Francesca ROMANA (1384-1440)

Francesca Romana

She was born in 1384 and baptized with the name of Francesca, but in the house and in the circle of friends they call her Franceschella or Ceccolella. She is a wise and precocious child, devoted to the point of building a small hermitage at home, as a place for her personal encounter with God. This natural inclination undergoes a sharp backlash at the age of 12, when she can not escape the custom of the time and is promised to be married to Lorenzo de Ponziani, of a well-to-do family, who trades in cattle and grains.
The unwanted marriage unleashes in her a violent nervous reaction, of a clear psychosomatic nature, to heal which parents would like to resort to the magical arts, which Franceschella refuses decisively. The right therapy comes through a celestial vision, which gives back serenity to inner peace to face marriage.
In the new house she finds help and support in her sister-in-law Vannozza, devout and sensitive, of great charity, together with whom, little by little, she transforms the rich house in Trastevere into a reference point for the many in need of the city. With simplicity, Francesca accepts her married life: the love of the groom, his noble titles, his wealth, the three children born of their union.
The plague arrives and takes away two children, the war unleashed by the antipope John XXIII returns a severely wounded husband, while the only remaining son is taken hostage: family misfortunes that do not bend her soul, supported by the mysterious and effective presence of her guardian angel, whom she almost “feels” walking beside her. Rome, plundered and humiliated, finds in this woman a model of faith and a guide. Her riches are used to treat the sick and the needy and when they become exhausted one can see her as a “poor woman” in Trastevere, walking with her donkey on the streets of hunger to beg for the needy. She conquered a circle of friends with whom she founded a group of Oblate and to whom she entrusted the assistance of the poor; in a second time she gathered them in a house of Tor de’ Specchi, founding a monastery where she joined them as soon as her husband died in 1436. Four years later, on 9 March, she died, too, but at her home in Trastevere, where with her mother’s affection she went to visit her son and daughter-in-law.
Rome considers her as a saint, the whole city rushes to venerate her body and her fame defies time: in 1608 Francesca Romana is officially enrolled in the register of saints and still today young couples for the celebration of marriage prefer the church of Santa Maria Nova at the Fori Imperiali, where her mortal remains are venerated.
Source : Gianpiero Pettiti,

Here are some other biographical elements taken up by Mario Sensi, Mulieres in Ecclesia . Storie di monache e bizzzoche, 2 tomi, Centro italiano di studi sull’alto medioevo, Spoleto, 2010:
As widow, she served in Roman hospitals and specialized in treating the sick, using ointments. Founder of the Oblates of Torre de ‘Specchi, ten Roman matrons who refused to be mourned. They lived “in the holy poverty” (p.806), they initially chose the protection of an existing Olivetan abbey, then obtained after several attempts, the exemption from the jurisdiction of the abbot of Monte Oliveto (choice of his “president”, of the director) spiritual and also the possibility of begging, beggars who operated in a penitential spirit, giving the proceeds to the poor when possible). At the beginning a secular devotional secular confraternity and eight years later the will to become lay consecrated, “regular” oblates (1432-33) with Benedictine Olivetan rule (vision of the hive proposed by s.Gregorio Magno a Francesca) ( 73 norms), “keeping their identity as women linked to the city intact“.

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