Jacopone of Benedetti was born in Todi in a noble family around 1230. After studying law in Bologna, he launches himself in the notary career working in the same city. According to tradition, in 1268, his wife accidentally dies in the collapse of a floor. The following moment of pain and confusion, in some way increased by the discovery that his wife was using tools of penitence, determines a radical change in the behavior of Jacopone of Todi. After abandoning his work and the people who, up to that time, had surrounded him, he starts a way of public penitence and humiliation.
According to tradition he has gestures of almost madness, for example he arrived to a banquet walking on his knees, or to the brother’s wedding he presented himself undressed, covered of fat, and wrapped up in feathers. In 1278 he enters in the Franciscan Order as a laic friar. In this period the Order has to face some internal rivalries between the fraction of the “Conventuali” sustained by Pope Bonifacio VIII, who would like to reduce the rigor of the rule of San Francesco, and the group of the “Spirituali” who is making pressure in order to maintain unaffected the spirit of the Order. Jacopo, obviously, considering his experience of penitence, is part of the last group, and together with the cardinals Jacopo and Pietro Colonna does not recognize the validity of the election of Bonifacio; this provokes as first reaction the excommunication, then the imprisonment(1298) from which only the new Pope Benedetto XI(1303) can free him. The friar spends, at last, his last years in the Convent of San Lorenzo of Collazzone near Todi where he dies in 1306.
The most insignificant Todi citizen of the Middle Ages is the author of numerous “Laudi”, typical compositions of the period in some way similar to the Canticle of the Creatures of San Francesco and probably inspired by this last one. However the tone of the poet is less happy and mystic, having in part lost the harmony with nature and with the world which characterizes the glow of San Francesco. His poetry is instead dominated by a more material and painful conception, obviously fruit of the misadventures that signed the life of the author.