Jacopa de' Settesoli

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Servants of God

Third Order

The few biographical informations about Lady Jacopa de' Settesoli, also known as Giacoma, are mostly linked up with Francis' great spiritual reform and her husband's feudal wealths.  She was born about the year 1190 of a family of Norman origin.  From a document of 1210, it emerges that she had already married lord Graziano Frangipane and they had two children, Giacomo and Giovanni.   Lord Graziano died before his time, entrusting his widow with the management of his several castles and landed estates scattered all over Rome and the roman countryside.

She was also the lady of the castle of Marino, an ancient town near Rome. Her son Giovanni didn't have descendants, so he donated Marino and other properties to the monasteries   of San Saba in Rome and  Santa Maria at Grottaferrata, near Rome.  In 1266, the two monasteries asked Cardinal Giovanni Orsini to sell the castle of Marino, and his family bought it.

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In 1209, when Francis went to Rome to submit the rule of his new order to Pope Innocent III, Jacopa and other influential personalities supported him.  She was very dedicated to him and was his dear friend throughout his life. According to St.Bonaventure, Francis gave her a lamb, which faithfully followed Jacopa everywhere and bleated every morning to wake her up.
He affectionately called her "Brother Jacopa" on account of her fortitude and integrity, at that time regarded as manly qualities. Despite the opportunity to live a luxurious life, she followed the model of perfection suggested by Francis, leading an austere life and putting her wealth and her power at his disposal.
She would have joined the Second Order, but needed to care for her two sons.  In 1221  Francis, probably inspired by her, founded the "Order of Penance", or "Third Order", for those laypeople who wanted to live a holy life remaining in the world.

 

 

The portrait

At Jacopa's request,  a portrait of Francis was painted while he was still living.
It is still kept in a church at Greccio (near Rieti), the town where he inaugurated the popular tradition of the Crib.

In this painting, Francis wipes his eyes with a handkerchief, but he isn't crying,   he is suffering because of his serious illness: at times his eyesight so far failed him that he was almost wholly blind.

An inscription says: "
Real portrait of Seraphic Patriarch Saint Francis of Assisi, commissioned by the pious roman woman Giacoma de' Settesoli, when the patriarch was alive".

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Francis' death

When Francis felt his last day approaching, he told a friar to write a letter for Jacopa, informing her about his imminent death, and asking her to come to the Porziuncola and to bring him an ash-colored wool cloth,  candles for the burial and those sweets she always gave him  when he was ill in Rome.  The friars were looking around for someone to take the letter to Jacopa when  it was revealed to Francis that she was already coming to him. 

Immediately after, there was a knock on the door of the tiny hut, near the chapel, that served as an infirmary...
She had arrived with her sons and was allowed to enter, even if women were not admitted to the monastery.
Jacopa had brought all the requested things, including the sweets made with almonds, sugar, honey, and other ingredients, called  "mostaccioli" in Rome.
Today, in Umbria, these sweets are still made in Francis' memory.
She had also brought him a red silk cushion, adorned with her family's coat of arms, and her bridal veil, embroidered with these words:"Ama, ama, ama" (Love, love, love).

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Jacopa gives the cloth for Francis
(Lower Basilica-Assisi)

Jacopa told him that  while she was praying in Rome, she heard a voice from heaven, which said that he would shortly pass from this life, and that he would ask for those things which she had now brought.  Lady Jacopa remained at Assisi until Francis' death and funeral, and she bore all the cost of his burial.

 

 

The monastery of "San Francesco a Ripa"

The first Roman seat of the Franciscan Friars was the hospital "S.Biagio" founded by Jacopa in the quarter "Trastevere" where Francis was a guest, at least during one of his numerous sojourns in Rome.

In 1231, immediately after the canonization of Francis, the hospital was transformed into the monastery of S.Francesco a Ripa  for the initiative of Jacopa,  and Pope Gregory IX assigned it to the Friars Minor.   In 1682-1689 the church was completely reconstructed with the present three ample naves. The chapels on both sides are rich with the works of art and prove a particular devotion of some great Roman families to the Saint.

 

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The chapel of St.Francis is located in the cell where the saint was staying, and contains a couple of images of Francis (XIII century) attributed to a Franciscan painter D'Arezzo,  and a stone on which St.Francis should had put his head while sleeping.   In the garden, there is an orange tree regarded as the one which was planted by the Saint.

 

Jacopa's death

After Francis' burial, Jacopa returned to Rome, where she lived for more than ten years.  Her son Giacomo died in 1230. 

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Later, she decided to make her will, leaving all her properties to her son Giovanni, and demanding to be buried at Assisi.
A couple of years before her death, "Brother Jacopa" moved to Assisi, where she died in 1239.
She was buried in the lower church of the "Basilica of San Francesco", near the altar that overlooks Francis' tomb.
In 1932, her remains were moved to the Saint's Cript, opposite the altar, between the two flights of stairs, in an urn behind a black metal grill.

There is an inscription on the urn:
"FR. JACOPA DE SEPTEMSOLI",
and another below it:
"HIC REQUIESCIT IACOPA SANCTA NOBILISQUE ROMANA".

 

 

 

 

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