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History of the Christian Church, Volume V: The Middle Ages. A.D. 1049-1294.
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§ 69. Franciscan Literature.


I. St. Francis: Works in Latin text, ed. by Wadding, Antwerp, 1623, by de la Haye, Paris, 1841, Col., 1849, Paris, 1880-Quaracchi, 1904.—Bernardo da Fivizzano: Oposcoli di S. Fr. d’Assise, Florence, 1880. Gives the Latin text and Ital. trans., the Rule of 1223, St. Francis’ will, letters, etc.—French trans. by Ed. d’Alencon: Les Opuscules de S. François, Paris, 1905.—H. Böhmer: Analekten zur Gesch. des Franc. von Assisi, Francisci opuscula, regula poenitentium, etc., mit einer Einleittung, Tübingen, 1904.—Writings of St. Francis of Assisi, trans. by Father Paschal Robinson, Phil., 1906.

Lives.—1. Thomas of Celano: Vita prima, written 1228 at the command of Gregory IX., to justify the canonization of Francis, Rome, 1880.—2. Th. of Celano: Vita secunda, written about 1247 and revealing the struggles within the Franciscan order, ed. by Fivizzano, Rome, 1880. Both lives ed. by H. G. Rosedale: Thomas de Celano, St. F. d’Assisi with a crit. Introd. containing a description with every extant version in the original Latin, N. Y., 1904. Also Ed. d’Alençon: Th. a Celano, S. Franc. Assisiensis vita et miracula, etc., pp. lxxxvii, 481, Rome, 1906.—Fr. of Assisi according to Th. of Celano. His descriptions of the Seraphic Father, 1229–1257, Introd. by H. G. Rosedale, Lond., 1904.—3. Legenda trium sociorum, the Legend of the Three Companions, Leo, Angelo, and Rufino, intimate associates of Francis. Written in 1246 and first publ. in full by the Bollandists as an appendix to Celano’s Lives, Louvaine, 1768, Rome, 1880. It has been preserved in a mutilated condition. The disputes within the order account for the expurgation of parts to suit the lax or papal wing.—4. Speculum perfectionis seu S. Francesci Assisiensis legenda antiquissima, auctore fratre Leone, nunc primum edidit, Paul Sabatier, Paris, 1898; also ed. by Ed. Lemmens, Quaracchi, 1901. Sabatier dates it 1227. Eng. trans. by Constance, Countess de la Warr, Lond., 1902. See note below.—5. Legenda major, or Aurea legenda major, by Bonaventura, in Peltier’s ed., and Quaracchi, 1898, Engl. trans., Douai, 1610, and by Miss Lockhart with Pref. by Card. Manning, Lond., 3d ed., 1889. Written in obedience to the order of the Franciscan Chapter and approved by it at Pisa, 1263. Here the legendary element is greatly enlarged. Once treated as the chief authority, it is now relegated to a subordinate place, as it suppresses the distinctive element represented by Francis’ will.—6. Liber conformitatum, by Bartholomew Albericus of Pisa, d. 1401. Institutes forty comparisons between Francis and Christ. Luther called it der Barfussmönche Eulenspiegel und Alkoran, The owls’ looking-glass and Koran of the Barefoot monks.—7. Actus B. Francesci et sociorum ejus, ed. Sabatier, Paris, 1902. A collection of sayings and acts of Francis, handed down from eye-witnesses and others, hitherto unpubl. and to be dated not later than 1328.—8. Legenda of Julian of Spires. About 1230.—9. Legenda of Bernard of Bess, publ. in the Analecta Franciscana III., Quaracchi, near Florence. A compilation.—10. Francisci beati sacrum commercium cum domina paupertate, with an Ital. trans. by Ed. d’Alençon, Rome, 1900. Engl. trans., The Lady Poverty, by Montgomery Carmichael, N. Y., 1902. Goes back, at least, to the 13th century, as Ubertino da Casale was acquainted with it.—11. The Fioretti, or Little Flowers of St. Francis, first publ., 1476, ed. Sabatier, Paris, 1902, pp. xvi., 250. Engl. trans. by Abby L. Alger, Boston, 1887, and Woodroffe, London, 1905. Belongs to the 14th century. A collection of legends very popular in Italy. Sabatier says none of them are genuine, but that they perfectly reveal the soul of St. Francis,—12. Fratris Fr. Bartholi de Assisio Tractatus de indulgentia S. Mariae de Portiuncula, ed. Sabatier, Paris, 1900. Belongs to the 14th century. See Lit.-zeitung, 1901, 110 sqq.—13. Regula antiqua fratrum et sororum de poenitentia seu tertii ordinis S. Francisci, nunc primum ed., Sabatier, Paris, 1901. See S. Minocchi: La Leggenda antica. Nuova fonte biogr. di S. Francesco d’Assisi tratto da un codice Vaticana, Florence, 1905, pp. 184. Unfavorably noticed by Lempp, in Lit.-zeitung, 1906, p. 509, who says that the contents of the MS. were for the most part drawn from the Speculum perfectionis.

Modern Biographies.—By Chavin De Malan, Paris, 1841, 2d ed., 1845.—K. Hase, Leip. 1856, 2d ed., 1892. First crit. biog.—Mrs. Oliphant, Lond., 1870.—Magliano, 2 vols., Rome, 1874, Eng. trans., N. Y., 1887.—L. de Chérancé, Paris, 1892, Engl. trans., 1901.—Henry Thode, Berlin, 1885, 1904.—*Paul Sabatier, a Protestant pastor: Vie de S. François d’Assise, Paris, 1894. 33d ed., 1906. Crowned by the French Academy. Engl. trans. by L. S. Houghton, N. Y., 1894. I use the 27th ed.—W. J. Knox-Little, Lond., 1896.—P. Doreau, Paris, 1903, p. 648.—A. Barine: S. Fr. d’Assisi et le légende des trois Compagnons, Paris, 1901.—J. Herkless: Francis and Dominic, N. Y., 1904.—H. v. Redern, Schwerin, 1905.—*G. Schnürer: Franz von Assisi. Die Vertiefung des religiösen Lebens im Abendlande zur Zeit der Kreuzzüge, Munich, 1905.—Nino Tamassia: S. Francesco d’Assisi e la sua leggenda, Padua, 1906, p. 216.—F. Van Ortroy: Julien de Spire, biographe de St. François, Brussels, 1890.—J. E. Weis: Julian von Speier, d. 1285, Munich, 1900.—Ed. Lempp: Frère Elie de Cortona, Paris, 1901.—H. Tilemann: Speculum perfectionis und Legenda trium sociorum, Ein Beitrag zur Quellenkritik der Gesch. des hl. Franz. von Assisi, Leip. 1902.—Potthast: Bibl. Hist., II. 1319 sqq. gives a list of ninety biographies. For further Lit. see Zöckler in Herzog, VI. 197–222, and "Engl. Hist. Rev." 1903, 165 sqq., for a list and critical estimate of the lit., W. Goetz: Die Quellen zur Gesch. des hl. Franz von Assisi, Gotha, 1904. First published in Brieger’s Zeitschrift and reviewed in Lit.-zeitung, 1905, pp. 8–10.

II. The Franciscans: Earliest Chronicles.—Jordanus Da Giano: de primitivorum fratrum in Teutoniam missorum conversatione et vita memorabilia, for the years 1207–1238, in Analecta Franciscana, pp. 1–19.—Thomas of Eccleston, a Franciscan: de adventu Minorum in Angliam, 1224–1250 in the Analecta Franciscana and best in Monumenta Franciscana, ed. by J. S. Brewer, with valuable Preface, London, 1858, Engl. trans. by Cuthbert, London, 1903. The volume also contains the Letters of Adam de Marisco, etc.; vol. II., ed. by Richard Howlett, with Preface, contains fragments of Eccleston and other English documents bearing on the Franciscans.—Analecta Franciscana sive chronica aliaque documenta ad historiam Minorum spectantia, Quaracchi, 1885.—Bullarium Franciscanum sive Romanorum pontificum constitutiones, epistolae, diplomata, etc., vols. I.-IV., Rome, 1759, ed. by J. H. Sbaraglea and Rossi, vols. V., VII., Rome, 1898–1904, ed. by Conrad Eubel; the collection extends to 1378.—Seraphicae legationis textus originales, Quaracchi, 1897, containing the Rule of 1223 and other documents. Luke Wadding: Annales Minorum, 7 vols., Lyons, 1625–1648, the most valuable history of the order.—Denifle and Ehrle give valuable materials and criticisms in Archiv für Lit. und Kirchengeschichte d. Mittelalters, vol. I. 145 sqq.; 509–569, III. 553 sqq.; VI. 1I sqq., Berlin, 1885–1891.—Karl Müller: Die Anfänge des Minoriten-ordens und der Bussbruderschaften, Freib., 1885.—A. G. Little: The Grey-friars in Oxford, Oxford, 1891.—Eubel: Die avignonesische Obedienz der Mendikanten-Orden, etc., zur Zeit des grossen Schismas beleuchtet durch die von Clement VII. und Benedict XIII. an dieselben gerichteten Schreiben, Paderborn, 1900.—Pierre Madonnet: Les origines de l’ordre de poenitentia, Freib., 1898; also Les règles et le gouvernement de l’ordre de poenitentia am XIIIe siècle (1212–1234), Paris, 1902.—F. X. Seppelt: Der Kampf der Bettelorden an der Universität Paris in der Mitte des 13ten Jahrh. Heiligenstadt, 1892.—F. Glaser: Die franziskanische Bewegung. Ein Beitrag zur Gesch. sozialer Reformideen im Mittelalter, Stuttg., 1903.—H. Felder: Gesch. der wissenschaftlichen Studien im Franziskanerorden bis c. 1250, Freib., 1904, pp. 557. Ricard St. Clara: St. Claire d’Assise, Paris, 1895.—E. Wauer: Entstehung und Ausbreitung des Klarissenordens besonders in deutschen Minoritenprovinzen, Leip., 1906.—E. Knoth: Ubertino da Casale, Marburg, 19 Bibliothek zu Breslau befindlichen handschrift-lichen Aufzeichnungen von Reden und Tractaten Capistrans, etc., 2 Parts, Breslau, 1903–1905.—L. de Chérancé: St. Antoine de Padoue, Paris, 1906.—Helyot: Relig. Orders, VII. 1–421.—Lea. Hist. of the Inquisition, I. 242–304.—M. Creighton: The Coming of the Friars, in Lectures and Addresses, pp. 69–84.—A. Jessopp: The Coming of the Friars.—Stevenson: Life of Grosseteste, London, 1899, pp. 59–87.—Hauck, IV. 366–483.


Note on the recent literature on St. Francis. A phenomenal impulse was given to the study of the life of St. Francis by the publication of Sabatier’s biography in 1804. This biography, Karl Müller placed "at the summit of modern historical workmanship.," Lit.-zeitung, 1895, pp. 179–186. It showed a mastery of the literature before unknown and a profound sympathy with the spirit of the Italian saint. It has revolutionized the opinion of Protestants in regard to him, and has given to the world a correct picture of the real Francis. Strange that a Protestant pastor should have proved himself the leading modern student of Francis and one of his most devoted admirers! Sabatier has followed up his first work with tireless investigations into the early literature and history of St. Francis and the Franciscans, giving up his pastorate, making tour after tour to Italy, and spending much time in Assisi, where he is held in high esteem, and is pointed out as one of the chief sights of the place. He has been fortunate in his discoveries of documents and, as an editor, he has created a new Franciscan literature. His enthusiasm and labors have stimulated a number of scholars in Germany, Italy, and Switzerland to make a specialty of the early Franciscan literature such as Minocchi, Madonnet, Müller, Lempp, and Schnürer. His Life of St. Francis has been put on the Index because it is said to misrepresent Catholic customs.

While Sabatier’s presentation of Francis’ career and character may be said to have gained general acceptance, except among Franciscans, there is a large difference of opinion in regard to the dates of the early documents and their original contents. This literary aspect of the subject has become greatly complicated by the publication of manuscripts which differ widely from one another and the divergent criticisms of scholars. This confusion has been likened by Müller, Lit.-zeitung, 1902, p. 593, and Lempp, Lit. zeitung, 1906, p. 509, to a thicket through which it is almost impossible to see a path. The confusion grows out of the determined policy of Gregory IX. and the conventual wing of the early Franciscans to destroy all materials which show that Francis was opposed to a strict discipline within the order and insisted upon the rule of absolute poverty. The Franciscan chapter of 1264 ordered all biographies of Francis, written up to that time, destroyed, except the biography by Bonaventura. St. Francis’ insistence upon the rule of absolute poverty, the original Rule, and his will, were to be utterly effaced. The new study, introduced by the clear eye of Sabatier, has gone back of this date, 1264, and rescued the portrait of the real Francis.

The attention of scholars is chiefly concentrated on the Speculum perfectionis published by Sabatier, 1898, and the original Rule of the Franciscan Tertiaries. The Speculum perfectionis is a life of Francis and, according to Sabatier (Introd. li.), is the first biography, dating back to 1227. The discovery of the document is one of the most interesting and remarkable of recent historical discoveries. The way it came to be found was this:—

Materials for the Life of Francis are contained in a volume entitled Speculum vitae St. Francisci et sociorum ejus, published first at Venice, 1504, and next at Paris, 1509. In studying the Paris edition of 1509, Sabatier discovered 118 chapters ascribed to no author and differing in spirit and style from the other parts. He used the document in the construction of his biography and was inclined to ascribe it to the three companions of Francis,—Leo, Angelo, and Rufino. See Vie de S. François, pp. lxxii. sq. At a later time he found that in several MSS. these chapters were marked as a distinct document. In the MS. in the Mazarin library he found 124 distinctive chapters. In these are included the 16 of the Paris edition of 1509. These chapters Sabatier regards as a distinct volume, the Speculum perfectionis, written by Leo, the primary composition bearing on Francis’ career and teachings. The date for its composition is derived from the Mazarin MS. which gives the date as MCCXXVIII. This date Sabatier finds confirmed by indications in the document itself, p. xxii. etc.

This sympathetic, lucid, and frank narrative puts Francis in a new light, as a martyr to the ambitious designs of Gregory IX. who set aside the rule of absolute poverty which was most dear to Francis’ heart and placed over him a representative of his own papal views. Leo, so Sabatier contends (Introd. p. li.), wrote his work immediately after the announcement by Elias of Cortona of the intention to erect an imposing cathedral over the "Little Poor Man." Leo was unable to suppress his indignation and so uttered his protest against the violent manipulation of Francis’ plan and memory.

Serious objection has been raised to Sabatier’s date of the Speculum perfectionis. In agreement with Minocchi,—Tilemann, Goetz, and others have adopted the date given in the Ognissanti (a convent in Florence) MS. namely MCCCXVII, and by a careful study of the other lives of Francis conclude that the Speculum is a compilation. Some of its contents, however, they agree, antedate Thomas a Celano’s Vita secunda or second Life of Francis or are still older. Müller, Lit.-zeitung, 1899, 49–52, 1902, p. 598, and Lempp, while not accepting the early date of 1227, place the document in the first half of the 13th century and regard it as an authority of the first rank, eine Quelle ersten Ranges. It shows a deep penetration into the real mind and soul of Francis, says Lempp, Lit.-zeitung, 1905, pp. 9 sq. Tilemann also ascribes to the document the highest value. For the numerous articles in Reviews, by Minocchi, van Ortroy, etc., see Tilemann, Speculum perfectionis, p. 4.

If Sabatier has given us the real Francis of history, as there is reason to believe he has, then the spectacle of Francis’ loss of authority by the skilled hand of Cardinal Ugolino, Gregory IX., is one of the most pathetic spectacles in history and Francis stands out as one of the most unselfish and pure-minded men of the Christian centuries.


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