General Introduction - The Prophet - 16 

that fired the imagination of the more zealous of Francis's followers. More practically, however, in 1311 Ubertino alerted them to the existence of the lost rotulli or scrolls containing the reminiscences of Brother Leo and his companions, preserved "in the cupboards of the brothers in Assisi."35

This discovery produced a number of compilations that included, among other items, editions of the rotuli or scrolls, selected writings of Saint Francis, carefully chosen passages from earlier biographical sources, e.g. the works of Thomas of Celano, and, in some cases, stories or statements of famous and holy confreres, e.g. Conrad of Offida. The most famous of these is, undoubtedly, the Assisi Compilation, which was transcribed in 1311 shortly after Ubertino's announcement.36 Shortly thereafter, two new compilations appeared, both using the image of the mirror in their titles: one containing only forty-five paragraphs,37 the other containing one hundred and twenty-four paragraphs.38 Both texts adopt different approaches to the rotuli. The longer edition reveals, in particular, attempts at sharpening the contours of Francis's prophetic character. The humble Francis of the scrolls, for example, becomes "the most humble Francis;" his austerity becomes outstanding, as does his poverty.

Six years later, Angelo Clareno wrote his Book of Chronicles or of the Tribulations of the Order of Lesser Ones.39 Like Peter of John Olivi and Ubertino da Casale, Angelo describes history in apocalyptic terms and employs their same vocabulary of the status of history.40 Angelo, however, described seven additional periods of history that unfold with the appearance of Francis, each burdened with its own tribulations. The Prologue to Angelo's work is a pessimistic description of the increasing diminishment and decline of the Order. Those who remain faithful to Francis's Rule and especially his Testament, Angelo maintains, are called to suffer, to undergo the trials and tribulations endured by Christ Himself. As one who struggled for a rigorist interpretation of the Rule of Saint Francis, Angelo writes from a troubled point of view. In his attempt to tell the stories of the heroes and villains of his life, Angelo offers a revisionist interpretation of history in which significant events are perceived through the lens of his paranoia.

The Deeds of Blessed Francis and His Companions may well have been a written response to the seemingly forgotten request of Jerome of Ascoli in 1276 for information concerning the saint and his first followers.41 Written in its present form between 1328-37, The Deeds reveals more than one hand in its composition, although that of Ugolino Boniscambi appears to be primary. Like the date of Ugolino's birth, that of his death is unknown. The Deeds reveals his knack for remembering and narrating stories, especially those originating in his own Province of the Marches. Four, possibly five, of these stories contain questionable details; many other details are clearly mistaken. Thus, there is need for a critical eye in judging the historical accuracy of this work. Throughout The Deeds, however, its authors add colorful details that provide light and often humor.




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 16