Thomas of Celano

Thomas of Celano, in Italian Tommaso da Celano from his hometown of Celano in the Abruzzo, (ca. 1200 - ca. 1270), was a Franciscan friar from Italy whose chief claim to fame is his undoubted authorship of three works about St. Francis of Assisi. These include (1)the earliest Life of the saint, commissioned by Pope Gregory XI in 1228at the time of his canonization, (2) a second life commissioned by General of the Franciscan Order in 1246-1247, which reflects changing official perspectives on Francis in the decades after his death, and (3) a treatise on the saint's miracles. Thomas has also traditionally been considered the author of the earliest life of St. Clare of Assisi, as well as the hymn Dies Irae; but the authorship of both works is in fact uncertain.

Thomas was not among the very earliest disciples of St. Francis, but he joined the Franciscan Order in around 1215, during the saint's lifetime, and evidently knew him personally. In 1221 Thomas was sent to Germany with Caesarius of Speyer to promote the new order there, and in 1223 was named "sole guardian" (custos unicus) of the order's Rhineland province, which included Köln, Mainz, Worms, and Speyer. Within a few years he was back in Italy, where he seems to have remained for the rest of his life, with some possible short-term missions to Germany. In 1260 he settled down to his last post, as spiritual director to a convent of Clarisses in Tagliacozzo, where he died around 1270. He was at first buried in the church of S. Giovanni Val dei Varri, attached to his monastery, but his body is now reburied in the church of S. Francesco at Tagliacozzo.

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