Among the numerous biographers of St. Francis of Assisi, Thomas de Celano holds a special place. Firstly, because he is the author of the first ‘legends’. But also because he is the only one to have produced so many versions of Francis’s Life, the only one to have devoted almost twenty-five years of his own life setting down that of his spiritual father. During that quarter of a century, Brother Thomas constantly reworked his own writings, sometimes almost retracting what he had written before. He concluded his meditation and labour with a poignant parable on the difficulty of fully understanding others and remaining faithful to their memory. In the ‘Sources franciscaines’ collection, we thought it essential to offer, in French, for the first time, the whole corpus of the Franciscan legends we owe to Thomas de Celano: the ‘Vita prima’ and the ‘Vita secunda’ of course, in newly worked translations, but also the ‘Legend of the Heart’ never before translated into French, the ‘Umbrian Choir Legend’ which has only recently been reconstituted, and the ‘Treatise on the Miracles’ of which, until now, only excerpts had been translated.
A biographer with a care for fact - and in this respect, the first historian of St. Francis Assisi - Thomas de Celano is incontestably a narrator and an exegete. This perfect stylist uses breaks in style to recount a history of rupture: that of a conversion from the unexpected to the unhoped-for. The introduction, the annotations, the sequences and the index are designed to maximise the keys to understanding and permit each reader to go back to the Franciscan sources and rediscover Francis of Assisi in the nakedness and simplicity he preferred.