Bernhard of Quintavalle

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Bernhard von Quintavalle or Bernardo di Quintavalle (* around 1175 in Quintavalle ; † between 1242 and 1245 in Siena ) was together with Pietro Catanii the first companion of St. Francis of Assisi . He played a major role in the early expansion of the Friars Minor and, like Pietro Catanii, was one of the saint's close confidants.


The exact date of birth of Bernhard von Quintavalle is unknown. He was probably several years older than Francis, who was born in 1181 or 1182. The name Quintavalle may have come from the estate on which he grew up. Bernard of Quintavalle was a wealthy and respected citizen of Assisi , single and by profession a lawyer , legal advisor to the city government of Assisi. Bernhard is described by the early Franziskus biographers who knew him personally (for example from Thomas von Celano) as a modest, reserved and very clever man.

The three-companion legend , which probably presents the historical facts with a certain artistic freedom, reports that the strong change in Franziskus Bernhard irritated because he knew him from his earlier days, when he was still a carefree and wasteful young man. Bernhard thought about his motives and was impressed by his hard life and his love for poverty . Bernhard had invited Francis several times to nightly conversations in his house and asked him about his way of life and his spiritual foundations. After a while he decided to distribute his fortune to the poor and join Francis.

The beginnings of the brothers

Bernhard had probably been doing business with Pietro Catanii , who was also a lawyer, for a long time, and they may have been friends. According to some sources, they came together to Francis of Assisi on April 16, 1208 and asked him to join his way of life. It is possible that the symbolic three number was a reason for depicting these events in this way. According to other sources, Bernhard first joined Francis after a nocturnal conversation, Pietro only came to Franziskus and Bernhard a day later. The legend of the Three Companions reports that Francis was initially unsure how to deal with the two serious men. So the three decided to question the gospel and thus God himself. From then on, they regarded three sentences from the Gospels as their rule of the order , which they had determined by opening the missal (a so-called book oracle) three times in the church of San Nicolo in the piazza of Assisi in the early morning of April 16 . (See Francis of Assisi ).

A week later, the farmer Aegidius from Assisi joined them as the fourth brother. The brothers went in pairs through Italy and preached repentance and conversion, Bernhard went with Pietro, Aegidius with Francis. When there were eight brothers a little later, the two of them went on a preaching tour through Italy on foot. In doing so, Francis instructed them to behave like the apostles , that is, to be peaceful, to go without security, to keep themselves alive through alms and to proclaim the kingdom of God .

During their travels, the brothers encountered both amazement and admiration, but also mockery and contempt. As an example, the legend of three companions reports in a longer text about the stay of Bernhard von Quintavalle and an unnamed brother in Florence . It probably took place in early spring 1209, but perhaps not until after the trip to Spain in 1214. Bernhard and his companion were on their way back to Assisi and had brought some new companions with them from this trip. In Florence they met with harsh rejection, but also heroic admiration, which the legend vividly depicts in several episodes. In essence, it probably goes back to stories told by Bernhard among the brothers.

Growth of the order

Bernhard was among the first twelve brothers to ask the Pope to confirm the rule. (Representation by Giotto di Bondone , around 1295)

Within a short time the community grew to twelve brothers, and a further influx was to be foreseen, so that they moved to Rome before Pentecost 1209 to be met by Pope Innocent III. to seek confirmation of their way of life. This was important because the church fought vigorously against various heretic movements such as the Cathars and Waldensians during this period . Brothers who preached poverty and repentance exposed themselves to persecution if they did not bind themselves closely to church leaders and testified of their allegiance to the teaching of the church.

In the depiction of the return journey from Rome, which has strong legends, Bernhard is shown as the organizer of the trip. The brothers are stranded in a lonely area, exhausted and without supplies. Suddenly a man appears and gives them bread. So they can go on for a while, strengthened, until they come back to the inhabited area and can support themselves through alms. The brothers understand this incident as their first test in the experience of existential poverty and life based on trust in God. They call this trip the "engagement" or "wedding" with the mistress of poverty.

Bernhard von Quintavalle accompanied Francis of Assisi on his first missionary trip to Spain and Morocco in 1214, which he had to break off due to an illness. However, Celano reports only very sketchily about the failed company.

Further life

Legend has it that Francis bestowed a special blessing on him just before his death. The blessing is handed down in writings of the 14th century as a dictation by Francis. In the source it reads:

Write as I tell you: The first brother the Lord gave me was Brother Bernhard. And it is he who first began and fully fulfilled the perfection of the gospel by distributing all his goods to the poor.
For this reason, and for many other virtues, I am bound to love him more than any other brother in the whole Order.
That is why I want and order, as I can, that whoever is Minister General should love and honor him as I do myself.
And the other Provincial Ministers and Brothers of the whole Order should respect him in my place.

With this, Francis made him the spiritual leader of the order. Compared to the powerful and energetic General Minister Elias von Cortona, however , his influence on the brothers is likely to have been only minor. As a close confidante of Francis and a man from the very beginning, Bernhard very likely belonged to the rather radical party in the brotherhood that fell out in the poverty struggle after Francis' death . For him, it was not the interpretation of the rule that counted, but Francis himself was a living example to whom he emulated. Bernhard von Quintavalle died between 1242 and 1245 in the convent of the brothers in Siena .


Bernhard is depicted as a praying Franciscan in the fresco by Benozzo Gozzoli in the Church of San Francesco in Montefalco . He can also be found in the Laon Museum in a depiction of the mourners at the death of St. Francis.


Individual evidence

  1. a b Helmut Feld: Francis of Assisi and his movement . Darmstadt: 1994
  2. Thomas von Celano: Life and Miracles of St. Francis, 1238/1239
  3. ^ I Celano 35
  4. Legenda Perusina 12, ed. in Esser: Opuscula
  5. Kajetan Eßer : The Opuscula.
  6. quoted from Lothar Hardick : The writings of St. Francis of Assisi . Werl, 1984.
  7. Lazaro Iriarte: The Order of St. Francis . Verlag der Bayerischen Kapuziner Altötting 1984