Saint Francis of AssisiSaint Francis (about 1181 - 1226), the son of a wealthy merchant, renounced his inheritance and devoted himself to poverty and serving Christ. In 1210, the Pope authorised Saint Francis and his followers to spread the virtues of simplicity and poverty. This event marks the foundation of the Franciscan Order, which was to prove enormously successful. When Saint Clare founded the order of the Poor Clares, the movement came to include women.
Saint Francis had an intense spirituality. He received the Stigmata, the wounds Christ endured at the Crucifixion, while praying. Such marks are one of the traits by which he can be identified in paintings. He is remembered for his love of all living creatures, especially birds and animals.
His 'Fioretti' (Little Flowers) remains a popular work of devotion.
The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN