FIOR (Franciscan Institute Outreach - Malta)

4. Sources: life of St. Francis (4)

The Mirror of Perfection

4.27. In 1899 Paul Sabatier published the "Speculum Perfectionis seu S. Francisci Assisiensis legenda antiquissima", Paris. Later on a posthumous work was published by A.G. Little, "Le Speculum Perfectionis ou Mémoires de frère Léon", Manchester University Press, 1928-1931, 2 volumes. These publications were the start of a heated debate regarding the Franciscan question, because Sabatier was insisting that the Mirror of Perfection was the oldest Source relating to the life of St. Francis, and moreover, that it was the work of brother Leo.

The vision of the fire chariot

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4.28. The first manuscripts which Sabatier had discovered were dated 1227. But scholars noted that there was an evident mistake, namely that the copyist transformed MCCCXVIII (1318) into MCCXXVIII (1228). The Ognissanti manuscript in Florence quite clearly gives the date 1318. Sabatier never accepted his critics' suggestions, and resolutely insisted that the document antedated even 1 Cel and was the work of brother Leo. Nowadays the question is definitely solved, and the SpecPerf is dated 1318.

The proof of fire before the Sultan

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4.29. Moreover the manuscripts begin with a rubric stating: "This work has been compiled in the form of a legend based on what the companions of blessed Francis had formerly written or caused to be written". These words are a proof that the SpecPerf is a compilation which was formed from older documents, and that it is not the work of brother Leo alone. The SpecPerf has 124 chapters. Even this Source presents texts present in other Sources, such as in 2 Cel. It is also quite similar to the LegPer, and therefore makes use of the same documentary material. Again we are faced with an attempt to produce a compilation of material which comes from a non-official source and aims at filling the void left by Bonaventure's LegMaj's dominating role. The friars who were instrumental in its formation were disciples of the first and second generation of friars who had a precise aim at documenting all memories relating to the first companions of the saint, who were with him.


© copyright FIOR-Malta
Text by Fr. Noel Muscat ofm


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