Santa Rosa of Viterbo

Published September 23, 2012 by Tony

Saint Rosa Mystery

Santa Rosa was born in Viterbo around 1233 into a family of peasants, whose parents were distinguished by a great goodness and moral and Christian qualities. Rosa was born with a rare and severe physical malformation characterized by the complete absence of the sternum and with a cardiac defect. Diseases which usually bring the subject to an early death within the first three years of life, but the young saint, however, miraculously died in 1251 at age 18.
She lived in a particularly intense moment in history: at that time the St. Francis and St. Dominic religious orders were founded, it was the era of the municipalities with  infighting between factions, the Crusades began together the struggles between Empire and Papacy, the death of the Emperor Frederick II .
Viterbo was also involved in those fights, where from time to time prevailed the Guelphs and Ghibellines.
From an early age, the girl stood out immediately for “charity, devotion, love for the solitude and the contempt for worldly vanities”, and there are various tales of miracles performed by the this Saint already in her first few years of life, such as the resurrection of the dead aunt or even the transformation in roses of her bread, saved from her daily food to give it to the poor, to avoid the dad could discover the “theft”.
But we must get to 1250 because Rosa’s life finds clarity in the sources: June 21 of that year, the young lay seriously ill in bed with relatives already despairing over her fate. Here, the girl  had a miraculous vision of the Virgin Mary and of some people’s souls,  fulfilling his prodigious healing.
The next day, Rosa, completely recovered, made a last meal before her usual fasting for the next eve of St. John the Baptist. On 23 June, the young girl made his final choice of life, falling naked to the ground  in the shape of a cross and crying in front of the mother. She asked to mom to put her the robe of penance and – as the acts of canonical process refer  – at the end of the holy sacrifice, the superior of the Sisters of the Third Order, cut her hair. Then the Friars Minor gave her the Franciscan frock and, prostrate at the foot of the altar, she took her vows, loudly offering her virginity to God.


In the following days, on 24 and 25 June, Rosa began his preaching, and according to the indications of the Virgin she said everyone: “Listen, because I see a beautiful bride of Christ that none of you can see, this bride is adorned with purple veil and walks with a golden crown full of gems and precious stones in the head. She commands me to go first in St. John, then in San Francisco and to return to the church of Our Lady”. Soon, the  fame of that prodigious girl became bigger and bigger and many went to her house to meet her. That June 24, 1250 meant an ordination and officially marks the beginning of the apostolate of Rosa, “a young illiterate girl that become an Apostle.”
A few days later, Christ on the cross appeared her, this vision upset her to the point that Rose began to hit and tear her hair. She went to church, in tears in front of the crucifix saying: “Father, who has crucified you?”.
Brought back home, she flagellated herself for three days.
The apparition of the Crucifix and the subsequent acts of penance, for sharing the Passion of Christ, anticipated her next mystical wedding. Mystic Marriage with the Lord that was celebrated through a bunch of mint placed on her breast, and given to her as a relief during her intimate labor.
At the same time, Rosa also received a divine prediction,  one day she would would become part of the monastery of the Poor Clares of San Damiano, although nuns, before her death, had never accepted her.
Since then, the girl attended the streets and squares of the city with the humble  Franciscan frock and a crucifix in the hand, singing, praying and exhorting countrymen to be faithful to the baptism. On 4 December 1250, heretics and enemies of the Church convinced the mayor that the girl made local order unstable, and for this for her and her parents was decreed the exile. Due to bad weather conditions, such a journey could be fatal for her precarious state of health.
But, in spite of the snow, Rosa and her family arrived to Soriano and Vitorchiano, where she was received as a messenger of God, because she gave the sight to a boy and a girl both blind, then triumphing victorious in the trial by fire, passing unhurt through a pyre which she had lighted to convince a heretic of God’s existence.


Rosa returned to Viterbo after the death of Frederick II (in 1250) and died in 1251 at age 18. She was buried in the bare earth of the cemetery of Santa Maria in Poggio. From that day many were the miracles achieved by faithful who went to pray on his grave.  In 1252, after about 18 months after his death, given the large influx of poor people on his grave and the growing clamor for the wonders and miracles achieved by faithful, authorities and the clergy asked the Pope Innocent IV to promote the process of canonization of Rosa. The Pope agreed and ordered the exhumation of the body, asking for the preventive and canonical inspection, according to the custom of the time.  The Body of Santa appeared miraculously incorrupt, and even the roses around her body were fresh and fragrant. So, they decided to give her a more honored burial in the church of Santa Maria in Poggio ,where she remained for six years. In 1257 Pope Alexander IV no longer feeling safe in Rome, decided to transfer the Papal office in Viterbo.

After his coming he dreamed of Rosa three times. In these visions, the young Santa asked the Pope to transfer his body in the nearby Monastery of the Poor Clarisse, where she had vainly asked to enter. On September 4, 1258, after the third appearance, the Pope, considered the extraordinary event, in a solemn procession together the Cardinal, moved her incorrupt body in the nearby Church of the Poor Clare, entrusting to them the care and worship. The body of the young Santa was locked in a precious urn with a small openable door, so that the faithful could kiss his hand. In 1357, due to a candle, a fire broke out inside the chapel. The urn was completely consumed by the flames, as well as Rosa’s clothes Santarosaviterboand all documents and ornaments but her body was completely unscathed, only blackened.
In 1252 Pope Innocent IV thought to sanctify her and ordered a canonical trial, which never started. Her reputation for holiness grew anyway, and in 1457 Callistus III ordered a new canonical trial, but in the meantime he died, and Rose will never be canonized with the usual solemn rite. Gradually people devoted to her churches, chapels and schools throughout Italy, and also in Latin America.

In 1921, an initial examination of Rosa’s body was carried out, during which it was extracted the still intact heart because it showed some anomalies due to the Cantrell syndrome, and later it was placed in a silver reliquary (also exposed in the church).

In 1996, a new check has allowed to make a series of scientific studies which indicated that the saint at the time of death were aged between 18 and 20 years, and showed how all the organs and muscles miraculously still were intact.
The Santa also had to have a height of approximately 1.55 m, blue eyes and dark hair. These data and the X-rays of the skull allowed to make a graphic reconstruction of the face (the one in the picture).

After more than 750 years after his death, we can see her going in the beautiful sanctuary dedicated to Santa Rosa, because her precious body, preserved with loving care by the nuns of the Monastery, is still uncorrupted. The Viterbans his fellow devotees, honor her every year since 1258, through a solemn procession.
The so called “machine of Santa Rosa” is a monumental votive building, with a statue of Saint Rosa on the top, which is transported through the streets of the historical center of Viterbo from about 100 porters on the evening of 3 September each year, the eve of the feast of the patron saint.

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reference: http://www.tanogabo.it/religione/index.html

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