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Frances of Rome, St.


Foundress of the Oblates of St. Frances; b. Rome, Italy, 1384; d. there, March 9, 1440. She was born into a noble Roman family of Busso and was married very young, in obedience to the wishes of her parents, to Lorenzo dei Ponziani, a wealthy landowner in the Trastevere district. Her saintly activity brought some ray of hope to the troubled years between 1400 and 1440, when furious internal struggles and natural calamities devastated the city of Rome. She aided the poor with great generosity and provided for the care of the sick in the city hospitals, especially Santa Maria in Cappella, which the Ponziani family was administering with papal consent. Here Frances was an example of modesty in dress and in her way of life for the 35 years in which she devoted herself to spiritual and temporal works of mercy. Her fame spread to Viterbo, Siena, Arezzo, Florence, Bologna, and the Marches, and naturally in Rome. On Aug. 15, 1425, she founded a group of Oblates of Olivetan Benedictines attached to the church of Santa Maria Nuova. Although at first not living in community, the group was later reorganized, adopting the common life to facilitate their dedication to works of mercy. Its constitution was approved by Pope eugene iv in 1433, and they were housed in a convent in the Tower of the Specchi, in the neighborhood of Campidoglio, where on March 21, 1436, the widowed Frances herself retired. Immediately after her death the process of canonization was begun, and after repeated attempts she was canonized by paul v on May 29, 1608. Her tomb is in Santa Maria Nuova.

Feast: March 9.

Bibliography: frances, of rome, Jubilation dans la lumière divine, transcript of 20 visions (Paris 1989). Acta Sanctorum March 2:89219. p. j. lugano and c. albergotti, La Nobile Casa delle Oblate di S. Francesca Romana in Tor de' Specchi, nel V centenario dalla fondazione, 14331933 (Vatican City 1933). p. j. lugano, "L'istituzione delle Oblate di Tor de' Specchi, secondo i documenti," Rivista storica benedettina 14 (1923) 272308, esp. 292293; ed., I processi inediti per Francesca Bussa dei Ponziani (Santa Francesca Romana) 14401453 (Studi e Testi 120; 1945). l. berra, a. mercati and a. pelzer, Dizionario ecclesiastico, 3 v. (Turin 195458) 1:1162. j. mattiotti, Il dialetto romanesco del Quattrocento, ed. g. carpaneto (n.s. 1995), 15th-century biography with glossary and bibliography. a. montonati, Le mani che guarirono la città: storia di santa Francesca Romana (Cinisello Balsamo 1985). e. bona, Francesca Romana la santa di Roma (Sestri Levante 1969). f. p. keyes, Three Ways of Love (New York 1963). h. montesi festa, Santa Francesca Romana (Turin 1931). berthem-bontoux, Sainte Françoise Romaine et son temps, 13841440 (Paris 1931). a. m. zimmermann, Kalendarium Benedictinum: Die Heiligen und Seligen des Benediktinerorderns und seiner Zweige, 4 v. (Metten 193338) 1:304307. g. c. fullerton, The Life of St. Frances of Rome (London 1855). a. butler, The Lives of the Saints, ed. h. thurston and d. attwater, 4 v. (New York 1956) 1:529533.

[m. monaco]

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