Saint Francis of Assisi (Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone; 1181/1182 – October 3, 1226) was a Catholic friar and preacher. He founded the Franciscan Order, the woman’s Order of St. Clare, and the lay Third Order of Saint Francis. St. Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in Roman Catholic history. Francis was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant in Assisi, and he lived the high-spirited life typical of a wealthy young man, even fighting as a soldier for Assisi. While going off to war in 1204, Francis had a vision that directed him back to Assisi, where he lost his taste for his worldly life. On a pilgrimage to Rome, Francis begged with the beggars at St. Peter’s. The experience moved him to live in poverty. Francis returned home, began preaching on the streets, and soon amassed a following. His order was endorsed by the Pope in 1210. He then founded the Order of Poor Ladies, which was an order for old women, as well as the Third Order of Brothers and Sisters of Penance. In 1219 he went to Egypt, where crusaders were besieging Damietta. Francis achieved personal rapprochement with the Muslim sultan. By this point, the Franciscan Order had grown to such an extent that its primitive organizational structure was no longer sufficient. He returned to Italy to organize the order. Once his organization was endorsed by the Pope, he withdrew increasingly from external affairs. In 1223, Francis apparently arranged for the first Christmas manger scene. In 1224, he received the stigmata, making him the first saint known to bear the wounds of Christ’s Passion. He died in 1226 while singing Psalm 141. On July 16, 1228, he was pronounced a saint by Pope Gregory IX. He is known as the patron saint of animals, the environment and one of the two patrons of Italy (with Catherine of Siena), and it is customary for and Roman Catholic and Anglican churches to hold ceremonies blessing animals on his feast day of 4 October. It has been argued that no one in history was as dedicated as Francis to imitate the life, and carry out the work, of Christ in Christ’s own way.