St. Clare of Assisi

san damiano convent assisiSt. Clare’s church is dedicated to St. Clare of Assisi who was a follower of St. Francis of Assisi. She was born in Assisi on 16thJuly 1194, the daughter of a wealthy Italian Count. However, at an early stage, she developed a distaste for material wealth and  determined to live a cloistered life of poverty. She wished to join the Franciscan Order but was not allowed because of her gender. With the help of St. Francis she established her own order of nuns known as the Poor Clares which is also known as the second order of St. Francis at San Damiano, outside the town of Assisi. This building, photographed left, was acquired by St. Francis for the nuns from the Benedictines in the year 1212.  

St. Clare was well known and revered for her devotion to the Blessed sacrament and this devotion was demonstrated in one famous incident.  During the 13th century the German Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire were attempting to bring the Papal States under their control. When, in 1234, the army of Frederick II was attacking the Papal States the soldiers, preparatory to an assault upon Assisi, scaled the walls of San Damiano by night, spreading terror among the community.
Clare took the monstrance from the little chapel adjoining her cell, proceeded to face the invaders at an open window against which they had already placed a ladder. It is related that, as she raised the Blessed Sacrament on high, the soldiers, who were about to enter the monastery fell backward as if dazzled, and the others who were ready to follow them, took flight.

st clare 15th nov 2011It is with reference to this incident that St. Clare is generally represented in art bearing the sacred host. In the much admired stained glass window at the gable of the sanctuary of St. Clare’s Church, Manorhamilton, is an image of a woman in a brown habit holding the sacred host. This is generally considered to be an image of St. Clare.

St. Clare died in Assisi on 11th August 1253 after a life of devout poverty. Two years later, 26 September, 1255, she was canonised by Pope Alexander IV. Not long afterwards the building of the church of Santa Chiara (St. Clare), in honour of Assisi's second great saint, was begun. In 1260 her remains were interred under the high altar in the new church. Over time however, this was forgotten and her remains were not re-discovered until the year 1850. Finally, on 29th of September, 1872, the saint's bones were transferred, with much pomp, by Archbishop Pecci, afterwards Pope Leo XIII, to the shrine, in the crypt at Santa Chiara, erected to receive them. This is where they may now be seen.  Santa Chiara is shown in the photograph below.

St. Clare’s feast day is 11th August.


 Photographs 1 & 3 © 2011 Google

Photograph 2 © James Molloy