Rita da CASCIA (1381-1457)

Rita da Cascia, The oldest image of the Saint Rita (solemnel coffin, 1457)

Wife, mother, then widow and finally Augustinian nun: these are the successive stages that have been used to describe the life of Saint Rita da Cascia. However, the careful study of the scholar Lucetta Scaraffia advances a new hypothesis on the fact that the Monastery of Saint Mary Magdalen, where Rita found hospitality, was firstly rather a beguinal house. She writes “Even the monastery of Saint Mary Magdalen, probably, was a house of “bizzoche” [Italian word for beguines in that region] then passed under the control of the Augustinians. The very name that refers to a life of penance rather than withdrawal from the world, and the presence of a female confraternity of the Santissima Annunziata in the church of the same name, formerly linked to the monastery, seem to confirm this hypothesis”. Also, the historian Lucetta states that “Although the visitors to the Monastery in 1465 refer of a Augustinian rule, we know that, in many cases, such a reference constituted a mere regularity clause, necessary for the bishop’s approval, but did not correspond to a real dependence on this institution. Similar cases have been found in the Spoleto valley, where, out of thirteen female foundations built at the end of the 13th century, only seven were institutionalized by the bishops, six of which declared themselves to have assumed the Augustinian rule, but even after the Council of Trento the apostolic visitors denounced the beguinal state of the women who were part of them“. (From Lucetta Scaraffia, La santa degli impossibili, Vita e pensiero, Milano, 2014, p.108-109).