The Anonymous of Perugia - 31 


In 1671 the Jesuit Daniel Papebroch discovered a manuscript in the friary of San Francesco al Prato in the Italian city of Perugia.1 The work became known as the Anonymus Perusinus [Anonymous of Perugia] because its only known manuscript was found in Perugia, and the identity of its author was unknown. Although The Anonymous of Perugia received some attention in 1675 and again in 1768, the complete text was never published until 1902 by Francis Van Ortroy, another Jesuit.2 Even with this publication, the work never received serious attention until Lorenzo DiFonzo studied the available manuscripts and, in 1972, produced a critical edition of the text.3 Seven years later, Pierre Beguin published a thorough study of the work, L'Anonyme de Pérouse. Un Témoin de La Fraternité Franciscaine Primitive Confronté aux Autres Sources Contemporaines.4

Undoubtedly, interest in this previously overlooked work was a result of the call of the Second Vatican Council that men and women of religious orders "return to the spirit of the founders."5 The work's description of the first days of the primitive fraternity of Francis and his brothers may also provide an insight into its unique attraction as contemporary students of The Anonymous of Perugia struggle, as did those of the second generation of Francis's followers, to understand his spirit.

Di Fonzo followed the manuscript tradition and entitled the work The Beginning or The Founding of the Order and The Deeds of Those Lesser Brothers Who Were the First Companions of Blessed Francis in Religion. Two words in that title,religio [religion] and ordo [order], while seemingly synonymous, suggest the historical nature of the work. It is a description of the growth of the movement from the first fraternity of Francis and his brothers to a religion, a gathering of those committed to God in some way, and then into an Order, a group of those who follow a set rule and the same customs.6 The distinction is simply mentioned in passing: "At that time the religion of the brothers was not yet called an order."7

By singling out "the first companions of Blessed Francis in religion," the ancient title and the Prologue suggest the author's interest in the dynamics that enabled that primitive fraternity to grow from its small beginnings. This is a work in which the protagonist is not Francis the Saint; the principals are the first companions of Francis. Francis, although primus inter pares, remains simply one of the brothers. The brotherhood becomes the context in which the Gospel ideals are discovered as Francis and his brothers strive to live together.8




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 31