Last Updated September 5, 2023.
The Little Flowers of St. Francis is an anonymous compilation that was composed in the fourteenth century. The English title is a translation of the Latin "florilegium." The literal translation of this word is "to gather flowers," but it refers to an anthology or collection (referencing the act of "compiling" flowers to make a bouquet). What this title signifies is that these stories of the life of St. Francis were gathered from a wide selection of earlier sources, some written and some oral.
Saint Francis of Assisi (c.1181–3 October, 1226) was an Italian aristocrat, born as Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, who took the name Francis when he became a monk. He was a founder of the Franciscan order (and the Poor Clares), which emphasized poverty and humbleness. He was especially known for his love of nature and animals and his devotion to good works and caring for the poor.
The Little Flowers of St. Francis includes many inspiring and heart-warming stories about this saint, drawn from popular traditions. Although it is not regarded as a reliable primary source, its stories—which include Francis caring for the poor, preaching to animals, and focusing on a simple pious life of poverty dedicated to God—have been inspirational for many readers, and it continues to be a popular religious work.
The work is especially notable for its emphasis on joy to be found in serving God and God's creations. For Saint Francis, the natural world as created by God is divine and thus to be cherished. Many churches still bless animals on St. Francis's feast day, and Francis remains an inspiration to many Christian environmentalists.