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The San Francisco call. [volume] (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, December 15, 1912, Image 3

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Th» San, Francisco Sunday Call
The STORY
SAINT FRANCIS
SAX FRANCISCO, the city, uncon
sciously shows some of the char
acteristic traits of San Francisco,
her patron saint. Naturally a
joyful, happy-go-lucky, purse-free
community, the city has a deeper char
acter, one in which there are wells
of sympathy, brotherly love and un
bounded generosity for those in sorrow
or distress. Those were likewise marked
traits of St. Francis. Born to purple
and fine linen, in his later years he was
wont to part with the very clothes on
his back to provide the beggar with
raiment.
But where the similarity between
city and patron saint is most marked is
In the faculty of overcoming: seem
wgly insurmountable obstacles to the
achievement a purpose. The city
ov**fci destructive forces of na
ture in tie most terrible cataclysm
recorded in history. The saint over
came the fierce forces of feudal bigotry
and perverted ethics. What the city
did in the face of material obstacles
the eaint did in the face of moral
obstacles as well.
St. Francis was one of th<* strangest
figures in all medieval history. His
life seemingly was a mass of contra
dictions, > ending in triumph,
like the life < : San Francisco the city
and < a the state. For St.
Fran- raa the patron of the
whole st;it»- as well as of its principal
city. It was the Franciscan monks
who blaze 1 the way for the military
and civil pioneers who came later.
Their missions, extending from San
Diego in the south to Sonoma in the
north, were the steadily advancing out
zation — and permanent
outposts, ai that, for from 17G9, when
the mission of San Diego de Alcala was
founded in S;t?i Diego, until 1823, when
the mission San Francisco Solano was
establishf' S via, the name of St.
Francis w d with the his
tory of California. The early history
of civilized California is merely the
history of the Franeiecan order in what
is now a great state of the American
union.
Yet not until 1776 was the name of
St. Francis given to the site of the
present city, and then not to a city,
but to another mission, that of San
Francisco de Asis, the Mission Dolores
that still stands in the midst of a resi
dential section of the western metrop
Alonzo Cano's Wonderful
Portrait of St. Francis
TJIH extremely interesting painting
of Saint Francis, a reproduction of
which appears on the front page,
is temporarily in the custody of H.
Taylor Curtis, who pronounces it one
of the most fascinating religious pic
tures he has ever seen. The painting
has been the particular art treasure of
a certain family for nearly 100 years.
The picture Is now in San Francisco
because it was felt that the people of
the city named for the saint had a
right to see this striking representation
by one of the early masters.
Aristide Chatln. the noted French
connoisseur and buyer for famous gal
leries and collectors, Js expected to ar
rive in this city during January, and
Mr. Curtis will invite him to view the
picture and express a critical opinion.
The few favored ones who have seen
the painting are hoping that a way
may be found to retain here perma
nently an art treasure in which San
Francisco has such an intimate interest.
Alonzo Cano, to whom the portrait
is attributed, was, because of the di
verseness of his artistic attainments,
called the Michelangelo of Spain. Hβ
was born at Graneda in 1601 and died
in 1667. Hβ studied architecture under
his father and rapidly mastered it- He
then applied himself to scripture, after
which he departed for Seville and there
entered the studio of the celebrated
artist Francisco Pacheco, to remain
with him only eight months and then
to leave and study under Juan de Cas
tHlo. Before he had reached 20 years
oils. The same year the name of San
Francisco was given to the great bay
that stretches for miles north and
south from the present city.
There is a tradition that many years
ago, when some one asked of the Fran
ciscan monks why they did not found
and build a city to bear the n;inie of
their patron saint, they answered:
"When St. FYancls shows ut a good
harboi we shall build him a vi'.y."
Shortly afterward Don Caspar do Por
tola discovered the harbor and buy.
upon which a small fort and a few
shacks were erected as the 'nucleus of
a settlement, which, us if by miracle,
suddenly, some years later, received
the magic touch of gold, when one of
the greatest cities was born, and St.
Francis got his city.
Xow who was St. Francis?
lie was one of the most remarkable
of all the saints. Born to wealth, he
put it to the best of use as the years
went by. Born to a spirit of lc ity
and extravagance, he likewise lived to
appreciate the serious side of life and
to develop a nobility of character all
the rarer in the turbulent age in which
he lived, tne er.d of the twelfth and the
beginning- of the thirteenth centuries.
He was of French-Italian ancestry.
Although christened John—Giovanni
—the future saint was given in chilu
hood the name of Francesco—Francisco
ID Spanish, Francis in English—for the
reason that he was born in French
Provence, whence came his mother, the
good and lovable Madonna Pica, wh-m
his father, the rich merchant, Peter
Bernardone, had met. wooed and won,
while on one of his periodic trading
trips which netted him much wealth.
From childhood Francesco developed a
wonderful brightness of mind and
alertness of body. In those days of a
domineering feudal nobility the son of
a tradesman, however wealthy he might
be, could hardly expect to be noticed by
the arrogant lords, save as a subser
vient underling; yet from his youth
Francesco Bernardone was taken into
the fold of the nobility on his own
shter merits —not as a mere tolerated
companion, but as a cherished one, and
even a leader.
"He may not have been born an
aristocrat." said his noble comrades,
•'but he has made himself one—he is
qnr."
Vet tlie statement that lie was not of
aristocratic birtli was only h half truth.
fur his devoted mother, Madonna Pica,
Kage young Cano had already ci
ed many works that created mv
admiration, and even astonishment, a
yet, despite the favor with which 1
work was received, he himself feell:
it was not up to his ideals, refused
accept any remuneration for same.
Hβ was a very Industrious paint
and produced many masterpieces t
the churches and convents of Cordon
Seville, Madrid, Qranada, etc., whe
they can be seen today, placing: hi
deservedly, among the greatest of t
Spanish masters.
He was called to Madrid and a
pointed royal architect and painter
the king. Four hundred years dlvi
Ing the time between the two Hv
of the saint and of the artist, tl
portrait necessarily must be a repli
either of the one In the church
8. Croce at Florence, erroneous
stated to have been painted by Clm
bue from life, that is If the chronoloj
Iβ right, or on the otheT hand it
very likely that C&no posed eon
young monk of the order of Franci
cans and used him as a model.
Cimabue, who painted the first por
trait of St. Francis, (and that an ideal
one according to the birth record* of
the two men), was born at Florence in
1240. His work wai greatly admired
In those early days, much of it being
in evidence in the churches and some
in the galleries of Europe today. But
the fact that he was the teacher of
Giotto is sufficient indelibly to stamp
was of the race of the great noble
French family of Bmirlement. Her
marriage to the wealtty burghor. Rer
nardone, was a romance.
Francesco's early life was one of the
greatest gayety. With his rollicking
companions he took part in all the cai -
rivals of joy, all the riotous pastimes
of a earr-fr«o gilded youth of tne hot
blooded province of Umbria and the city
of As.-usi, where the Bornardones made
their home. He was the leading spirit,
the head of the "corti" of Assisi, in an
age of pagt-antry, reckless grayety and
wild extravagance among those who
could afford it.
Friends of his family were often
aghast at his manner of life. Yet his
good mother found excuse for every
thing and his father kept him plenti
fully supplied with money out of his
bursting coffers. Was lie not the boon
companion of princes and dukes? Was
he not a leader of fashion, as learned in
science as he was clever with song and
story? His life of splendor was the
talk of all Umbrm arid his fame spread
even farther. It was a life'of feasting,
fun and good things. As a poet of the
period describes it:
•• barrels of white Tuscan wine
In ice far down your cellars stored
supine;
And morn and eve to eat in company
Of those vast jellies dear to you and
me;
.Of partridges and youngling pheasants
It was born of a sudden change in his
surroundings and activities. When, in
one of the perennial warfares between
rival cities so common in the middle
ages, feudal Perugia was arrayed
against communal Assisi, Francesco
Bernardone threw himself with all the
ardor of his nature into the fight on
behalf of Assisi. He fought gallantly,
but In one of the engagements the
men of Assisi were defeated and he
was taken prisoner and confined in a
fortress in Perugia. There came to
him introspection. With the life of
gayety and thoughtlessness behind him,
and time for reflection heavy on his
hands, he thought much. 'What avails
it all?" he doubtless often asked him
self. While exteriorly philosophically
gay before his fellow prisoners, he wi.s
at last taking life and its problems se
riouely. The material world was fad
ing from his view, the spiritual view of
things was growing upon him. When
his-gloomy fellow prisoners criticised
him for his superficial gayety he
answered: "I am content. Don't you
know that T shall one day be acclaimed
*iy the whole world? Does not that
astonish you more than my food spirits
in jail?"
It was a singular premonrtion of
what the future really brought forth,
for from that time on, Francesco,
whom we ehall now call Francis, or
St. Francis, the name better known to
us of the city bearing his name, waa a
changed man. When he emerged from
his prison's walls at the end of a year,
he thought of but one thing?—the doing
of good. The helping of the unfortu
nate, the rlfchting of wrong, extending
the hand of charity to all, became his
occupations. He shrank neither from
the leper nor from the criminal, from
the most ragged mendicant nor the
most dangerous beast, lie ministered
to the unfortunate and calmed the
savage instinct of predatory animals
as well as human beings.
From the time of his release from
the. prison of Perugia his life became
intensely religious. The riches that his
father gave him he gave, in turn, to the
needy. He even tore from his own
back the costly fabrics that his wealth
furnished him and covered with them
the backs of the beggars. While he did
Ills all to relieve the acute sufferings
of the unfortunate and the unhappy,
he taught the doctrines of faith and
hope in those who looked dismally
upon the problem of life. His preach
ings were in acts even more than in
words. Once, when encountering a
leper in the last stages of the dread
disease, shunned by all who met him,
Francis dismounted from his horse,
took the victim's sore covered hands,
cleaned them and bandaged them. The
cry of "unclean" that warned others
;i-.v'iy from a leper served to bring
Francis to him. lie visited fever
cursed towns and camps to nurse the
sick. His whole life was one of lov«
for his fellow man.
One of his early radical steps wa« '
relinauish his birthright to his ffcthei
wealth. Tie male himself a mendicant,
but Rouprli! alms, not for himself, but
for others. His rare ejifts and his
strong personality served him well in
this manner Ot life, and the alms
Rowed toward him ;■ i<l through him to
the objects that he deemed the worthi
est. Ry begging in the stfeets he
raised- money for hospitals, for decay
ing churches and as well
as for the poor. He oven lent his own
physical strength to the tasks of re
building fallen or dilapidated religious
structures and performed the most
menial services when he thought he
might be helpful by so doing. In the
hospitals he was a constant visitor and
his appearance there was the signal
for joyful expressions from the pa
tients.
•Ills acts and spirit were contagious
and soon he had a great following, the
members of v/hich sought to emulate
him in unselfish deeds for the help
of the unfortunate. Not only persons
In low station but even great- nobles
and rich merchants sold their posses
sions to give their proceeds to the poor
or to some worthy cause. A great
humanitarian movement was started
ftml swept like a billow over medieval
Europe,
Ho neither sought nor would he ac
cept the priesthood as a calling-. He
preferred to act humbly as a lay
brother. In 1209, when he was but
27 years old, the order of the Fran
ciscan monks was founded by him. This
great brotherhood preached the gospels
of peace and good will, of comfort and
hope. It sent its members far and
wide throughout the world; to the cru
saders In Asia Minor, and, later, to the
aborigines In America. 80 great was
the Influence of Francis of Assist thai
even the Saracen warrior chief, Sa
ladin, invited him to his tent, and there,
with his emirs, listened to him dis
course upon the topic of brotherly love
and good deed?.
Upon his return to Italy from the
east, his following increased enor
mously. His dortrines spread and made
a lasting upon the cus
toms and rules of the period. Hβ bat
tled with the anarchronistic feudalism
of the da.y and hastened its downfall.
He made people see the right and made
them adhere to it. He taught the
proud nobility that The peasants were
their brothers, not slaves to be down
tr "xlden and despoiled.
Francis died near his old home of
Assisi October 4, 1226, at the age of
44. Although cut off in the prime of
life, he died in the knowledge that his
great life's work, planned by him
witttif] prison wallri. was accomplished
and that its continuance was left In
the hands of a great order. His early
death has been attributed by many to
the exposures and privations of the
austere life of his later years. His
canonization was not long forthcom
ing.
Details of his life would easily fill
volumes in their narration. They -were
as various as they we're wonderful and
meritorious. Before he renounced hie
patrimony, 1 while he was still a child
of fortune, yet fully imbued with the
religious fervor, he visited Rome and
there law St Peter's which was not yet
what it became after the touch of
Michelangelo. He gave liberally of
what he had toward its Improvement,
and then for a brief time stood In the
great rquare and solicited donations for
Pictures from
"Everybody's
St. Francis"
By Maurice P. Bagan
the iij,building of the great edifice. Hβ
became a beggar in the instant. "This
was hia first victory," we are told,
"over his love of sensuous delights and
soft garments, of lucent sweetmeats
and spiced wine." Returning to his
home during his father's absence he
helped himself to as much as he thought
would have been given to him. and
straightway bestowed his garnerings
on worthy objects.
The gentleness of his nature was not
confined in Its exhibition to his fellow
men. Birds and animals, every living
thing, appealed to him. He made friends
with small animals and birds, and many
are the anecdotes told of this habit of
his. Most wonderful of all the legends
concerning him was that of the fierce
wolf of Qubbio, a beast that was
dreaded by the peasantry far and wide,
for not only did this wolf slay domes
tic animals, but It even attacked people
In Its ferocity born of hunger.
Francis of Assisi learned of the
■wolf's depredations and sought it out.
Hβ was not long in finding it. To the
astonishment and concern of all, he
approached It fearlessly, wholly un
armed. With some subtle power he
won the animal's confidence; he spoke
In kindly manner to It. He soon had it
eating peaceably from his hands as he
did the birds in the plaza of his home
city. Hβ then told those about him
that the wolf was not really so much
to blame for its past misdeeds, for it
knew of no different ways of securing
the food it required. When the wolf
learned that its food would be fur
nished it regularly, and that every
man's hand was not against it, it be
came as tame as a house dog and
thereafter wandered happily about,
disturbing neither man nor beast.
This same reasoning he applied to
three noted brigands of Monte Casale.
who had been long declared outlaws by
reason of their murderous and thieving
careers. Francis sought them. He met
them and treated them with tolerance,
even kindness. Finding they were hun
gry, he gave them food and wine.
Finding that they wexe desperate ir.
the thought that they were hunted of
Born in Luxury in
the 13th Century,
the City's Patron
Saint Renounced
I All to Devote Hira
(self to Religion
land His Fellow
Man—lncidents of
His Amazing Life
men, he gave them solace and hope. He
appealed to what element of good
there was in them. They never had
receive I such treatment before. The
rest wiis easy, as it was easy In the
case of the wolf of Gubbio. The rob
bers mended their ways and became
honest men. They lived Uvea of re
pentance and died peacefully Instead
of on the gibbet.
St. Francis regarded sinners much as
he regarded the victims of dieease. Hβ
considered them unfortunates requiring
treatment for their ailments—people
to be pitied rather than condemned.
His usual mode of treatment was to
open the eyes of the criminal to the
error of his ways, to prove to him that
his malady was not incurable, to let
In the light of hope and to Indicate to
him by mere reasoning that wrong was
wrong. Men who could not be reformed
by prisons or by corporal punishments
he reformed by h!s simple, gentle
methods, as he did the three robbers
and the wolf.
Such was the man after whom Pan
Francisco takes its name. Such was
the patron saint of California.
Through the centuries that have
elapsed since his death the followers
of St. Francis of Assisi have wandered
far over the face of the world, but
nowhere did th*>v sow th« nee da of
their founders teaching's to greater
profit than In California. They opened
up to the world a golden empire, a fair
garden spot which for beauty, health
fulness and riches la not surpassed
anywhere. The "bay that St. Francis
gave" is one of the most wond rful in
the world, the saint's delay In the giv
ing, if the legend be true, having been
far more than compensated for by the
magnificence of the gift. No wonder
that a splendid city has sprung up, not
once, but twice, from such a lovely
spot, at once appealing to the eye for
the beautiful and the eye for the pros
perity of the future.
With the true persistence and self
sacrifice, courage and devotion that
characterized the founder of their
order, the Frapciscan monks won a
paradise from a wilderness. They have
had their vicissitudes, but they survive
today, and some of them still occupy a
few of the old missions established by
their predecessors generations ago. Yet
their lives are still those ordained for
them by St. Francis of Assisi. Al
though surrounded by all the accom
paniments of twentieth century civil
ization, they are still the ascetics of
the thirteenth century. To step from
a Santa Barbara millionaire's villa or
a Monterey caravansary into the quiet
of the missions still maintained at both
those places is to bridge seven cen
turies of the world's history in a mo
ment of time.
The name of St. Francis has given
distinction to many things. It is an
honored name to bear and the bearer
is ever proud of it.
The city of San Francisco is. one of
these, and well may she be proud of a
patron saint whose loving spirit seems
to guard her interests with suoh tender
care. Under his patronage she has
arisen in a few years from a handful
of humble structures on barren sand
dunes to a magnificent, prosperous city
with the world's commerce knocking
at her doors. Under his patronage she
hae triumphed over riot, misrule and
cataclysm of nature until now a bril
liant future lies before her.

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