From humble beginnings to aspirations of wealth and life as a slave, a look at the early years of Vincent de Paul.

'Radharc: Vincent' tells the story of one history's most popular saints, Saint Vincent de Paul. This documentary retraces his travels around France using contemporary paintings and drawings of Vincent's life.

This excerpt from the documentary takes a look at the early years of Vincent's life. Born in 1581 in "saintly beginnings" in the village of Pouy in South West France. However, from an early age Vincent decided that the lowly life of a peasant was not for him. He dreamt of a lofty lifestyle away from the hard work of life on the land, and was ashamed of his peasant family roots. Vincent's farmer father knew that the best way for Vincent to free himself from life on the land was to become a priest and in 1597 Vincent moved to Toulouse to study theology. 

The village which Vincent could hardly wait to leave is now named after him.

Vincent went on to set up a small school in a town nearby Toulouse to support himself after his father died. The school fees he received funded his education in Toulouse where completed his studies in theology. Equipped with the necessary qualifications he was then ordained a priest. At the age of just 19 and a half Father Vincent de Paul celebrated his first mass to a congregation of just two in the small church of Notre Dame de Grass. However his youth was not on his side as at such a young age it proved difficult for him to secure his own parish. He returned to Toulouse to continue his studies financed by teaching. His luck changed when an elderly lady in the city left him an inheritance. However the inheritance consisted of debts owed to the lady by "some trickster" who had fled to Marseille. Vincent left Toulouse for Marseille in pursuit of the debt. 

I needed the money. I was a floating priest without a position... Priest or no Priest, I was determined to get what was rightfully mine.

Vincent eventually tracked down the debtor, recovered the money and returned to Toulouse by ship. However the trip was not plain sailing as the captain and crew of the ship were captured by pirates. 

The somewhat snobbish and self-confident Father de Paul was put up for sale at the slave market in Tunis.

Fr de Paul spent two years as a slave under three different Muslim masters. The third master, impressed by Vincent's knowledge of Christianity, freed him and returned him to France. Near Avignon, Vincent was housed in the Palace of the Popes and things began to look up for the young priest.

This episode of 'Radharc' was broadcast on 20 July 1981.