Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

St. Francis and Islam: Transforming the Mind of the West

Dr. Elaine Z. Madison.

St. Francis travelled to Egypt at the time of the Fifth Crusade (1219) on a mission of peace to the Sultan. He brought back to Pope Innocent III and to all Christendom a revolutionary vision of respect for Islam. That vision is preserved in the frescoes of Giotto in the Basilica in Assisi and in S. Croce in Florence. While written accounts of the saint's life often distort his teaching on Islam, the frescoes bear witness to his actual views for those who know how to read them. Francis' insistence that Christians could learn much from the religious practices of Islam opened the way for the reception of secular learning preserved in Arabic manuscripts and thus to the Renaissance. An examination of the symbolism and iconography of the frescoes reveals the drama of Francis' relationship with the Crusader Pope and the triumph of Francis' inclusive vision.


Dr. Elaine Z. Madison  (United States)
Associate Professor
Department of English
Hawaii Pacific University

Dr. Madison received her Ph.D. in English from Yale University after a year as a Fulbright Scholar at Newnham College, Cambridge. She teaches Shakespeare, humanities, and world literature at Hawaii Pacific University. Her recent research focuses on the culture of the High Middle Ages.

  • St. Francis of Assisi
  • Islam
  • Giotto
Person as Subject
  • St. Francis of Assisi

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)