St. Francis Assissi

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Saint Francis of Assissi

1. Birth

Saint Francis was born Giovanni Bernadone in either 1181 or 1182 in the Italian hill town of Assisi.

His parents, Pietro and Pica, were members of the rather well-to-do merchant class of the town. Pioetro Bernadone was away in France when his son was born. On his return, he had the boy's name changed from Giovanni to Franceso ("The Little Frenchman"-perhaps a tribute to France, a country he loved and from which his wife's family came).

Saint Francis of Assisi, was born in 1182, more probably in the latter year. His mother's family, which was not without distinction, may originally have hailed from Provence. His father, Pietro di Bernardone, was a prosperous cloth merchant and one of the influential business men of Assisi. A merchant in those days was a far different individual from the modern shop keeper; forced by circumstances to be both daring and prudent, he constantly embarked upon the most hazardous undertakings and his career was likely to be a succession of ups and downs.

Moreover, business activities, which today tend more and more to assert their independence of any ethical code, were then strictly subordinated to accepted moral standards, as is clearly shown in the writings of Leo Battista Alberti, a century and a half later, or in the Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas.

Bernardone was not in Assisi when his son was born. At first the child was called John but upon his father's return he was christened Francis, in memory of France, whence Pietro di Bernardone had just returned. More than any other character in history, St. Francis in after life retained the qualities most characteristic of childhood, so that it is not difficult to imagine him as he must have appeared during his early years, with...