St. Clare of Assisi

Ugolino Verino (1438–1516).
Vita di Santa Chiara vergine.
Florence, 1496. (BRMS 4)

With St. Francis of Assisi, St. Clare of Assisi (1194–1253) was the cofounder of the Order of St. Clare, whose nuns were dedicated to lives of poverty and contemplation. Born to wealthy parents in Assisi, young St. Clare ran away from her home after hearing St. Francis preach, in the hope that she could become one of his followers. As Franciscan monasteries were for men only, she entered a Benedictine convent for women. Wishing to live by the more austere Rule of St. Francis, she successfully petitioned Pope Innocent III to found a Franciscan order for women in 1212. The “Poor Clares,” who established convents throughout Europe and later the Americas, continue to live by their founder's pious example.

In 1496 the Poor Clares at the Convento di Santa Chiara Novella in Florence commissioned the Florentine humanist Ugolino Verino to write this Life of St. Clare in Italian, so that those sisters who lacked Latin education could read of their founder’s saintly poverty. Bridwell Library’s beautifully illuminated manuscript of the Vita di Santa Chiara vergine, believed to be in Verino’s handwriting, was presented to the Poor Clares in Florence by the author in 1496. Only one other early manuscript of this text is known.

Listen as curator Dr. Eric White talks about St. Clare of Assisi during a tour.

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Women of the Middle Ages
St. Clare of Assisi