Monday, November 9, 2009

Sculpture and St. Francis

Somehow the 13th Century keeps demanding my attention.

I've got a St Francis carving that seems to be generating back up since he's been neglected on my work bench for months.

First Guedelon and now a new book on St. Francis. The Saint and the Sultan: the Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace by Paul Moses.

Before you roll your eyes and think of badly cast concrete statues of the poor saint serving as bird feeder or bird bath, ask yourself what you actually know about his life and why we have any memory at all of a man who died almost 1000 years ago.

You'll be surprised by the real story of Francis's journey to Egypt to meet with Sultan al-Kamil trying to stop the bloody carnage of the 5th Crusade. Maybe not too surprised, as it's all too current again. The spin doctoring of his myth began during his life by a Church hungry for power and control. (Also that story about the wolf of Gobbio, that was an allegory....)

Moses work became separating myth from history. Moses writes "the accounts in question need to be viewed in the context of their own times; the audiences they were written for, the political pressures at hand, the writers' theological goals in telling the story. By doing that, it's possible to decode the early documents and uncover the story of Francis, the sultan, and what their encounter can mean today.''

Moses points out correlation between Francis's vows of living very simply and his opposition to war- Francis had experienced viscous battles between his own village and the next and spent a year in a dungeon as a prisoner of war. In his experience greed and military engagement were invariably linked. Choosing poverty was a radical act that freed him and his followers from participating in clan warfare.

Read Melinda Henneberger's article: What Christians and Muslims Can Learn From the 'The Saint and the Sultan'

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