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Francis of Assisi

Length: 6 hrs and 10 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (11 ratings)

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Summary

These 12 lectures by Professors Cook and Herzman will give you a rounded, fully informed introduction to the luminous Francis of Assisi and will tell the intellectually and spiritually rewarding story of how his influence has glowed across the centuries.

Just who was Assisi? Despite his continuing influence and the fairly ample writings about him that date from his own time, Francis remains somewhat elusive in history. It is not easy to meet the man who, at about the age of 25, renounced his family and inheritance to serve his God in poverty, simplicity, and obedience. Yet these lectures, with their mastery of history, theology, art, and literature, expertly unlock two sources that are the most revealing and plentiful-written narratives of Francis's life and the images created for Franciscan churches.

In charting the life, times, and legacy of Francis, Professors Cook and Herzman include a great deal about the world around Francis as well as on the artwork, the ministries, and the religious communities that he inspired. But through it all shines their deeply human sense of the man himself and what he stood for-things which, they argue, are needed as much today as ever they were when Francis trod the byways of Italy to show what it means to live life to the full in faith, hope, and love.

By the time you finish the last lecture, you'll find yourself in agreement that, whatever your background or beliefs, Francis of Assisi remains as fascinating and inspiring a man today as he was more than 800 years ago.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2000 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2000 The Great Courses

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Profile Image for Jonathan Homrighausen
  • Jonathan Homrighausen
  • 15-08-13

Loved it

I have been curious about the Great Courses for a few years now, but they have always been too expensive! Now that they are in the Audible store, however, I was willing to try one. This course, co-taught by two medievalists, was amazing. I did a directed reading last quarter on the life and hagiographies of St. Francis, but I still learned so much from Cook and Herzman.

One strong point of this course was the contextualization of Francis. They show what the moral and social issues of Francis’ day were and how Francis responded to them. In a developing market economy where money was being used more, Francis stressed absolute poverty. In an age where universities were beginning in Europe and theology went out of the prayerful world of cloisters and into the rational world of the classroom, Francis was an uneducated preacher with a simple message, a man who taught by dramatic gesture and stressed deed over act. He may look like a foolishly happy simpleton, but Francis was a man who saw the problems of his age and made himself the antidote.

Cook and Herzman’s discussion of the “Canticle of Creatures” was amazing. They show how he draws on the Psalms, on Genesis’ creation stories, and even on classical natural philosophy. They argue that this poem is not just an example of Christian nature mysticism, but the first piece of Italian literature.

Last, I thought they did a great job showing how Francis’ message was disseminated in the Church and in his orders. Their re-enactment of the dialogue between Francis and Innocent II approving the order really showed how radical his path was. They also guide the reader through the complicated thicket of post-Francis controversy between the spirituals and the progressives, between those who wanted the letter of Francis’ example and those who desired its spirit. Both sides exist to this day. They also spend a lecture on St. Clare, emphasizing that she was not just a passive vehicle for Francis’ teaching but a great mystic and teacher in her own right.

That said, I wish Cook and Herzman had discussed the hagiographic tradition. Though they discussed Thomas of Celano and Bonaventure, they didn’t talk about less official writings like the Legend of Perugia, or later ones like the Little Flowers. Though they talked about the Canticle, the two Rules, and the Testament, they didn’t talk about the various exhortations and letters he wrote. Giving a roadmap to the different types of literature and hagiography in the Franciscan canon would have been a good way to get people into Regis Armstrong’s scholarly edition of the early documents by and about Francis.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Christy Continued
  • 23-05-16

Best Ever!

This study of Saint Francis is taught beautifully by Herzeman and Cook (my 2 favorite professors on ANYTHING, anyways) about a man who really knew about compassion towards the poor and less fortunate. For Christians and non believers alike, he is so loved by so many, and even to this day his philosophies are at work in so many ways to help the poor, and to love the planet. This is the best Coarse yet!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Renata H.
  • 15-05-19

could not listen at all

2 narrators shouting over each other in most unpleasant voices talking about the things they are planning to talk. 15 min and I turned it off.
Sounded like incoherrent CNN panel.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 22-03-19

Cooking taught by chemists

I couldn't get through this book at all. The authors don't seem to have a grasp of Christianity and they're intended audience is assumed to have no knowledge of the Bible. How you can expect to understand St. Francis of Assisi with that kind of handicap is beyond me. It was like listening to chemists describe a blueberry muffin using an electron microscope. Everything they said was factually correct, but completely useless. They understood the data, but they didn't understand the story or its meaning.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • BookLover2011
  • 11-11-18

Left me wanting more

I’m not Catholic but I do have a growing interest in Saint Francis, and hoped to “get to know” and appreciate him more through learning about his life in this course. The professors seemed so detached and diffident about him as an actual person; I found the lectures to be quite dry and uninspiring. Probably fine if you’re only looking to learn academic info about the historical context of his life.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Gregory Wallin
  • 22-08-18

I wanted more

The presenters did a good job of illuminating what we know of the history of St. Francis and the order named after him. I felt it was short on the Franciscan theology and analysis of that theology. I will have to look elsewhere for that content.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Stef
  • 02-07-18

Two is better than one

Having two professors is a neat idea, it changes the feel from a lecture to a conversation. The casual way professor Herzman and professor Cook interact with each other really helps the teaching.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Irena
  • 01-08-19

Professor + professor = 0,75 professor

I'm not sure I liked the idea of two professors ( William R. Cook and Ronald B. Herzman) lecturing together in a weird academic duo -- not each of them doing a separate lecture but both speaking in turns on the same topic and with the same attitude, more or less echoing each other's thoughts.

Also, there was lots of praising of Francis of Assisi, admiration with his essence and legacy, explaining why and how he was such a great Christian, retelling of the stories about his great miracles and discussing how modern Christians could attempt follow in his steps. What seriously lacked was the scientific approach. The great "miracles" were never discussed scientifically. For example, it was simply stated a number of times that Francis miraculously received his stigmata (the wounds similar to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ) as the final step of his way to embrace Jesus. No attempt was made to give a scientific explanation of the origin of his miraculous wounds although modern research can provide it. Obviously, faced with a Christian miracle, the distinguished professors are not in the least interested in the scientific research of the phenomena.

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  • Barry Cahill OBrien
  • 07-10-17

Sadly misses the impact of faith

Good history. Totally misses the spiritual impact of Francis and his unshakable faith in christ which guided Francis to do so much of his work

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  • Rev. David B. Smith
  • 03-02-17

First class!

As someone who knew nothing about St Francis, I found these lectures highly educational and enjoyable. First class!