Mareri, Filippa (c. 1190–1236)
Mareri, Filippa (c. 1190–1236)
Saint and Franciscan nun—belonging to the family of the Counts Mareri, feudatories of Cicolano—who was the founder of the nunnery of St. Peter of Molito . Name variations: Philippa Mareria. Born around 1190, in the Rieti valley, along the valley of the Salto River that marked the border between the territory of St. Peter and the Kingdom of Naples; died on February 16, 1236; daughter of Imperatrice Mareri and Filippo Mareri, prince of Cicolano.
Franciscan nun Filippa Mareri lived out her days against the backdrop of early 13th-century Italy, during which time Francis of Assisi began preaching a new path for the spiritual life, caring for the sick, giving away worldly goods, and depending on God for sustenance. His monastic order, founded in 1209, embraced the principals of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Although Filippa's choice of a religious life preceded the arrival of Francis in Rieti and Cicolano, where she lived, she later embraced his message, as did his disciple Clare of Assisi who founded the Pauperes Dominae (Poor Ladies of San Damiano).
An article in the Officium beatae Philippae recounts that even before Filippa's birth, around 1190, her mother Imperatrice Mareri foresaw the extraordinary personality of the child she was going to bring into the world. While still very young, Filippa revealed a strong religious sensitivity, preferring prayer and acts of charity to childhood games. As she approached marriageable age, she obstinately refused to honor a contractual union arranged by her father and brother, even though it would have helped to strengthen her family's political alliances. She further defied her family's wishes by cutting her long hair (an act referred to as the "deed of tonsure") and turning her room into a sacred space, meant for isolation and prayer. According to legend, when her brother Tommaso tried to stop her from taking alms to the poor of the village, she left her home (an ancestral castle) and took refuge in a consecrated cave, a place of pilgrimage.
Eventually the Mareri family came to honor Filippa's religious aspirations, giving her an estate and administrative power in St. Peter de Molito's church, which she accepted gratefully. With a devoted group of followers, she took up the hermetic, reclusive life advocated by Francis of Assisi. Thus, St. Peter de Molito was transformed into a nunnery, becoming the first Franciscan settlement in the territory of Naples. Assuming the role of mater et domina, Filippa distinguished herself in proselytizing and charity. Unlike Clare's Poor Ladies of San Damiano, whose purpose was solely to contemplate God and lead holy lives, Filippa's nunnery became a landmark for the inhabitants of the Salto Valley, exercising a positive influence in the spiritual and civic life in Cicolano, and becoming a source of political and economic power.
Filippa lived a relatively short life, dying around the age of 46 on the night of February 16, 1236. The inhabitants of the Salto Valley claimed they were foretold of the event by a heavenly voice announcing: " Mortua este sancta Filippa." Filippa Mareri became the first Franciscan nun to be proclaimed a saint.
Cerafogli, E. La baronessa santa Filippa Mareri. Città del Vaticano, 1979.
Chiappini, A. S. Filippa Mareri e il suo monastero di Borgo S. Pietro de Molito nel Cicolano. Biography, liturgy, documents. Perugia, 1922.
Officium beatae Philippae Virginis de Ciculo Ordini Sancti Francisci.
Pasztor, E. "Filippa Mareri e Chiara d'Assisi, modelli della spiritualità femminile francescana," in L'Italia francescana. Vol. 63, 1988.
Tozzi, Ileana. "Filippa Mareri, francescana feudataria," in Deputazione di Storia Patria negli Abruzzi (Cultural meetings of the fellows). Extract before the publication of the gazette, L'Aquila, 1994.
Santa Filippa Mareri e il monastero di Borgo S. Pietro nella storia del Cicolano, Records of the meeting of study in Borgo S. Pietro, October 24–26, 1986, Borgo S. Pietro, 1989.
Ileana Tozzi , D. Litt., and member of Società Italiana delle Storiche and Deputazione di Storia Patria, Rieti, Italy