Rockers in the sacristy: new book recounts St. Francis’ famous fans

February 18, 2014

(A screen shows pictures of Pope Francis inside San Francesco Basilica in Assisi October 4, 2013. Pope Francis visits Assisi, the Italian town that was home to his namesake St. Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis took his name from the saint who is revered around the world as a symbol of austerity, simplicity, concern for the poor and a love of the environment. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini )

What do Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger’s daughter, Carlos Santana and Patti Smith have in common? It’s not only rock and roll: all of them are fans of a saint who lived 800 years ago.

St. Francis of Assisi, known worldwide for his simple spirituality, his closeness to the poor, his love of nature and his preaching of peace, has some unlikely admirers.

Father Enzo Fortunato, the spokesman and public face of the convent complex in Assisi where the Francis is buried, has written a new book on the people who have been influenced by the teachings of the gentle saint who gave up his worldly goods.

“Vado da Francesco” (I am going to Francis), takes the reader on a historical trip through accounts of the visitors to the basilica in the past few decades.

They include popes who sought solace in prayer and politicians who sought picture opportunities. But they also include artists and rockers, most of whom came and went quietly, sometimes even secretly.

On October 6, 2006, for example, the monks reopened the upper basilica, scene of the famous 13th century frescoes by Giotto depicting scenes from the life of St. Francis, for a nocturnal visit by Bruce Springsteen.

Springsteen, who was playing in nearby Perugia, badly wanted to visit the basilica but feared the media and the public would have spoiled the place’s spiritual nature if he visited during the day, Fortunato explains in the 179-page book.

Read the full story here.

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