The first companion of Francis

He came from:
Assisi (where his house still exists, but unfortunately is closed to visitors).

Age and social standing:
He was young, very rich and noble

Character and characteristics:
His faith was perfect, his intellect subtle, he loved poverty, was a good orator, very humble and a contemplative.

His brothers called him:
the herald of peace and penitence, a smiling saint

His life:
At first he watched the behaviour of Francis, received him several times into his house and then, after a memorable night spent near his friend and opening the Gospel, which told him what he should do, he gave up all his possessions and followed Francis, staying by his side until the latter sent him to other regions. He was the first to go to Bologna, where he gathered around him new companions, and later he went to Florence. He was elected the head of the group on their first journey to Rome to present the Pope with their plan.
Francis wanted him by his side when he was on the point of death and asked him to share the little cakes Brother James had sent thinking they might help to cure him; he blessed him with special attention.
After the death of their Master the friars revered Bernard as a venerable father

Of him Francis said:
“He felt the Lord had taken care of him by giving him the companion we all need and a faithful friend” (T. Celano Vita prima).
That he had “perfect faith as well as love of poverty.” (Leggenda perugina).
He prophecied: “I tell you that Bernard has been beset by the greatest and most insidious demons, to test him. He will have to undergo much tribulation and temptation. But our merciful Lord, when Bernard is near his end, will free him from all suffering and inner and outer tribulation and will lay his spirit and his body in such a state of peace, serenity and sweetness, that all the brothers who see him and hear him will be extremely surprised, feeling that it is a miracle. And Bernardo in that state of intimate and external peace, serenity and sweetness will pass from this world to our Father.” (Leggenda perugina)
At the moment of his death Francis blessed him by placing his hand on his head and saying: “Write down what I am about to say. The first friar given to me by the Lord was Bernard, who was the first to embrace the Gospel and embody its perfection, giving to the poor everything he owned. For this and for many other qualities, I must love him more than any other friar of the Order. I therefore wish and command, in as much as it is in my power, that whoever is Minister General, shall love and honour him as he would do me, and that the Provincial Ministers and all the friars of the Order should look on him as another like unto me.” (Leggenda perugina)

Where he died and was buried:

Perhaps his bones lie with those of four other companions, whose names are now illegible, in the transept on the right hand of the Lower Basilica in Assisi (such a pity, it would be great to know who these five men were!).
The prophecy came true: “after his death he turned white, his flesh became soft, and he seemed to be laughing. Thus he was more beautiful than he had been when alive; and everyone felt greater joy in gazing at him dead than when he was alive, because he really looked like a smiling saint.” (Speculum Perfectionis)

His last words were:
“I find this in my soul: not for a thousand worlds equal to this one would I want not to have served Our Lord Jesus Christ… My dearest brothers I beg you to love one another.” Little Flowers Chap. VI p. 56)

Of him Dante said:

“Roused up such godly motions in men’s hearts
That Venerable Bernard first threw off
His shoes and ran, and quick as he went, too slow,
Running to so great peace, he seemed to move” (Paradise Canto XI, translation D. Sayers)