Dominican Hagiography and Sermons - 782 

Dominican Hagiography and Sermons

Bartholomew of Trent (c. 1240-45)

Bartholomew (+1251), a native of the city of Trent, entered the Dominican Order in Bologna around 1220. He traveled widely in Italy, France, and Germany—for example, he knew Anthony of Padua and was present at the translation of St. Dominic's body in 1233. Politically astute, Bartholomew was often in attendance at both the Papal and Imperial courts; in particular, he was employed as an envoy by Pope Innocent IV in his negotiations with Emperor Frederick II. He is most famous for his Liber epilogorum in gesta sanctorum, written in the 1240's, which did much to set a new style in hagiography. In it he interspersed concise lives of the saints with ascetic and moral reflections for a popular audience.a The following are brief selections from it concerning St. Francis.b In his account, Bartholomew clearly follows the order of Thomas of Celano's First Life, but concentrates on the marvels worked by the saint.

Francis, who was born in the city of Assisi, possessed such vanity that, while he was a merchant, he wanted to become a soldier. In a dream he saw many weapons that were to be prepared for himself and his comrades, but he did not understand what this meant. Finally, goaded by pangs of conscience at Foligno, he sold whatever he was able to get hold of. He attached himself to the priest of San Damiano, threw the money into the window there, and hid in a cave for several days. At length, he left the cave and was made captive by his father, but his mother freed him. Then he came before the bishop, returned his money and even his very clothes to his father, his naked body being covered by the bishop's cloak. He ran through the woods, praising God. When asked by robbers who he was, he answered: "The herald of God." But the robbers threw him into a pile of snow and said: "Lie there, O uncouth herald." Afterwards he went to work in the kitchen of certain monks; wearing only a ragged shirt, he was scarcely sustained on broth. He went to Gubbio where he accepted a tunic from a man and then began to take care of lepers. He next repaired the Church of San Damiano where he established the Order of Ladies; he repaired another church near Assisi, and then a third one dedicated to Saint Mary of the Portiuncula, at which he decided to remain because of his devotion to the Mother of God.

At first he wore the habit of a hermit, but after he heard the Gospel of Christ, how the Lord sent his disciples out to preach, he took on

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Fontes Franciscani, p.


Franciscus de civitate Assisii oriundus tantae fuit vanitatis, ut vellet militare, cum esset mercator. Viditque per somnium sibi suisque multa arma fore parata; sed potuit non intelligere. Tandem compunctus apud Fulgineum, quae habere potuit, vendidit et presbytero S. Damiani adhaesit pecuniamque in fenestram proiecit et per plures dies in cavea latuit. Tandem exit, a patre capitur, a matre solvitur, coram episcopo constituitur, pecuniam patri immo et vestes restituit et nudus pallio episcopi est obtectus. Per silvam currit Dominum laudans. A latronibus, quis sit, quaesitus 'praeco Dei' ait; eum in nivem projiciunt; 'iace, rustice praeco' ipsi dicunt. In coquina quorundam monachorum brodio in camisiola vix sustentabatur. Apud Eugubium recepta a quodam tunica se transtulit in obsequium leprosorum. Deinde dictam ecclesiam sancti Damiani reparat, ubi instituit ordinem Dominarum; reparat etiam iuxta Assisium aliam ecclesiam, tertio etiam sanctae Mariae de Portiuncula, iuxta quam propter devotionem Matris Dei cepit moram.

Primo eremiticum portavit habitum; sed cum evangelium Christi audisset, qualiter Dominus misit discipulos ad praedicandum, habitum, qui nunc est Fratrum Minorum,

Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 782