Campus Statues: “Saint Francis With Wolf” Came from Across the Sea
The statues on campus are, unsurprisingly, much more than just PokéStops to hit, and I hope to bring some of them into focus for a while since we walk past them daily, often multiple times a day. If you’re like me, you’re usually running to class spilling coffee all over your hands as you rush past them, too.
The St. Francis statue on the path between Hafey-Marian and Parente is one that always caught my eye, even with piping hot, cream-only Dunkin’ on my hand.
Maybe it’s because wolves are one of my favorite animals, but it’s also because it really is a beautiful statue. After some sleuthing on both the King’s website and Google, I found the story behind the art.
Our college’s “Saint Francis With Wolf” statue was created by Giovanni Cappelletti and donated in 2005 by James and Kathleen Burke, who brought the sculpture back with them from Florence, Italy.
St. Francis is the Roman Catholic patron saint of ecology and animals, and the story behind “Saint Francis With Wolf” is an interesting one.
There are many versions of the story that I stumbled upon in my research, but the basic gist is that in the town of Gubbio, where St. Francis was living (sometimes he was only travelling through), a large wolf was terrorizing the townsfolk (in some versions he only eats their livestock – in others he eats their children), and all of the citizens were equally terrified of this wolf, too terrified to challenge or stop him. (Though, in some versions, they hunt him with dogs and weapons.)
St. Francis, rather than aiming to hunt and kill the wolf, responded with patience. He knew the wolf was only acting according to his instincts (in some versions, though, it is a different story). Because wolves are God’s creation, he knew that the wolf’s instincts were divinely gifted by God and so to try and change them would be a sin.
St. Francis, instead, spoke to the wolf as a brother, and asked him to no longer terrorize the people. In return, they would each charitably donate a portion of their own meals to feed the wolf. The wolf responded by calmly walking beside St. Francis back to the town, to the amazement of the people who were so terrified of him, and they all agreed to feed him. The story has a happy ending, as the wolf no longer terrorized the people of the town.
As someone who walks passed these statues daily, I always wondered about their origins. Be on the lookout next week for my second favorite campus statue’s backstory: the “American Songs” statue near Esseff Hall and the Scandlon Gym.