Saint Francis of Assisi


St. Francis of Assisi


The popularity of the Nativity scene, one of the most beloved and enduring symbols of the holiday season, originated in Italy. In 1223, St. Francis of Assisi asked a man named Giovanni Vellita of the village of Greccio to create a manger scene. Francis called it a “crèche,” the French word for cradle. This first crèche used real people, a real manger, a real ox and ass, and real shepherds. Francis performed Mass in front of this early Nativity scene, which inspired awe and devotion in all who saw it. The creation of the figures or pastori became an entire genre of folk art.

Biographical Note: 

St. Francis of Assisi was an Italian, founder of the Franciscan Order of Friars. Founder of the Franciscan Order, born in Assisi, Italy. In 1205 he left his worldly life, devoting himself to the care of the poor and the sick, and living as a hermit. By 1210 he had a brotherhood of 11 for which he drew up a rule which became the Franciscan way of life, in which all property is repudiated. By 1219 the order had 5,000 members. He preached widely in Europe and the Holy Land, and on returning to Italy he is said to have received on his body the marks (stigmata) of the wounds of Christ (1224). He was canonized in 1228. He is often represented in art among animals and birds, which he called his sisters and brothers.

St. Francis is among the most popular of all Western saints. He accepted a life of complete poverty and devotion to Christ, and was rewarded with great physical suffering and uncertainty about the future of his band of friars. To all his troubles, he responded with good humor, humility, and heroic courage. His feast day is 4 October.

More Information: 

Read a biography of St. Francis that features some beautiful artwork.
And don’t miss G.K. Chesterton’s St. Francis of Assisi, an enlightening study of this most beloved of Christian saints.

Image Info

The image above is a wood-carving by Carmona, Museum of León. (Source: The Project Gutenberg EBook of Heroic Spain)


Anecdote Source: The History of Christmas