As a result of the straits relationships between the Umbrian town of Spoleto and Assisi, and the primary importance, at that time, of the first, it should have been very known from Francisco, an ambitious young, son of the rich merchant of Assisi, Peter di Bernardone and Madonna Pica, a nobildonna from Provenza - France. He was born in the 1181 or 1182 with baptism name Giovanni, chosen from the mother as her husband was in France to work when he was born. At his return he wanted to change that born name with Francesco in reason of his many travels in France. Of health delicate since child, also leads life dissoluta always with a great respect especially for weak people, in spite of graves ineducation from the parents towards the outword appearances of the life. From 1198 he would have already participated to the demolition of the Castel of Assisi and to its rebuilding inside the walls (1). In fact, people from Assisi take advantage from the confusion (2), that it poured the Reign of Italy and the Ducato, in order to free itself from the control of Spoleto. Moreover they began a war against the town of Perugia. Francesco, in 1202 participated to the War against Perugia and the defeat makes to vanish his investitura as knight. In addition he was captured from the soldier of Perugia and locked up in prison about a year (3). He had twenty years. In July-August of 1205 he answered to the ban for the War in Puglia and Sicily, following the nobleman mysterious and estimated friend " Comes Gentilis". He donated his old armor to a poor and he prepared quickly a new one with contribution and honuor of his father (4). During this period he begins having a psycological crisis, and he is going to change his behaviar. Time after Francesco will express this period changing with the phrase " cum essem in peccatis". One night he had a dream. He imagined to found himself in a big Palace with crews, the shield and a spouse. This dream made himself to leave with more decision. There are elements to think that he carryed with himself a scudiero too. A miles usually had someone with himself, moreover many issue of a lot of books leave to mean something of the sort (for exaple Anonymous Perugino). He arrived in Spoleto after sunset, the town in which he stopped in order to rest his tired boby. Both " Legenda" and "Anonymous Perugino" specify the town of Spoleto as place wher Francesco stopped for the night, even if there are not precise sources on the specific place in which he sleepped. But some considerations make believe that he has been stopped in the Church of S.Sabino (5). The reasons are multiple. He could not be in the center of the town, as he bring weapons with him. Arnaldo Fortini, in "Nova vita", cites a piece of the IV book of "Longobardi's History" by Paolo Diacono in which he asserts that the miles that passed in S.Sabino was miraculously powerful in the battle. Many other sources assert that S.Sabino was protecting soldiers that went to the war. Moreover Sabino, at that time, was one of the Patron Saint in Assisi. The street to Spoleto is obligatory for a knight directed from Assisi to the South. The night was starting, Francesco was tired for the long riding and a disease has to be added, that procured him fever and made him to turn the bad all night long. During the night he had a new dream. He was interrogated to a voice: "Where are you going Francisco?". He confirms at that voice his plan to go in Puglia to fight and become a knight. The voice issued: "Who can be more useful: the master or the servant?". Then: "Why you leave the master for the servant and the prince for the cliens?" " Francisco come back to Assisi and I will tell what will you had to do; the last vision that appeared to you, has to be seen in another way". At this point Francesco couldn't sleep no more and the following day he went back to Assisi. There are alternatives hypothesis for the conversion of Francesco. Some support that could be the disease to make him going back. Others thinks to a mere and exclusive inner fact in his mind. The more interesting, suggested by " Larrañaga", than his mind could be invaded completely from God, and that we can see directly in some books, with an increasing progression in transcendental sense as we pass from the " Legenda trium sociorum" to "Anonymous Perugino"; and in order to end with the " Secunda" life. Anyway, the fact is clear. From that point Francesco is a new man, servant of God. His ambition finds a limit in the fact that addresses to material life, people that is slave of another man. But he wants more as he will be slave of the Lord. His doubt now, will be onother one: he has to serve God in evangelical way or in heremitical one? Francisco will be on the Monteluco. In that mountain that dominate the town of Spoleto, there was an heremitical movement, founded from Bishop of Spoleto Andrea in 1060 year. Probably Francesco and some of his Brothers have lived in such way in the hermits in Monteluco for a period, in the way back from a travel to Rome. Then, probably, the meeting with leprous made up his mind. What it was bitter before, now turn in mind and body gentleness. This is his new road, the evangelical one. For Francesco the town of Spoleto will be beginning and central point for his inner life evolution. "Nel mio principio é la mia fine" (My origin and my end). Existential alternative and problem for a definitive choice. Monteluco is a period of spiritual retreat that let him to grow up. So he changed the way to serve the Lord, in order to save also people, and not only his own spirit. Spoleto remains however a place of fundamental importance for our Patron Saint Francesco.
The sources do not quote him often, but indirecltly there will be a lot of time in which Francesco would have been present in our town. Here I propose a list:
- in1205 he passed in Spoleto on the street for his pilgrimage to Rome with some of his Brothers. In that occasion he changed his own new and expensive dresses with poor people's one (Paolo Diacono);
- in 1209 he passed in Spoleto on his street to Rome for oral approval of the " Propositum vitae" decided for Pope (Paolo Diacono);
- in1213 probably Francesco was in Spoleto for the foundation of the Convent of Frati Minori of S.Apollinare; in this same year Francesco went to Saint Urbano (Sacred Speco) a place close to Narni, where he turned the water of the sink (situated in the back the S.Silvestro Chapel) in wine;
- In 1218 Francisco was in the Colombo Spring, and Jesus communicated him the Rule of the Minor Order;
- In 1219 Francesco met the Egyptian Sultano Malek el-Kamel;
- the book “Fioretti” quote that in occasion of the Pentacost of 1221, for the reunion of the Capitolo delle Stuoie”, in which 5000 friars reached to Assisi, Spoleto participated with magnanimous offering of food and money in order to satisfy alimentary and lodging demand for the people that taken part;
- in December 1223 he was in Greccio where institutes the living Presepe;
- Francesco wrote some document but only two letters have been left: the Chartula (one sheet written immediately after he got the stigmati, and after the fast that observed till the day dedicated to S.Michele, in september 1224 in La Verna, that incluce the Laudes Dei and Blessing, now conserved in the Reliquie Chapel in Assisi) and the Letter to Friar Lion (6). This last autograph letter that Francesco sent to Friar Leone is of fundamental importance for our analysis as it recites in this way:
-Original version. “F(rate) Leo, f(rate) Fra(n)cissco tuo salute(m) et pace(m). Ita dico tibi, fili mei sicut mat(er), q(ui)a o(mn)ia v(er)ba que diximus i(n) via, brevit(er) in hoc ve(rb)a dispono et consilio et si dopo et oportet p(ro)pt(er) co(n)siliu(m) venire ad me (qui)a ita co(n)silio tibi: i(n) qocu(m)q(ue) modo melius videt(ur) t(ib)i placere d(omi)no Deo et seq(ui) vestigia(m) et paup(er)tate(m) sua(m) faciatis cu(m) beneditione d(omi)ni Dei et mea obedientia. Et si tibi est necesari anima(m) tua(m) propter aliam consolatione(m) tua et vis, Leo venire ad me, ve(ni)”.
-Italian version. " Frate Leone, tuo fratello Francesco ti augura salute e pace. Io ti dico, figlio mio, e con l'affetto di una madre, che tutto il discorso che abbiamo fatto per la via lo riassumo in breve, sotto forma di consiglio, nelle parole che seguono, anche se in futuro ti servirá di ricorrere a me per consiglio. Ecco dunque il consiglio che ti do: qualunque modo vi sembrerá più idoneo per piacere al Signore e per seguire l'esempio e la povertá del (Figlio) Suo, fatelo con la benedizione del Signore Dio, ed io ubbidirò. E se poi, per una necessitá della tua anima e per avere altra consolazione vorrai, o mio Leone, venire da me, vieni."
-English version. " Friar Leone, your brother Francisco wish you health and peace. My son ,I say to you, and with a mother's love, that all the speech that we have made the way along, I summarize it shortly, under the form of council, in the words that follow, even if in the future it will usefull to you to resort to me for a council. Therefore here is the council that I give to you: any way you will seem more suitable for appeals to the Lord and in order to follow the example and the poverty of his Son, make it with the blessing of the Lord, and I will obey. And if, for your spirit needs and having onother consolation you will come, oh my Leone, from me, please come, you are welcome!."
This letter was conserved a lot of years in S.Simone (7) of Spoleto a nice Church in Piazza Campello, then followed numerous torments. Now it is preserved and exhibited in the Cathedral of Spoleto.
- in 1225 he went to Rieti in order to have treatment to his sick eyes by the Cardinal Ugolino. On the way back we will see to the Miracle of the vineyard that will happen to the Sanctuary of S.Maria of the Forest, in which it will take place a extremely abundant grape harvest that will be explained alone with operation of the poor Francesco.
All these facts make to think next to the high consideration that Francesco had for the town of Spoleto. In 1225 in Saint Damiano Church he composed the Cantico of Fratello sole. Francesco died in the night between the 3 and 4 of October of 1226 in the Chapel of the Transit of S.Maria of the Angels for a serious disease. Francesco was buried in the Church of Saint George, and on 1230 his body was traslated in the inferior Basilica of Assisi erected just for him, where he lies now. In order to finish, let me write one of his phrases: “ A lot is that good I wait for, than every pain is preferred to me”.
(1) Merchant of precious materials, had Tuscan Origins. He comes from the family, Moriconi, merchants in textiles and woven in Lucca. (2) Some authors support that Francesco was born in similar conditions to Jesus. In fact it seems that expired the terms of normal maternity, and her mother still did not succeed to give birth. So she was advised to go in a stable of flank next to her home, where she gave to the light her baby in a Christmas crib. We can read that in the " Historia Seraphica" of 1613 by Sedulio, in the picture by Benozzo Gozzoli of 1452 on the walls of the Church of Saint Francesco in Montefalco, we have the stable transformed into Chapel Saint Francescuccio. (3) Both Francesco then his brothers demonstrated them the highest ability to build their own places of cult and living (like Saint Benedetto's Brothers). (4) And expecially the transit period in 1198 of the control of the Ducato di Spoleto from the Emperor to the Church, by the same Duca di Spoleto Conrad from Lützelhardt. (5) The history indicates that the first organized Order of Knights-monks for the defense of the Christian Faith is that of the Knights of Saint Jacopo from Altopascio, otherwise known as Knights of the Tau. Teupascio (probably comes from the Longobardo teu-people and pasio- torrent, river) founded around the second half of thousand year, and was the ancient name of Altopascio, a small town in Province of Lucca. At first it was an hospital, that rosed just along the Via Francigena. Very soon it was occupied by the Friars of S.Jacopo, a ospitaliero Order that was established in order to accommodate the pilgrims directed to the fundamental Christian goals. To make sure that the pilgrims transformed themselves in a Knights Order. As a symbol they had the white cross in the form of tau that the friars wore previously. The Order was soppress in 1587 by Pope Sisto V, that passed all their assets to the Military Order of Saint Stefano. The second Knights Order, always ospitaliero type, is the Saint Johan Knights or Knights from Malta originated by Benedictine monks (1095-1113). The third order was the Templar Knights or Poor Miles (1120) and at last those Teutonics or Fratres domus hospitalis sanctae Mariae Teutonicorum in Jerusalem founded on february 6, year 1191. (6) People from Perugia recognized immedately Francesco and they probably used him for the demand for a huge ransom. However Francisco had a preferential treatment, being locked up in the classified prisons to the noble ones and the rich people. During this period showed his own goodness defending an unlucky prisoner from the rest of the prisoners. He would have been get free after a year in relation of the Truce stipulated between the towns in fight of Assisi and Perugia. (7) This could be identified with Gualtiero III of Brienne, and perhaps with others, but for us it is important to emphasize which one knight Order Francisco had known. In fact going to Puglia meant a departure to Mount Saint Angel, that was the starting point in Italy to Terrasanta for the Templars that were in Italy (in Bari there is the Basilica of Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra now known as Kale (Turkey), and Saint Patron of the Templars). Considering that 1202 coincided with the departure of IV Crusade, the origins and Francesco's contacts with France, place of origin of the Poor Soldiers of Christ (Templars, warrior/priest or Knights monks), that recall the poverty of Francesco, the Tau symbol of the Temple's Knights (of the Saint Jacopo Knights from Altopascio in the Province of Lucca) and same symbol of Francesco, and the last letter of jewish alphabet that means fulfillment of the Creation. (8) At that time, the miles had the complete burden of his own suit of armours and weapons. Therefore in order to get a Knight it needs to be rich people. (9) According to " The Franciscan Umbria" Spoletium Pro Spoleto, Francesco arrived to Spoleto with other youngsters of Assisi on a splendid afternoon. Francesco was weakened by the fever, andduring his sleep: " The warm imagination of the young man was hit from an unexpected light, then it revealed the splendors of the Madonna Povertá". Meantime a voice was saying to him… (10) S.Sabino Bishop of Spoleto and Assisi and Martyr of the Church. He spent all his life in the conversion of the pagani of the Spoleto Valley. His Martyrdom began with his hands 'amputation. Although he still was in the prison, he gave again the sight to a blind person. Wanting to make visit insistently the miraculously healed person, irritated his guards and they beated him to death. It was December 30th of the 303. Sabino is venerated in Ivrea, in relation to the translation in such town of his reliquie by Duke from Spoleto Corrado in the 930th year. In fact his skull is carried in procession along the roads of the town on July 6th to thank him for the miracles that it performed there. (11) Friar Leone will be the confidant, confessor and secretary of Francesco. (12) S.Simone from Collazzone, known as “della Contessa” was born in 1208. He was Friar at the young age of 14 years, and he was sent in Germany with others 27 of his brothers by S.Elia. On his way back, he wanted to meet Francesco. He dies in 1250. Heis the first canonized friar of the Minor Orders after S.Francesco.
In order to understand well the importance of the town of Spoleto in the life and conversion of the Saint, it is necessary to weigh up some importants facts for the period, in fast succession. In 1186, Federico Barbarossa (1122-1190), Emperor of the Sacred Roman Empire already from 1155, placed the town of Assisi under the control of Conrad from Lützelhardt that from 1177 represented the Ducato of Spoleto. In the same year, after the wedding between his son Enrico VI and Costanza d' Altavilla, will name Enrico King of Italy. After Federico Barbarossa's death, happened for accident in the ford of the Salef River, while he was crossing by his horse, in Asia Minor place in which he was sent to command Crusade the III, Enrico will be the new Emperor in 1191 year. Enrico VI was probably poisoned from his wife and will die in Messina on september the 28th 1197. The succession will be taken before by Ottone IV from Brunswick (1182-1218) crowned Emperor in 1198, till the year of his excommunication and deposition in 1212 and then by Federico II (Jesi (An) 1194 - Castel Fiorentino 1250) son of Enry VI. Federico II will command the Crusade in Terrasanta succeeding to conquer Gerusalemme which King will declare himself in 1228.
Popes for the period: Pope Urbano III from 1185 to 1187; Pope Gregorio VIII 1187; Pope Clemente III from 1187 to 1191; Pope Pope Celestino III from 1191 to 1198; Pope Innocenzo III from 1198 to the 1216 (died in Perugia); Pope Onorio III from 1216 to 1226; Gregorio IX from 1227 to 1241. These indications dates and people make to reflect on the precarious situation for the period.