5. Sources: life of St. Clare (3)|
Letter of Cardinal Hugolino (1220)
5.8 The LegCl, 27, states: "Not without reason, Lord Pope Gregory had marvelous
faith in the prayers of this holy woman whose efficacious power he had
experienced. Frequently when some new difficulties arose, as is natural, both
when he was Bishop of Ostia and, later, when he was elevated to the Apostolic
See, he would request assistance of that virgin by means of a letter and would
experience her help". We have two letters written by Hugolino. One of them
was written in 1220, when Hugolino was Cardinal Protector of the Friars Minor
and the Poor Ladies, most probably after Francis' return from the Orient. In
this letter Hugolino shows that he had spent the Holy Week at San Damiano with
the Poor Ladies, and asks Clare to pray for him. The other letter was written
in 1228, when Hugolino became Pope Gregory IX.
Canticle of Exhortation "Audite, poverelle"
5.9 Francis spent the early spring months at San Damiano in 1225. It was on
this occasion that he composed the Canticle of Creatures (see Writings of St.
Francis). It was probably also on this occasion that Francis wrote a Canticle
of Exhortation to the Poor Ladies. It begins with the words "Audite,
poverelle", and was found and critically analysed by Giovanni Boccali OFM in
1976. A proof of its existence is given by the Legend of Perugia 45 (Omnibus
of Sources, 1024-1025): "At the same time and in the same friary, blessed
Francis, after having composed the Praises of the Lord for his creatures,
dictated a canticle, words and music, for the consolation of the Poor Ladies of
the monastery of San Damiano".
Last Will Given by Saint Francis to Clare and the Poor Ladies (1226)
5.10 This short note was also inserted by Clare in Chapter 6 of her Rule,
together with the FormViv. This note is truly the last will of Francis, who
was nearing death and could not visit Clare personally. In the UltVol, Francis
stresses the ideal of evangelical poverty modelled upon that of Christ, and
urges Clare and the Poor Ladies never to depart from this ideal. Clare was to
cherish these words to the very end of her life, and to the point of seeing her
own Rule confirmed by the Pope.
Letter of Gregory IX (1228)
5.11 On 19 March 1227 Cardinal Hugolino was elected Pope and took the name of
Gregory IX. One of this foremost preoccupations was that of canonising Francis
of Assisi, who had died on 3 October 1226. It was probably during the
ceremonies marking the canonisation of St. Francis, on 16 July 1226, that
Gregory addressed this letter to Clare, calling her by the title of Abbess, and
indicating the Poor Ladies as a community of Enclosed Nuns. The letter is not
a legislative text, but contains references to the mystical espousals of Clare
and the Poor Ladies with the Trinity. The Pope asks Clare to pray for him in
his difficult task.
Letter of Cardinal Rainaldus (1228)
5.12 Rainaldus dei Conti Segni was from the same noble family as Innocent III
and Gregory IX, who was his uncle. Rainaldus was to become Pope Alexander IV
(1254-1261). He would canonise Clare in Anangni in 1255. When he accompanied
Cardinal Hugolino, who was Papal Legate in Tuscany and Lombardy, he came to
know the Poor Ladies of San Damiano. Gregory IX was to make him Cardinal
Protector of the Poor Ladies. This letter is dated 18 August 1228 and was
written in Perugia. It is a very interesting document, since it gives a list
of all monasteries of the Poor Ladies in central Italy, thus indicating the
spreading of the Second Franciscan Order in a relatively short period of time.
It also mentions Brothers Pacificus and Filippo Longo, who were Visitators to
the Poor Ladies.
Privilege of Poverty given by Pope Gregory IX (17 September 1228)
5.13 When Cardinal Hugolino became Pope Gregory IX, Clare asked him to renew
and reconfirm the Privilege of Poverty given to her and the Poor Ladies in 1216
by Innocent III. The present document was given on 17 September 1228 and is an
abbreviated form of the original Privilege of Poverty of 1216. Clare was thus
assured of the Church's official recognition of her radical choice of
evangelical poverty, even though Gregory IX did not always fully understand the
concrete implications of this document, and granted exemptions to other
monasteries which tried to follow the form of life of the Poor Ladies of San
1 Celano regarding Clare and the Poor Ladies (1228)
5.14 We have already presented a short biographical note of Friar Thomas of
Celano in the lecture regarding the Sources for the Life of St. Francis. In 1
Cel we have some interesting notes regarding Clare and the Poor Ladies. In
paragraphs 18-20 Celano speaks about the foundation of the Order of Poor Ladies
of San Damiano, about Clare's noble origins and the nobleness of her soul,
about the fact that between forty and fifty sisters were living at San Damiano
in 1228. He extols the virtues of Clare, namely, charity, humility, virginity,
poverty, abstinence, silence, patience, and contemplation. Paragraphs 116-117
speak about the funeral procession of Francis on Sunday 4 October 1226, which
paused for a few moments at San Damiano on its way up to the church of San
Giorgio in Assisi, where the saint was temporarily buried. The biographer
describes this procession as a festive occasion, and indicates the little
window through which Clare and the Poor Ladies received the Eucharist as the
place where Francis' corpse was shown to them for the last farewell. The
questions and exclamations posed by the Poor Ladies are written in the typical
style of Celano who borrowed from Sulpicius Severus' "Vita Sancti Martini".
Celano also refers to the fact that Clare and the Poor Ladies could admire and
kiss Francis' stigmata.
Letter of Saint Agnes of Assisi to Her Sister Saint Clare (1230)
5.15 Agnes was the younger sister of Clare. Her name was Caterina. Agnes was
her name as a religious. She was the first to join Clare at Sant'Angelo di
Panzo in 1212. Agnes was sent as an abbess to the new monastery of the Poor
Ladies in Monticelli, Florence. This letter was probably written about 1230.
It is the only letter which survived of the correspondence which certainly was
being sent between Clare and Agnes. In it Agnes pours out her immense sorrow
at being physically separated from her dear Sister Clare and the other Sisters
of San Damiano. It is a very touching letter, which expresses the human aspect
of the cloistered life of the Poor Ladies. Agnes was able to see Clare in
1253, before Clare died. Agnes died soon after, in San Damiano, on 16
November 1253, according to a widely accepted tradition. The LegCl 48, states
that "after a few days, Agnes, called to the wedding feast of the Lamb,
followed her sister to the eternal delights".
Mandate (8 June 1238)
5.16 This is an interesting document, discovered by the famous Assisi
historian Arnaldo Fortini, author of "Nuova Vita di San Francesco", in the
Assisi archives. The document, however, was already known by Luke Wadding, who
published it in the "Annales Minorum", ad ann. 1238. It mentions a deed drawn
up by Clare and the Poor Ladies to have a procurator who would sell in their
name a small plot of land to the Cathedral Chapter of San Rufino in Assisi.
The Mandate contains the names of 49 Sisters, thus giving us an idea of the
community of San Damiano during this period.
|St. Clare and St. Elisabeth of Hungary
Anonymous of Perugia regarding Clare and the Poor Ladies
5.17 The Legend known as the "Anonymous of Perugia", found in a manuscript in
the conventual library of the San Francesco friary of Perugia, is closely
linked to the Legend of the Three Companions, which seemingly depends upon it.
Historians are not in agreement regarding its date of composition. The general
opinion is that it was written between the LegMaj of St. Bonaventure
(1260-1263) and the "Liber de laudibus S. Francisci" of Bernard of Besse (c.
1279). Other historians prefer an earlier date. In his presentation of the
Sources of St. Clare's life, R.J. Armstrong prefers the date 1240-1241 and
individuates the anonymous author of the Legend in the person of John of
Perugia, a companion of Brother Giles. The AnonPer speaks about Clare and the
Poor Ladies in paragraph 41, where it states: "In the same way many women,
virgins and those not having husbands, after hearing their preaching, came to
them with sorrowful hearts and said: `What shall we do? We cannot be with you.
Tell us, therefore, how we can save our souls'. For this reason they
established monasteries of recluses for doing penance in every city in which
they could. They also appointed one of the brothers to be their visitator and
Legend of the Three Companions regarding Clare and the Poor Ladies
5.18 Regarding the presentation of the L3S confer the lecture about the Sources
for the Life of St. Francis. The L3S 24 has an interesting detail regarding
the Poor Ladies of San Damiano, which Clare herself mentions in her Testament
12-14. It could be that the L3S took the information from Clare's own mouth.
Here we reproduce the text in the L3S: "While he was continuing with some
other workers in that project mentioned above, Francis used to call with a loud
voice in the joy of the Spirit to those living near or passing by the church
and would say to them in French: `Come and help me in this project for the
church of San Damiano which will be in the future a monastery of women by whose
fame and life our heavenly Father will be glorified throughout the entire
Church'. In that way, filled with the spirit of prophecy, he actually
predicted the future. For this is that sacred place in which the glorious
religion and most excellent order of Poor Ladies and sacred virgins had its
joyful origin because of Blessed Francis, scarcely six years after his
The Assisi Compilation regarding Clare and the Poor Ladies
5.19 The "Legenda antiqua S. Francisci" or "Compilatio Assisiensis" has an
important place among the non-official Sources for the life of St. Francis, as
has been illustrated in the lecture concerning these Sources, to which we refer
the reader. The references to Clare and the Poor Ladies are found in
paragraphs 45 and 109. In LegPer 45 we have a description of Francis' presence
at San Damiano in the first months of 1225, when he composed the Canticle of
Creatures, and the CantExh for Clare and the Poor Ladies (see text above, in
the CantExh). In Leg109 we come to know of a letter which Francis, who was
dying, wrote to Clare during her illness. Unfortunately the contents of this
letter were lost, and we only know of its existence through the Assisi
Compilation. The same text mentions the funeral procession of Francis, which
stopped at San Damiano so that the Poor Ladies might see their Blessed Father
for the last time.
© copyright FIOR-Malta
Text by Fr. Noel Muscat ofm