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St. Francis of Assisi (Image Classics) [Paperback]

G. K. Chesterton
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Dec 1987 Image Classics
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.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Doubleday Dell; New edition edition (1 Dec 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385029004
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385029001
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.1 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 496,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon 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 recognised, who also fail to understand the spiritual and intellectual ground upon which he stands. Chesterton would return Francis to Christ. As he summarises:
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 short cuts 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


"'I am here addressing the ordinary man, sympathetic but sceptical...; 'I hope that we may get a glimmering of why the poet who praised his lord the sun, often hid himself in a dark cavern, of why the saint who was so gentle with his brother the wolf was so harsh to his brother the ass (as he nicknamed his own body), of why the troubadour who said that love set his heart on fire seperated himself from women and why the singer who rejoiced in the strength and gaiety of the fire rolled himself in the snow...'" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thing of beauty... 18 Mar 2004
By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME
G.K. Chesterton is one of the best Christian writers of the twentieth century. Prolific and artistic, he had the knack for combining a classic British commentary sense to any historical Christian subject, making it both the object of cultural interest and often historic reverence. As St. Francis of Assisi was one of the primary influences on Chesterton's decision to convert to Roman Catholicism (Chesterton once described his conversion as being largely due to wanting to belong to the same institution that had produced St. Francis), it makes sense that Chesterton would devote considerable energies toward this biography.
Chesterton said that there are essentially three ways to approach a biography of a figure such as St. Francis - one can be dispassionately objective (or at least as much as can pass for such a stance), looking at things from a 'purely' historical standpoint; one can go to the opposite extreme and treat the figure as an object of devotion and worship; or one can take a third path (and you've guessed correctly if you assumed this was Chesterton's route) of looking at the character as an interested outsider, someone in the modern world but still one involved in the same kinds of structures and virtues as the one being studied.
Chesterton's prose is snappy and lively, witty and bit sardonic at times. Chesterton is not afraid to digress to make his own points, and like the intellectual critic who cannot contain the myriad of responses to particular points, Chesterton treats us to a generous collection of tangential observations.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simplicity 22 Jun 1997
By A Customer
Without exaggeration, this book changed my life completely.St. Francis is by far one of the most important and influential men in the history of the world, aside from St. Paul and Jesus Christ, himself. Francis' life--like the lives of all the Saints and great Christians--is a testament to the message of Christ. He lived "in the world, but not of the world." He made "the world a means and heaven the end." Francis denied the power of the material world over God's gift of spirituality, for who can hurt a man who rejoices in the pain--which he uses as his vehicle to reach eternal life--caused by the world? Who can starve a man who is constantly fasting? What can anyone take away from a man who's way of life is poverty? Without possessions and employment, no one could hold anything over him to persuade him to change his life. Francis had one master, and that was the Lord, Christ Jesus.
Though Saint Francis would not let the world rule over him, he was not blind to the beauty in it. He saw everything as a great and divine painting, with God as the master painter. The world is simply the canvas, and all of God's creations make up the picture. In a way, time is the paintbrush... But, enough about that! Back to Francis!
Francis refused to overlook Jesus' commands to seek God with all one's heart and life, and to leave the material world behind and deny the self to seek that goal. However, Francis was no mastermind who read every book and asked everyone for their opinions before he could give himself fully to God--that is not Francis, and he would never have become the Saint he is, had he been so stubborn. Like C.S. Lewis, he prayed, not because he made a conscious choice to pray, but because he could not help himself. God tends to work that way in our lives.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Turned me on 25 July 2003
This is a wonderfully written book, the first I've read by Chesterton and the first I've read on St Francis. It sat on my book shelf for years till one day I picked it up and couldn't put it down. As a christian minister trying to understand the place of both christianity and the church in the 21st Century I have discovered a companion in St Francis who can teach me much. This book turned me on to both Francis and Chesterton to the point that I am writing this review while searching Amazon for more on Francis.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful character study! 11 Nov 1998
By A Customer
Chesterton does not attempt mere biography here. This is not some skeletal and bland litany of names, dates, and events able only to provide the meagerest comprehension the rich charater of St. Francis. In point of fact, the author makes mention of only those relatively few events salient to the developing the personhood of St. Francis. Though it is short, to the extent that Chesterton reveals for us the character of the founder of the Three Orders, he achieves his goal nicely. The author provides wonderful insights into both the mind and the times that shaped the worldview of Francis Bernardone. Beautifully written, respectful, and dynamic, this is a truly wonderful work and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in trying to develop a balanced understanding of the man who is St. Francis of Assissi.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the Saint of our time 17 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book gives a greater insight to the type of man st Francis was, his ideals, his life,his love of the poor and a man who had a love of the environment. Gods creation. it was a book recomended to me after the election of Pope Francis. i'am very glad it was, and would recomend it to everyone, who like me, wondered why he chose the name francis.
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