Liturgical Texts for the Feast of the Stigmata of Saint Francis - 661 


Beyond the identity of their author, little is known of the origins of the antiphons and responsories written for the liturgical celebration of the Feast of the Stigmata of Saint Francis. The very origins of the feast are shrouded in mystery. The decrees of Popes Gregory IX, Innocent IV, Alexander IV, Nicholas III and Nicholas IV are certainly indicative of the controversies that surrounded Francis's stigmata, which Thomas of Celano called "a prerogative of love."1 The rivalries between the secular clergy and the religious, between the followers of Francis and those of Dominic, and between the developing factions among the Lesser Brothers themselves: these all fueled fires that would not make the environment conducive for establishing such a unique liturgical celebration.2

In his description of Giraldus Odonis or Giral Ot, General Minister of the Lesser Brothers from 1329 to 1342, Arnald of Sarant mentions the institution of the feast of the Stigmata at the Chapter of Cahors in 1337.3 The first official indication of the feast, however, is an item of legislation coming from the Chapter of Assisi in 1340:

It was also ordered that the Office of the Sacred Stigmata, composed by the reverend Father General, should be kept and carried out in the whole Order, and the readings should be read from the Legend of Brother Bonaventure, in the Chapter "On the Sacred Stigmata," and the Office should be that of a double on September 17.4

There is nothing written about the circumstances surrounding the establishment of the liturgical celebration. In both instances, however, nothing is mentioned about ecclesiastical approval of the feast.5

By this time, literary descriptions of Francis's stigmata were widely diffused among the Lesser Brothers, the Friars Preacher, and other religious. Iconographic representations were also becoming more common as churches and chapels built in Francis's honor grew more numerous.6 In his Treatise on the Miracles, Thomas of Celano tells of a miracle in which the bleeding wounds that had been omitted by the painter, imprinted themselves on the image of the saint.7A story that appears in a 1343 manuscript of the Avignon Compilation,8 however, may assist in understanding the environment of the first half of the fourteenth century in which the Feast of the Stigmata was established:




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 3, p. 661