Francis of Assisi, by Augustine Thompson

When we think of the hagiography of Francis of Assisi, Qohelet’s wry musing comes to mind: “Of making many books there is no end.”

Not long after Francis died, aspirations, fantasies, power plays and all kinds of spiritualities began to attach themselves to his life. No greater flattery can be imagined than this, and yet the very allure of the saint’s story frustrates our modern impulse to know the real Francis. The average Christian would rank him as the best-known, most important Christian of the entire Middle Ages, and yet scholarly works on things medieval barely give him a mention.

 

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