Jacopone of Todi (1278-1293) - 873 

patterns. Particularly connected with Franciscan circles,a laud-singing marked public religious gatherings, such as sermons and processions. Numerous confraternities devoted to their performance and composition (laudesi) sprang up throughout the towns of Italy.

Jacopone was by far the greatest composer of these popular religious lyrics; his lauds are immensely rich in content and display a wide range of themes. Although he undoubtedly wrote some to be sung publicly, others seem to be more introspective and personal compositions. Although Jacopone gives evidence of a wide reading in theology, he tends to express himself in the crude dialect and sharp imagery of a peasant. Of the ninety-three lauds attributed to him, two are devoted to Saint Francis. These express themes common to Jacopone's other lauds: the ecstatic love of God manifest in his self-emptying into human flesh, the madness of God-in-Christ suffering on the cross for ungrateful humanity, the annihilating effect of divine love in the soul who does respond to it. They also voice convictions common to the Franciscan Spiritual tradition. Jacopone believed that he was living in a time of apocalyptic conflict in which the institutional church had fallen to a carnal state in its love of wealth and power, and that the emerging spiritual church, prefigured in Francis, is marked by absolute poverty. Francis, marked with the signs of the crucified Christ, is the herald of the future church; therefore, any deviation from Francis's own practice by his brothers is a betrayal of their prophetic role in the last days.

Although it is extremely difficult to date precisely Jacopone's writings, most authors who have tried to do so suggest that these two lauds are products of the period 1278-93.b

Laud 61: "O Francesco Povero"

O poor Francis, new patriarch,
you bear a new standard, emblazoned with the cross.c

This cross was manifested through seven signs;
much has been written on the meaning of each.
But I'll spare the reader and try to be brief.

The first vision, at the beginning of your conversion,
was one of a noble palace. Within, it was filled
with shields marked with the cross—
the shields of those entrusted to you.




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 873