General Introduction - 16 

The Legend of the Three Companions provides details and insights that confirm the claim of Leo, Angelo, and Rufino that they or their companions had personal access to Francis. Close examination of the text also reveals that they had access to the earlier texts of The Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano and The Anonymous of Perugia.25 While the authors give the impression that they are intent on clarifying Thomas of Celano's work, they seem to respect The Anonymous of Perugia. Taking passages from Thomas of Celano, the three abbreviate, refine or add to them. At the same time, however, they quote The Anonymous of Perugia almost verbatim, although, at times, they provide details or insights missing from the earlier text.

The Assisi Compilation is different. "We who were with him" offer their stories with a much more down-to-earth vocabulary. Unlike Thomas of Celano or Julian of Speyer, their Latin is simple, lacking in refinement, and bereft of quotations or allusions to the writers of Latin antiquity. In many instances, it is clear that these stories flow from warm, personal experiences with the saint and those involved. Yet the work is definitely a compilation. Different styles of writing are evident. The mood or tenor of the text shifts abruptly. Frequently paragraphs become polemical or contentious in nature.

Both texts, however, come to us in a form different from that in which they were originally written. In the case of The Legend of the Three Companions, a letter written by Francis's companions appears by way of introduction. Its description of the text that follows does not correspond to that introduction; that is, while claiming that the material is a collection of "some of the more beautiful flowers" presented in a haphazard way, the text at hand is actually a chronological presentation in the form of a legend. Moreover, one family of manuscripts ends abruptly, while another continues with a description of Francis's last days. Scholars see this phenomenon as an indication that one of the two is an earlier rendition of the text. The Assisi Compilation, meanwhile, is a complicated text also containing additional passages taken from a later text of Thomas of Celano and from writings known to have come at a later date from Leo, Francis's close companion. In both instances, however, the authors seem intent to set the record straight and to return to the primitive vision of the Founder.

Crescentius commissioned Thomas of Celano to undertake the task of re-presenting these remembrances.26 For the third time, Thomas received a request for another portrait of Francis. The first, The Life of Saint Francis,was prompted by Francis's canonization. This was followed by the need for a liturgical text, The Legend for Use in the Choir. His confreres had received and used both with great enthusiasm. In this instance, however, his task was more daunting for it was at the behest of his brothers who, at this time, continued to be divided by fundamental questions about Francis's Rule.

Considering the turbulent period in which the Order existed, the task, then, given to Thomas of Celano was formidable. In addition to receiving this commission from the General Minister, not the Pope, Thomas of Celano had seen the fraternity change dramatically since his composition of The Life of Saint Francis. The interventions of Pope Gregory, especially that of Quo elongati, had only in




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 16

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