Saint Francis of Assisi was born as Francesco Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone (Assisi, 26th September 1182-Assisi, 3rd October 1226). He was the founder of the Order named after him and is venerated as a Saint by the Catholic Church. On the 4th of October his feast day is celebrated by the entire Catholic Church, and especially by the Franciscan Family which holds this day as a solemnity.
On the 18th of July 1939 Pope Pius XII proclaimed him, together with Santa Caterina da Siena, Patron Saint of Italy.
Among his first followers we find Bernardo from Quintavalle, Pietro Cattani, Egidio and Filippo; in the spring of 1208, they created a community at the abandoned hut of Rivotorto and at the church of the Porziuncola, located in the plain about three kilometers from Assisi. Thus, the Order of Minors Friars was created and in 1209 it obtained the oral approval by Pope Innocent III. Francis was even welcomed at the court of Sultan Melek el-Kamel in Egypt. In 1216 Pope Honorius III granted the indulgence of the Porziuncola and later, on November 29th, 1223, he finally gave his definite approval of the Rule of the Order. On Christmas Day of 1223, in the town of Greccio Francis established the first nativity scene and while praying on Mount La Verna, the year after, he received the stigmata. The last period of his life was marked by a disease that did not prevent him from dictating the Canticle of the Creatures, a lyric poem expressing Franciscan ideals.
He died on 3rd October 1226. Two years later, July 16th 1228, through the work of Pope Gregory IX, he was canonized as a Saint. Pope Pius XII, in 1939, declared him “Patron Saint of Italy”.
He is also known as the “Poor Man of Assisi” and his tomb is visited by thousands of devout followers every year.
The town of Assisi, because of its illustrious citizen, became the symbol of peace, especially after hosting the big three meetings between representatives of the major religions of the world, promoted by John Paul II in 1986 and in 2002, and Benedict XVI in 2011. Today, St. Francis of Assisi is one of the most popular and revered saints in the world.
Francis, thanks to the Canticle of the Creatures, is recognized as one of the initiators of the Italian literary tradition.