The introduction begins by describing Francis's popularity, the many different images of him, and the ways interpretations have changed over time. It then lays out the two main arguments of the book--that interpretations of Francis are historically and culturally conditioned, and that they often, paradoxically, represent alternatives to the conditions that form them. Noting that the book is not primarily about spirituality, the introduction encourages spiritually-minded readers to broaden and deepen their knowledge. It introduces the broad themes of sainthood, place, and the uses of history. After a brief description of terminology and sources, it summarizes the life and legend of Francis and outlines the chapters to come.
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