The First Witness of Thomas of Celano (1228) - 395 

The First Witness of Thomas of Celano (1228)

Brother Thomas was born in the small city of Celano nestled in the Abruzzi mountains of southern Italy. Nothing is known of his early life until Thomas himself alludes to his entrance into the primitive fraternity in his Life of Saint Francis 57: "Not long after [Francis] had returned to the church of St. Mary of the Portiuncula, some educated and noble men very gratifyingly joined him." Brother Jordan of Giano tells us in his Chronicle that Thomas was among the brothers who made the second and more successful attempt to move into Germany where in 1222 he was chosen custodian of Mainz, Worms, Cologne, and Speyer. The exact date of his return to Italy is difficult to determine, but his description of the canonization of Saint Francis in the Life suggests that he was an actual eyewitness.

The Life of Saint Francis was commissioned, as Thomas himself tells us, by the newly elected Gregory IX, the former Cardinal Hugolino and friend of the saint. After its approval on February 25, 1229, Thomas seems to have spent the rest of his life in Tagliacozzo, a small city not far from Rome. He was called upon on at least three other occasions to devote his literary talents to writing of Saint Francis. The Legend for Use in Choir was written in 1230. The Remembrance of the Desire of A Soul was commissioned by the brothers in 1244 and completed by Thomas in 1247. Finally, The Treatise on the Miracles of Saint Francis was written between 1250 and 1253 when John of Parma, at the urging of the brothers, asked Thomas to complete his recording of the saint's miracles.

It is thought that Thomas died sometime after 1260, although there is no evidence to determine the precise date of his death. He was buried at first in the monastery of the Poor Ladies of Saint Clare in Tagliacozzo to whom he had ministered for many years. In 1476 the brothers acquired the monastery and reverently cared for the remains of their literary predecessor. Thomas's body can be found there to this date with the following inscription marking his grave: "Blessed Thomas of Celano, Disciple of Saint Francis, Author, Chronicler of Saint Francis and of the Sequence of the Dead."a




Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, p. 395