The Life of Saint Francis by Julian of Speyer - 363 


Shortly after writing liturgical texts for the feast of Saint Francis, Brother Julian of Speyer composed a second piece on Saint Francis, The Life of Saint Francis [Vita Sancti Francisci].1 Drawing on The Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano, Julian wrote both of these texts within a few years of one another. The dates of 1232 for the liturgical texts and 1234/5 for The Life of Saint Francis are generally accepted.2 Julian advanced the nascent literary tradition on Saint Francis in liturgical texts for use in the Divine Office; he then developed a new life of Saint Francis, shorter in length than that of Thomas of Celano, and better adapted to public reading during meals and gatherings of the brothers.

The Life of Brother Julian

Julian was born at the end of the twelfth century in Speyer, the imperial city in the upper Rhine valley, south of today’s Frankfurt am Main. As a youth he went to Paris for an education in music and it was there that his talents were recognized, earning him a place in the choir of the royal court chapel. He was promoted to magister cantus [master of song] at the court of the French King.3 Thus, early in his life Julian exercised responsibility for composing, directing and organizing music for social and liturgical functions at the French court.

The date of Julian’s entrance into the Franciscan Order is unknown, but it would have been before October, 1227, when he was in Assisi for the General Chapter. After that Chapter, he accompanied his Provincial Minister, Simon the Englishman,4 to Germany and spent some time at his hometown of Speyer, most probably until 1229 when another provincial chapter was held at Worms. When Simon was released from the office of Provincial Minister and appointed lector of theology, his successor, John of Pian di Carpine, sent Simon to Magdeburg “with good, upright and learned men” to begin a school of theology. Julian may have accompanied Simon to Magdeburg, but his stay was probably brief for The Life of Saint Francis indicates that he was an eyewitness to the translation of Francis’s body from the Church of Saint George in Assisi to the new basilica of Saint Francis on May 25, 1230.5 Thus Julian may have returned to Assisi with the new Provincial Minister, John of Pian di Carpine, for the General Chapter which was held that same year, shortly after Francis’s body was moved to the new burial site.6 After the General Chapter Julian may have returned to Germany




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, p. 363