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Saint Clare of Assisi

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Saint Clare of Assisi

This article is about the Italian saint. For the film, see Saint Clara (film). For the unincorporated community, see St. Clara, West Virginia.
Saint Clare of Assisi
Born (1194-07-16)July 16, 1194
Assisi, Italy
Died August 11, 1253(1253-08-11) (aged 59)
Assisi, Italy
Honored in Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Communion, Lutheran Church
Canonized September 26, 1255, Rome by Pope Alexander IV
Major shrine Basilica of Saint Clare, Assisi
Feast August 11 (1970 calendar), August 12 (1962 calendar)
Attributes Monstrance, pyx, lamp, habit of the Poor Clares
Patronage Eye disease, goldsmiths, laundry, embroiderers, gilders, good weather, needleworkers, Santa Clara Pueblo, telephones, telegraphs, television

Saint Clare of Assisi (sometimes spelled Clair, Claire, etc.) (July 16, 1194 – August 11, 1253), born Chiara Offreduccio, is an Italian saint and one of the first followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. She founded the Order of Poor Ladies, a monastic religious order for women in the Franciscan tradition, and wrote their Rule of Life—the first monastic rule known to have been written by a woman. Following her death, the order she founded was renamed in her honor as the Order of Saint Clare, commonly referred to today as the Poor Clares.


St. Clare was born in Assisi, the eldest daughter of Favorino Scifi, Count of Sasso-Rosso and his wife Ortolana. Ortolana was a very devout woman who had undertaken pilgrimages to Rome, Santiago de Compostela and the Holy Land. Later on in her life, Ortolana entered Clare's monastery, together with Agnes, Clare's sister.[1]

As a child, Clare was always devoted to prayer. When she turned 12 her parents wanted her to marry a young and wealthy man, but she herself preferred to wait until she was 18. However, at the age of 18 she heard Francis's preachings which would subsequently change her life. Francis told her that she was a soul chosen by God. Soon after, on Palm Sunday, when people went to collect palm branches, she stayed home. On that very night she ran away to follow Francis. Francis cut her hair and dressed her in a black tunic and a thick black veil. Clare was placed in the convent of the Benedictine nuns near Bastia from where her father would make unsuccessful attampts to take her out, still wanting to get her married. Clare, joined by her sister Agnes, soon moved in a place close to the church of San Damiano, which Francis himself had rebuilt. Other women joined them there, and San Damiano became known for its radically austere lifestyle. The women were at first known as the "Poor Ladies".

San Damiano became the centre of Clare's new religious order, which was known in her lifetime as the "Order of San Damiano". San Damiano was long thought to be the first house of this order, however, recent scholarship strongly suggests that San Damiano actually joined an existing network of women's religious houses organized by Hugolino (who later became Pope Gregory IX). Hugolino wanted San Damiano as part of the order he founded because of the prestige of Clare's monastery.[2] San Damiano emerged as the most important house in the order, and Clare became its undisputed leader. By 1263, just ten years after Clare's death, the order had become known as the Order of Saint Clare.

Unlike the Franciscan friars, whose members moved around the country to preach, Saint Clare's sisters lived in enclosure, since an itinerant life was hardly conceivable at the time for women. Their life consisted of manual labour[3] and prayer.

For a short period of time the order was directed by Francis himself.[4] Then in 1216, Clare accepted the role of abbess of San Damiano. As abbess, Clare had more authority to lead the order than when she was the prioress, who had to follow the orders of a priest heading the community.[5] Clare defended her order from the attempts of prelates to impose a rule on them that more closely resembled the Rule of Saint Benedict than Francis' stricter vows. Clare sought to imitate Francis' virtues and way of life so much so that she was sometimes titled alter Franciscus, another Francis.[6] She also played a significant role in encouraging and aiding Francis, whom she saw as a spiritual father figure, and she took care of him during his illnesses at the end of his life, until his death in 1226.

After Francis's death, Clare continued to promote the growth of her order, writing letters to abbesses in other parts of Europe and thwarting every attempt by each successive pope to impose a rule on her order which watered down the radical commitment to corporate poverty she had originally embraced. She did this despite the fact that she endured a long period of poor health until her death. Clare's Franciscan theology of joyous poverty in imitation of Christ is evident in the rule she wrote for her community and in her four letters to Agnes of Prague.

On September 17, 1228, the pope sent her letters because she had filled him with admiration. The letters he sent her were for ways to view her grant.

Post death

On August 9, 1253, the papal bull Solet annuere of Pope Innocent IV confirmed that Clare's rule would serve as the governing rule for Clare's Order of Poor Ladies. Two days later, on August 11, Clare died at the age of 59. Her remains were interred at the chapel of San Giorgio while a church to hold her remains was being constructed.

On August 15, 1255, Pope Alexander IV canonized Clare as Saint Clare of Assisi. Construction of the Basilica of Saint Clare was completed in 1260, and on October 3 of that year Clare's remains were transferred to the newly completed basilica where they were buried beneath the high altar. In further recognition of the saint, Pope Urban IV officially changed the name of the Order of Poor Ladies to the Order of Saint Clare in 1263.

Some 600 years later in 1872, Saint Clare's remains were transferred to a newly constructed shrine in the crypt of the Basilica of Saint Clare where they can still be seen today.


Pope Pius XII designated her as the patron saint of television in 1958, on the basis that when she was too ill to attend Mass, she had reportedly been able to see and hear it on the wall of her room.[7] The American Catholic television channel Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) was founded by a Poor Clare nun, Mother Angelica.

In art, Clare is often shown carrying a monstrance or pyx, in commemoration of the time when she warded away the soldiers of Frederick II at the gates of her convent by displaying the Blessed Sacrament and kneeling in prayer.

Lake Saint Clair and the Saint Clair River in the Great Lakes region of North America were named in 1679 on her feast day, August 11. Mission Santa Clara, founded by Spanish missionaries in northern California in 1777, has given its name to the university, city, county, and valley in which it sits. Southern California's Santa Clara River is hundreds of miles to the south, and gave its name to the nearby city of Santa Clarita. Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico celebrates its Santa Clara Feast Day annually on August 12, as the feast was celebrated before the 1960 calendar change.

In the Tridentine Calendar, her feast day is celebrated as a Double on August 12, the day following her death, as August 11 was already assigned to Saints Tiburtius and Susanna, two third-century Roman martyrs. It was changed to a Third-Class Feast in 1960 (see General Roman Calendar of 1962). The 1969 calendar reform removed the feast of Ss. Tiburtius and Susanna from the calendar, allowing St. Clare's feast to be celebrated on August 11, as a Memorial. Although her body is no longer claimed to be incorrupt, her skeleton is displayed in Assisi.

See also


External links

Apostolic Letter (French)of Pope Pius XII declaring St. Clare of Assisi as Patroness of Television (1957) Template:Catholic Encyclopedia poster

  • The Life, Miracles and Death of St. Claire of Assisi, Saint and Virgin of the Catholic Church
  • St. Clare's Sr. Sec. School Agra Built On the Name Of St. Clare Of Assisi
  • Convent of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Bautzen
  • St. Clare of Assisi
  • Musical Theatre about St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi
  • Saint Clare of Assisi in Patron Saints Index
  • Anorexia Sacra An opera using Clare's texts on asceticism and its connections with anorexia nervosa.
  • St. Clare page at Christian Iconography
  • Caxton's life of St. Clare

Template:Catholic saints

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