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St. Francis of Assisi gave up a life of wealth and traded it for a life of poverty and devotion to God and Jesus Christ. He rebuilt and restored churches, founded orders which live by his writings, and is considered the patron saint of animals and nature.

St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi was born in Assisi, Italy around 1181. He learned Latin and French in school. He was a spoiled boy who did not want for much and likely rebelled in his teens. He dreamed of being a knight, not a cloth merchant like his father.

After a war with Perugia, he was captured and imprisoned while being held for ransom. During his time in prison, he apparently had visions of God. By his early 20's, he turned his focus to God, led down a path of piety until he renounced worldly goods and his previous luxurious life. Francis repaired the church of San Damiano, fixed up a chapel dedicated to St. Peter the Apostle, and restored the chapel of St. Mary of the Angels.

In 1209, Francis wrote a simple rule, Regula primitiva, for his group of friars. The rule was taken from the Bible: "To follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps." Then, Francis and his 12 disciples went to Rome where they received the approval of Pope Innocent III for the Franciscan rule of life.

The Franciscan order consisted of a group of street preachers who had no possessions and only the Porziuncola as their home. It is likely that no other person has tried to imitate the life of Christ and continue his work as Francis did. He has been described as a lover of nature, a social worker, a celebrant of poverty, and a preacher. It was so critical that his final work, the Testament, stated that poverty was an essential lifestyle for members of his order.

In 1212, Francis organized an order for women, the Poor Clares. For those that could not leave their life or families, he created the Third Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance, a fraternity that didn’t require vows, only the adherence to the principles of Franciscan life. Francis traveled outside Italy to Egypt and attempted other journeys to preach to Muslims and to spread his message. He later had to write the "First Rule" to maintain organization and devotion in his order. He created yet another, the “Second Rule", which Pope Honorius III approved in the bull Solet annuere, and it became the official rule of the order.

Francis had an experience in 1223 where he became marked with the wounds of the crucified Christ and received a most important message from God. Two years later he died in Assisi. He was temporarily buried at the church of San Giorgio at Assisi and was canonized by Pope Gregory IX on July 15, 1228. In 1230, his body was relocated to the lower church of a basilica built to honor him.

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St. Francis of Assisi’s Significant Accomplishments

  • Repaired and restored churches, including the chapel of St. Mary of the Angels and the church of San Damiano
  • Gave up a life of wealth and traded it for poverty and a life devoted to Christianity
  • Founded 3 orders which followed the laws he wrote based on the Bible
  • Was touched by God and told to continue his life of devotion
  • Preached and spread his message and gained followers in and outside of Italy
  • Impacted Christianity with his teachings and his lifestyle
  • Was canonized two years after his death

St. Francis Quotes

"For it is in giving that we receive."

“It is in pardoning that we are pardoned."

"Start by doing what is necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible."

Learn more about people who have influenced history in our Picture Encyclopedia!
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