- The records are not accurate.
- It is thought that Francis was born in either 1181 or 1182
Francis was the son of a merchant in Assisi, in what was then called Umbria (North Italy).
Francis joined a petty war between Assisi and another town, and on his way to fight, dressed as knight, saw a man shabbily clothed. He exchanged clothes with this man. Soon after, he dreamed he saw his father's house transformed into a castle, its walls hung with armour, all marked with the sign of the cross.
One day Francis prayed in the little church of St. Damian outside the walls of Assisi, he felt the eyes of the Christ on the crucifix gazing at him and heard a voice saying three times, Francis, go and repair my house, which you see is falling down.
Francis begged and obtained materials with which to rebuild the little Church. He pursued the life of simplicity and became known as il poverello, 'the poor one', and he was slowly accepted with respect. Others were to join him, attracted by his simple life. Thus began the little order of Friars, who were to be known as Franciscians, world wide.
In the summer of 1210 Francis went to Rome to obtain the Pope's blessing. Innocent III, the great ruler of Catholic Europe, listened but hesitated. Later the Pope dreamed he saw Francis propping up the Lateran Church with his shoulder. Summoning Francis and his companions, he approved their mission of preaching penitence, only requiring that they always get the consent of the local bishop; also they must choose a leader with whom the church authorities might communicate. Francis was thereupon elected head.
To the order Francis gave the name of Friars Minor, Little Brothers, to express his wish that they should never be in positions above their fellows. Many cities were now anxious to have the brothers in their midst to act as peace-makers in periods of civil strife, and small communities of them sprang up rapidly throughout Umbria, Tuscany, and Lombardy.
Francis would preach to animals. They would stop and listen. Birds, rabbits, even wolves would obey him. Francis' striking rapport with animals is certainly the best-known and perhaps the most attractive aspect of his legend. It has encouraged Pope John Paul II to proclaim him patron saint of the ecological movement.
One day he came to a town called Alviano to preach the word of God. Ascending to where he could be seen by all, he asked for silence. The people became quiet and waited reverently, but a flock of swallows building nests in that place continued to chatter away, making it impossible for the people to hear. Francis spoke to them,
- "My sisters the swallows, it's my turn to speak now, because you've already said enough. Listen to the word of God. Stay still and be quiet until it's over."
To the people's amazement, the little birds immediately stopped chattering and did not move until Francis had finished preaching. Those who witnessed this sign were filled with wonder and said, "Truly this man is holy and a friend of the Most High." Praising and blessing God, they devoutly hurried to touch his clothing.
Francis insisted his little friars were to follow Christ in his poverty. Francis was known as il poverello. As he became older, he became something of a recluse, living in a cave and praying to God all the while. He went blind, and also walked around barefoot. People would rush to touch his robe, his donkey, his sandals. Francis was venerated as a saint, even while he was alive.
As darkness fell on Saturday, October 3, 1226, Francis died. He had asked to be buried in the criminals' cemetery in the Colle d'Inferno, but early the next morning a crowd of his fellow citizens came down and bore his body to the Church of St. George in Assisi. In 1230 his body was secretly removed to prevent raiders taking it away. It was buried so deeply, it was not found until 1818.