Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Saint Frances of Rome

In visiting a number of churches and making note of the artwork, one sees the same subjects depicted. Upon seeing a novel subject, especially one not readily identifiable [or labeled], one attempts to recollect what in the memory is recalled by the art. One looks more carefully at and in the work, or one cheats. The above is a scene of charity to the poor, perhaps a widow and orphans, or to three orphans. There is also an angel in the window.

Sometimes, the patron of charity to orphans can easily be identified as St. Vincent de Paul, whose face is known. Well, this is clearly a woman. A woman followed or protected by an angel.

Saint Frances *1384, 1440†, of Rome wanted to enter religious life but was married off as a young teenager to Lorenzo de’ Ponziani, a commander of papal troops. Three of their six children survived childhood, two later died of the plague.

The papal court had been in France for seventy years. Upon returning, in 1378, a rival, an anti-pope, also claimed the office. The West was in schism between nations, and rival popes, until 1417. Armies ravaged central Italy. The city of Rome suffered through, plague, war, flood, famine and wolves. Ladislaus of Naples sacked the city, and Frances' husband was wounded, and their estates were attacked.

In a ruined Rome she was very noticeable. She was nicknamed with the diminutive, by the poor, as 'la Ceccolella' [from Francesca]. Frances founded an orphanage. She opened up a hospital. She spent much of her family's wealth on charity. She affiliated as a benedictine. She founded the Olivetan Oblates of Mary, a confraternity of women. She founded the Oblates of the Tor de’ Specchi (Collatines).

In contemplation, she had visions, ecstasies and revelations. She was a miracle worker. Frances could see her guardian angel [hence she is portrayed with an (arch)angel]. The angel would carry a lantern (or torch) for her to see the road at night. This was recognised by Pope Pius XI when he declared her the patron of car drivers. On the 9th of March, cars jam all around her church (Santa Francesca Romana formerly Santa Maria Nova) by the Colosseum, and Forum, to be blessed. Still, roman drivers and traffic are quite a sight, and do not seem that blessed.
Or, one can read the donor's cartouche....hmmm...well not John, but Frances... Frances Cabrini, no we have seen her photographs...then...Frances of Rome. Frances died on the 9th of March, to-day is her birthday in heaven. The windows tell a story to those who will [see and] read.
One of 39 founders of religious orders' statues in niches of St. Peter's Basilica, Saint Frances of Rome by Pietro Galli 1850.

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