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Gospel Chivalry: Franciscan Romanticism / Mark of Whitstable

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Born in 1181, into the medieval world where the knightly code of chivalry held sway, St Francis of Assisi at first harboured ambitions to become a knight himself. Experience, however, appears to have left him disillusioned with the military aspects of the code, but the ideals of chivalry remained as a formative influence on his life.

The code of chivalry was born out of the church's desire to mitigate the growing evil of endless blood-letting between rival feudal lords which had become a scandal to Christendom in the early Middle Ages. From the tenth century various Councils of the Church, and particularly that of Elne in 1027, had developed the elements that were to gind formal expression in military custom, while the proclomation of the Crusades by Pope Urban II in 1095 had given the opportunity for a new kind of warfare with an ostensibly holy purpose - the protection of poor pilgrims and the recovery of Holy Places of Jerusalem. While this noble project was to fail in many instances, one glorious exception is seen in the Order of Knight Hospitallers of St JOhn, whose care of the sick and the poor was to ensure in some measure the redemption of chivalry.

At its zenith, in the high Middle Ages, chivalry embodied the concept of the ideal life of a knight. However, this was an ideal rarely met, and the chivalric code promoting valour, courtesy, generousity and defence of the weak, was often sadly neglected. St Francis consciously set out to redeem chivalry, or at least, to transform its significance, using its language in a new and revolutionary way for the Gospel life he had chosen.

In this book, Br Mark, himself a Capuchin friar, shows how St Francis came to reinvent chivalry as a spiritual code, a particular legacy to his Order of Friars Minor. Born in 1939 at Whitstable, Br Mark took an MA at London University, and a graduate diploma in spirituality at Dublin, He has had a lifelong interest in the code of chivalry, finding its most satisfactory expression in the spirituality of St Francis of Assisi.

"A fresh and exhilerating study of the Poverello of Assisi. With Br Mark's help, we can now see St Francis as the most 'perfect gentle knight' of the Middle Ages". Fr John Saward

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