Francis Of Assisi
Francis's feelings for creation, epitomised in his sermon to the birds, stimulated the realism of the Italian Renaissance artists; his vernacular poems inclined Dante to write The Divine Comedy in Italian not Latin. The first religious order he founded, for men, had a radical effect on social justice and the developing universities in Europe; his second order, the Poor Clares, for women, soon numbered hundreds, including royalty and half a dozen saints; his third, for laity sworn to peace, helped destroy the military power of feudalism.
But above all it is through his universal love that he has influenced the world for nearly eight centuries, drawing more than three million people every year to his tomb in Assisi.
In the Preface to Francis of Assisi Adrian House writes that the inspiration for writing his biography came while visiting an Anglican friary in Dorset where all the visiting guests, be they bishops, ex-prisoners, retired generals, travellers or alcoholic stockbrokers, were treated identically by the friars, making it impossible to know for certain who was who. At the start of a story so synonymous with the compassionate and loving acceptance of all forms of life, this anecdote serves as a powerful reminder of St Francis's enduring appeal and popularity--the man whom the French agnostic scholar Ernest Renan called "the only perfect Christian" after Christ.
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