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Thomas of Celano

Friar Minor, poet, and hagiographical writer, b. about 1200; d. about 1255

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Thomas of Celano, Friar Minor, poet, and hagiographical writer, b. at Celano in the Province of the Abruzzi, about 1200; d. about 1255. He was one of the first disciples of St. Francis of Assisi and joined the order probably in 1215. In 1221 Thomas accompanied Caesar of Speyer on his mission to Germany. The following year he became custos of the convents at Mayence, Worms, Speyer, and Cologne, and soon after Caesar of Speyer, on his return to Italy, made him his vicar in the government of the German province. Before September, 1223, Thomas returned to Italy, and lived there in familiar intercourse with St. Francis. Soon after the canonization of St. Francis (July 16, 1228) he wrote his “Vita prima”, or “First Life” of St. Francis of Assisi, by order of Gregory IX. Between 1244 and 1247, he compiled his “Vita secunda”, or “Second Life” of St. Francis, which is in the nature of a supplement to the first one, by commission of Crescentius of Jessi, then minister general of the order. About ten years later Thomas wrote a treatise on the miracles of St. Francis at the bidding of Blessed John of Parma, the successor of Crescentius as minister general. In addition to these works, around which a large controversial literature has grown up in recent years, Thomas of Celano wrote two beautiful sequences in honor of St. Francis: “Fregit victor virtualis” and “Sanctitatis nova signa”, and, in all probability, he is also the author of the “Dies Irae” and of the “Life of St. Clare of Assisi”, written between 1255 and 1261 (cf. Robinson, “Life of St. Clare”, Introduction, pp. xxii sq.). The best critical edition of the works of Thomas of Celano is that of Pere Edouard d’Alencon.

FERDINAND HECKMANN


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