Francesco di Pietro di Bernardone, familiarly known as Francis, was born to relatively well-to-do parents in the town of Assissi, Italy sometime around 1181. He was well educated, both through the Roman Catholic church school in Assissi and through some source that gave him extensive knowledge of the French language and culture. As a wealthy, educated, popular young man, it was assumed that he would become a leader in the political, social, and/or economic worlds of his area of Italy.
When Assissi became involved in a war with Perguia in approximately 1202, Francis was captured and imprisoned for a time, recuperated from that experience, and continued his involvement. While in the northern Italian town of Spoleto, Francis had a vision and received instructions to return to Assissi and wait for directions regarding what he should do with his life.
Following this initial message and subsequent visions and messages, Francis gave up his life of involvement with the material world and devoted himself to a life of service to the poor, living in poverty and simplicity. He taught that followers should live as Christ did, with no material possessions and with dedication to serving all creatures in God's creation, both humans and animals.