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Bill Thayer

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Franciscan History
Onsite Resources

St. Francis and the Order he founded have been a formative influence in Western civilization; certainly in Italy and in the pioneer history of the United States, which are two of the three main facets of my site. It was therefore inevitable that scattered thruout the site there should be a fair amount of Franciscan material: the Order of Friars Minor or its members are mentioned on well over a hundred pages. Sometimes, as in the retirement of a king of Armenia and the work of an 18c geographer in the Canary Islands, or even the two friars and an unruly horse, these notices are curiously incidental; but often not at all, and I collect the most relevant items here. The gentle reader should expect convenience rather than cohesiveness; for more nearly comprehensive sites on Franciscan history, you should see those linked in the footer bar of this page.


[image ALT: A view of a medieval city from maybe 300 meters above it. The city spreads over two hills and the hollow between them, and several castles and churches can be made out. It is a view of Assisi, in Umbria (central Italy), from Mount Subasio.]

[ 13 pages, 39 photos ]

Naturally, Assisi will be our first stop: an introduction to some of the churches, including a section on the Eremo delle Carceri, St. Francis' solitary retreat on Mount Subasio; and several pages on Roman remains in and around the city.

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[ 1 page, 5 photos ]

Within walking distance of St. Francis' home town, Pian d'Arca is the site, maybe, of one of his encounters with birds.

[image ALT: The upper pedimented part of the façade of a small brick church. It is the church of Buona Morte in Cannara, Umbria (central Italy).]

[ 3 pages, 6 photos ]

Very close also, in Cannara, a persistent tradition places St. Francis' institution of the Third Order at the church of the Buona Morte; the 16th chapter of the Fioretti, in the original Italian and my own English translation, is linked there — as is a page on the church of S. Francesco, where the tradition is emphatically noted in a prominently placed 16c inscription.

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[ 1 page, 2 photos ]

The Umbrian hilltown of Gubbio, visited by so many for its striking medieval monuments and its impressive Roman theater, is also known as the setting of one of the best-loved incidents in the life of St. Francis: the story of the Wolf of Gubbio is told by Tommaso da Celano, and commemorated in bronze by a 20c sculptor.

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[ 1 page, 4 photos ]

The memorial to Ancilla Antonini in nearby Gualdo Cattaneo is an attractive little shrine and a quiet witness to the life of a 20c lay Franciscan.

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[ 5 pages, 8 photos ]

The Capuchin saint, Joseph of Leonessa, has left behind him the enduring love of his native town; for good reason. His church and burial-place preserve a collection of interesting personal relics of him, telling a quintessentially Franciscan story.

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[ about 50pp of printed text ]

How could a book titled Umbria Santa fail to relate to Franciscan history? A work of Catholic history and art criticism, it includes two specifically Franciscan chapters, "The Franciscan Landscape" and "Franciscan Visions in Dante and in Giotto".

American History

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It's impossible to tell the story of Spanish exploration and colonization in what would become the United States without mentioning the Franciscan Order, and sometimes speaking of it at some length. In The Spanish Borderlands historian Herbert Bolton does so; especially in chapters 6 and 8.

[image ALT: A close-up of a collection of papers spread out on a table. It is the icon used on this site to represent my American History Notes subsite.]

[ 5/31/12: 4 articles: 34 pages of print ]

The Lost Province of Quivira (CHR 2:3‑18) Coronado's famous march to "Quivira", a shadowy region never firmly identified, falls only tangentially under Catholic history. This article locates it in Nebraska, and records the participation of the Franciscan priest Juan de Padilla in the expedition and his celebration of the earliest known Masses in the interior of the North American continent.

The Yamassee Revolt of 1597 and the Destruction of the Georgia Missions (GaHQ 7:44‑53) tells the story of the five Franciscan martyrs murdered by Indians on the Georgia coast.

Flemish Franciscan Missionaries in North America (1674‑1738) (CHR 1:13‑16) was to have been a series of articles on the North American missions of Flemish Franciscans; this initial instalment pointed to the work of Fr. Hennepin in Canada and the upper Mississippi — but the author died before writing the sequels.

The Polish Colony of Sioux City, Iowa (PolAmStud 1:24‑27) is a rather slight account of early‑20c Polish emigration to that Midwestern town; in which Franciscans, however, play a prominent rôle.

[image ALT: A rather primitive stone relief carving of two arms, each prominently showing an oversized hand bearing a hole thru the palm. A representation of the hands of Jesus and of St. Francis bearing the stigmata of the Crucifixion, it is the badge of the Franciscan Order. This particular carving is over the main door of the church of S. Francesco in Montefalco, Umbria (central Italy), and serves as the icon of my subsite on Franciscan history.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is a detail of the door of the church of S. Francesco in Monte­falco, Umbria. The two hands, each bearing the stigmata of the Crucifixion, are those of Jesus and of St. Francis; with the Cross behind them, they form the emblem of the Franciscan Order, which is thus commonly seen thruout Italy and elsewhere.

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Site updated: 9 Jun 12