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TALKING ABOUT OURSELVES: THE SHIFT IN FRANCISCAN WRITING FROM HAGIOGRAPHY TO HISTORY (1235-1247) INTRODUCTION On 16 July 1228, the town of Assisi was delirious with joy as one of the their native sons, Francesco di Bernardone, was enrolled in the catalogue of saints of the Roman Church by Pope Gregory IX, surrounded by his cardinals, friars from across Europe and countless others from the Umbrian countryside. The account of these joyous events at the church of San Giorgio comes to us from the pen of Thomas of Celano.1 Thomas was an eyewitness to these events, having arrived only recently on the scene to begin his work as official hagiographer of the Poor Man of Assisi. Under normal circumstances, the vita of a commissioned hagiographer would have constituted one of the most important elements of the canonization dossier, supportive of the cause under consideration. In this instance, however, the process of canonization had not only been initiated but actually accelerated by Gregory IX, intent upon the spiritual renewal and political allegiance of the Church in the Spoleto Valley.2 As a result, Celano's report of these heady events, 1ICeI 123-126. The process of canonization had only recently been formalized by the Holy See during die pontificate of Innocent III in his bull Licet apostólica Sedes (1201), edited in R. Foreville, Un procès de canonisation à Taube du XIIIe siècle (12011202 ): le Livre de saint Gilbert de Sempringham (Paris: 1943) 27-28. The reason for the formalization of this process, which involved die centralization of the proceedings in die hands of die Curia, was primarily to ensure a more reliable verification of the miracles attributed to die candidate for canonization. The process will evolve somewhat over the next two decades whereby the following items became part of the established proceedings: (1) a request for a formal process initiated from die local level (e.g., bishop, civil leaders); (2) the appointment of three " commissioners" (one of whom would typically be the local bishop) to oversee the process of inquiry on the fama et miracula of the candidate; (3) an inquiry normally conducted at or near the tomb of the candidate; (4) die commissioning of a vita of the candidate which would be used to support the cause for sanctity; and (5) the redaction of die testimonies gathered by notaries which would be sealed and sent to die Curia. Given these specifications, it is rather clear that die process initiated by Gregory IX had circumvented a number of die recently established procedures. On 37 Franciscan Studies 58 (2000) 38Michael F. CusATO, O.F.M. though placed at the conclusion of his work, actually represents the very first pages drafted by the hagiographer in fulfillment of his commission. The work, therefore, would be completed only in February of the following year,3 giving us what has come to be called the Vita prima: the first major hagiographical statement on the life and meaning of Francis of Assisi. The Order had begun talking about its founder, the saint. In the decades that followed, however, the friars, while ostensibly still concerned with telling the Francis story in their texts, actually began a process of talking about themselves—of telling the story of their Order within the narrative of the story of their founder. This shift in emphasis—from Francis to the fraternity—can be traced to three particular events, each of which triggered the redaction of new texts specifically about the Order itself. The following study is an attempt to chart this critical shift in Franciscan writing EVENT I: THE PUBLICATION OF THE BULL QfJO ELONGATI Within two years of the canonization, the joy of those July days had turned sour. First came the fiasco of the translation of the remains of Francis from their repository at San Giorgio to the crypt of the new double church of San Francesco, already largely completed under the direction of Elias of Cortona. In an attempt to preserve the integrity of the body of Francis from the hands of pilgrims eager for relics, it seems that Elias had conducted a surreptitious translation of the remains under cover of night a few days before the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 37-75
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
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