• Painting of Francis of Assisi by  by Ugolino di Nero from fourteenth century

    Ugolino di Nero. (early 14thc). St Francis of Assisi [detail from a painted altarpiece]. Panoteca, Siena, Italy. (D. Trembinski, photo).

  • Wednesday, January 18, 2023
    225 St. Paul's College

    Speaker: Dr. Donna Trembinski

    Dr. Donna Trembinksi is an Associate Professor of History at St. Francis Xavier University, in Nova Scotia Canada, where she has taught for the past 15 years. Her research work has focused on the intersection of medicine and religion in the long thirteenth century. Aside from her work on Francis, some of which she is presenting today, she has published on the idea of trauma as a category of historical analysis that can complexify and nuance history and has begun work on a new project that explores transmissions of knowledge about eye care in medical and secular manuscripts between 1050 and 1300 CE.


Francis of Assisi (ca. 1180-1226) is celebrated for founding three religious orders and following a model of emotional and experiential piety that culminated in him receiving the stigmata- understood by his contemporaries to be signs of God’s love and grace in the form of the wounds Christ received on the cross. While there is some truth in this story, it is also a constructed narrative, one carefully designed by the saint’s early hagiographers to diminish other facets of Francis’ life: his repeated experiences with ill-health, his visual impairment and his physical disabilities. Francis’ experiences were downplayed in his early lives in various ways, from disappearing doctors he was known to have visited, to ignoring his visual impairment, to excluding stories that highlighted the comfort food and music he sought out while ill. This talk presents research outlined in her book Illness and Authority: Disability in the Life and Lives of Francis of Assisi (UTP 2020) but goes beyond the book in questioning how we might reposition a chronically ill Saint Francis in the history of sanctity.