This book is the earliest biography of Saint Francis, commissioned by pope Gregory IX and completed in 1230, just four years after Francis’ death and two years after his canonization. The work was based on the testimony of Francis’ close companions. This extract tells a story in which Francis takes pity on a captured fish and returns him to the lake:

c. 77 Francis was rich in charity, having within him fatherly affection not only towards men suffering want, but also towards dumb and wild animals, reptiles, birds and other creatures conscious and unconscious…
c. 61 He was inspired by the same fatherly affection towards fish. When they were caught and he had the opportunity, he threw them back into the water alive, instructing them to take care not to be caught again. At one time he was sitting in a small boat near a harbour on the lake of Rieti, when a fisherman caught a big fish, known in the vernacular as a tinca [a tench], and devoutly offered it to him. Francis took it joyfully and courteously, and began to call it his brother, laid it out of the boat in the water, and began devoutly to bless the name of the Lord [i.e. to recite a psalm of praise]. And thus while the saint was steadfast in prayer, the fish for some while played in the water by the boat and did not leave the spot in which he had been put – until, when his prayer was finished, God’s holy man gave it leave to depart.
[trans. Christopher Brooke, 5 July 2008].