Rose of Viterbo, St.
ROSE OF VITERBO, ST.
Third order franciscan; b. Viterbo, Italy, c. 1233;d. Viterbo, March 6, 1252. Although few details are extant regarding Rose's life, much can be gleaned from both the environment in which she lived and from the two separate, anonymous vitae written to initiate the process of her canonization. Shortly after Rose's birth, Viterbo found itself both socially and geographically central to the battles between the Ghibelline supporters of the Emperor Frederick II and the supporters of the papacy. Mendicant friars are credited with championing the latter cause and preaching loyalty to the papacy. To combat the Mendicant influences, the emperor supported and offered protection to the Waldensians and Humiliati. This debate made its way to the streets and piazzas of Viterbo Vita I, written shortly after her death in 1253, is the most contemporary testimony to the magnitude of Rose's impact on her community. This hagiographical account reveals Rose as having a pious upbringing. Around the age of 11, she experienced a vision of the Virgin Mary somewhere outdoors, and thus felt called to praise Christ publicly and to wail mournfully through the streets. Because of her vision, Rose quickly gained followers and led processions through the streets of Viterbo, cross in hand, encouraging others to join her. Although unfinished, Vita I emphasizes the public nature of her preaching, her practice of virtuous living, and her talent for
drawing followers. She also demonstrated the ability to prophesy.
Vita II was written for the canonization process begun by Pope Calixtus III in 1457. This second Vita emphasizes the public nature of her apostolate, which was not the norm for women in this period in history. Her ability to preach Christ and the Good New daily to the people is emphasized. She also rages against the heretics supporting the emperor. While Rose was renowned for her miraculous cures and prophetic visions, she was followed because of her passionate preaching. Vita II also expands on her expulsion from Viterbo and hails her triumphant return from exile upon the fulfillment of her prophecy of the emperor's death. It is clear that Rose had a major role in defending the Church against the emperor.
Feast: Sept. 4.
Bibliography: d. pryds, "Proclaiming Sanctity: Rose of Viterbo," in Women Preachers and Prophets through Two Millenia of Christian History (Berkeley 1998) 159–72. a. vacca, La Menta e la Croce (Rome 1982). j. weisenbeck and m. weisenbeck, "Rose of Viterbo: Preacher and Reconciler," in Clare of Assisi: A Medieval and Modern Woman, Clare Centenary Series 8 (St. Bonaventure, N.Y. 1996) 145–55.
[r. d. harshman]