Giotto di Bondone 1267 - 1337
Legend of St Francis: 10. Exorcism of the Demons at Arezzo
Fresco, 270 x 230 cm
Upper Church, San Francesco, Assisi
ca. 1420 - 1497
Scene from the Life of St Francis (Scene 6, north wall)
Inscription: QUANDO BS.F. EXPULIT DEMO(N)ES DE CIVITATE ARETII DIVINA POTENTIA ET PACIFICAVIT TOTU(M) POPULU(M) - How St Francis used divine power to drive the devils out of the city of Arezzo and brought peace to the entire population
Fresco, 270 x 220 cm
Apsidal chapel, San Francesco, Montefalco
As part of the preaching tour of Italy in the early 1220s, St Francis apparently went to the city of Arezzo in Tuscany
Like Bologna, Arezzo was wracked by civil strife
St. Francis saw demons over the city. He called upon a brother of his order, Sylvester, to drive them out
Sylvester was the first priest in the order. He is one of the four companions buried next to St Francis in the Basilica in Assisi
Through his prayers and preaching, the demons fled the city leaving peace and harmony.
From a city filled with Angels, Men and Demons, Arezzo became a city of Men and Angels.
It was Pope Pius XI who in Rite expiatis (30th April 1926) commented on this aspect of the mission of St Francis and the early Franciscans:
"He [St Francis] then began a visit to the cities of Italy announcing, either personally or through the first disciples who had come to him, the foundation of his two Orders, preaching penance to the people in few but fiery words, gathering by this ministry and by his words and example almost unbelievable fruits.
In all the places where he went to perform the functions of his apostolic ministry the people and clergy came out in procession to meet Francis, and there was much ringing of bells, singing of popular songs, and waving of olive branches.
Persons of every age, sex, and condition flocked to him and, by day or night, surrounded the house where he lived so that they might have a chance of seeing him when he went out, of touching him, speaking to him, or listening to his words.
No one, even if he were grown gray in habits of vice and sin, could resist the preaching of the Saint. Very many people, even some of mature age, vied with one another in giving up all their earthly goods for love of the evangelical life.
Entire cities of Italy, reborn to a new moral life, placed themselves under the direction of Francis. The number of his sons grew beyond reckoning.
Such was the enthusiasm which filled all to follow in his footsteps that the Seraphic Patriarch himself was often obliged to dissuade many and turn aside from the proposal to leave the world both men and women who were willing and ready to give up their conjugal rights and the joys of domestic life.
33. Meanwhile the principal desire which filled these new preachers of penance was to help bring back peace not only to individuals but to families, cities, and even nations, torn by interminable wars and steeped in blood.
If at Assisi, Arezzo, Bologna, and in many other cities and towns it was possible to bring about a general era of peace, at times confirmed even by solemn treaties, this was due altogether to the superhuman power of the eloquence of these rough men."
In his Post-Synodal Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, the Pope made the same point as St Francis and Pope Pius XI on his apostolic journey in Lebanon.
Without interior transformation, the quest for true peace is illusory:
"How many deaths have there been, how many lives ravaged by human blindness, how many occasions of fear and humiliation! It would seem that there is no end to the crime of Cain (cf. Gen 4:6-10 and 1 Jn 3:8- 15) among the sons of Adam and Eve created in God’s image (cf. Gen 1:27).
Adam’s transgression, reinforced by the sin of Cain, continues to produce thorns and thistles (cf. Gen 3:18) even today.
How sad it is to see this blessed land suffer in its children who relentlessly tear one another to pieces and die! Christians know that only Jesus, who passed through sufferings and death in order to rise again, is capable of bringing salvation and peace to all who dwell in your part of the world (cf. Acts 2:23-24, 32-33).
Him alone, Christ, the Son of God, do we proclaim! Let us repent, then, and be converted, “that sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-20a).
9. For the sacred Scriptures, peace is not simply a pact or a treaty which ensures a tranquil life, nor can its definition be reduced to the mere absence of war. According to its Hebrew etymology, peace means being complete and intact, restored to wholeness.
It is the state of those who live in harmony with God and with themselves, with others and with nature.
Before appearing outwardly, peace is interior. It is blessing. It is the yearning for a reality. Peace is something so desirable that it has become a greeting in the Middle East (cf. Jn 20:19; 1 Pet 5:14). Peace is justice (cf.Is 32:17); Saint James in his Letter adds that “the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (3:18).
The struggle of the Prophets and the reflections of the Wisdom authors were inspired by the hope of eschatological peace. It is towards this authentic peace in God that Christ leads us. He alone is its gate (Jn 10:9). This is the sole gate that Christians wish to enter.
10. Only by beginning with conversion to God, and by showing forgiveness to those close at hand and in the wider community, will the just respond to Christ’s invitation to become “children of God” (cf. Mt 5:9). Only the meek will delight in boundless peace (cf. Ps 37:11). In offering us a life of communion with God, Jesus creates true fraternity, not the fraternity marred by sin.
Christians know that the earthly politics of peace will only be effective if justice in God and justice among men and women are its authentic basis, and if this same justice battles against the sin which is at the origin of division.
For this reason, the Church wishes to overcome every difference of race, sex and social condition (cf. Gal 3:28 and Col 3:11) in the knowledge that all are one in Christ, who is all in all."
“For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:14).