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Assisi: home land of Francis  |  Gubbio: his second home land  |  His meeting with the wolf |  The Franciscan "Rules"  
The "Fioretti" of St.Francis  |  Fioretto XXI: the taming of the wolf  |  The "Cantico delle Creature"  

 Assisi: home town of Francis

Francis was born in Assisi between 1181 or 1182 and died in 1226.
He was the son of Pietro Bernardone, a rich merchant of materials, and during his youth he led a careless life, fond of society.
He studied latin and french.
He took part in the war between Assisi and Perugia, was taken prisoner during the battle of Collestrada and kept prisoner for more than a year.
In 1207, after a period of meditation, he went back to Assisi and broke with his father, who accused him in front of the bishop of squandering his patrimony by giving everything to the poor and by dressing himself like a beggar, making their whole family feel ridiculous.
It was then that Francis took off all the clothes he had on, saying that from that moment onwards he would never call his father Pietro, but would only call "his Father who art in heaven".

 Gubbio: his second home town

Covered with a thin overall on which he drew a big Cross with chalk, Francis left Assisi and took refuge in Gubbio where the Spadalongafamily lived. Francis became a friend of one of the sons of Bernardo Spadalonga after the imprisonment in Perugia, after the defeat of Collestrada.

On the road to Gubbio along the way, near Caprignone he met thieves who hit him and threw him in a ditch full of snow. Tired and hungry Francis stopped at the abbey of St.Verecondo (today called abbey of Vallingegno) where he stopped over for a few days due to the bad weather. He then continued his journey to Gubbio, where he was received by the family Spadalonga and he remained in Gubbio for a few months.

During his stay in Gubbio St.Francis made various miracles, one of which was the healing of a woman with paralysed hands. In future he often returned to Gubbio. The first residence of St.Francis and his monks was St.Maria della Vittoria (called Church of the Vittorina because it was in this place that the Eugubinians defeated the Saraceni in 853).

 His encounter with the wolf

During one of his visits to Gubbio St.Francis heard of the wolf that terrorized the inhabitants and that even went near the houses of the inhabitants.

St. Francis met the wolf and tamed him. This episode is written in the

Many meanings have been given to the taming of the wolf some say that the wolf symbolizes sin, avidity and ferocity, others say a prostitute, or even one possessed by the devil.

But most of the people in all the world think that it was a real wolf. The proofs have as fulcrum the little church of St. Francis of the peace (today called "Church of the bricklayers") which was built on the place in the cave where, according to traditions, the wolf was supposed to have lived and died

 The Franciscan "Rule"

After various tentatives St.Francis finally managed to constitute a proper "Rule", because he didn't find himself at ease neither with the Agostinian nor the Benedictine Rule. The Rule was approved by Pope Onorio 111 on the 29th November 1223, a date that can be considered as the birth of the Franciscan Order.

But this was also the most difficult period for St.Francis, because of the dissention between his dreams and the reality of the facts, and he had many aches and problems.

During the lent of 1224, while he felt the burden of the martyring of Christ, something was happening to him, because on his chest there was a bleeding sore and black nails came out of his feet. He also had visceral pains and an eye disease which almost made him blind.

Even during his suffering he found moments of serenity: the manger of Greggio was of the year 1223 and
the Song of the creatures of 1225.

Before dying he dictated a testament which he wanted to be observed as supplement to the Rule, in which he indicated all those principles which he never understood in the Rule.

The Franciscan movement covered all the aspects of life, implicating a radical subverteting valutation in its presuppositions, in a period of great social change.

It was then that Francis preached love towards God and all its creatures, the detatchment from richness and power, considered as obstacles to the real aim. The equality which one obtains not considering oneself first between your brothers, but "Minor" and subject to them. From here originates the order of the minor monks which derives from "Minores" which in Assisi indicated the popular part of the people.

 The "Fioretti" (Little flowers) of St.Francis


 Fioretto XXI: taming of the wolf

In this tale we read about the time when St.Francis lived in the city of Gubbio, in the countryside a huge terrible ferocious wolf appeared, which didn't only eat animals but also human beings. All the inhabitants were terrorized because the wolf often went near to the city. For this reason they were always armed when they went out of the city, asif they were going to a battle. But, nevertheless, who met the wolf wasn't capable of defending themselves if they were alone. Therefore nobody had the courage to leave the City.

Regarding this situation, St.Francis felt pity for the inhabitants of Gubbio and wanted to meet this wolf even if everyone advised him not to do so. He made the sign of the cross and left the city with his companions, hoping to have God's help. Fear stopped the others from going ahead, while St. Francis continued his walk towards the place where the wolf usually was and he met the saint with his mouth wide open. But St. Francis made the sign of the cross to the wolf and called him: "come here, brother wolf; I command you in the name of Christ not to harm neither me nor the others". The terrible wolf immediately closed its mouth, stopped running and sat down as tame as a lamb at the feet of St.Francis.

Then St. Francis said to him: "Brother wolf, in these places you have caused great damages and you have killed creatures of God without his permission; but you didn't only have the courage to kill animals, but you also killed human beings, made to the image of God, and for this reason you are worthy to be condemned. All the people of this land talk about you and are your enemies, but I want to have peace between you and the people. In this way you won't harm them any more and they will forgive any bad action of yours in the past."

As soon as St.Francis said these words, the wolf, with movements of its body, tain and eyes and by lowering his head, demonstrated to have accepted that which had been said to him by the Saint.

St.Francis then continued: "Brother wolf, if you like making and maintaining this peace, I promise that I will have you assisted for all your life long by the people of this land so that you will never go hungry again, because I know that it is because of hunger that you have caused so much damage. But, brother wolf, I want you to promise me that you will never harm any person or animal again; do you promise me to do so?" The wolf lowered his head and obviously promised to do so. And St. Francis continued: "brother wolf, I want you to give me a sign, an oath, so that I can trust you to keep your promise". The wolf then lifted his paw and kindly put it in the hand of St. Francis.

The Saint said: "Brother wolf, I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come with me now to the city to confirm this peace". And the wolf obediently followed the Saint like a meek lamb and marvelled everyone who saw this scene. The news spread quickly and the whole city, men, women, children and old people went to the square to see the wolf with St. Francis. As soon as the people were gathered, St.Francis started preaching, and explained that the flames of hell were worse than the anger of the wolf and continued: "Listen, my brothers, brother wolf who is in front of you has promised me to make peace with you and not to harm you in any way if you will give him food every day for his living. And I assure you all from his part that he will keep his word to maintain the peace".

All the people, in corus, promised to feed him. In the presence of all the people, St.Francis said to the wolf: And you, brother wolf, do you promise to keep the peace pact and not to harm neither animals nor people, in other words, nobody?" Kneeing down, lowering its head, moving its tail and ears, the wolf demonstrated to want to keep his word.

St.Francis continued: "Brother wolf, as you showed me outside the doors of the city, now in front of all the people I want you to repeat you gesture to show that you will keep your word." Then the wolf lifted his paw and put it on St.Francis's hand.

Therefore there was great joy among the people, but also admiration and devotion towards the Saint and everyone praised and blessed God who sent them St.Francis who saved them from the mouth of the cruel beast.

From that day the wolf lived for two years in Gubbio: it entered and went out freely from the people's houses like a tame animal without harming anyone. It was regurarly fed by the people but two years later it died of old age.
Its death brought great sadness among the inhabitants because they were used to seing it walking around tamely and they remembered the virtues and the sanctity of St.Francis.

Who would like to have a copy of the XXI Fioretto, written in vulgar italian language of the year 1300, can ask for it.

In the year 2000 the composer and singer,
Angelo Branduardi published in his album "The infinitely small" a song which talks about this episode entitled: "The wolf of Gubbio".

St.Francis's encounter with the wolf has inspired many writers, poets and artists of all the world.

 Il Cantico delle Creature

Altissimu, onnipotente, bon Signore,

tue so le laude, la gloria e l'onore et onne benedictione

Ad te solo Altissimo, se Konfano

et nullu omu ene dignu Te mentovare.

Laudato si, mi Signore, cum tucte le tue creature,

spetialmente messor lo frate sole,

lo quale jorna, et illumini per lui;

et ellu č bellu e radiante cum grande splendore;

de te, Altissimo, porta significazione.

Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora luna e le stelle;

in celu l'āi formate clarite et pretiose et belle.

Laudato si, mi Signore, per frate vento

Et per aere et nubilo et sereno et onne tempo

Per lo quale a le tue creature dai sustentamento.

Laudato si, mi Signore, per sor'acqua,

la quale č multo utile, et humele, et pretiosa et casta.

Laudato si, mi Signore, per frate focu,

per lo quale ennallumini la nocte,

et ello č bellu, et jucundo, et robustoso et forte.

Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora nostra matre terra,

la quale ne sustenta e governa,

e produce diversi fructi, con coloriti fiori et herba.

Laudato si, mi Signore, per quilli che perdonano per lo tuo amore

e sostengono infirmitate et tribulatione.

Beati quilli che sosterranno in pace, ka de te, Altissimo, sirano incoronati.

Laudato si, mi Signore, per sora nostra morte corporale,

da la quale nullo homo vivente po skappare.

Guai a quilli ke morranno ne le peccata mortali.

Beati quilli che se troverā ne le tue sanctissime voluntati;

ka la morte secunda nol farrā male.

Laudate et benedicete mi Signore, e rengratiate,

e serviteli cum grande humilitate.

                                                                          Francesco d'Assisi