Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Little Flowers of Francis of Assisi , the name given to a classic collection of popular legends about the life of St. Francis of Assisi and his early companions as they appeared to the Italian people at the beginning of the fourteenth century. Such a work, as Ozanam observes, can hardly be said to have one author; it is the product rather of gradual growth and must, as Sabatier remarks, remain in a certain sense anonymous, because it is national. There has been some doubt as to whether the "Fioretti" were written in Italian in the first instance, as Sbaralea thought, or were translated from a Latin original, as Wadding maintained. The latter seems altogether more probable, and modern critics generally believe that a larger Latin collection of legends, which has come down to us under the name of the "Actus B. Francisci et Sociorum Ejus', represents an approximation to the text now lost of the original "Floretum", of which the "Fioretti" is a translation. A striking difference is noticeable between the earlier chapters of the "Fioretti", which refer to St. Francis and his companions, and the later ones which deal with the friars in the province of the believed to be subtantially the work of a certain Fra Ugolino da Monte Giorgio of the noble family of Brunforte, who, at the time of his death in 1348, was provincial of the Friars Minor in the March. Living as he did a century after the death of St. Francis , Ugolino was dependent on hearsay for much of his information; part of it he is said to have learned from Fra Giacomo da Massa who had been well known and esteemed by the companions of the saint, and who had lived on terms of intimacy with Fra Leone, his confessor and secretary. Whatever may have been the sources from which Ugolino derived his materials, the fifty-three chapters which constitute the Latin work in question seem to have been written before 1328. The four appendixes on the Stigmata of St. Francis, the life of Fra Ginepro, and the life and the sayings of the Fra Egidio, which occupy nearly one half of the printed text of the "Fioretti", as we now have it, form no part of the original collection and were probably added by later compilers. Unfortunately the name of the fourteenth-century Franciscan friar who translated into Italian fifty-three of the seventy-six chapters found in the "Actus B. Francisci" and in translating immortalized them as the "Fioretti", remains unknown. The attribution of this work to Giovanni di San Lorenzo rests wholly upon conjecture. It has been surmised that the translator was a Florentine. However this may be, the vernacular version is written in the most limpid Tuscan and is reckoned among the masterpieces of Italian literature.

The "Fioretti" have been described as "the most exquite expression of the religious life of the Middle Ages ". That perhaps which gives these legends such a peculiar charm, is what may be called their atmosphere; they breathe all the delicious fragrance of the early Franciscan spirit. Nowhere can there be found a more childlike faith, a livelier sense of the supernatural, or a simpler literalness in the following Christ than in the pages of the "Fioretti", which more than any other work transport us to the scenes amid which St. Francis and his first followers live, and enable us to see them as they saw themselves.

These legends, moreover, bear precious witness to the vitality and enthusiasm with which the memory of the life and teaching of the Poverello was preserved, and they contain much more history, as distinct from mere poetry, than it was customary to recognize when Suyskens and Papini wrote. In Italy the "Fioretti" have always enjoyed an extraordinary popularity; indeed, this liber aureus is said to have been more widely read there than any book, not excepting even the Bible or the Divine Comedy. Certain it is that the "Fioretti" have exercised an immense influence forming in the popular conception of St. Francis and his companions. The earliest known manuscript of the "Fioretti", now preserved at Berlin, is dated 1390; the work was first printed at Vicenza in 1476. Manzoni has collected many interesting details about the wellnigh innumerable codices and editions of the "Fioretti". The best edition for the general reader is unquestionably that of Father Antonio Cesari (Verona, 1822) which is based on the epoch-making edition of Filippo Buonarroti (Florence, 1718). The Crusca quote from this edition which has been often reprinted. The "Fioretti" have been translated into nearly every European language and in our day are being much read and studied in Northern countries. There are several well-known English versions.

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 6:1-9
1 Children, be obedient to your parents in the Lord -- that is what ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 145:10-11, 12-13, 13-14
10 All your creatures shall thank you, Yahweh, and your faithful shall ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:22-30
22 Through towns and villages he went teaching, making his way to ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 26th, 2016 Image

St. Bean
October 26: On December 16, there is named in the Roman ... Read More