The Legend of Saint Clare - 272 

The Legend of Saint Clare


The composition of an official biography was part of the entire process of canonizing a saint in the Middle Ages. For the most part, it was a work undertaken by a writer familiar with the data gathered to establish someone's sanctity either through personally interviewing eyewitnesses or reviewing the transcripts of official ecclesiastical investigations. One might expect this to be the case in the writing of the Legend of Saint Clare. The Legend, however, seems to have entered the hagiographical literature about Clare after three previous literary steps: the Acts of the Process of Canonization, the Versified Legend, and, finally, the papal proclamation of Clare's canonization.

It is worthwhile reviewing the opinions of the prominent Franciscan or hagiographical experts of this century who have treated the question of the authorship of the Legend of Saint Clare. Although there is one fifteenth-century text that attributes the text to Thomas of Celano,1 the starting point of an investigation is undoubtedly the work of Professor Francesco Pennacchi that presented the text of the Legend based upon the Assisi Codex 338.2 Since Pennacchi attributed the authorship of the Legend to Thomas of Celano, it is understandable that Thomas's name is most frequently associated with the work, at least in the English-speaking world. It is not surprising that this 1910 edition paved the way for a variety of other publications of the Legend based on a wide variety of manuscripts to which Pennacchi paid no heed.

Of these, that of Zefferino Lazzeri in 1912 is most worthy of our attention, since it proposes Saint Bonaventure as its author, although the author never went to great lengths to prove his reasons for such a claim.3 Later, however, Lazzeri changed his opinion and, in 1920, suggested that the author may well have been Brother Mark, the Chaplain of the Poor Ladies, who was present with Brothers Leo and Angelo and the others at the canonical investigation of Clare's holiness in 1253. No doubt there is some ground for speculation here since Salimbene wrote of Brother Mark, a companion of the ministers general Crescentius, John of Parma, and Bonaventure, as "bonus dictator et velox et intelligibilis [a good, swift, and understanding dictator]." He was, therefore, a good secretary who could easily




Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, p. 272