Francis and the Crusades – Part 3

francis-sultanIt is important to recognize why Francis came to Damietta during the Fifth Crusade is just one part of his life.  How the experience of the crusade and his meeting with the Sultan of Egypt, Al-Malik al-Kamil, may have changed Francis is a different part of the saint’s life.  While the early sources about the life of Francis are uniform in Francis’ zeal for evangelization and his desire for martyrdom, many modern scholars dismiss these as hagiographic (“saint making”) embellishments.  The modern desire, especially among Franciscan scholars, seems to ensure that Francis “the peacemaker” arrives on the shore of Egypt in 1201.  When one looks outside modern Franciscan scholarship, especially to the current medieval specialist, one gains a different perspective.  André Vauchez, a French medievalist noted for his recent and thorough book on Francis, thinks that “some commentators are doubtful today [re: martyrdom], fearing to attribute to their hero a suicidal attitude or irresponsible behavior.”  Vauchez goes on to write, that “Contrary to what is sometimes affirmed, the search for martyrdom was not in contradiction with his desire to follow Christ, who died on the cross to open to humanity the way to salvation.  To face tribulations and dangers, including the loss of life, in order to spread the Christian faith was, from the beginning, a constitutive element of Franciscan sensibility.” Continue reading