A Book of the Praises of Saint Francis (1277-1283) - 29 

peoples' memory, and, through them, "to demonstrate very plainly the perfection of this way of life."

Bernard's work may well have been overshadowed by a papal declaration: Pope Nicholas III's Exiit qui seminat issued on August 14, 1279.17 Nicholas's lengthy, detailed interpretation of the Rule of the Lesser Brothers, like that of Innocent IV, Ordinem Vestrum,18 directed the attention of the Lesser Brothers away from the figure of their founder and fostered debate about the values he proposed for their way of life. Once again Francis's followers struggled with the very question Bernard seems repeatedly to have addressed: observance of Francis's Rule or of his own example.

Nonetheless, Bernard of Besse's Book of the Praises of Saint Francis makes significant contributions. This is the first text to focus on four distinct traditions, two from Italy: the works of Thomas of Celano and of a mysterious notary John;19 and two from France: the works of Julian of Speyer, and of Bonaventure.20 While differing in their identification of the authors, both Angelo Clareno and Arnald of Sarrant followed Bernard's example, the latter suggesting that Francis's four biographers underscore his conformity to the life of Jesus.21

Moreover, Bernard provides information that appears for the first time concerning the first generation of Francis's followers, e.g., names, activities, burial places, probably in response to the request of Jerome of Ascoli.

Bernard's repeated use of earlier texts, most specially that of Thomas of Celano, sheds new light on the "destruction" of these texts mandated by the Chapter of Paris in 1266. At the same time, Bernard's comment about the difficulty of following the example of Francis while maintaining the benefit of his Rule offers new insights into the struggles of the Lesser Brothers in the period following Bonaventure's generalate. From one perspective, The Book of Praises casts a broad beam of light onto the future search for information about not only Francis, but also his companions. It also foreshadows the manipulation of much of that knowledge in defending the varying interpretations of the rule and life Francis proposed.


1. Andrew George Little, "Definitiones Capitulorum Generalium Ordinis Fratrum Minorum 1260-1282," AFH 7 (1914): 681. Unfortunately, the text of Jerome's letter has not survived.

2. Arnald of Sarrant, "Tempora Fratris Bonagratiae (1279-1283)," Chronica Generalium Ministrorum Ordinis Fratrum Minorum, in Analecta Franciscana sive Chronica Aliaque Varia Documenta ad Historiam Fratrum Minorum Spectantia (hereafter AF), t. III, ed. Patres Collegii S. Bonaventurae (Ad Claras Aquas, Quaracchi: Collegium S. Bonaventurae, 1897), 377.

3. Cf. Wadding, Annales V, 60-1.

4. Ferdinand Delorme, "Les cordeliers dans le Lomousin au XIIIe-XIVe siècle," AFH 32 (1939): 201-59; 33(1940): 114-160; idem, "Codicillo di Alice di Roma," Studi Franciscani 11(1925): 126-8.

5. Ferdinand Delorme, "À propos de Bernard de Besse," Studi Franciscani 13(1927): 217-28.

6. Arnald, Chronicles, 377.

7. Cf. infra 54.

8. The Speculum disciplinae, found in St. Bonaventure, Opera Omnia, t. III, ed. Patres Collegii S. Bonaventura (Ad Claras Aquas, Quaracchi: Collegium S. Bonaventurae, 1898), 583-622, is identified as a work of Bernard of Besse, although the editors indicate that many incipits have attributed the work to Bonaventure. After a thorough study, Baldwin Distelbrink came to the same conclusion, cf. Bonaventura Scripta: Authentica Dubia vel Spuria Critice Recensita, Subsidia Scientifica Franciscalia 5 (Rome: Istituto Storico dei Cappuccini, 1975), 193. In his introduction to the Liber de Laudibus in the Fonte Francescani, Giuseppe Cremascoli maintains the Speculum is actually the work referred to as de proposito regulae [about the purpose of the Rule], but is a work aimed at novices. The same may be said of the Epistola ad Quendam Novitium Insolentem et Instabilem [A Letter to An Unfamiliar and Unstable Novice]. At times, it too has been attributed to Bonaventure, but because of its similarity with the Speculum both in approach and in teaching, it has been identified also as a work of Bernard. Cf. Distelbrink, Bonaventura, 135; Cremascoli, Fontes, 1247.




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 29