Introduction to Legends and Sermons - 502 

cately crafted tableaux. Like any gifted architect living in close contact with the sculptors, glass painters, and wood carvers, Bonaventure focused his attention on the details of Thomas of Celano, Julian of Speyer, and those who knew Francis, and studied their writings attentively that he might gracefully incorporate them into his own design.

The Minor Legend

The second commission Bonaventure received was to write a work similar to Thomas of Celano's Legend for the Use in Choir. The Minor Legend for official use during the Octave of the Feast of Saint Francis ensured the eradication of Thomas of Celano and Julian of Speyer's earlier liturgical-hagiographical memories of Francis. The possible insertion of this concise theological reflection on Francis's life into the portable breviaries31 also encouraged the broad diffusion of Bonaventure's text throughout Europe.32

The Minor Legend emerged as the brothers promoted Francis's spirituality in the midst of an on-going interpretation of their identity and mission. Architects and artists assisted in these efforts as they designed and decorated the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi and other large urban churches.33 In surprisingly spacious and stunningly beautiful liturgical environs,34 men and women were reminded through paintings, preaching, and praying of God's incredible condescension in the Crucified Christ35 and Francis's response to this divine initiative. Present in image and word, Francis's life revealed a paradigmatic conformity to Christ invoking and inviting people everywhere, regardless of social or ecclesial standing, to follow him, in union with the Crucified, into the mystery of God.36 The Minor Legend, celebrative and spiritual in nature,37 played a major role in diffusing this image and message of Francis as it became a salient element of the celebration of the Founder.38

The liturgical celebration of Francis's spiritual journey focused on the Feast of Saint Francis which was celebrated throughout the Roman Church on October 4th. The opening chapter of The Minor Legend was read during the solemn office on that day, and the remaining chapters throughout the Octave of the Feast of Saint Francis culminating on October 11th when the first chapter was repeated. The nine lessons of each chapter were divided among the nocturnal hours.39

The liturgical nature of The Minor Legend underscores the relationship between the text of Francis's story and the context of Bonaventure's personal dedication to prayer. It also offers a hermeneutic insight into how to read The Major Legend. As both theologian and General Minister, Bonaventure had urged his brothers to pray unceasingly with the entire Church and recognize, in prayer, the opportunity to encounter the Crucified Christ manifested in the stigmatized flesh of Francis.40 An echo of Bonaventure's devotion is heard at the conclusion of The Major Legend. At the opening of The Major Legend, Bonaventure links the miracle of his childhood healing through Francis's intercession with a formal recognition of a literary debt owed to the saint. In The Minor Legend of Saint Francis, however, the memory of Francis's intercession




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 502