founder of the Franciscan Minim Friars. Born at Paola (Calabria), he lived in a neighbouring Franciscan friary for a year when he was thirteen, went on pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome, and then became a hermit near his home town in a cave overlooking the sea. When he was twenty he was joined by two companions, for whom a chapel and three cells were built by the neighbours. Later others came and new foundations were made. These Friars were called Minims through humility and were approved by the Holy See in 1474. They underlined the monastic elements of the Franciscan ideal; their charity and extreme austerity attracted many; there was usually only one priest in each community, most of whom were of very limited education.
Francis became famous for prophecy and miracles even during his life. His last 25 years were spent in France. Louis XI, mortally ill, specially requested his presence. Francis was sent by the pope and prepared Louis for death. He also helped to restore peace between France and Brittany and between France and Spain. For a time he was tutor to the future king, Charles VIII.
He died at Tours and was canonized in 1519. Artists who depicted him include Murillo, Velazquez, and Goya. Because many of his miracles were connected with the sea, he was declared patron of seafarers in 1943. He is particularly popular in Italy, France, and Mexico. Feast: 2 April.
AA.SS. Apr. I (1685), pp. 103–234; F. Russo, Bibliografia di S. Francesco di Paola (1957);G. M. Roberti, S. Francesco di Paola (1963); N.C.E., vi. 33–4.
Subjects: History by Period — Christianity.