Monday, March 9, 2015

Saint Frances' Monastery.

Medieval window.

Today is the feast of Saint Frances and I visited the Tor de' Specchi monastery here in Rome, Saint Frances was a great Roman saint who received her calling to a religious life after her two sons died and her husband got ill. She founded the monastery in 1443 as an oblate community - these sorts of communities were rather common in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. The oblates conducted simple lives - working and helping the sick and the poor. On 15 August 1425 on the day of the Assumption, ten women led by Saint Frances offered themselves as oblates, founding this community at Santa Maria Nova al Palatino - the Olivetan monks' basilica - they were dedicated to charitable works while still living with their families - often rich and part of the new bourgeois or nobility.
On 25 March 1433 they rented an house in the Rione Campitelli near a tower called Torre degli Specchi (now lost) - here the oblates begun to live a fully common life.
Here during an ecstasy, Frances with the inspiration of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Saint Paul, Saint Benedict and Saint Mary Magdalene dictated the rule of the order, based on the Benedictine one. 
On  4 July 1433, Pope Eugene IV recognizes the order and gives them the right to choose a president and their confessor. In 1439 also the Olivetan monks recognize their order and give them authonomy as well as the right of honorific burial in Santa Maria Nova for each sister.
This community still survives and through the centuries it has never stopped helping the poor and the sick, following the example of Saint Frances. Today they share their beautiful house with poor students and the elders.
When I entered the XV century house today it was like going back to the Renaissance, the nuns kept the place unchanged since the day of its foundation, everything is at it was then. The glorious frescoes by Antonio Aquili known as Antoniazzo Romano, the main Roman artist of the Renaissance - are absolutely splendid.
The frescoes were executed in 1468 and represent the life of Saint Frances, in the first room and the refectory. Interestingly, most frescoes also have a description in old Roman dialect.


Saint Frances with the Madonna and child with Saint Benedict.

Saint Frances' funeral at Santa Maria Nova.

Saint Frances and the miracle of the grapes.

Detail of the funeral.

Saint Frances resuscitates a drowned man.

Saint Frances' death.

Detail of Saint Frances' death.

Detail of the description in old Roman dialect.

Saint Frances and the miracle of the bread.

Appearance of a light orb above her during communion.

Appearance of an angel with her deceased son.

Detail of Christ enthroned.

Saint Frances heals a sick man with a bad leg.

Vision of Christ who holds her hand.

Miracle of the vineyard.

Saint Frances receives the child Jesus from Mary.

Saint Frances heals a man with nine wounds.

Vision of Saint Frances.

Detail of the miracle in the vineyard.

Saint Frances heals a young dying man.

Saint Frances heals a young hunchback.

Saint Frances and the miracle of wheat.

Saint Frances heals a young man with a head injury.

Saint Frances and the miracle of wine.

Saint Frances heals a young man with a foot injury.

Saint Frances receives communion at St. Peter's.

Saint Frances resuscitates a young boy.

The original Renaissance ceiling.

The original Renaissance ceiling and windows.

Saint Frances heals a young paralytic.

Saint Frances' vision of hell.

Detail of the vision of hell.

Saint Frances heals a young man's arm.

Saint Frances oblation to the Virgin in the church of Santa Maria.

A detail of Saint Frances' funeral.


Risen Christ.

The Blessed Virgin Mary with Saint Frances and Saint Benedict.


The refectory has frescoes of the visions she had of evil spirits, from which her guardian angel, with her son, saved her.

Demons beat Saint Frances while she is at prayer in her cell.

Saint Frances in her cell is tormented by demons while she prays.

While doing laundry for her infirm husband she meets three demons in disguise as monks.

Saint Frances in her cell is tormented by demons.

Saint Frances finds a rotten corpse, Satan tries to push her on it.

Saint Frances is going to her infirm husbands's room when a serpent and a lion attack her.

The demons visit Saint Frances while she is at prayer, dragging her out.

Saint Frances meets Satan in disguise as her patron saint.

Satan appears to Saint Frances as a dragon with several heads, Saint Paul saves her.

Saint Frances meets a flock of sheep, then they become wolves and dragons.

Detail of the description in old Roman dialect.

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