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St. Francis of Assisi

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  1,995 Ratings  ·  188 Reviews

The patron saint of animals, birds, and the environment, Francis of Assisi led the rediscovery of nature in the Christian West. This accessible spiritual biography by a phenomenally popular author chronicles the beloved saint's calling, order, and influence. Its charm and wit will appeal to even the most secular-minded readers.

Nook, 0 pages
Published by London: Hodder and Stoughton (first published 1923)
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Jesse Broussard
Feb 09, 2011 Jesse Broussard rated it really liked it
I have one tremendous criticism to make of this book. If you have some perfectly good, bitter resentment towards the Franciscans (entirely legitimate), or towards St. Francis himself, or even the Jongleurs de Dieu, this book will take that exquisite resentment and turn it into an entirely unsatisfactory mushy benevolent feeling.

Another of Chesterton's brilliant works. Frederick Buechner once fondly criticized Chesterton with the comment that he'd written entirely too much for all of it to be exc
Lee Ann
Jun 22, 2009 Lee Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
I hadn't thought seriously about Francis for a while and this book makes me think I've never thought seriously about him at all. GK rescues Francis from fuzzy Victorian myth and returns him to a most severe Christianity. By reading Francis in the light of him time period (the medieval) and in the light of the troubadour movement, GKC reveals the romantic passion underlying the saint's religious severity. The Franciscans were born as a romantic movement, sacrificing all for the Beloved. Francis l ...more
Dec 27, 2015 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Second Reading Dec 2016

First reading Dec 2015
I think that this may be one of my favorite Chesterton works. The first book written after his conversion to Catholicism but supported by his still Anglican wife Frances, this book has universal appeal for Protestants and Catholics.

Francis is a mysterious creature. A true mystic and a genuinely beautiful soul. I have struggled in vain to understand our new Holy Father (Pope Francis) and have mostly been confused by his actions. This text, however, ha
Nov 09, 2016 Daniel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Faço por não me pronunciar de forma negativa em relação a livro algum, mas sinto que a pobre classificação que lhe atribuo merece uma justificação breve. G.K. Chesterton escreve uma biografia de São Francisco polvilhada de opiniões pessoais que desde o início me aborreceram, tais como uma ode triunfal à Idade Média como período de purificação pós-pagão, séculos de negrume. Na verdade o texto está recheado de afirmações infundamentadas e mesmo erradas - um exemplo: ou se admite que Jesus cresceu ...more
Oct 16, 2009 Darren rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theo-sue
This book read more like one of Chesterton's personal dilemmas - complaining that historians write about historical figures without giving historical context. He rambles on about how to write a good biography rather than teaching the reader. I found it difficult to read. St. Francis is awesome though.
Carol Apple
Mar 22, 2014 Carol Apple rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To be honest I chose to read this book because I like G.K. Chesterton more than because I was so interested in St. Francis. I got a very entertaining dose of Chesterton, a funny paradox on every page, and after reading the book, I am also fascinated by St. Francis. The book assumes you know the broad outlines of the story. Chesterton references previous biographers, those contemporary with Francis and those Victorians such as Matthew Arnold in the then recent past (St. Francis of Assisi was firs ...more
Read this for a retreat I took with John Michael Talbot back in 1998. Finally reread it or rather re-listened to it. In light of our new Holy Father's choice of a namesake, I want to listen to it again. Chesterton's writing is dense and needs a great deal of unpacking. It includes a long introductory explanation about how a biographer might approach the life of this unusual historical figure. Francis of Assisi, born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, has so many popular legends and untruths assoc ...more
Mar 10, 2010 Monica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was written early in Chesterton's career, and soon after he became a Christian, even though St. Francis had always inspired him as a young boy. St. Francis is easy to like, and Chesterton brings him to life. Francis seems almost impulsive in his fervor to do God's will - actly rashly at times in ways that get him into trouble (with his family, the law!) but always with the best of intentions. This book was well-done, although, as with Chesterton's book on St. Thomas, I wish I was bette ...more
Matt Bianco
Mar 08, 2011 Matt Bianco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology, non-fiction
G.K. Chesterton puts forth a masterful piece of literary work describing the life of St. Francis of Assisi. He first puts St. Francis and his life into historical perspective. Why was his ascetism necessary? Why was the world then ready for someone who could love nature the way he did? Chesterton answers these questions.

Next, he describes what drove St. Francis to his life and then his life. At this point, he has said nothing of those things that would be considered supernatural or miraculous, o
A brief sojourn with Chesterton to relieve the long, long voyage with Tolstoy. Both enjoyable in their own way, but after 800 pages of that contemplative, gentle gloom peculiar to Tolstoy Chesterton's vigor (one can imagine the quick, definite strokes of his pen, the delighted dance of his writing across the sheet), is definitely needed.
Wonderful stuff. Francis, I think, is not so much fun as Aquinas, for he is a little more frightening. (Throughout the book, he reminded me disconcertingly of my
Amy C.
Mar 17, 2013 Amy C. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Chesterton is, in my opinion, an ideal author for this reflection on St. Francis (it's not really a biography, more of an extended musing). Everybody loves Francis, but very few really get him, so the world ends up brushing aside the full personality of the man (a great loss). GKC gets Francis. This book does much to restore the full picture of Francis, and beautifully so. If I could I'd quote the whole book at you.
Fr. Ryan Humphries
Feb 07, 2013 Fr. Ryan Humphries rated it it was amazing
An amazing and insightful spiritual biography that's light on factual details, heavy on context and depth and chock full of Chestertonian wit and wordplay.
Jan 01, 2012 Ted rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up the book hoping to read a thorough biography of St. Francis, and though I was moved by the Franciscan anecdotes the author shared, this is largely an overwrought essay by G. K. Chesterton defending his new conversion to Catholicism and luxuriating in his self-conscious witticisms: "There are many who will smile at the saying; but it is profoundly true to say that the glad good news brought by the Gospel was the news of original sin" (28). Fine, it's pithy, but where is your editor?! ...more
Mark Schofield
Oct 31, 2009 Mark Schofield rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
GK Chesterson is a wonderful writer. He reminds me of C.S. Lewis in that they are both writers of Christian Apologetics but Chesterson knocks Lewis's socks off.

Chesterson says that we can only understand Francis if we think of him as a troubadour of the Middle Ages and accept the fact that he loved God with the passion that we normally associate with romantic love. Chesterson also talks about early Christianity being a turning from the nature worship of the Greeks and the Romans. He feels that t
Mar 16, 2013 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I undertook to read this work shortly after the appointment of our newest Pope, Francis, as the saint with whom he identifies most strongly. I wanted to study the words of a great writer (Chesterton) about a great historical figure (Francis of Assisi) and I was not disappointed. However, beyond broad strokes, it is ultimately impossible, either for Chesterton, as he wrote it, or for today's reader, to cut through the hagiography that envelopes a saint of such renown. In the end, all that can be ...more
Simon Hill
Jul 08, 2016 Simon Hill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
G.K. Chesterton reveals the man without the myth and mysticism while never denying a word of it. In the casual yet pacy, witty yet serious style that is Chesterton, this small but precious book tells us more about who Saint Francis was than several larger tomes combined. By avoiding exuberant apocrypha and concentrating largely upon the man who became a saint, rather than the saint who became a phenomenon, Chesterton makes Saint Francis' life and achievements both interiorly and for the world, b ...more
Dhanaraj Rajan
Apr 03, 2013 Dhanaraj Rajan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Warning:
If you are a person new to the life of St. Francis and if it is your objective to know more of the saint's life then this is not the book for you. G. K. Chesterton himself says that this is just an introduction. But I would say that this is not an inclusive and appropriate introduction into the saint's life for the new and inquiring person.
But if you are well aware of the life of st. Francis then this book can serve you well by offering few interesting reflections on some of the vents
Continuing with my study of the life of St Francis of Assisi, I chose this title for my next read after reading the short section in "The Francis Story" that Chesterton wrote. This book puts his life into the perspective of what the times were like just after the Dark Ages, and how the sight of a begger seeking alms changed his entire life. Chesterton called St. Francis "a poet whose whole life was a poem." The book is an unabridged republication of the 1924 original edition.
Jul 26, 2012 Greg rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

Not nearly as much a book about Francis as a book about Chesterton. You can learn a little about Francis here but this is mainly Mr. Chesterton's ode to himself and his opinions. His effort to explain away the Inquisition is particularly bizarre. He does have some great lines and insights though, in particular his description of mysticism.
At least 50% of this book is the author telling us what and how he is going to be writing about St.Francis. The recent is a few anecdotes about St.Francis, mostly used as an introduction to his own petty and ill conceived opinions, with a side order of mud slinging at his own contemporaries opinions.
Definitely one to avoid if you are looking to actually find out something about St.Francis!
Mar 19, 2008 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Dense to read, but an excellent provider of insight into the famous saint's life. Provides religious guidance as well as historical context.

I'd Challenge non-Catholics to find anything reprehensible or tainted in Chesterton's treatment of his subject.
Dec 12, 2012 Sharon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
More of an essay about St. Francis than a biography. I find Chesterton a bit difficult to read because his writing weaves much philosophy into his storytelling, and I struggle with philosophy. I do like his wit.
I felt like I knew St. Francis for the first time. Chesterton is great.

Included in the "Holy Men and Women" section of Fr. John McCloskey's 100-book Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan.
Seth Hanson
Beware the audio version of this book available from The unremitting monotone of the narrator and overall poor quality of the recording combined to make this a difficult book to power through. I readily admit that i zoned out for long periods. But i did retain at least some of what i heard and the main take-home message is that St. Francis blazed the way for a new kind of monk. Rather than spending their lives sequestered away in isolated monasteries, this new breed of monk drifted ...more
Sep 24, 2016 Alexis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bedside, own
I find Chesterton very engaging, but not easy to read unless an entire chapter can be read in one sitting. His thoughts lead and build on each other and if you stay away from the book too long you lose the rhythm and cadence and threads of his thinking.

Other than that, I really love his approach and his way of addressing the subject matter at hand. This was not a straight biography filled with events and happenings, instead it focused on poignant moments in a Francis' life and the impact that th
Apr 03, 2015 Misti rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
So I am a rationalizing my decision to give three stars to a book that the vast majority give four or five stars to from a classic well-known Christian writer whose written works rival that of the beloved C. S Lewis.

I truly think that Chesterton is way above my head. I chose to read him because of this very reason and also because I have some close Catholic friends to which I thought that I might
be able to discuss sainthood.

I have ran across St. Francis of Assisi a couple different times in my
Steven Gower
Jun 07, 2014 Steven Gower rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"I have said that Saint Francis deliberately did not see the wood for the trees. It is even more true that he deliberately did not see the mob for the men. What distinguishes this very genuine democrat from any mere demagogue is that he never either deceived or was deceived by the illusion of mass-suggestion. Whatever his taste in monsters, he never saw before him a many-headed beast. He only saw the image of God multiplied but never monotonous. To him a man was always a man and did not disappea ...more
Feb 02, 2012 Bill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
A short introduction to Francis of Assisi. Chesterton acknowledges that he is only skimming the surface and is writing for a skeptical newcomer to the subject. The chapters are more topical than chronological, and thus the outline of Francis' life is somewhat fragmented. Chesterton considers Francis a key figure (the key figure, perhaps) in the emergence of the Middle Ages and the modern world, in that he was independent of the classical distant past and moved beyond the asceticism and withdrawa ...more
Dec 08, 2009 Peregrino rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
Aprovechando que iba a pasar unos días en La Verna, monasterio franciscano donde el santo recibió los estigmas, retomé la lectura abandonada hace un año de este libro de Chesterton. He reconocer que lo abandoné transcurridas unas pocas páginas, pareciéndome un tostón importante.

Sin embargo, esta vez, superadas las pesadas páginas introductorias, he disfrutado de él. a pesar de que como el autor reconoce este es una mera introducción al personaje, no recomendaría que se leyese como primer libro a
Jan 11, 2016 Victoria rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hagiography
Though he had some truly beautiful things to say, I don't think G.K. Chesterton is cut out for hagiography. This life of St. Francis, while proposing to delve into his mentality and figure out what he was REALLY like, ended up just using a lot of words to say small things. It was far too wordy and explanatory. Also, though I know that he specifically says that he's writing to the average person, supposedly rather a skeptic, I happen to NOT be a skeptic, and so I found all the hemming and hawing ...more
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Didn't learn enough 2 12 May 02, 2013 01:04PM  
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Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was born in London, educated at St. Paul’s, and went to art school at University College London. In 1900, he was asked to contribute a few magazine articles on art criticism, and went on to become one of the most prolific writers of all time. He wrote a hundred books, contributions to 200 more, hundreds of poems, including the epic Ballad of the White Horse, fi ...more
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“The good Bishop of Assisi expressed a sort of horror at the hard life which the Little Brothers lived at the Portiuncula, without comforts, without possessions, eating anything they could get and sleeping anyhow on the ground. St. Francis answered him with that curious and almost stunning shrewdness which the unworldly can sometimes wield like a club of stone. He said, 'If we had any possessions, we should need weapons and laws to defend them.” 10 likes
“Now for St. Francis nothing was ever in the background. We might say that his mind had no background, except perhaps that divine darkness out of which the divine love had called up every colored creature one by one. He saw everything as dramatic, distinct from its setting, not all of a piece like a picture but in action like a play. A bird went by him like an arrow; something with a story and a purpose, though it was a purpose of life and not a purpose of death. A bush could stop him like a brigand; and indeed he was as ready to welcome the brigand as the bush.” 6 likes
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