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The Little Flowers of St. Francis

"The Little Flowers of St. Francis" (Italian "Fioretti di San Francesco") is a florilegium (excerpts of his body of work), divided into 53 short chapters, on the life of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Written a century and a half after the death of Francis of Assisi, the text is not regarded as an important primary source for the saint’s biography. However, it has been the most popular account of his life and relates many colourful anecdotes, miracles and pious examples from the lives of Francis and his followers (such as Brother Juniper). These poetic stories shed much light upon the genesis and development of the following of Saint Francis. Indeed, some stories contained in the Fioretti can be found in much earlier works; for example, Saint Francis preaching to the birds was described by Fra. Masseo, and written of by the Englishman Roger of Wendover, in 1236.

The text was the inspiration for the Roberto Rossellini’s 1950 film Francesco, giullare di Dio (“Francis, God’s Jester”) which was co-written by Federico Fellini.

The film dramatizes about a dozen vignettes from the life of St. Francis and his early followers - starting with their return in the rain to Rivotorlo from Rome when the Pope blessed their Rule and ending with their dispersal to preach. The unconnected chapters are like parables, some with a moral. The slight and comic Ginepro returns naked to St. Mary's of the Angels, having given away his tunic, but not his ricotta. The aged Giovanni shouts and holds onto his cape; the beatific St. Clair pays a visit. Humble Francis doubts his leadership, hugs a leper, and sends his brothers spinning, dizzy, and smiling into the world. This brotherhood is infused with whimsy as well as belief.

"In a series of simple and joyous vignettes, director Roberto Rossellini and co-writer Federico Fellini lovingly convey the universal teachings of the People’s Saint: humility, compassion, faith, and sacrifice. Gorgeously photographed to evoke the medieval paintings of Saint Francis’s time, and cast with monks from the Nocera Inferiore Monastery, The Flowers of St. Francis is a timeless and moving portrait of the search for spiritual enlightenment."