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Inhaltsangabe: Francis of Assisi is, after Mary of Nazareth, the greatest saint in the Christian calendar, and one of the most influential men in the whole of human history. By universal acclaim, this biography by G. K. Chesterton is considered the best appreciation of Francis's life--the one that gets to the heart of the matter.
For Chesterton, Francis is a great paradoxical figure, a man who loved women but vowed himself to chastity; an artist who loved the pleasures of the natural world as few have loved them, but vowed himself to the most austere poverty, stripping himself naked in the public square so all could see that he had renounced his worldly goods; a clown who stood on his head in order to see the world aright. Chesterton gives us Francis in his world-the riotously colorful world of the High Middle Ages, a world with more pageantry and romance than we have seen before or since. Here is the Francis who tried to end the Crusades by talking to the Saracens, and who interceded with the emperor on behalf of the birds. Here is the Francis who inspired a revolution in art that began with Giotto and a revolution in poetry that began with Dante. Here is the Francis who prayed and danced with pagan abandon, who talked to animals, who invented the creche.
Review: There are certainly many studies of Saint Francis of Assisi that an interested reader might find and many of them immensely praiseworthy. But in reading G.K. Chesterton on Francis, you get two glories for one: first is an enlightening study of this most beloved of Christian saints and second is Chesterton himself, one of the great Christian writers of the 20th century, who converted to Roman Catholicism in 1922 because, it has been said, "only the Roman Church could produce a St. Francis of Assisi." Published shortly after his conversion, Chesterton wrote this book in part to reclaim Francis for the church. There are always those who want to claim Francis for their cause, Chesterton recognized, who also fail to understand the spiritual and intellectual ground upon which he stands. Chesterton would return Francis to Christ. As he summarizes, "however wild and romantic his gyrations might appear to many, [Francis] always hung on to reason by one invisible and indestructible hair.... The great saint was sane.... He was not a mere eccentric because he was always turning towards the center and heart of the maze; he took the queerest and most zigzag shortcuts through the wood, but he was always going home."
As one editor of Chesterton's puts it, "of St. Francis he might have said what he said about Blake: 'We always feel that he is saying something very plain and emphatic even when we have not the wildest notion of what it is.'" --Doug Thorpe
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