This experience is optimized for Internet Explorer version 10 and above.

Please upgrade your browser

Send the Gift of Lifelong Learning!

Francis of Assisi

Francis of Assisi

Taught By Multiple Professors

Gifting Information


To send your gift, please complete the form below. An email will be sent immediately to notify the recipient of your gift and provide them with instructions to redeem it.

  • 500 characters remaining.

Frequently Asked Questions

With an eGift, you can instantly send a Great Course to a friend or loved one via email. It's simple:
1. Find the course you would like to eGift.
2. Under "Choose a Format", click on Video Download or Audio Download.
3. Click 'Send e-Gift'
4. Fill out the details on the next page. You will need to the email address of your friend or family member.
5. Proceed with the checkout process as usual.
Q: Why do I need to specify the email of the recipient?
A: We will send that person an email to notify them of your gift. If they are already a customer, they will be able to add the gift to their My Digital Library and mobile apps. If they are not yet a customer, we will help them set up a new account so they can enjoy their course in their My Digital Library or via our free mobile apps.
Q: How will my friend or family member know they have a gift?
A: They will receive an email from The Great Courses notifying them of your eGift. The email will direct them to If they are already a customer, they will be able to add the gift to their My Digital Library and mobile apps. If they are not yet a customer, we will help them set up a new account so they can enjoy their course in their My Digital Library or via our free mobile apps.
Q: What if my friend or family member does not receive the email?
A: If the email notification is missing, first check your Spam folder. Depending on your email provider, it may have mistakenly been flagged as spam. If it is not found, please email customer service at ( or call 1-800-832-2412 for assistance.
Q: How will I know they have received my eGift?
A: When the recipient clicks on their email and redeems their eGift, you will automatically receive an email notification.
Q: What if I do not receive the notification that the eGift has been redeemed?
A: If the email notification is missing, first check your Spam folder. Depending on your email provider, it may have mistakenly been flagged as spam. If it is not found, please email customer service at ( or call customer service at 1-800-832-2412 for assistance.
Q: I don't want to send downloads. How do I gift DVDs or CDs?
A: eGifting only covers digital products. To purchase a DVD or CD version of a course and mail it to a friend, please call customer service at 1-800-832-2412 for assistance.
Q: Oops! The recipient already owns the course I gifted. What now?
A: Great minds think alike! We can exchange the eGifted course for another course of equal value. Please call customer service at 1-800-832-2412 for assistance.
Q: Can I update or change my email address?
A: Yes, you can. Go to My Account to change your email address.
Q: Can I select a date in the future to send my eGift?
A: Sorry, this feature is not available yet. We are working on adding it in the future.
Q: What if the email associated with eGift is not for my regular Great Course account?
A: Please please email customer service at ( or call our customer service team at 1-800-832-2412 for assistance. They have the ability to update the email address so you can put in your correct account.
Q: When purchasing a gift for someone, why do I have to create an account?
A: This is done for two reasons. One is so you can track the purchase of the order in your ‘order history’ section as well as being able to let our customer service team track your purchase and the person who received it if the need arises.
Q: Can I return or Exchange a gift after I purchase it?
A: Because the gift is sent immediately, it cannot be returned or exchanged by the person giving the gift. The recipient can exchange the gift for another course of equal or lesser value, or pay the difference on a more expensive item

Priority Code


Francis of Assisi

Course No. 615
Taught By Multiple Professors
Share This Course
4.3 out of 5
79 Reviews
73% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 615
Audio Streaming Included Free

Course Overview

When Francis of Assisi died at the age of 44 in 1226, he left behind nothing that the world would consider as material wealth. But if one counts as riches the fruits of the spirit and of a humble and a contrite heart, he was wealthy beyond measure, and left behind a legacy that survives, thrives, and changes lives even today.

These lectures by the veteran teaching team of Professors William R. Cook and Ronald B. Herzman will give you a rounded, fully informed introduction to this luminous man, and tell the story of how his influence has glowed across the centuries.

"Rebuild My House"

Francis—who was never ordained and never held an official position—is probably the best known and most commonly depicted Christian saint after Mary, the mother of Jesus. He began his ministry with a few companions who joined him in preaching the Gospel, carrying out simple acts of charity for lepers and other marginalized people, and rebuilding neglected local churches.

By the time of his death, thousands of people—lay and clerical, male and female—all across Europe were dedicated to living "Franciscan" lives of humble service to God and neighbor. Within a few centuries, Franciscans would be found from New Mexico to Beijing.

A Message for Everyone

Francis is one of the most beloved Catholic saints and a person whose message and appeal transcend denominational and religious boundaries.

Modern thinkers who have taken inspiration from him include the English Catholic convert G. K. Chesterton, Greek novelist Nikos Kazantzakis, German author Herman Hesse, and African American intellectual W. E. B. DuBois, who offered Francis as a model to African American high school graduates in 1907.

Francis has been the subject of some of the greatest art in the Western tradition and remains a topic of active scholarly research. Yet he is also a favorite for backyard shrines and key chains, and is the star of a big-selling Marvel comic book, Francis, Brother of the Universe. The author is a Franciscan friar, and the comic has sold half a million copies in English and Spanish.

Cities and soup kitchens bear Francis's name. Some people think of him primarily as a nature lover. Others detect the influence of his mystical awareness on the poetic genius of Dante and the paintings of Giotto.

And when Pope John Paul II decided to convene a prayer meeting of world religious leaders in 1986, where else could he have held it but in Assisi?

Saint Francis Today

Professors Cook and Herzman describe the continuing influence of Saint Francis:

"Francis of Assisi is perhaps best known today as a lover of nature, and indeed his relationship with all creatures is an important part of his legacy. Yet he was more than a man who preached to birds and petted wolves. Francis recaptured a part of the biblical view of creation that had been downplayed at least in part because in the Middle Ages untamed nature so often seemed more an enemy than something to embrace.

"In a hierarchical world where those at the top were often prideful and in an emerging world of commerce in which the winners were avaricious, Francis practiced humility and poverty.

"In an increasingly complex world that loved subtlety and argumentation, Francis practiced simplicity.

"Perhaps observing how he lived in 13th-century Italy can be at least a partial guide for living today. Francis's embrace of the outcasts of his society, especially lepers, is certainly relevant in a world that contains so many marginalized people.

"And Francis's joy, which was never smothered by his own physical ills and failures, is a model especially to those who find themselves overcome by the world's problems and our failure to solve them.

"Thus, Francis remains as fascinating and inspiring a man today as he was 800 years ago."

Knowing Saint Francis

Despite his continuing influence and the fairly ample writings about him that date from his own time, Francis remains somewhat elusive in history. It is not easy to meet the man who, at about the age of 25, renounced his family and inheritance to serve his God in poverty, simplicity, and obedience.

Yet Cook and Herzman, with their mastery of history, theology, art, and literature, expertly unlock two sources that are the most revealing and plentiful—written narratives of Francis's life and the images created for Franciscan churches.

Professors Cook and Herzman have included a great deal about the world around Francis as well as on the artwork, the ministries, and the religious communities that he inspired.

But through it all shines their deeply human sense of the man himself and what he stood for—things which, they argue, are needed as much today as ever they were when Francis trod the byways of Italy to show what it means to live life to the full in faith, hope, and love.

Hide Full Description
12 lectures
 |  30 minutes each
  • 1
    Why Francis of Assisi Is Alive Today
    Who was Francis of Assisi? What are the reasons for his continuing significance in the modern world? How can we learn about him by studying his own time? What are some of the unexpected places where his influence reaches? x
  • 2
    The Larger World Francis Inherited
    In order to answer the questions of the previous lecture, we need to know what the world of Francis was like. More years divide Christ from Francis than divide Francis from us. How had the institutions that mediated the teachings of Jesus changed by the 13th century? x
  • 3
    The Local World Francis Inherited
    It is important to know Francis not just as a medieval but as a man of Assisi, a thriving market town of central Italy. Francis came from an urban world where a new money economy was in tension with the old feudal order and raising new questions for Christians. x
  • 4
    From Worldly Knight to Knight of Christ
    Francis grew up as the conventional, somewhat pampered son of a merchant. In his early twenties, he began to seek out both solitude for prayer and an active life repairing rundown churches. Prayer and service came to replace his earlier, more worldly values, leading to a dramatic renunciation. x
  • 5
    Francis and the Church
    Although Francis rejected many elements of "the world" that the Church had come to embrace, he never doubted the Church's authority, and sought its blessing for all he did. This is one of the striking—perhaps even paradoxical—things about Francis that must be grasped to understand him. x
  • 6
    Humility, Poverty, Simplicity
    After giving up his earthly goods, Francis wandered, lived as a hermit, cared for the rejected (especially lepers), and rebuilt churches. The basis for his deeds—voluntary poverty and simplicity—was his experience of the Christian call to love God and neighbor with a whole heart. x
  • 7
    Preaching and Ministries of Compassion
    Although he was neither learned nor ordained, Francis felt called to preach the Good News, often informally. He once preached to a Muslim sultan, and even to birds, flowers, and stones. Francis was living Christ's command: "Preach to all the creatures of the Earth." x
  • 8
    Knowing and Experiencing Christ
    Some scholars who knew Francis realized that his intuitive grasp of Scripture was superior to book learning. Francis's well-known love of nature was one facet of how he sought God. His reception of Christ's stigmata on Mt. LaVerna is part of the same journey. x
  • 9
    Not Francis Alone—The Order(s) Francis Founded
    Often when people adopt a radical way of life, no one joins them. But Francis drew companions from early on. This lecture describes the rapid growth of Franciscan communities, and the difficulties as well as the opportunities this created. x
  • 10
    Not Men Alone—St. Clare and St. Francis
    Clare of Assisi, a younger contemporary of Francis, combined her own charism with traditional forms of monasticism and Franciscan poverty to create a new way for women to serve Christ. x
  • 11
    The Franciscans After Francis
    Francis was canonized just two years after his death. Ever since, he has been the most popular post-Biblical saint in Christendom. Million have journeyed to Assisi to pray or to see the magnificent art that decorates the walls of the Basilica of St. Francis there. x
  • 12
    A Message for Our Time
    Does this poor, simple man from a distant age have anything to teach Christians in particular and humanity generally? This lecture discusses some surprising people who have thought that the answer to both questions is yes, and powerfully made this point about a saint whose message continues to touch hearts and inspire people across all confessional boundaries. x

Lecture Titles

Clone Content from Your Professor tab

What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Audio Download Includes:
  • Ability to download 12 audio lectures from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
CD Includes:
  • 12 lectures on 6 CDs
  • 64-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 64-page printed course guidebook
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider
  • Timeline

Enjoy This Course On-the-Go with Our Mobile Apps!*

  • App store App store iPhone + iPad
  • Google Play Google Play Android Devices
  • Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Tablet + Firephone
*Courses can be streamed from anywhere you have an internet connection. Standard carrier data rates may apply in areas that do not have wifi connections pursuant to your carrier contract.

Your professors

William R. Cook Ronald B. Herzman

Professor 1 of 2

William R. Cook, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Geneseo

Professor 2 of 2

Ronald B. Herzman, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Geneseo
Dr. William R. Cook is the Distinguished Teaching Professor of History at the State University of New York at Geneseo, where he has taught since 1970. He earned his bachelor's degree cum laude from Wabash College and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa there. He was then awarded Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Lehman fellowships to study medieval history at Cornell University, where he earned his Ph.D. Professor Cook teaches courses...
Learn More About This Professor
Also By This Professor
Dr. Ronald B. Herzman is Distinguished Teaching Professor of English at the State University of New York at Geneseo, where he has taught since 1969. He graduated with honors from Manhattan College and earned his master's degree and Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Delaware. Dr. Herzman's teaching interests include Dante, Chaucer, Francis of Assisi, Shakespeare, the Bible, and Arthurian literature. He has...
Learn More About This Professor
Also By This Professor


Francis of Assisi is rated 4.2 out of 5 by 79.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Francis of Assisi This was done several years ago, but the 2 professors are great and material is still up to date. I like the context of the history of the times which makes such a difference. Also liked the way Clare is portrayed as a strong woman in her own right, not a copy of Francis
Date published: 2017-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Meaningful I love hearing about the life of St. Francis. He wrote a beautiful prayer that still moves me. I'm learning how he did it. What was going on in his life.
Date published: 2017-09-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from That's how you do it! I started listening to this series and couldn't stop! Excellent and very inspirational. The instructors were great and they had the absolute best subject! A "for sure" recommendation.
Date published: 2017-06-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The applause, though, made the presentation sound cheap. Lose the applause! If in a class setting, accept a limited amount of questions...
Date published: 2017-06-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good course I bought the CD of this course which turned out to be very handy as I could listen to it as I drove. The professors gave lots of information about his history and the things he did along with a few stories of things Francis said or did.
Date published: 2017-04-10
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointed I was disappointed in this course. The two professors repeated each other. They often stammered and hesitated and then said little of substance. I'm glad I only paid 20% of the original price.
Date published: 2017-03-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not What I Thought...But Better! I thought I was buying a straight biography. But instead it was a stimulating examination of some aspects of St. Francis life and times and fraternity. Much more interesting than I would have thought and the presentation technique of back and forth dialogue was very well done.
Date published: 2017-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding I loved the format of two extremely competent teachers discussing the life and times of St. Francis with each other. Easy to follow and most importantly - FUN!
Date published: 2017-03-21
  • y_2018, m_1, d_15, h_6
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_2.0.6
  • cp_1, bvpage1
  • co_hasreviews, tv_5, tr_74
  • loc_en_US, sid_615, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.0
  • CLOUD, getContent, 14.61ms

Questions & Answers


1-10 of 11 Questions
1-10 of Questions

Customers Who Bought This Course Also Bought

Video title