Francis was born in Assisi in central Italy either in 1181 or the following year.
He was baptized Giovanni but given the name Francesco by his father, a cloth merchant who traded in France and
had married a French wife. There was an expectation that he would eventually take over his father’s business but
Francis had a rebellious youth and a difficult relationship with his father.
After suffering the ignominy of imprisonment following capture whilst at war with the local city of Perugia,
he returned a changed man. He took to caring for disused churches and for the poor, particularly those suffering
from leprosy. Whilst praying in the semi-derelict church of St Damian, he distinctly heard the words, seemingly
coming from the cross of St Damian:
“Go and repair my church, which you see is falling down.”
Others joined him and he prepared a simple, gospel-based Rule for them all to live by. As the Order grew, it
witnessed to Christ through preaching the gospel of repentance, emphasizing the poverty of Christ as an example
for his followers.
Two years before his death, his life being so closely linked with that of his crucified Saviour, he received
the Stigmata, the marks of the wounds of Christ, on his body.
An extant document held in Assisi gives the Aaronic blessing to Brother Leo, his companion, presumed to be in
his own hand, and also contains on it the mark of the
so beloved of St Francis, and now seen as an iconic symbol of his life's
blessing on all his followers.
At his death, on the evening of 3 October 1226, his Order had spread throughout western Christendom.
CSF European Province First Order Sisters: Registered
Charity Number 286615
SSF European Province First Order Brothers: Registered Charity Number 236464
SSF Central Fund (for supporting SSF worldwide): Registered Charity Number 280238