Yet upon his death in 1226, a huge basilica was erected in his memory in Assisi.
The Franciscans were chiefly concerned with missions. Francis himself traveled to Egypt in 1219, where he surrendered to the Muslim guards, demanding an audience with the Sultan. The Muslim ruler heard him preach, but turned down his offer to walk on fire in order to prove his faith.
Franciscans made their way to Hungary, Spain, and to the East, establishing missions in Eastern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East in the 13th century; and later to Central Asia and India. In the 14th century, an Archbishop of the East was appointed.
The Franciscans led the way in the mission field. The Spanish and Portuguese conquest of the New World was quickly followed up by the friars, who immediately set about with the goal of converting the native population.
The Franciscans came to be known as Grey Friars, from the gray habit which distinguished them from the Dominicans, who were called the Black Friars.
The Dominicans, founded by Dominic de Guzman, concentrated on learning, and were involved in the establishment of new universities in Paris, Bologna, Oxford, and Cambridge.
But the Franciscans had their intellectuals too, in friars such as Duns Scotus, William of Ockham, and Roger Bacon.
The friars were a new force in the church. They were preaching monks, men who spent much of their time in the towns and cities, earning respect for their simple living and unassuming ways, a lifestyle which was in contrast to many other of the church leaders.