Elias of Cortona

c.1180-1253. Minister-general of the Franciscan Order. A lay brother, he and Francis of Assisi* had great mutual affection. Elias was provincial-minister of Syria (1217-20) and Francis's spokesman at the 1221 general chapter. Gregory IX entrusted him with the construction of the basilica at Assisi where Francis's body was to rest. Elias is the most controversial early Franciscan figure, gaining in his own lifetime an evil reputation among the friars which his declining years, spent with the excommunicated emperor Frederick II, could only confirm. Francis's death apparently deprived him of vital personal inspiration. His resolution weakened, Elias did display un-Franciscan pride and ostentation, but it was unjust and unhistorical of his enemies, in the light of his later deviations, to reinterpret the events of Francis's lifetime so that Elias even then appeared in a bad light. The official element in the order detested him because he favored lay brothers equally with clerics (as had Francis), did not obtain many privileges, and generally did not consult them in his decision- making. They had him deposed as minister-general by Gregory IX in 1239.