St Francis of Assisi

If you have ever been to, or thought of visiting, Assisi, there is no doubt that you would have heard of Saint Francis, who was born in the city in 1182. But who was this saint that, even today, inspires the people of Assisi..?

Saint Francis’ father, Pietro Bernadone, was a cloth merchant and traveled frequently between Italy and France. Although Saint Francis was actually baptized John, his father so loved France that he changed his son’s name to John Francis.

In 1202, Francis in search of military glory, volunteered in what was an ongoing war between Assisi and Perugia. Unfortunately, luck was not on his side and the army of Assisi was defeated, with Francis being taken prisoner for a year before ill health permitted his release in around 1204. However, Francis soon recovered and he enlisted again in the army as a volunteer to fight the papal army in Apulia. However, after arriving at Spoleto, Francis heard a voice that urged him to return to Assisi. He listened to the warning and returned to Assisi, where he began his conversion into the Church.

At the end of 1205, when Francis was praying before a crucifix placed in the Chapel of Dan Damian, he received an order from Jesus Christ that said: "Go and repair my church". Francis accepted the invitation and began to diligently restore the ruined churches in Assisi. His efforts impressed Bishop Guido of Assisi, who welcomed Francis into the Church, and Francis consequently relinquished his belongings and stripped naked!

During the celebration of Holy Mass in February 1208, Francis felt the need to exit permanently from, as he put it, the "world", with the ambition to do good everywhere. In this, he returned to Assisi and began preaching the message of forgiveness and peace, with his community of followers growing rapidly between 1209 and 1220. But Saint Francis was limited to his community in Assisi alone – he also visited Dalmatia, Spain, France and the Holy Land, and is thought to have visited Egypt to meet Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil, and had a substantial impact on Christian belief with what became known as The Rule.

During the weeks from mid-August until the end of September 1224, Francis visited La Verna, part of the Apennines between Tuscany and Romagna that has been dedicated to Archangel Michael. There, on the day of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Saint Francis received the stigmata.

Sadly, Saint Francis fell seriously ill in 1223 with an eye condition that resulted in near-blindness and, in 1226, his condition worsened. Knowing he was nearing death, Saint Francis returned to Assisi and died on October 3rd 1226. One of his followers claimed to see his soul like a star, the size of the moon and shining like the sun, ascending directly to heaven.

Saint Francis’ body rests beneath the altar at the Church of Saint George and it is claimed that miracles have been performed on the site of the grave, which resulted in canonization in 1228.

If you would like to know more about Saint Francis, or discover the beautiful city of Assisi for yourself, check out our range of packages, which include 5-night and 7-night Assisi & Saint Francis walking tours.

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