking.
7. Saint Francis loved the letter T.
8. He built ruined churches, stone by stone. Two of them still stand today: San Damiano and Santa Maria degli Angeli.
9. Francesco was very popular and fascinating. Thousands of people travelled from all over Europe to the area of Assisi just to hear his words.
10. Francesco loved the French language even though he was Italian. He was nicknamed 'Francesco' (Frenchy) for that reason. His real name was Giovanni (John.)
11. Francesco loved songs and poetry. He wrote his own songs and poems. Many people believe that he composed the famous hymn called 'Make me an instrument of your peace.'
12. Francesco developed sores on his hands and feet. These mysterious sores are known as stigmata. They are in the form of the wounds received by Jesus at the time of His death.
13. Francesco's best friend was called Bernardo.
14. Francis travelled with his companions from Assisi to Rome, to speak to the Pope.
15. Francis travelled to Egypt during the Crusades, to speak to Malik-al-Kamil, the Sultan of Egypt. The Sultan was so impressed with Francis' peaceful words that he became his friend and gave him gifts, even though Italy and other European countries were fighting against the Sultan's country.
16. Although Francis had no possessions, a friend (Count Orlando of Chiusi) gave him a mountain as a gift! That mountain is in Italy and is called Mount La Verna.
17. Francis befriended a fierce wolf that was terrorizing the town of Gubbio. After a discussion with the wolf, a deal was made that the wolf would become friendly if the people agreed to feed him. Everyone lived happily. To read the story, click HERE.
18. Francis had a friend called Clare. She became Saint Clare of Assisi.
19. The beliefs of Saint Francis are still practised today. Men who live according to the teaching and beliefs of Francis are called 'Franciscans.'
20. Francis is buried in The Basilica of Saint Francis (La Basilica di San Francesco) in Assisi, with all his companions.
A SPECIAL 'THANK YOU'
Grazie San Francesco! Thank you Saint Francis for living your life as an example of how everyone should live:
in simplicity and peace, without greed, without hatred and with respect for all people, all creatures and our planet.