Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Francis of Assisi: A Revolutionary Life

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Francis of Assisi: A Revolutionary Life

Article excerpt

Francis of Assisi: A Revolutionary Life. By Adrian House. (Mahwah, New Jersey: Hidden Spring, Paulist Press. 2001. Pp. xv, 336. $28.00.)

The sights, sounds, and smells of the piazza in Assisi, the cloth fairs in Champagne, the prison in Perugia, the papal court at the Lateran palace, and the battlefields of Damietta come alive in Adrian House's new book, Francis of Assisi: A Revolutionary Life. Political intrigues, conflicts, and personalities that defined the context of Francis's life are presented for the non-specialist in lucid and dynamic format. House highlights Francis's interaction in all of these situations, and this is indeed a unique contribution not found in other lives of Francis. His description of the military movements and strategy of the Fifth Crusade at Damietta is the best this reviewer has read.

House's development of the historical context of Francis's life is the strength of his book, but his use of primary texts to illustrate the specifics of Francis's life is uncritical and therefore a weakness. This reviewer does not agree that House's life of Francis is based on "careful study of the earliest sources." He moves back and forth indiscriminately between thirteenth- and fourteenthcentury sources, without indicating any reason or rationale for specific uses of specific texts. He makes no reference to recent studies on the sources he cites. In his narrative about Francis's life, he offers specifics about Francis that "Angelo reports," when it is today clear that a third of The Legend of the Three Companions, which House uses extensively, is taken from Thomas of Celano's Life of St. …

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