The Book of Chronicles (Prologue and the First Tribulation) - 378 

him after Himself to follow the footprints of His perfection, appearing to him crucified." From this perspective, the unfolding of the first tribulation, that endured by Francis himself, is understandable. "[Christ] so transformed him into Himself," Angelo writes, "that from then on he lived not for himself but, fully crucified, for Christ."

This intimacy with Christ also brought Francis special graces: apparitions, revelations, privileged conversations. Angelo never tires of accentuating the origin in these revelatory experiences of not only Francis's Rule but also his Testament. "Ground yourself," Christ tells Francis, "your rule and life on the poverty and nakedness of My cross . . ." In paragraphs that are among the most uplifting in Franciscan literature, Angelo describes the inspiration of Francis's vision and life—and that of his followers—in Christ alone, and, for this reason, he re-iterates the saint's command that no glosses should be placed on his Rule and, he adds, the Testament.

The Prologue to The Book of Chronicles does not continue very long in this lofty presentation; it soon turns pessimistic as Angelo describes the increasing diminishment and decline of the Order. He places these prophecies on the lips of Francis and brings them to a conclusion by repeating the vision that, according to the Old Legend, the saint received from an angel of the statue described in the Book of Daniel.10 According to the vision, the golden head of the statue represents Francis and his companions "who have carried Christ and His death in their hearts . . ." After them, however, the statue diminishes in the value of its composition and each element represents another degradation in the Order. Francis's followers, Angelo states, "prefer verbs to virtues, and science to sanctity." Those who remain faithful to Francis's Rule and especially his Testament, Angelo maintains, are called to suffer, to undergo the trials and tribulations of Christ crucified.

Thus Angelo lays the groundwork for his revisionist understanding of the history of the Order and, in particular, of the heritage of Francis. Unlike the prophetic figure of the angel of the sixth seal proposed by Bonaventure, Angelo Clareno sees the saint—and his faithful followers—as totally identified with the sufferings of Christ.

The growing tensions among the Lesser Brothers converged with the turmoil in the Avignon papacy and both washed over Angelo Clareno whose personal struggle drove him ever more deeply into despondency. Such were the influences that shaped The Book of Chronicles or of the Tribulations of the Order of Minors. Brilliantly written, The Book is nonetheless a disturbing, almost convoluted interpretation of history, a history that encompasses much of the material contained in the three volumes of Francis of Assisi: Early Documents. Its influences on that history and on subsequent portraits of Francis, directly and indirectly, are enormous. In addition to being a principal source for the history of the Spirituals,11 The Book was used by Hugolino of Montegiorgio in The Deeds of Blessed Francis and His Companions, and its popular Italian translation, The Little Flowers. More than twenty chapters of the later compilation, the Life of the Poor and Humble Servant of God, Francis, are taken verbatim from Angelo's Book. Moreover, much of the prejudice that developed against Bonaventure's




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 378