From the pen of Bonaventura and decorated with illustrations from Giotto's circle: the only authentic account of the life of Saint Francis of Assisi

Legenda Maior: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi

Italy — 13th century

Legenda Maior: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi

Legenda Maior: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi

Italy — 13th century

  1. The only account of the life of Saint Francis of Assisi (1181/82–1226) that is considered to be authentic and authoritative

  2. It was first composed in the year 1263 by the influential philosopher and theologian Bonaventura (1221–74)

  3. The 164 stunningly beautiful illustrations were made in the artistic circle of the famous painter Giotto (ca. 1267–1337)

Leyenda Mayor San Buenaventura

Legenda Maior: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi

Receiving Official Papal Recognition

After he began preaching around 1207, Saint Francis of Assisi travelled to Rome in 1209 to seek approval from Pope Innocent III for the foundation of a new monastic order. The original Rule of Saint Francis approved by the Pope did not for the allow ownership of property, requiring members of the order to beg for food while preaching. The austerity was meant to emulate the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Franciscans traveled and preached in the streets, while staying in church properties.

Legenda Maior: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi

Alternative Titles:
  • Legenda Maior: Das Leben des Heiligen Franz von Assisi
Leyenda Mayor San Buenaventura
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology
Short Description

The Legenda Maoir is the only account of the life of Saint Francis of Assisi that is considered to be authentic and authoritative. The significant manuscript was first composed in the year 1263 by the influential philosopher and theologian Bonaventura and was furnished with wonderful illustrations. The pictures are clearly influenced by the scenic frescoes of the saint’s life, which were made in Assisi by the famous painter Giotto.

Legenda Maior: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi

Francis of Assisi was the founder of the Order of the Friars Minor, which was named the Franciscan Order after him. He is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. The life of the saint has been the subject of countless manuscripts, books, and paintings, as well as present-day films and television shows. An impressive literary work was composed in the 13th century, which is dedicated to this important personality. It is the so-called Legenda Maoir, which was written by the philosopher and theologian Bonaventura and was furnished with 164 breath-taking miniatures. The pictures originate from the artistic circle of the world-famous painter Giotto.

An Important Author

The comprehensive biography of Saint Francis of Assisi was composed around 1263 by Giovanni di Fidanza, also known as Bonaventura. Bonaventura lived from 1221 to 1274 and was one of the most significant philosophers and theologians of scholasticism, Minister General of the Franciscans, and Cardinal of Albano. He headed the Franciscan Order for 17 years until his death. He was named a saint by Pope Sixtus IV on April 14th, 1482 and in 1588, he was declared a Doctor of the Church and given the accolade Doctor seraphicus by Pope Sixtus V. Bonaventura was one of the most historically influential scholastic theologians: Pope Leo XIII described him as “a prince among mystics”, and his Legenda Maoir is probably the most important work of the great scholars.

An Authentic Record trove

The Legenda Maoircame to be at the behest of the general chapter of the Franciscans. It was to be a description of the life of Francis of Assisi and was meant to be considered the only authentic biography of Francis. After its completion, the text was considered to be a binding set of rules for the life of the order’s brothers and the reading of every other vita about the saint was strictly prohibited. With his work, Bonaventura steered the Franciscans onto a moderate and lasting course, which would earn him the reputation as the “second founder of the order”. He reconciled the disciples’ strict poverty with their more relaxed outlook on life, between which a conflict had long endured, and which is known as the poverty controversy. The Legenda Maoircan be considered the most significant manuscript that was ever composed in the Order of the Friars Minor.

Visual Adornment of the Highest Quality

The 164 stunningly beautiful illustrations of the Legenda Maoir were made in the artistic circle of the famous painter Giotto. Giotto created his first work in Assisi, where he designed frescoes for the upper church of the Basilica di San Francesco. Here he depicted the life of Saint Francis of Assisi in 28 image scenes. In his depictions, he followed the Legenda written by Bonaventura, whose texts were rendered under the frescoes. The illustrations of the important manuscript are clearly oriented on Giotto’s artwork in Assisi. The pictures are among the most outstanding creations of medieval illumination. For the first time, a dimension of depth was produced with landscapes in the background and various architectural structures. Figures were not static and flat next to one another, but rather were pictured overlapping one another through gestures, posture, and line of sight. They demonstrate individuality and were depicted softer, more human and realistic than was ever the case before.

Codicology
Alternative Titles
Legenda Maior: Das Leben des Heiligen Franz von Assisi
Size / Format
148 pages / 22.0 × 16.5 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
13th century
Style
Language
Illustrations
164 miniatures
Artist / School
Leyenda Mayor San Buenaventura

Legenda Maior: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi

The Death of Saint Francis

This miniature shows monks of the order paying their respects at the bier of Saint Francis of a Assisi. After receiving the stigmata during a vision in 1224, Francis spent the last two years of his life seeking treatment for his wounds but never recovered. In the end, he was brought back to a hut next to the Porziuncola where the Franciscan movement began.

Saint Francis spent his last days dictating his spiritual testament before dying on October 3rd, 1226 singing Psalm 141, "Voce mea ad Dominum". Less than two years later on July 16th, 1228, he was declared a saint by Pope Gregory IX, a friend of Saint Francis and Cardinal Protector of the Order, and the foundation stone for the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi was laid the next day.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Legenda Maior: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi“

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Leyenda Mayor San Buenaventura Facsimile

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Ars Magna – Madrid, 2001
Limited Edition
560 copies
Commentary
1 volume by Jürgen Werinhard Einhorn, Luis Pérez Simón, Luis Pérez Simón, Pilar Hernández Carravilla

More Information
Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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