Introduction to Legends and Sermons - 503 

evokes a prayer of gratitude and an accompanying plea for the Franciscan minor fraternity to come together in the prayerful remembrance of the Poor Man, now venerated as the saint from Assisi.


In 1263 Bonaventure presented his completed legends to the brothers at the General Chapter of Pisa. It is not difficult to imagine that, as Michael Bihl suggests, thirty-four manuscripts of the text were prepared, one for each Province of the Order.41 There is no evidence of these manuscripts, nor is there any statement of the Chapter's approval of the work. The brothers gathered at the General Chapter of Paris in 1266 may well have mandated that each friary have a manuscript of the text, but their decision to establish the Major Legend as the definitive portrait of Francis remains its far more important contribution. "The General Chapter likewise orders under obedience that all the legends of the Blessed Francis that have been made should be removed. Wherever they find these outside the Order, let the brothers strive to remove them. For this Legend made by the General Minister has been compiled as he received it from the mouth of those who were always with blessed Francis and had certain knowledge of everything, and proven facts have been diligently placed in it."42

In light of Bonaventure's prologue to the Constitutions of Narbonne in which he states that "the highest governing authority of the Order resides in the general chapter,"43 it is difficult to imagine that he would be so presumptuous as to mandate his portrait of Francis as definitive and to order the destruction of all others. In reaction to the autocratic administration of Elias and following the example of the Friars Preacher, the Lesser Brothers decided that the chapter determined policy; the responsibility of the general minister was to execute it.44 Nevertheless, the results of the decree were drastic. The editors of the Analecta Franciscana discovered less than twenty manuscripts of Thomas's Life of Saint Francis and most of these were in the possession of the Cistercians. There were only two of Thomas's Remembrance of the Desire of A Soul.

Thus Bonaventure's work became the fundamental, primary portrait of Francis and, next to his Rule and Testament, the principal interpreter of his vision. By the middle of the next century, there were one thousand five hundred and thirty manuscripts of the Major Legend in friaries throughout Europe and at least another four hundred in the monasteries of the Poor Clares. Sadly, the Order had begun to fragment at this time and Bonaventure and his interpretation of Francis became a highly contested point. Nevertheless, Arnaud of Sarrant eloquently compared Bonaventure's portrait in terms of John's Gospel:

The fourth author was like another John the Eagle, Brother Bonaventure. His knowledge was like that of an eagle lifted ever high. And when he was general minister, it was as if he were the king of all fowl. This man, more clearly than the others, de-




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, p. 503