Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, Vol 1, No 4 (2007)

Vegetarian or Franciscan? Flexible Dietary Choices Past and Present

David Grumett
Issued Date: 17 Jan 2008


Francis of Assisi is often understood, both by modern commentators and his contemporaries, to have been vegetarian. Textual evidence contradicts this supposition and shows that he sometimes ate meat. As a guest, Francis would not refuse meat if offered it, and when he himself received guests, normal dietary practices were sometimes disrupted. Sickness was a second reason for exemptions from normal dining practices. Moreover, as the Franciscan Rule developed, Francis opposed agitation for more rigorist discipline. This was because rigid abstention might have created boundaries that hindered the spread of the Gospel, and have identified the nascent Franciscan order with heretical sects. Francis’s dietary practices should be seen in light of his hierarchical view of creation, according to which every living being praises God but is also available for human use and consumption as food, at least in the present age. This retrieval of a more accurate picture of Francis than the one dominant in modern popular imagination aids understanding of modern vegetarianisms by both scholars and the wider public.

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DOI: 10.1558/jsrnc.v1i4.450


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