Franciscan Tradition & Resources

Chronology of the Life of St. Francis

Saint Francis and the cross

“Why after you?” Brother Masseo once questioned St. Francis of Assisi. “Why after you? You are not a very handsome man or possessed of great learning or wisdom. So why is all the world running after you?” (Little Flowers of St. Francis, chapter 10). Francis answered that God could not find a greater sinner through whom to display his infinite mercy.

The appeal of St. Francis remains undimmed eight centuries after his death. In looking at him, people have always been helped to see Christ. Here is a timeline of his holy life.

1181, summer or fall: Francis born in Assisi. Baptized Giovanni de Pietro di Bernardone, renamed Francesco by his father.

1198, January 8: Innocent III elected pope.

1198, spring: Duke Conrad of Urslingen’s Rocca fortress besieged, taken, and razed by people of Assisi, as he yields Duchy of Spoleto to Innocent III.

1199–1200: Civil war in Assisi; destruction of feudal nobles’ castles; families of later St. Clare and Brother Leonardo move to Perugia.

1202, November: War between Perugia and Assisi. Latter’s army is defeated at Battle of Collestrada. Francis spends a year in prison in Perugia, until ransomed by his father as ill.

1204: Long illness.

1204, end, or spring 1205: Francis sets out for war in Apulia, but returns the next day, after a vision and message in Spoleto. Beginning of the gradual process of conversion.

1205 June: Gautier de Brienne dies in southern Italy.

1205 fall and winter: Message of the crucifix of San Damiano. Conflict with father.

1206, January or February: Bishop’s trial.

1206, spring: Francis in Gubbio nursing victims of leprosy.

1206, summer: Returns to Assisi, assumes hermit’s habit, and begins to repair San Damiano: end of conversion process; beginning of Thomas of Celano’s “years of conversion” chronology.

1206, summer, to January or early February 1208: Repairs San Damiano, San Pietro, and Portiuncula.

1208, February: Francis hears Gospel of St. Matthias’s Mass. Changes from hermit’s habit to that of barefoot preacher; begins to preach.

1208, April: Brothers Bernard and Peter Catanii join Francis. On April 23, Brother Giles is received at the Portiuncula.

1208, spring: First mission: Francis and Giles to the Marches of Ancona.

1208, summer: Three more, including Philip, join them.

1208, fall and winter: all seven go to the Poggio Bustone in the Valley of Rieti After being assured of the remission of his sins and the future growth of the Order, Francis sends the six, plus a new seventh follower, on the third mission, two by two. Bernard and Giles go to Florence.

1209, early: The eight return to the Portiuncula. Four more join them.

1209, spring: Francis writes brief Rule and goes to Rome with his eleven first companions. There he obtains the approval of Pope Innocent III. On the way back, they stay a while at Orte then settle at Rivo Torto.

1209, September: German Emperor-elect Otto IV passes by Rivo Torto.

1209 or 1210: The friars move to the Portiuncula.

1209–1210: Possible beginning of the Third Order.

1211, summer: Francis goes to Dalmatia and returns.

1212, May: After a few days at San Paolo and a few weeks at Panzo Benedictine convents, Clare moves to San Damiano.

Fr. Mark Soehner shares a story of St. Francis teaching his early followers a lesson on trust and humility.

1213, May 8: At San Leo, near San Marino, Count Orlando offers Mount La Verna to Francis as a hermitage.

1213–1214 or 1214–1215: Francis travels to Spain and back.

1215, November: Fourth Lateran Council. Francis in Rome.

1216, July 16: Pope Innocent III dies in Perugia. July 18: Honorius III elected. French Archbishop Jacques de Vitry at Perugia.

1216, summer: Francis obtains the Portiuncula Indulgence from Pope Honorius in Perugia.

1217, May 5: Pentecost general chapter at the Portiuncula. First missions beyond the Alps and overseas. Giles leaves for Tunis, Elias for Syria, and Francis for France, but Cardinal Hugolin meets him in Florence and persuades him to stay in Italy.

1219, May 26 chapter: First martyrs leave for Morocco. On June 24, Francis sails from Ancona for Acre and Damietta.

1219, fall: Francis visits Sultan Malik al-Kamil. November 5, Damietta taken by Crusaders.

1220, January: First martyrs killed in Morocco.

1220, early: Francis goes to Acre and the Holy Land.

1220, spring or summer: Francis returns to Italy, landing at Venice. Cardinal Hugolin appointed Protector of the Order.

1220 or 1217, 1218: Francis resigns. Peter Catanii vicar.

1221: March Peter Catanii dies.

1221, May 30 chapter: First Rule. Elias vicar.

1221: Rule of Third Order approved by Honorius III.

1221–1222: Francis on a preaching tour in southern Italy.

1222, August 15: Francis preaches in Bologna.

1223, early: At Fonte Colombo, Francis composes Second Rule. Chapter on June 11 discusses it. Fall: further discussion in Rome.

1223, November 29: Pope Honorius III approves Rule of 1223.

1223, December 24–25: Christmas crib Midnight Mass at Greccio.

1224, June 2: Chapter sends mission to England.

1224, end of July or early August: In Foligno, Elias is given message.

1224, August 15–September 29 (Assumption to St. Michael’s Day): Francis fasts at La Verna, receiving the stigmata about September 14.

1224, October and early November: Francis returns to the Portiuncula via Borgo San Sepolcro, Monte Casale, and Citta di Castello.

1224/1225, December–February: Riding on a donkey, he makes a preaching tour in Umbria and the Marches.

1225, March: On a visit to St. Clare at San Damiano, his eye sickness suddenly turns much worse. Almost blind, he has to stay there in a cell in or by the chaplain’s house. At the insistence of Brother Elias, at last consents to receive medical care, but weather is too cold and treatment is postponed.

1225, April–May: Still at San Damiano, undergoes treatment without improvement. Receives divine promise of eternal life and composes Canticle of Brother Sun.

1225, June: Adding to the Canticle, reconciles feuding bishop and podesti of Assisi. Summoned by a letter from Cardinal Hugolin, leaves San Damiano for Rieti Valley.

1225, early July: Welcomed in Rieti by Hugolin and papal court (there from June 23 to February 6). Goes to Fonte Colombo to undergo eye treatment urged by Hugolin, but has it postponed owing to absence of Brother Elias.

1225, July–August: Doctor cauterizes the saint’s temples at Fonte Colombo, without improvement.

1225, September: Francis moves to San Fabiano near Rieti to be treated by other doctors, who pierce his ears. Restores the trampled vineyard of the poor priest.

1225–1226, October–March: In either Rieti or Fonte Colombo.

1226, April: Francis is in Siena for further treatment.

1226, May or June: Returns to the Portiuncula via Cortona.

1226, July–August: In summer heat, he is taken to Bagnara in the hills near Nocera.

1226, late August or early September: His condition growing worse, he is taken via Nottiano to the palace of the bishop in Assisi. Bishop Guido is absent on a pilgrimage to Monte Gargano.

1226, September: Knowing that his death is imminent, Francis insists on being carried to the Portiuncula.

1226, October 3: Francis dies. Sunday, October 4, Francis buried in San Giorgio Church.

1227, March 19: His friend Hugolin becomes Pope Gregory IX.

1228, July 16: In Assisi, Gregory IX canonizes St. Francis.

1230, May 25: Translation of the saint’s remains to his new basilica, San Francesco.

Peace and Good by Pat McCloskey

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