The Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano - 173 

could find the witnesses he needed. It is certain that he was living in Assisi in 1230 when Jordan of Giano visited there. Jordan reports that he “went to Brother Thomas of Celano, who gave him some relics of The Blessed Father Francis.”16 Fourteen years later, when commissioned by the Chapter of Genoa in 1244 the already famous writer would have returned to Assisi for the composition of The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul. In the latter years of his life he would again have been in Assisi for the composition of The Treatise on the Miracles.17 Some authors maintain that Thomas may be the author of The Legend of Saint Clare, who was canonized on August 15, 1255. Were this the case, he would again have found himself in Assisi where he could find the sources, witnesses and oral tradition he needed.18 Most likely Thomas lived his life between Assisi and Tagliacozzo, a town about fifteen miles west of his hometown of Celano. In Tagliacozzo, Thomas spent the last years prior to his death as chaplain to the Poor Ladies, the followers of Saint Clare, at the convent of San Giovanni di Val dei Varri. Thomas died on October 4, 1260 in Tagliacozzo and was buried in the mon- astery of the Poor Ladies.19 In 1516, long after the monastery was abandoned in 1476, the brothers transferred his bones to the church of Saint Francis in Tagliacozzo where his bones presently rest. Locally, Thomas continues to be honored as the saint who wrote about a saint.

The Life of Saint Francis (1229)

As the first written account of the life of Saint Francis, Thomas’s work holds a place of honor. It holds a unique place in the historical sequence of the many other lives which would subsequently be written. This is not to argue that this text is more “historical” in the contemporary sense of that concept. More impor- tantly, The Life of Saint Francis captures the first burst of enthusiasm in the new religious movement of the Lesser Brothers. It expresses the joy of the canoniza- tion and celebrates Saint Francis’s memory. Its author is convinced that through Francis something new and refreshing entered into the spiritual communion of saints and into the visible life of the Church. In fact, Francis is the preeminent saint: “That is why every order, sex, and age finds in him a clear pattern of the teaching of salvation and an outstanding example of holy deeds.”20

The Life of Saint Francis and the Early Development of the Order

Besides Francis, three other historical figures find an honored place within the pages of The Life of Saint Francis. They are: Clare of Assisi (1194-1253), Elias Buonbarone (1180-1253) and Hugolino dei Conti di Segni, who reigned as Pope Gregory IX from 1227-1241. At various points within the narrative Thomas accents their relationship to Francis and sings their praises.




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, p. 173