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Description - Francis of Assisi by Adrian House

Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) was the least dogmatic of saints, seeing himself as God's troubadour or fool. His life was rich in its succession of dramas. After his debauchery as a young playboy, merchant and soldier - he fought at the Battle of Collestrada - he stripped naked in court, abandoned everything he owned and devoted his life to the poorest and the sick. On his missions he walked over the Pyrenees barefoot, was shipwrecked, and crossed the lines during the Fifth Crusade to parley with the Sultan in Egypt. In 1224 marks similar to Christ's wounds appeared on his hands, feet and side, the first recorded case of stigmata. Francis's feelings for creation, epitomised in his sermon to the birds, stimulated the realism of the Italian Renaissance artists; his vernacular poems inclined Dante to write The Divine Comedy in Italian not Latin. The first religious order he founded, for men, had a radical effect on social justice and the developing universities in Europe; his second order, the Poor Clares, for women, soon numbered hundreds, including royalty and half a dozen saints; his third, for laity sworn to peace, helped destroy the military power of feudalism. But above all it is through his universal love that he has influenced the world for nearly eight centuries, drawing more than three million people every year to his tomb in Assisi.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780712668149
ISBN-10: 0712668144
Format: Paperback
(233mm x 154mm x 26mm)
Pages: 352
Imprint: Pimlico
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 1-Nov-2001
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

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Book Reviews - Francis of Assisi by Adrian House

UK Kirkus Review » Francis is held in high regard even by those who do not like saints. He is loved for the childlike sweetness that made him preach to the birds (who listened attentively) and to call the wolf his brother. It is this closeness to natural beauty that inspired this book, but House does not stop there. His aim is to set Francis in the context of his medieval world: 1182 to 1226. For all his love of the high and unspoilt places of the Umbrian hills, Francis was affected by the wars of his times, especially the struggle between Emperor and Pope and the Crusades against Islam. He experienced the horrors of both, travelling to Egypt and venturing into the Sultan's presence, and (less dangerous) travelling to Rome to plead with the Pope. House sets before us all the relevant evidence, so that, even if we disagree with him, we can make up our own minds. He sees the story of St. Francis as a great drama, a human story, which entwines itself with that of St Clare, his closest follower. A delightful feature is the wealth of illustrations. These include very early pictures of St. Francis, big-eyed, tiny, intense, that give us some idea of his charismatic vitality. Here is a man consumed with superhuman love. For House it is less what Francis believed that matters, hence his claim that he writes 'for readers of any faith, or none': it is what Francis was that matters, and this he sets out resolutely to demonstrate. Speaking of Francis and Clare, he says that 'neither was an intellectual, but they were intelligent, educated and thoughtful'; these are the very adjectives one would choose to describe this book. (Kirkus UK)

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Author Biography - Adrian House

Adrian House read Modern History at New College, Oxford, and was for many years a publisher with William Collins. He spent four years researching and writing this book, living for six months in Assisi and visiting Franciscan sites, communities and libraries in Britain, Italy, Spain, Egypt and the United States. Francis of Assisi therefore combines his own earliest sources and the work of contemporary authorities. In 1989 he helped to produce the documentary series Art, Faith and Vision for Channel 4. He is the author of a joint biography of George and Joy Adamson, who were famous for Born Free, the story of their African lioness.