General Introduction - The Prophet - 19 

knowledged, quoted, and respected by those whom modern historians portray as Bonaventure's malingerers?

The Prologue to a fourteenth-century compilation written in Saxony may offer a key to understanding the dynamic of many of these texts:

"Do it exactly according to the exemplar [pattern] that was shown to you on the mountain (Ex 25:40). The highest perfection . . . has illumined the earth, that is, Christ, who according to the Prophet is a generous and fruitful mountain, a mountain that God chose for his dwelling; for there the Lord dwells forever . . . The great and high mountain is, therefore, the Lord himself; but among his people are other mountains around Him. That we should raise our eyes to those mountains and so be helped by the pattern of a perfect life, Christ our God has raised up our blessed father Francis among the holy mountains of his exalted Church . . . In him He has shown us the image of His holy life and of every perfection according to the Gospel."53

These were texts intended to keep the Forma Minorum, Francis, continually before the minds of his followers, texts that were intended to complement or supplement the "official" documents of the Church and the Order. Their editors carefully crafted stories attributed to their heroes—"we who were with him," Leo, Conrad of Offida, et al.—and used them to recast Francis in their own image as a Spiritual and a prophet of tribulation for their time. As such, these are texts that reveal more about the Order than about Francis himself, texts that need to be read with a critical eye so that the fundamentalism they convey will not seduce the reader into accepting a fourteenth-century, biased portrait of Francis. Nevertheless, the prophetic images of Francis presented in many of the texts of this volume offer contemporary readers of the twenty-first century a challenge: to be not only admirers of The Saint and followers of The Founder, but also, in their own time, place, and circumstance, to be emulators of The Prophet.


1. Cf. Marjorie Reeves, The Influence of Prophecy in The Later Middle Ages: A Study of Joachimism (Oxford: Oxford at The Clarendon Press, 1969); Joachim of Fiore and The Prophetic Future (London: SPCK, 1976). Prophecy and Millenarianism: Essays in Honour of Marjorie Reeves, ed. Ann Williams (Harkow, Essex: Longman House, 1980); Bernard McGinn, Visions of the End: Apocalyptic Traditions in the Middle Ages (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979).

2. Cf. Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, Vol. 2 The Founder, 725-8 (hereafter FA:ED I, II, or III respectively).

3. For excellent studies, see Stephen Bihel, "S. Franciscus fuitne Angelus Sexti Sigili?" Antonianum 2 (1927): 59-90; Stanislao da Campagnola, L'Angeto del Sesto Sigillo e L'Alter Christus: Genesi e Sviluppo dei Due Temi Francescani nei Secoli XIII e XIV (Rome: Laurentianum, 1971).

4. Cf. Joseph Ratzinger, The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure, trans.Zachary Hayes (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1971).

5. For a thorough background, see Bernard McGinn, The Calabrian Abbot: Joachim of Fiore in the History of Western Thought (New York: Macmillan, 1985), esp. 207-36; and especially Ratzinger, Theology of History.

6. Duncan Nimmo notes the effect of the decision of the 1266 Chapter of Paris to favor Bonaventure's Major Legend of Saint Francis by pointing out: "the Franciscan editors knew of 179 manuscripts of Bonaventure's life; they knew less than a score for Celano's first biography, The Life of Saint Francis, most of which had belonged apparently to the Cistercians, not to the brothers at all; and for his Second Life the number of complete copies known at present is two." Cf. Duncan Nimmo, Reform and Division in the Medieval Franciscan Order: From Saint Francis to the Foundation of the Capuchins. Bibliotecha Seraphico-Capuccina 33 (Rome: Capuchin Historical Institute, 4 1987), 73-4.




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 19