IT is difficult for a modern to enter into the thoughts and feelings of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Anyone who reads about St. Francis without having studied the age and country in which he lived is certain to misunderstand a good deal of what he reads; he would undoubtedly gain much from such reading, and might by degrees build up round the central object of his study the knowledge necessary to understand the general environment; but knowledge so acquired is apt to be deficient, one-sided, and full of gaps, and it is safer for a student to start from a general acquaintance with the European history of the period before embarking on any special medieval study. A student equipped with this general knowledge, who was attracted by St. Francis (1182-1226), might begin by reading one of the numerous Lives which have been published recently-either Sabatier's famous Vie de S. Franfois d' Assise (1st edition, 1894), which should be read in the original French, or Father Cuthbert's sympathetic Life of St. Francis of Assisi (Longmans, 1912), which has the advantage of being based on later researches. Gebhart's L'Italie mystique (Paris, 1890), though often inaccurate in details, contains very suggestive chapters on a phase of thought and feeling charactcristic of the thirteenth century and of the early Franciscan movement. The present Writer was led to begin a long course of Franciscan study by reading Brewer's preface to Monumenta Franciscana,. (Rolls Series)-an essay which is more or less out of date now, but still retains inspiring qualities. Two classes of controversial writings bearing on the history of the Order are to be distinguished: according as they are concerned-(a) with the controversies between the Mendicant Orders and the secular clergy; (b) with controversies within the Franciscan Order about the interpretation of the Rule and the observance of poverty. Both were complicated by the adhesion of a powerful section of the Franciscans to the doctrines of Joachim of Flora and the inferences drawn from them.
A G Little, Paperback, ISBN 10: 1482601222, ISBN 13: 9781482601220