St.Francis of Assisi and Nature: Tradition and Innovation in Western Christian Attitudes Toward the Environment

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This book examines one aspect of the life and thought of Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan monastic order. Contemporary interest in Francis has focused on his attitude toward nature. Sorrell argues persuasively that Francis' ideas can only be properly understood in their thirteenth-century context. Through close analysis of Francis' writings, Sorrell shows that many of Francis' beliefs concerning the proper relation of man to the natural world have their antecedents in scripture and in the medieval monastic tradition. Other Franciscan ideas and practices, however, appear entirely original; his nature mysticism, his concept of familial relationships with created things, his extension of Christian almsgiving to creatures. Sorrell insists, however, that only by seeing Francis in terms of the Western traditions in which he arose can we appreciate the true originality of this extraordinary figure, and the relevance of his thought to modern environmental concerns.