Francis of Assisi (c.1181 to 1286) Italy. Taught the fundamental belief that people have a duty to protect and enjoy nature both as stewards of God’s creation (standard anthropocentric Christian doctrine) but also as creatures ourselves.
Rejecting his family life of wealth he started to preach and practice a simple life of voluntary poverty, brotherly love and peace. The rejection of materialism is a constant theme in green thought and action and Francis represents a high profile example working through the Christian church.
Francis believed that nature itself was the mirror of God. He called all creatures his “brothers” and “sisters”, and even preached to the birds and supposedly persuaded a wolf to stop attacking some locals if they agreed to feed the wolf. Many of the stories that surround the life of Francis say that he had a great love for animals and the environment.
Hailed by Pope John Paul II in 1979 as the patron saint of ecology. In 1982 the same pope said that Saint Francis' love and care for creation was a challenge for contemporary Catholics and a reminder "not to behave like dissident predators where nature is concerned, but to assume responsibility for it, taking all care so that everything stays healthy and integrated, so as to offer a welcoming and friendly environment even to those who succeed us."
A key quote from Francis to summarise his approach:
“All things of creation are children of the Father and thus brothers of man. ... Ask the beasts and they will teach you the beauty of this earth.”