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The secularisation of St Francis of Assisi

  • Mary Heimann (a1)

St Francis of Assisi, mystic, stigmatic and founder of the Franciscans, has come to seem uncontroversial, a saint for ecologists, socialists and animal lovers as well as Christians of all denominations. Until his rediscovery by the Victorians, Francis was firmly associated with Roman Catholic doctrine, obedience to the papacy, participation in crusades and distinctively Catholic mystical phenomena. This article argues that Faber’s, Oliphant’s and Sabatier’s nineteenth-century Lives of St Francis opened the way for his appropriation by the general British public. The resulting denominational competition over the saint stimulated a boom in St Francis’ popularity but also led to his piecemeal secularisation.

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Versions of this article were read at the Royal Historical Society conference on Modern Religious History (University of Stirling, 2016) and the Catholic Record Society conference (University of Cambridge, 2016). My grateful thanks to the organisers and participants of both conferences—especially David Bebbington, Clyde Binfield, Susan O’Brien, Carmen Mangion and Liesbeth Corens—for their inspiring work and thoughtful suggestions.

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British Catholic History
  • ISSN: 2055-7973
  • EISSN: 2055-7981
  • URL: /core/journals/british-catholic-history
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