Bonaventure's "Legenda maior": A redaction critical approach

Albert T Haase, Fordham University


In 1260, the Franciscan friars gathered at the Chapter of Narbonne, approved a new edition of their constitutions and called for a new and updated legenda of Saint Francis. In 1266 when the Chapter of Paris accepted Bonaventure's Legenda maior as the new legenda of Francis, it issued the decree that all previous legendae should be destroyed. This decree was a normal institutional procedure which highlighted the official nature of the Bonaventurian legenda: a similar decree had been issued with the new constitutions of Narbonne; furthermore, a precedent had been set six years earlier with the Dominican Minister General Humbert of Romans' new legenda of Saint Dominic. This dissertation studies Bonaventure's Legenda maior as a redaction of its primary literary sources, the three legendae written by Thomas of Celano. The purpose of this redaction was to update the image of Francis of Assisi to the Franciscan Order's new Sitz im Leben and thus provide inspiration for friars of a new generation. This redaction critical approach to the Legenda maior makes extensive use of the critical editions of the Celanese and Bonaventurian legendae edited by the Quaracchi scholars of the Collegium Sancti Bonaventurae and found in the Analecta Franciscana, Volume X, subtitled, Legendae S. Francisci Assisiensis saeculis XIII et XIV conscriptae. The dissertation concludes that three important elements, all indicative of the Franciscan Order's new Sitz im Leben forty years after the death of Francis, shaped the Bonaventurian image of the founder in the Legenda maior: the Minister General's concerns about the abuses of the friars as they were enumerated in Bonaventure's first encyclical letter; the critique of the Order made by William of Saint Amour in the Paris Controversy; the apocalyptic mentality of the mid-thirteenth century, especially witnessed in Bonaventure's carefully nuanced appropriation of some of the symbols and teachings of Joachim of Fiore. Bonaventure's updated image of Francis of Assisi found in the Legenda maior ultimately validates the Seraphic Doctor's own cosmic Christology.

Subject Area

Theology|Middle Ages|Religious history|Biographies

Recommended Citation

Haase, Albert T, "Bonaventure's "Legenda maior": A redaction critical approach" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9025018.