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Francis de Sales

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Francis de Sales

Francis de Sales
CO, OM, OFM Cap.
Bishop of Geneva
Native name François de Sales
Province Vienne
Diocese Geneva
Appointed 15 July 1602 (Coadjutor)
Installed 8 December 1602
Term ended 28 December 1622
Predecessor Claude de Granier
Successor Jean-François de Sales
Ordination 18 December 1593
by Claude de Granier
Consecration 8 December 1602
by Vespasien Gribaldi
Personal details
Born (1567-08-21)21 August 1567
Château de Sales, Duchy of Savoy, Holy Roman Empire
Died 28 December 1622(1622-12-28) (aged 55)
Lyon, Lyonnais, Kingdom of France
Previous post Titular Bishop of Nicopolis ad Iaterum (1602)
Motto non-excidet
Coat of arms
Feast day
Venerated in
Title as Saint Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Beatified 8 January 1661
Rome, Papal States,
by Pope Alexander VII
Canonized 8 April 1665
Rome, Papal States,
by Pope Alexander VII
Attributes Heart of Jesus, Crown of Thorns
Patronage Baker, Oregon; Cincinnati, Ohio; Catholic press; Columbus, Ohio; confessors; deaf people; educators; Upington, South Africa; Wilmington, Delaware; writers; journalists; the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest
Shrines Annecy, Haute-Savoie, France

Francis de Sales, CO OM OFM Cap. (French: François de Sales; 21 August 1567 – 28 December 1622) was a Bishop of Geneva and is honored as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. He became noted for his deep faith and his gentle approach to the religious divisions in his land resulting from the Protestant Reformation. He is known also for his writings on the topic of spiritual direction and spiritual formation, particularly the Introduction to the Devout Life and the Treatise on the Love of God.


  • Life 1
    • Early years 1.1
    • Education and conversion 1.2
    • Return to Savoy 1.3
    • Priest and provost 1.4
    • Bishop of Geneva 1.5
    • Mystical writer 1.6
    • Founder 1.7
    • Death 1.8
  • Veneration after his death 2
  • Patronage 3
  • Legacy 4
    • Congregations 4.1
    • Influence on other saints 4.2
    • Educational institutions 4.3
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • External links 8
    • Works 8.1


Early years

Francis de Sales was born on 21 August 1567 in the Château de Sales into the noble Sales family of the Duchy of Savoy, in what is today Thorens-Glières, Haute-Savoie, France. His father was François de Sales, Lord of Boisy, Sales, and Novel. His mother was Françoise de Sionnaz, the only child of prominent magistrate, Melchior de Sionnaz, and a noblewoman. He was baptized Francis Bonaventura, after two great Franciscan saints. His father wanted him, the first of his six sons, to attend the best schools in preparation for a career as a magistrate. He therefore enjoyed a privileged education in the nearby town of La Roche-sur-Foron and at the age of eight, at the Capuchin college in Annecy.[1]

Education and conversion

In 1583, De Sales went to the Collège de Clermont (later renamed Lycée Louis-le-Grand) in Paris, then a Jesuit institution, to study rhetoric and humanities. As a nobleman, he was accompanied by his own servant and by a priest tutor, Abbe Deage. To please his father, he took lessons in the gentlemanly pursuits of riding, dancing, and fencing.[2] De Sales is described as intelligent and handsome, tall and well built with blue-grey eyes, somewhat reserved and quiet, and a welcome guest in the homes of the nobility among whom his father had connections.[3]

In 1584 Francis de Sales attended a theological discussion about predestination, convincing him of his damnation to hell. A personal crisis of despair resulted. This conviction lasted through December 1586. His great despair made him physically ill and even bedridden for a time. The following month, January 1587, with great difficulty, he visited the old parish of Saint-Étienne-des-Grès, Paris, where he prayed the "Memorare" before a famed statue of Our Lady of Good Deliverance, a Black Madonna. He consecrated himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and decided to dedicate his life to God with a vow of chastity. He then became a tertiary of the Minim Order.[4]

Sales ultimately concluded that God had good in store for him, because "God is love", as Scripture attests. This faithful devotion to the God of love not only expelled his doubts but also influenced the rest of his life and his teachings. His way of teaching Catholic spirituality is often referred to as the Way of Divine Love, or the Devout Life, taken from a book he wrote of a similar name: Introduction to the Devout Life.

In 1588 Sales completed his studies at Collège de Clermont and enrolled at University of Padua in Italy, where he studied both law and theology. He took Antonio Possevino, a priest in Society of Jesus, as his spiritual director.[1] There he made up his mind about becoming a priest. In one incident, he rode a horse, and his sword fell to the ground and crossed another sword, making the sign of the Christian cross.

Return to Savoy

In 1592, Sales received his doctorate in law and theology. He made a pilgrimage to Loreto, Italy, famous for its Basilica della Santa Casa (Shrine of the Holy House) and then returned home to Savoy. The Senate of Chambéry admitted him as a lawyer. Meanwhile, his father secured various positions for Francis, including an appointment as senator. His father also chose a wealthy noble heiress as his bride. But Francis refused to marry, preferring to stay focused on his chosen path. His father initially refused to accept that Francis had chosen the priesthood rather than fulfill his expectations with a political-military career.[5] Claude de Granier, then Bishop of Geneva, intervened and after signing over to his younger brother his rights of family succession, he was ordained in 1593. Immediately he received a promised appointment as provost of the cathedral chapter of Geneva.[5]

Priest and provost

In his capacity as provost, Francis de Sales, engaged in enthusiastic campaigns of evangelism in an area that had become almost completely Pope Clement VIII and Henry IV of France.

In 1599 he was appointed coadjutor bishop of Geneva.[8] In 1601, he was sent on a diplomatic mission to Henry IV, where he was invited to give Lenten sermons at the Chapel Royal. The morals at court reflected those of the king, which were notoriously bad, yet Henry became personally attached to Francis, and is said to have observed, " "A rare bird, this Monsieur de Geneve, he is devout and also learned; and not only devout and learned but at the same time a gentleman. A very rare combination."[3]

While in Paris he also met Cardinal Berulle and was for a time Madame Acarie's confessor. They consulted with him on matters such as the introduction of St. Teresa's Carmelites into France and plans for the reforming of monasteries and convents. He was consulted on matters of conscience by persons at court.[3]

Arms of St Francis de Sales

Bishop of Geneva

In 1602, Bishop Granier died, and Sales was consecrated Bishop of

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Giovanni Fontana
Bishop of Nicopolis ad Iaterum
15 July 1602 – 17 September 1602
Succeeded by
Bernardin Corneillan
Preceded by
Claude de Granier
Bishop of Geneva
17 September 1602 – 28 December 1622
Succeeded by
Jean-François de Sales
  • Introduction to the Devout Life Christian Classics Ethereal Library
  • Introduction to the Devout Life Internet Archive
  • Treatise on the Love of God. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. 
  • Set Your Heart Free Readings from De Sales
  • Spiritual Conferences.
  • The Catholic Controversy.
  • Treatise on the Love of God.


  • Works by Francis de Sales at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Francis de Sales at Internet Archive
  • Works by Francis de Sales at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • Complete Works of St. Francis de Sales in French
  • International Commission on Salesian Studies All about St. Francis de Sales worldwide
  • Statue in St Peter's Square
  • Founder Statue in St Peter's Basilica
  • Francis de Sales bio at

External links

  • Francis de Sales, Introduction to the devout life [known as "Philothea"], London, 2012. ISBN 978-1-78336-023-9
  • Francis de Sales, Treatise on the love of God [known as "Theotimus"], London, 2012. ISBN 978-1-78336-024-6
  • Introduction to the Devout Life (Translated and Edited by John K. Ryan), Doubleday, 1972. ISBN 978-0-385-03009-0
  • Treatise on the Love of God, TAN Books, 1997. ISBN 978-0-89555-526-7
  • Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal: Letters of Spiritual Direction. Paulist Press. 1988.  
  • The Catholic Controversy: St. Francis de Sales' Defense of the Faith, TAN Books, 1989. ISBN 978-0-89555-387-4
  • Set Your Heart Free (Edited by John Kirvan), Ave Maria Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1-59471-153-4
  • Sermons of St. Francis de Sales On Prayer, TAN Books, 1985. ISBN 978-0-89555-258-7
  • Sermons of St. Francis de Sales on Our Lady, TAN Books, 1985. ISBN 978-0-89555-259-4
  • Sermons of St. Francis de Sales For Lent, TAN Books, 2009. ISBN 978-0-89555-260-0
  • Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Advent and Christmas, TAN Books, 1987. ISBN 978-0-89555-261-7


  1. ^ a b Pernin, Raphael. "St. Francis de Sales." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 30 May 2013
  2. ^ a b John J. Crawley. "St. Francis de Sales, Bishop, Doctor of the Church". Lives of Saints.  
  3. ^ a b c , (translation and Introduction by Elisabeth Stopp), Faber and Faber, London, 1960St. Francis de Sales: Selected Letters
  4. ^ The Third Order of Minims
  5. ^ a b c d , (revised by Pat McCloskey O.F.M.), Franciscan Media, ISBN 978-0-86716-887-7Saint of the Day, Lives, Lessons, and FeastFoley O.F.M., Leonard.
  6. ^ , (Philip Schaff, ed.), Vol.4, p.363New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious KnowledgeEhni, J. "Francis, Saint, of Sales",
  7. ^ a b c , edited by Marion Habig, ofm, Franciscan Herald Press, 1959The Franciscan Book Of Saints
  8. ^ a b c "Francis de Sales", Vincentian Encyclopedia
  9. ^ a b "Oblate History", Oblates of St. Francis De Sales, Wilmington- Philadelphia Province
  10. ^ a b c d "Our Heritage", DeSales University
  11. ^ Saint Jeanne-Françoise de Chantal (1988). Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal: Letters of Spiritual Direction. Paulist Press.  
  12. ^ Murphy, John F. Mary's Immaculate Heart, p. 24, 2007 ISBN 1-4067-3409-8
  13. ^ Boundaries of Faith: Catholics and Protestants in the Diocese of Geneva by Jill Fehleison (Truman State University Press, 2011)
  14. ^ Türks, Paul, C.O (1995). Philip Neri:The Fire of Joy. Translated by Daniel Utrecht, C.O. Edinburgh: T&T Clark. pp. 144–145.  
  15. ^ Diocese of Annency "Salesian Sites"(French)
  16. ^ "Calendarium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1969), p. 115
  17. ^ "Who we are", Institute of Christ the King
  18. ^


See also

Educational institutions

Vincent de Paul met Francis de Sales in Paris in 1618 or 1619. Francis de Sales' spirituality and writings, especially An Introduction to the Devout Life, and Treatise on the Love of God, were to have a profound influence on Vincent.[8]

Influence on other saints

The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, a society of priests founded in the 20th century, also has St. Francis de Sales as one of their three primary Patrons. One of the major apostolates of the Institute in the United States is the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales in St. Louis, Missouri.[17]

  • The Paulist Fathers in the United States count him as one of their patrons.

In the 19th century, his vision for religious communities was revived. Several religious institutes were founded during that period for men and women desiring to live out the spiritual path which de Sales had developed.



Having been founded as the first non-cloistered group of sisters after attempts to do so with the Visitation Sisters founded by de Sales and de Chantal proved unsuccessful, the Sisters of St. Joseph (founded in Le Puys, France, in 1650) take St. Francis de Sales as one of their patrons.

In 1923, Pope Pius XI proclaimed him a patron of writers and journalists, because he made extensive use of broadsheets and books both in spiritual direction and in his efforts to convert the Calvinists of the region.[5] St. Francis developed a sign language in order to teach a deaf man about God. Because of this, he is the patron saint of the deaf.[10]


The Roman Catholic Church celebrates St. Francis de Sales' feast on 24 January, the day of his burial in Annecy in 1624.[16] From the year 1666, when his feast day was inserted into the General Roman Calendar, until its 1969 revision, he was celebrated on 29 January, a date still observed by some Traditionalist Catholics.

Francis de Sales was beatified in 1661 by Pope Alexander VII, who then canonized him four years later. He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1877.[2]

Sales' heart was kept in Lyon, in response to the popular demand of the citizens of the city to retain his remains. During the French Revolution, however, it was taken to Venice, where it is venerated today.

St. Francis de Sales has been styled "the Gentleman Saint" because of his patience and gentleness.[7] Despite the resistance of the populace of Lyon to moving his remains from that city, Sales was buried on 24 January 1623 in the church of the Monastery of the Visitation in Annecy, which he had founded with Chantal, who was also buried there. Their remains were venerated there until the French Revolution.[15] Many miracles have been reported at his shrine.

Veneration after his death

In December 1622 Sales was required to travel in the entourage of Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy, for the Duke's Christmas tour of his domain. Upon arrival in Lyon, he chose to stay in the gardener's hut at the Visitandine monastery in that city. While there he suffered a stroke, from which he died on 28 December 1622.[10]


Sales also established a small community of men, an Oratory of St. Philip Neri, at Thonon-les-Bains, with himself as the superior or Provost. This work, however, was crippled by his death, and that foundation soon died out.[14]

Along with St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Sales founded the women's Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary (Visitandines) in Annecy on 6 June 1610. Despite his friendship with Denis-Simon de Marquemont, the archbishop nonetheless restricted the freedoms of de Sales' new order in 1616 by ordering that its members live cloistered lives.[13]

Francis de Sales and Jane Frances de Chantal, medal 1867


His writings on the perfections of the heart of Mary as the model of love for God influenced Jean Eudes to develop the devotion to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.[12]

These last qualities come through in Sales' books, the most famous of which was Introduction to the Devout Life, which – unusual for the time – was written specially for laypeople. In it he counseled charity over penance as a means of progressing in the spiritual life. Sales also left the mystical work, the "Treatise on the Love of God",[10] and many highly valued letters of spiritual direction, including those with Jane Frances de Chantal compiled in the Letters of Spiritual Direction.[11] He was a notably clear and gracious stylist in French, Italian and Latin.

Mystical writer

He worked closely with the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, very active in preaching the Catholic faith in his diocese. They appreciated his cooperation so much that in 1617 they made him an official associate of the Order, the highest honor possible to a person outside it. It is said that at Evian, on the south shore of Lake Geneva, St. Francis of Assisi appeared to him and said: "You desire martyrdom, just as I once longed for it. But, like me, you will not obtain it. You will have to become an instrument of your own martyrdom."[7] During his years as bishop, Sales acquired a reputation as a spellbinding preacher and something of an ascetic. His motto was, "He who preaches with love, preaches effectively." His goodness, patience and mildness became proverbial.[8]


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