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Saint Francis of Assisi

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  3,193 ratings  ·  345 reviews
Francis of Assisi is, after Mary of Nazareth, perhaps 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 figu
Paperback, 176 pages
Published November 17th 1987 by Image (first published 1923)
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Jesse Broussard
Feb 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Friar Stabin John Capuchin
A book published almost 100 years ago I read in my small room. Last few days it was a wonderful experience with Sir Chesterton and his St. Francis of Assisi. I am feeling little desperate after reading this book because I am part of the Franciscan culture and unable to live like St. Francis lived. Lord's little poverlo lived his life completely in accord with the Gospel values. When Chesterton presents those days of St. Francis earthly life it was really a moment of inspiration for me.
I read ma
Lee Ann
Jun 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
John Anthony
Jul 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
Very disappointing. So much of it is padding and verbose navel gazing - as to what kind of biography GKC would write. The great man deserves better. I’m pleased I came to Bishop Moorman’s book on St Francis first.

Chesterton was a little more cogent when assessing Francis’s legacy and looking critically at the fortunes of his Order after the Saint’s death:

“St Francis was so great and original a man that he had something in him of what makes the founder of a religion. Many of his followers were m
Carol Apple
Mar 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
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. ...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
Dec 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 01, 2012 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
Fr. Ryan Humphries
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. ...more
Megan Chappie
Dec 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites this book. So much. It might actually be my favorite Chesterton? Overall? Fiction and nonfiction included? Which is saying a lot???

The first time I read it, what grabbed me most was the chapter about being a fool and humility and gratitude--the Chapter "Le Jongleur de Dieu," I think? This time around, I particularly liked the bit towards the end about how the Franciscan spirit could have become a heresy if it had absorbed the Church instead of being absorbed by the Church. It's just..
Monica Aho
Mar 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
M.G. Bianco
Mar 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, theology
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
Mar 27, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kind of racist at times and very much enthralled by/impressed with the “medieval” ages, particularly the 13th century, to what I think is an excessive, vaguely unhealthy degree. (Tbh I don’t think there’s such a thing as a “clean” or “healthy” sin or that, should there have been such a thing, medieval people would have been the ones to commit it. His poetical oversimplification of medieval people for the sole purpose of lifting them up on some kind of moral pedestal is strange, and I doubt its f ...more
Amy C.
Mar 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Aug 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Might throw away all my possessions and roam the land
Dec 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
We get less insight into St. Francis from this volume than we do into a certain kind of early 20th-century Englishman. Chesterton's flowery prose is so inflected by the conventions of his time that it is hard to penetrate it for a greater understanding of the timeless Saint. Particularly bewildering is Chesterton's choice to include little actual description of Francis's life -- he seems to assume that everyone already knows all the stories about Francis (which this reader does not). He instead ...more
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: home-library
Think of the difference between a flame, and a mathematical formula. St. Francis is the flame; St. Thomas Aquinas is the formula. (This is an oversimplification - leave me alone.) Chesterton is extremely well-suited to describing a flame - such an exercise would rely on a little exactness, sure, but would rely more on poetry, beauty, flexibility, seemingly contradictory things co-existing. All of those are Chesterton's strengths, and while they made his biography of St. Thomas Aquinas frustratin ...more
Jack Schutt
Nov 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio
We don’t deserve Chesterton.
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
Dhanaraj Rajan
Apr 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
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!
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was ok

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.
Manuel Alfonseca
Aug 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
ENGLISH: Another excellent biography by Chesterton, written in his inimitable style. This is the sixth I have read, including his autobiography. I liked most his biography of St. Thomas Aquinas, but this one is also one of the best.

Let us look at a quote: The fact is that as soon as we assume for a moment as a hypothesis, what St. Francis and St. Clare assumed all the time as an absolute, that there is a direct divine relation more glorious than any romance, the story of St. Clare’s elopement is
Matthew Rogers
Oct 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A biography, but also the clear fruit of love.
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2020
“He was, to the last agonies of asceticism, a Troubadour. He was a Lover. He was a lover of God and he was really and truly a lover of men; possibly a much rarer mystical vocation.”

Mark Schofield
Oct 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
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 rated it liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Rev. Linda
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. ...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Catholic Book...: 7. Favorite Quotes, etc 18 23 Aug 17, 2019 07:53PM  
The Catholic Book...: 6. Radical Poverty 6 18 Aug 17, 2019 05:40PM  
The Catholic Book...: 1. Biography? 5 18 Aug 17, 2019 05:34PM  
The Catholic Book...: 3. Thief for God? 7 15 Aug 16, 2019 08:00PM  
The Catholic Book...: 2. Comparison to other Biographies 10 11 Aug 14, 2019 07:29AM  
The Catholic Book...: * Introduction 5 25 Aug 10, 2019 03:50AM  
The Catholic Book...: 8. Along the Way 5 10 Aug 09, 2019 06:53AM  

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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.” 14 likes
“But as St. Francis did not love humanity but men, so he did not love Christianity but Christ.” 8 likes
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