Umbria is noted for the numerous saints it has produced. St. Benedict, founder of western monasticism and the Benedictine Order, was born in Norcia in 460 B.C. St. Francis and St. Clare were born in Assisi in the 12th century. St. Francis founded the Franciscan religious order while St. Clare was responsible for the order of the Poor Clares.
Jacopone da Todi
Jacopo de Benedetti was a 13th century Franciscan friar from Umbria and was most often associated with Italian music, theater and poetry.
Most scholars attribute the famous Latin lyric Stabat Mater to Jacopone. He studied law in Bologna and became a successful lawyer but gave up his practice as well as all of his possessions after the death of his wife, and lived as a wandering ascetic for nearly ten years. During this time he became a mendicant Franciscan tertiary. Jacopone is considered to be Italy’s greatest poet before Dante. The principal type of verse he used was the lauda, a nonliturgical devotional song in praise of the Virgin Mary, Christ or other saints. Jacopone spent much of his time in solitary confinement writing laudi. Jacopone eventually retired to the convent of San Lorenzo in Collazzone, where he died on Christmas Eve, 1306. Although he has not been beatified or canonized by the church, Jacopone is recorded in the Franciscan martyrology and he is popularly referred to as ‘blessed’ or ‘saint’.
Santa Rita da Cascia
Rita da Cascia is an Italian Augustinian saint. Saint Rita was born in 1381 at Roccaporena near Spoleto, Umbria. She was married at age 12 to Paolo Mancini;
her parents had arranged the marriage, in spite of Rita begging them to allow her to enter a convent. St. Rita endured Mancini’s insults, abuse, and infidelities for 18 years and bore two sons, Giangiacomo Antonio and Paolo Maria. Toward the end of her husband’s life, St. Rita helped convert Mancini to a more pious life. Soon after, Mancini was viciously murdered by past enemies; his sons later sought revenge on their father’s murderers. After the deaths of her husband and sons, Rita attempted to enter the monastery of Saint Mary Magdalene at Cascia but was turned away. Although the convent acknowledged Rita’s good character and piety, it was afraid of being associated with the scandal of her husband’s violent death. She persisted, and was given a single task to fulfill before the convent would accept her: the difficult job of reconciling her family with her husband’s murderers. She eventually resolved the conflicts between the families and, at the age of 36, was allowed to enter the monastery. Saint Rita was beatified by Urban VIII in 1627 and was canonized on May 24, 1900 by Pope Leo XIII.
San Benedetto da Norcia
Saint Benedict da Norcia, b. 480, is honored by the Roman Catholic Church as the patron saint of Europe and students.
Benedict founded twelve communities for monks at Subiaco, located about 40 miles east of Rome, before moving to Monte Cassino in the mountains of southern Italy. Later on in life, Benedict became a hermit and for three years, unknown to men, lived in this cave above the lake. During these three years of solitude, broken only by occasional communications with the outer world and by the visits of Romanus, Benedict matured both in mind and character. He developed knowledge of himself and his fellow man, while becoming well known respected by those around him. So great was this respect that upon the death of their abbot, the community came to him and begged him to become its new abbot. During this time Benedict’s followers made numerous claims of his power to perform miracles. These miracles become more frequent and many people came to Subiaco to live under his guidance. Benedict built twelve monasteries in the valley for this influx of followers. In each he installed a superior with twelve monks. Benedict lived in a thirteenth monastery, where he lived and instructed a select few.