University of Malta

Study-Unit Description
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TITLE The Contribution of St Francis of Assisi and the Franciscans to the Human Spiritual Heritage

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Moral Theology

DESCRIPTION The study-unit begins by presenting Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) who did not achieve personal fulfilment by following traditional monastic and clerical spiritual patterns, but by discovering the historical, “minor” Christ of the Gospels. The Incarnate Word endowed him with a great passion in promoting Man and the World he lived in. To his followers – friars, nuns and secular penitents – he just proposed the imitation of the saving Crucified Word. “Francis who was not a priest is the most authentic image one can encounter of universal holiness” (J. Lortz).

The study-unit then will present his humanistic vision which was based simultaneously on God, Man and Creation (St. Bonaventure), and how, through his apostolic Order, this tripolar heritage leavened literary and artistic civilization, contributing thereby to the birth of new cultural humanistic movements.

The study-unit will also include a study of Saint Francis's original spiritual insights which made him appear as a "man coming from another world" (Thomas of Celano). His teachings about Christ "more condemned by man than judge of man", choice of living poorly and promotion of minors and celebration of nature (Canticle of Brother Sun) will be considered. Other topics which will be analyzed are: his relationship with "brother body" as never spiritually before involved in the itinerary towards God, his idea about the Crusades' policy, his behaviour with Church authorities whose juridical role he acknowledged and who inversely recognized his spiritual superiority ("Francis spiritual Atlas upgrading Christian world"), his vision of life as injected in social high and low environments.

Study-unit Aims:

The study-unit aims:
- at helping students familiarise themselves with the person and spirituality of Francis of Assisi.
- to introduce students to the full historical and theological "reading-seeing" of Franciscan Iconography.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to comprehend one of the great European protagonists that inspired cultural and spiritual movements such as Italian literary Humanism and Renaissance art. Dante Alighieri hails Francis’ home town as the “Orient” and the Saint himself as the “Morning Sun that opened a new Day to the world”. In Malta Franciscans are actively present since James of Malta was appointed bishop of the Island (1272-99).

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to achieve Christian insights in knowing how to guide artists (architects, painters, etc. etc.) in restoring, decorating and projecting religious spaces and buildings.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- P. MAGRO, Francesco d’Assisi. La corresponsabilita’ nella costruzione del Regno, Edizioni Paoline, Roma 1981.
- COUSINS E.H., Bonaventure and World Religions, in San Bonaventura, v. II, Roma 1974, 697-706.
- FRANCASTEL P., L’art italienne et le role personel de Saint Francois, in Annales, 11(1956)482-89.
- GUTMAN H.B., The rebirth of fine arts and Franciscan thought, in Franciscan Studies, March 1946, 99-120.
- HOLMES G., Florence, Rome and the origins of the Renaissance, Oxford 1986: Chapter 7: “The Religion of Saint Francis”.
- LE GOFF J., Franciscanisme et modeles culturels du XIII siècle, in Francescanesimo e vita religiosa dei laici, Assisi, 1978. (Atti di Convegno).
- ROSENTHAL E., The crib of Greccio and Franciscan Realism, in Art Bulletin, 36(1954)57-60.
- STUBBLEBINE J. H., Assisi and the Rise of Vernacular art, New ork, 1985.
- VON BALTHASAR H.U., Liturgia cosmica, Roma 1976.


Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment Yes 100%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
21st Annual Augustinian Lecture 2017
The 21st Annual Augustinian Lecture 2017 will be celebrated on the 5th and 6th December 2017 with two lectures delivered by Rev. Prof. Theodore Dieter.

Closing Date Dissertation Proposals
Deadline to present dissertation proposals for next Faculty Board is Wednesday 29th November 2017 at 1700hrs

Augustinian Institute Academic Year 2017-18

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