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St. Francis, by Giotto
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Week 9. Legenda Aurea: Franciscus
The lives of the saints were another vital story-telling tradition in the Middle Ages. This week we will look at the story of Francis of Assisi - St. Francis - who was born in Italy around 1182, and who died there in 1226. Biographies were written about Francis soon after he died; in this unit, we will be reading the Life of Francis contained in the Golden Legend, an enormous and extremely influential collection of saints' lives written by Jacob of Voragine in about 1265, some forty years after Francis's death.
Francis was in fact one of the first people to actually write devotional literature in Italian rather than Latin, so we will also look at one of Francis' hymns in a Latin translation, so that you can compare it to the emerging Italian vernacular. This is almost a thousand years after Jerome translated the Bible into the Latin "vulgate" of the common people; it has now come time for the literature of the Christian Church to be recorded in Italian and the other vernacular languages spoken by the peoples of Europe.