St. Francis • Assisi
Did you know?
North America, South America, and the United States of America are all named after the famous Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. Born in Florence on 9 March 1451, Vespucci is credited as the explorer who was the first to realize that the Americas were separate from the continent of Asia.
America was named for him in 1507. He was the first European explorer to reach South America in 1503. Debates have raged for centuries about who was the first to discover America – Christopher Columbus, John Cabot and his son Sebastian (all three born in Italy), or Amerigo Vespucci, who did not lobby for his name to be used. Vespucci’s lasting impact on history was not his discoveries as much as the vivid and informative letters he wrote describing his voyages, which gave Europe a first glimpse about America and helped to make the subject popular. He died on 22 February 1512 in Seville, Spain. (Engraving of Vespucci above.)
Saint Francis of Assisi (San Francesco di Assisi) was also known as poverello (poor little one). Pietro Bernardone, a wealthy silk merchant, returned to Assisi from a trip to France in 1182 to discover his wife, Pica, had given birth to their son in 1182. Pica baptized and named the child Giovanni after John the Baptist. Later Pietro, who had an affinity for all things French, renamed the boy Francesco, which means “Frenchman” in Italian. After a conversion experience at the ancient church at San Damiano in Umbria, Francesco’s ministry to serve God in a humble way began. He visited hospitals, ministered to the sick, preached and put his faith into action. In 1209 he founded the Franciscans, based on a simple admonishment by Jesus: "Leave all and follow me." Franciscans are responsible for overseeing Christian sites in the Holy Land, such as the birthplace of Jesus. When Francesco felt that Christmas was becoming too commercialized and started to lose some of its meaning, he created the world’s first nativity scene on Christmas Eve 1223 in Greccio, using people and animals to bring the story of Jesus’ birth to life. He died on 4 October 1226 at the age of 45 and was originally buried at the Basilica Santa Maria degli Angelil. A few years after his death, his body was moved to the Basilica of St. Francis in the town center of Assisi. Saint Francis is the patron saint of Italy, animals, peace, families and the natural environment.
“Pace e bene” which means “Peace and all good”. St. Francis of Assisi’s motto which he used as a greeting. Often written in Latin: Pax Et Bonum. It is emblazoned on flags, banners, college and municipality crests and other artwork around the world as well as frequently used in religious and other writings. French: Paix et bonheur. German: Friede und alles gute. Hebrew: Shalom v'kol tuv. Spanish: Paz y bien. “May the Lord give you peace” was synonymous with this greeting and also was often used by San Francesco.
Place to visit
Assisi. This is the crown jewel of Umbrian hill towns with expansive views from Assisi to Spoleto 34 miles away. Many inspirational sites here related to its two most famous cittadini (citizens), St. Francis and St. Claire. Assisi’s cobbled stone streets are filled with history and art. The Basilica of San Francesco, built in 1253, displays gorgeous medieval Italian art including masterpieces depicting the life of St. Francis by Giotto. Especially inspiring are the small chapels two and three levels below the Basilica where San Francesco is buried. The Church of Santa Chiara (Saint Clare) is beautiful. Rocco Maggiore offers breathtaking views and if you can plan to be there at sunset, it is truly a magnificent and spiritual experience. Also in the town center is the ancient Minerva Greek Temple.
When you’re in Assisi you feel at peace and it’s often been called the Peace Capital of the World after 27 October 1986 when Pope John Paul II hosted an international prayer and peace conference for world religious leaders. All of the major leaders of Christian denominations, the Jewish faith, Buddhists, Hindus, Native American Indians and others gathered to pray and make pledges to work toward peace together. It was a world first and a day when doves were released and olive branches were exchanged. (Photo of Saint Mary at the top of Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (Saint Mary of the Angels) where St. Francis’ original chapel of Porziuncola is preserved. Located at the foot of Assisi, it’s t he 7th largest church in the world. It’s the place where Francis died and was originally buried.)
Il Maniero. Inside Castello di Biagiano.Via San Pietro Campagna 32, Biagiano San Fortunato, Italy 06081. tel.075 816379. email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Il Maniero is located in the basement of Castello di Biagiano. Three dining rooms with stone walls makes this an unreal setting in a castle. Superb Umbrian specialties. Laura Elvira Giovanna Zoia Salerno, leader of the Slow Food Condotta (Convivium or group) in Assisi applauds Il Maniero as one of her four favorite restaurants. Michelin recommended. Closed on Tuesdays November through March. Michelin recommends a full 15 restaurants and hotels in Assisi. Stay two days to experience more of the historical, spiritual and gastronomic highlights that are characteristic of Assisi.
Santa Maria degli Ancillotti**** Situated in the beautiful Umbrian hills on the outskirts of Assisi. Fine regional cooking in their restaurant. The Villa Family, Paolo and Rosanna and their son Allesio, make their guests feel welcome and special. Salubrious grounds with splendid views. Pool and jacuzzi. Features 8 fully air-conditioned two-room apartments. Bicycles are available. Residenza di Campagna Anta Maria degli Ancillotti, Sterpeto 42, Assisi – PG, Perugia. Italy 06086. Tel. and http://www.santamariadegliancillotti.com/
Three-color pasta with *Rubesco wine - Ingredients: 1 pound of Three-color pasta (red, white, and green which represent the “tre colore” of the Italian flag) 50 grams of butter, 3 tablespoons of oil, 500 grams of tomatoes peeled, 80 grams of sheep's milk cheese grated, one glass of Rubesco wine, bacon, celery, carrot, onion, salt and pepper. Directions (for 4 servings): Cook the pasta in salted boiling water. Cut the onion and sauté in a pan. Add the cut carrot and celery and bacon cut in cubes. When the ingredients are golden brown, add the wine. Let the wine evaporate and then add crushed tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove the pasta when it is al dente, after about 12 to 14 minutes. Drain and pour into the pan with the sauce. Add cheese to taste. Buon appetito! Recipe from Gambacorta Bottega del Bongustaio, located at St. Gabriele 17 in the historical center of Assisi; for three generations the Gambacorta family have run this fine delicatessen. Tel. 075.812454.
*Highly recommend using Lungarotti’s award-winning Torgiano Rosso Rubesco—considered Lungarotti’s flagship wine. The recipe only calls for one glass of wine. Gambero Rosso rates this wine as two glasses so you know what to do with any wine that remains.
Saint Francis – San Francesco: “Saint Francis of Assisi” by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Published by Hyperion, 2005. ISBN: 0786818751. Hardcover book for children ages 4-8. Grades 1-4.
*Review from Library Journal of “Saint Francis of Assisi” by Robert Francis Kennedy, Jr. (Patron saint is St. Francis):
Kennedy's passion for nature and lifelong connection to this saint are evident in both the narrative and introduction, in which he reveals his personal convictions. The book paints Francis in glowing terms (with some fictionalized dialogue), weaving together the major threads of his life: his early kindness to beggars in his family's fabric shop; his call to and ultimate rejection of a military career; his estrangement from his wealthy father; and his ministry to lepers, the impoverished, and animals. The famous prayer, "Lord, make me an instrument of Your Peace…," is printed across the bottom of the pages. Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved
Prayer of Peace
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Italy Heralded Mauro Battocchi, former Consul General of Italy in San Francisco:
San Francisco <--> San Francesco
It’s hidden in plain sight, but it is immense and undeniable. There’s a fundamental thing about the connection between San Francisco and Italy: the City’s name. San Francisco, St. Francis San Francesco from Assisi is the saint patron of my homeland. At the same time, this holy man revered globally within many cultures and religious traditions, is seen by several San Franciscans as a symbol of the City’s values – those “dangerous San Francisco values like compassion, justice, and a living wage.
The physical symbol of this connection is the Porziuncola Nuova, the exact replica of the Porziuncola Chapel of Assisi brought to North Beach is San Francisco by the effort of Angela Alioto. (Prodigious achievement Angela! Did you know that the former President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors had the project started by secretly measuring the chapel in Assisi with dental floss?)
The spiritual symbol of the bond between San Francisco and the holy man from Assisi lies in the City’s calling to peacefully subvert hierarchies. St. Francis has been called “Gentle Revolutionary” as said Mary Emmanuel Alves or “Anarchic Poet”, as said Lawrence Ferlinghetti. (Click on the previous link to see Ferlinghetti practice his Italian!)
A visual expression of this non-orthodox view of St. Francis held here in San Francisco is to be found on the walls of St. Gregory of Nyssa’s Church on Potrero Hill. Take a look at the The Dancing Saints icon, a monumental statement of faith for the ages created by iconographer Mark Dukes. This 300 square meter painting wraps around the entire church rotunda and shows a four-meter dancing Christ, along with ninety larger-than life holy people, four animals, stars, moons and suns. St. Francis stands there with a wolf, along with traditional figures such as King David and Teresa of Avila and with unorthodox ones like Martin Luther King, Anne Frank, and Mohandas Ghandi, as well as musicians, artists, mathematicians, martyrs, scholars, mystics, lovers and prophets from many faiths and backgrounds.
It is hard to give a simple definition of St. Francis (as hard as defining San Francisco). He can be seen Francis as the saint of compassion and justice. He gave all this belongings to the poor and became poor himself, devoting his life to preaching the good news of the Gospel and helping people. He is said to have died (October 3, A.D. 1226) while listening to the Psalm 140: «I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor.» Today, in the spirit of St. Francis, St. Anthony Foundation provides the poor of San Francisco with basic needs and services as a gateway to reclaiming their sense of dignity. It feeds, heals, shelters, clothes, livens the spirits of those in need. Free meals are always available to anyone, 365 days per year.
St. Francis was also a man of peace. He travelled to the Middle East, hoping to obtain from Saladin the end of the Crusades, and his personal legacy is technically still there: the Custodian of the Holy Land - one of the main Christian leaders of the region - is chosen from the Franciscan Order. The present Custodian, Monsignor Pizzaballa, is a direct heir of St. Francis’ teachings, wearing the same poor clothes, the saio, as did St. Francis.In his Cantico delle Creature, often translated in English as Canticle of the Sun, he wrote: Happy those who endure in peace, for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.
He was a man of nature and the environment: Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs. He was said to speak the word of God to birds, and tame ferocious wolves - that is also why on St. Francis’ day (October 4) people all around the world can take their animals to church for a blessing.
And he was a great artist. One could write for hours about the vastness of St. Francis.With his living example he challenges San Franciscans, as well as all the people of good will, to measure up to his enduring message.