Chiara da MONTEFALCO (1268-1308)

Santa Chiara da Montefalco. Culto, Storia e Arte, Corpus Iconografico, a cura di Roberto Tollo e Orlando Ruffini, edizione Biblioteca Egidiana

Chiara was born from Damiano and Iacopa in Montefalco, a small Umbrian town that dominates the Spoleto valley. Chiara had a sister and a big brother, Giovanna and Francesco. Giovanna founded, with the financial help of her father, the home for women of San Leonardo, of which she became the first director; women retired there, living in cloister and praying, inspired by the rule (still not fully recognized at the time) of Francis of Assisi. Little Chiara remained marked by the example that the family proposed to her and, at the age of six, she entered Giovanna’s cloister, where she spent the next seven years. The community grew, Giovanna and the women of the cloister moved to the hill of Santa Caterina del Bottaccio, not far from Montefalco, in an incomplete building. But the new settlement, which implied the construction of a real monastery, was not welcomed peacefully in the city. Alongside three more ancient convents, a Franciscan, a second Augustinian and another Benedictine, Giovanna’s women home was considered harmful to Montefalco, because it was added to the other communities that already lived on alms, and then one tried to convince women to desist from their projects. In 1290 Giovanna asked the bishop of Spoleto to facilitate the institutionalization of the community, in which the rule of St. Augustine would be introduced, if the confessors and chaplains were Franciscans. According to Giulia Barone, “the decision to adopt a rule was not entirely free. In fact, living outside a recognized order had become increasingly dangerous “(p.253). With the new monasteries of the Holy Cross and of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, the intentions of these religious women merged: that of the eremitical vocation, represented by the experience of the reclusive, with the other of the monastic rule. Giovanna became Abbess, remaining the settlement under the direct jurisdiction of the bishop. Chiara grew following the fate of this place; only on the occasion of the great famine of 1283, together with another companion, she left the cloister to live by begging, but after eight times she was prevented from continuing; from this moment, until her death, she remained isolated in seclusion (wikipedia).

According to Romana Guarneri, Chiara started with pauperist impetus, begging “a piece of bread for God’s sake“, but she was soon brought back to better advice, waiting to be completely cloaked (Guarnieri, p.39).

Source: and
GUARNERI Romana, Amiche mie, beghine, in Ruah, Il femminile di Dio, Piccola biblioteca Millelire, n.14, Stampa alternativa
BARONE Giulia, problemi ancora aperti intorno a Chiara di Montefalco, in DINZEBACHER Perter – BAUER Dieter R. (a cura di), Movimento religioso e mistica femminile nel Medioevo,  Ed. Paoline, 1993


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