From "The Little
Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi," 1476
At the time when St Francis was living in the city of Gubbio, a large
wolf appeared in the neighbourhood, so terrible and so fierce, that he
not only devoured other animals, but made a prey of men also; and since
he often approached the town, all the people were in great alarm, and
used to go about armed, as if going to battle. Notwithstanding these
precautions, if any of the inhabitants ever met him alone, he was sure
to be devoured, as all defence was useless: and, through fear of the
wolf, they dared not go beyond the city walls.
St Francis, feeling great compassion for the people of Gubbio, resolved
to go and meet the wolf, though all advised him not to do so. Making
the sign of the holy cross, and putting all his confidence in God, he
went forth from the city, taking his brethren with him; but these
fearing to go any further, St Francis bent his steps alone toward the
spot where the wolf was known to be, while many people followed at a
distance, and witnessed the miracle.
The wolf, seeing all this multitude, ran towards St Francis with his
jaws wide open. As he approached, the saint, making the sign of the
cross, cried out: "Come hither, brother wolf; I command thee, in the
name of Christ, neither to harm me nor anybody else."
Marvellous to tell, no sooner had St Francis made the sign of the
cross, than the terrible wolf, closing his jaws, stopped running, and
coming up to St Francis, lay down at his feet as meekly as a lamb. And
the saint thus addressed him: "Brother wolf, thou hast done much evil
in this land, destroying and killing the creatures of God without his
permission; yea, not animals only hast thou destroyed, but thou hast
even dared to devour men, made after the image of God; for which thing
thou art worthy of being hanged like a robber and a murderer. All men
cry out against thee, the dogs pursue thee, and all the inhabitants of
this city are thy enemies; but I will make peace between them and thee,
O brother wolf, is so be thou no more offend them, and they shall
forgive thee all thy past offences, and neither men nor dogs shall
pursue thee any more."
Having listened to these words, the wolf bowed his head, and, by the
movements of his body, his tail, and his eyes, made signs that he
agreed to what St Francis said. On this St Francis added: "As thou art
willing to make this peace, I promise thee that thou shalt be fed every
day by the inhabitants of this land so long as thou shalt live among
them; thou shalt no longer suffer hunger, as it is hunger which has
made thee do so much evil; but if I obtain all this for thee, thou must
promise, on thy side, never again to attack any animal or any human
being; dost thou make this promise?"
Then the wolf, bowing his head, made a sign that he consented.
Said St Francis again: "Brother wolf, wilt thou pledge thy faith that I
may trust to this thy promise?" and putting out his hand he received
the pledge of the wolf; for the latter lifted up his paw and placed it
familiarly in the hand of St Francis, giving him thereby the only
pledge which was in his power.
Then said St Francis, addressing him again: "Brother wolf, I command
thee, in the name of Christ, to follow me immediately, without
hesitation or doubting, that we may go together to ratify this peace
which we have concluded in the name of God"; and the wolf, obeying him,
walked by his side as meekly as a lamb, to the great astonishment of
all the people.
Now, the news of this most wonderful miracle spreading quickly through
the town, all the inhabitants, both men and women, small and great,
young and old, flocked to the market-place to see St Francis and the
wolf. All the people being assembled, the saint got up to preach,
saying, amongst other things, how for our sins God permits such
calamities, and how much greater and more dangerous are the flames of
hell, which last for ever, than the rage of a wolf, which can kill the
body only; and how much we ought to dread the jaws of hell, if the jaws
of so small an animal as a wolf can make a whole city tremble through
The sermon being ended, St Francis added these words: "Listen my
brethren: the wolf who is here before you has promised and pledged his
faith that he consents to make peace with you all, and no more to
offend you in aught, and you must promise to give him each day his
necessary food; to which, if you consent, I promise in his name that he
will most faithfully observe the compact."
Then all the people promised with one voice to feed the wolf to the end
of his days; and St Francis, addressing the latter, said again: "And
thou, brother wolf, dost thou promise to keep the compact, and never
again to offend either man or beast, or any other creature?" And the
wolf knelt down, bowing his head, and, by the motions of his tail and
of his ears, endeavoured to show that he was willing, so far s was in
his power, to hold to the compact.
Then St Francis continued: "Brother wolf, as thou gavest me a pledge of
this thy promise when we were outside the town, so now I will that thou
renew it in the sight of all this people, and assure me that I have
done well to promise in thy name"; and the wolf lifting up his paw
placed it in the hand of St Francis.
Now this event caused great joy in all the people, and a great devotion
towards St Francis, both because of the novelty of the miracle, and
because of the peace which had been concluded with the wolf; and they
lifted up their voices to heaven, praising and blessing God, who had
sent them St Francis, through whose merits they had been delivered from
such a savage beast.
The wolf lived two years at Gubbio; he went familiarly from door to
door without harming anyone, and all the people received him
courteously, feeding him with great pleasure, and no dog barked at him
as he went about.
At last, after two years, he died of old age, and the people of Gubbio
mourned his loss greatly; for when they saw him going about so gently
amongst them all, he reminded them of the virtue and sanctity of St