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 The Life of Saint Francis by Julian of Speyer - 365 

ally at odds with the pope. Paris was the setting of the ritual and pomp of the French court and, because of the University of Paris, was quickly becoming one of the centers of European learning. The contexts of the two writers could not have been more diverse. Julian’s work, for example, contains little or no mention of the details of Italy’s rural geography, Roman ecclesiastical personalities, nor of the early companions or associates of Saint Francis.

In general, Julian follows the textual development of The Life of Saint Francis by Thomas of Celano. However, he omits blocks of material that are either editorial or interpretative.13In his immediate interest “to narrate briefly the various deeds of Francis,”14 Julian leaves aside the monastic and ascetical motifs that characterize Thomas of Celano’s work. His interests were not to capture the breadth of the hagiographical tradition nor the promotion of the cult of the saint. Rarely does he use Thomas of Celano’s vocabulary; yet he does not simply copy and abbreviate.15 The explicit textual connections between the two lives are found notably in the quotations of Francis’s sayings and in the use of Scripture. The fourteen times Julian quotes Francis’s own words in his text, the quotations are exactly identical to ones found among Thomas of Celano’s more than forty citations. While Thomas of Celano’s use of Scripture is much more extensive, more than half of Julian’s Scriptural references and citations are found in the same context in which they appear in Thomas of Celano’s text. This is especially true in his use of the psalms, which provide a common framework for these two diverse texts. As corrector mensae and magister cantus, Julian would have been particularly sensitive to dramatic biblical quotations, especially those from the Psalter. He would have been eager, therefore, to see his readers understand them in their context.

Julian did not hesitate to depart from the “official” text approved by the still-living Pope Gregory IX. He moved in a new direction to write for his brothers a biography of Saint Francis that would be brief, clear, direct, and formative. To meet the needs of his own fraternity, Julian began what was to become a significant trend in the rest of the thirteenth century, namely, attempting to provide a better account of Francis’s life primarily for use by the brothers.

Theological and Spiritual Themes

As Julian writes about Francis, he differs from Thomas of Celano in his theological and pastoral approach. Whereas Thomas of Celano writes of Francis using a contemplative Christological motif drawn from the earlier ascetical and hagiographical tradition, Julian writes to move the figure of Francis forward toward a practical and pastoral application of Christology. Thomas of Celano writes to edify the whole church, while Julian writes to encourage his younger brothers in their way of life.




Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, p. 365

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