The Legend of the Three Companions - 63 

contemporaneous with the lost "process of canonization." In light of these arguments, The Legend of the Three Companions, at least in the first sixty-seven paragraphs or sixteen chapters, can be dated between 1241 and 1247. The first of possibly many editions would have occurred sometime after August 11, 1246, the date of the letter introducing the work.

In many of the manuscripts a rubric or explanatory note introduces this letter: "These are certain writings of three companions of blessed Francis about his life and manner of living while he was in the attire of the world, about his marvelous and perfect conversion, and about the perfection of the origin and foundation of the Order in him and in the first brothers." The statement's intent is clearly to underscore the source of the text, that is, three companions of Francis. The rubric's vocabulary, however, rightfully evokes reminiscences of earlier texts, especially The Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano that accentuates Francis's life, conversatio [manner of living] and conversio [conversion], and The Anonymous of Perugia with its description of the origo [origin] and fundamentum [foundation] of the Order.

The letter that follows immediately identifies the three companions, Leo, Angelo, and Rufino, and those with whom they spoke, Philip, Illuminato, Masseo, and John. Moreover, it presents the reason for their undertaking this project, that is, the command of the General Chapter, held in Genoa in 1244, to forward information about Francis to the General Minister.16 However, the letter presents this disclaimer: "We do not intend to write a legend, since other legends about his life and the miracles that the Lord worked through him have been written some time ago; rather, we have picked, as it were, from a field of flowers those we have judged the more beautiful. We are not following a chronological order, and are omitting many things which have already been related eloquently and accurately in other legends already mentioned." Be this a rhetorical expression, a gesture of humility, or an honest declaration of what would have followed the original letter, it raises serious questions. In point of fact, the text of The Legend of the Three Companions forms a legend, that is, a life to be read, one presented in a chronological order.17

Some have argued in favor of placing this controversial letter as an introduction to the information sent to Crescentius of Iesi in 1246.18 Were it not for a simple observation of Desbonnets, that judgment would seem correct. The fact is, he notes, none of the manuscripts of The Legend of the Three Companions omits the letter.19This phenomenon raises more questions: was the letter attached only to this text or to some other text? Or, was the letter attached to the legend much later? If so, for what reason? The answers continue to evade scholars.

As already noted, Causse's study clearly identifies the strong dependency of The Legend of the Three Companions on the earlier texts of Thomas of Celano and The Anonymous of Perugia.20 Making the same observation, Jacques Dalarun proposes a three-fold breakdown of the text: one third taken from The Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano, another from The Anonymous of Perugia, and another from an unknown earlier source.21 Both men maintain that the "three companions" use passages from Thomas of Celano's work




Fontes Franciscani, p.

Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 63