It is among the most metaphorically rich, complex and unusual Italian Renaissance paintings in America. Its title – which locates St. Francesco Bernardone of Assisi (c. 1182-1226), the founder of the Franciscans, in the desert – throws into strong relief the picture's lush Tuscan setting. St. Francis took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, distinguished by three knots in his rope girdle. He recreated the first nativity, preached to the animals and tamed wild beasts. The "desert" probably refers to the wilderness of Mount La Verna in the Apennines, where, in 1224 during a solitary retreat, St. Francis is believed to have been the first person to receive the stigmata, or the imprint of the five primary wounds of Christ's crucifixion.
Image and copy from Catholic Education Resource Center.