Life and Works of Francis of Assisi

Life and Works of Francis of Assisi – ArtCodex – Gaddi 112 – Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Florence, Italy)

Florence (Italy) β€” 1427

An glimpse into the impressive life of the founder of the Franciscan Order: the moving vita of Francis of Assisi in 30 vivid Early Renaissance miniatures of the highest artistic quality

  1. After an irresolute youth and a harrowing experience in war, Francis of Assisi (1181–1226) sought a life of poverty and humility

  2. Stories from the life of the founder of the Franciscan Order are depicted in a Florentine codex from 1427

  3. The 30 miniatures are modest and yet of high artistic quality, appropriate for the humble saint

Life and Works of Francis of Assisi

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Life and Works of Francis of Assisi

The Legend of the Life and Works of Francis of Assisi (1181–1226) recounts various legendary stories from the life of the founder of the Franciscan order, who is said to have found the true faith during a pilgrimage to Rome. In keeping with the monastic ideal of modesty, this copy of the hagiographic text corpus, created in Florence in 1427, has been illuminated with simple yet immensely expressive washed pen-and-ink drawings. The 30 miniatures highlight central events from Francis' eventful life and bring the saint's life home to the beholder in an impressive way. The restrained color palette probably also helped medieval readers meditate on the text, which is written in a proper humanist minuscule and structured by elaborate fleuronnΓ©e initials. Thus, the Quattrocento manuscript represents a wonderful testimony to the veneration of St. Francis.

Life and Works of Francis of Assisi

Francis of Assisi was the founder of the Order of the Friars Minor, which is also known as the Franciscan Order. He is honored as a saint in the Catholic Church. His teachings about living in poverty and humility were taken as an example by many people. Saint Francis’s important acts and experiences are described in the codex about his life and work. The work is adorned with 30 illustrations of charming simplicity.

Who was Francis of Assisi?

Numerous legends exist about the life of Saint Francis of Assisi, the veracity of which is not always verifiable. According to these legends, Francis lead a dissolute life in his youth, with his father’s money he treated his peers at feasts and often was the focus of these celebrations. In November of 1202, Francis is supposed to have gone off with soldiers from his hometown of Assisi to war against the neighboring city of Perugia, where Assisi was defeated. Francis and his fellow soldiers were taken into captivity as prisoners of war in Perugia. His came to question his reckless life through the experience of the war and was sick and shaken to the core when he was released. Francis increasingly withdrew from his circle of friends in this period and sought solitude.

God’s Call

He undertook a pilgrimage to Rome in 1205 and 1206, on which he, according to legend, traded clothes with a beggar in order to β€œtry out” life in complete poverty. He began to live as a hermit. He went begging house to house for food. His referred to his voluntary poverty – in reference to chivalric ideas and courtly love songs – as his β€œmistress”. Francis lived according to the word of the Gospels, not only in a metaphorical sense. He understood the biblical texts as a call to thus live and act as did the twelve young men sent out by Jesus, the Apostles, namely to live in poverty and proclaim the Gospels. Based on the Gospels, Francis clothed himself from then on in a simple habit, which is held with a rope, strictly rejected possessions and even contact with money, and went barefoot when possible. His lifestyle came across scorn and mockery, but on the other hand, acted as a stimulus for numerous others of like mind. From the growing number of his followers arose the Order of the Friars Minor.

Modest Book Decoration

In keeping with the life of St. Francis of Assisi, the codex was furnished to tell the stories of his deeds and virtues. The work contains 30 miniatures, which are painted in light water colors and are contoured with ink. The pictures are modest and yet of high artistic quality. With few materials, the stories and experiences that are portrayed in the text are vividly depicted visually. Not all images were colored. In some places the text is adorned with colorful initials. The manuscript invites consideration and meditation about life in the Middle Ages, secluded from the influences of our modern time.


Alternative Titles
San Francesco d'Assisi, la vita e le opere
I Fioretti di
San Francesco
Il Suo Testamento
Leben und Wirken des Heiligen Franz von Assisi
Life and Writings of Francis of Assisi
Size / Format
372 pages / 29.0 Γ— 21.7 cm
30 miniatures in ink and watercolors
Life of St. Francis, his testament, the Fioretti; reflections on the stigmata and treatise on the miracles of St. Francis by Tommaso da Celano and the biographies of the friars Ginepro, Leone and Egidio
Previous Owners
Convent of Sant'Onofrio
Biblioteca Gaddi
Biblioteca Magliabecchiana

Available facsimile editions:
Life and Works of Francis of Assisi – ArtCodex – Gaddi 112 – Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Florence, Italy)
ArtCodex – Modena, 2010
Limited Edition: 999 copies
Detail Picture

Life and Works of Francis of Assisi

The Blessing of Friar Bernardo

This scene occurs in an interior space with mullioned windows and the surrounding cityscape is shown with a bell tower and lightly sketched trees: Francis, feeling the approach of his own death, wanted to bless Friar Bernardo who in turn asked Friar Elias to position himself on the Saint’s right side in his place. Despite his advanced blindness, Francis senses this and crosses his arm in order to place his right hand on Bernardo’s head and his left on that of Elias for the blessing.

Life and Works of Francis of Assisi – ArtCodex – Gaddi 112 – Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Florence, Italy)
Single Page

Life and Works of Francis of Assisi

The Burning Faith of Francis and Clare

In a continuation from the previous story, Francis and Clare are so fervently engaged in prayer and enraptured by God that it appears as though the Porziuncola, a church in Assisi, is on fire and the residents of Assisi rush to put it out. Francis, Clare, and their companions are all depicted kneeling in prayer inside the church as flames rise above their heads, out of the windows, and on the roof.
The men of Assis are depicted pouring out of the gate of a walled city to the left and one even carries a poleaxe, presumably for breaking down a door. However, as soon as they enter through the doors of the Porziuncola, they are amazed to find that it is in fact a miraculous, divine fire that they have witnessed engulfing the sacred building.

Life and Works of Francis of Assisi – ArtCodex – Gaddi 112 – Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (Florence, Italy)
Facsimile Editions

#1 San Francesco d'Assisi, la vita e le opere

ArtCodex – Modena, 2010

Publisher: ArtCodex – Modena, 2010
Limited Edition: 999 copies
Binding: Leather. Comes In a box of precious wood.
Commentary: 1 volume
Language: Italian
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) 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.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€€
(3,000€ - 7,000€)
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