"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
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
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 fear.
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
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 Francis.