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Saint Veridiana
Castelfiorentino, Italy
Died10 February 1242
Castelfiorentino, Italy
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Canonized cult approved in 1533 by Pope Clement VII
Feast 1 February
Attributes snakes; depicted as a nun preaching to snakes

Saint Veridiana (Virginia Margaret del Mazziere) (1182 10 February 1242) is an Italian saint.

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a European country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Alps and surrounded by several islands. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea and traversed along its length by the Apennines, Italy has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. The country covers a total area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi), and land area of 294,140 km2 (113,570 sq mi), and shares open land borders with France, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and the enclaved microstates of Vatican City and San Marino. Italy has a territorial exclave in Switzerland (Campione) and a maritime exclave in the Tunisian Sea (Lampedusa). With around 60 million inhabitants, Italy is the fourth-most populous member state of the European Union.


Born at Castelfiorentino, Tuscany, of a noble family, somewhat impoverished but still prestigious, Verdiana was noted from an early age for her generosity and sense of charity. She made a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Upon returning to Castelfiorentino and feeling a desire for solitude and penance, she had herself walled up as an anchorite in a little cell contiguous to the oratory of San Antonio. She remained secluded there for 34 years under the obedience of a Vallumbrosan abbey (however, the Franciscans claim her as one of their tertiaries).

Castelfiorentino Comune in Tuscany, Italy

Castelfiorentino is a city and comune (municipality) in the Metropolitan City of Florence, Tuscany, central Italy, halfway between Florence, Pisa (50 km) and Siena (55 km). The population is approximately 20,000 inhabitants. It is part of Valdelsa. Castelfiorentino borders the following municipalities: Certaldo, Empoli, Gambassi Terme, Montaione, Montespertoli and San Miniato.

Tuscany Region of Italy

Tuscany is a region in central Italy with an area of about 23,000 square kilometres and a population of about 3.8 million inhabitants (2013). The regional capital is Florence (Firenze).

Charity (virtue) theological virtue

In Christian theology, Charity is considered as one of the seven virtues and is understood by Thomas Aquinas as "the friendship of man for God", which "unites us to God". He holds it as "the most excellent of the virtues". Further, Aquinas holds that "the habit of charity extends not only to the love of God, but also to the love of our neighbor".

Like many recluses of her era, it is not certain whether Verdiana belonged to any particular monastic order. The Dominican order appropriated her after her death through the redaction of her vita, but probably belonged to none of the mendicant orders during her lifetime. One late account suggests that in 1221 she was visited by Francis of Assisi, who admitted her into his Third Order. [1] It is more likely that she was associated with the local monastery in Castelfiorentino, which belonged to the Vallombrosan order, the economic success of which had so worried the bishops of Florence. Even this affiliation, however, most likely occurred after her death, as various monastic orders vied for “possession” of yet another popular saint. [2]

Mendicant orders Type of religious lifestyle

Mendicant orders are, primarily, certain Christian religious orders that have adopted a lifestyle of poverty, traveling, and living in urban areas for purposes of preaching, evangelization, and ministry, especially to the poor. At their foundation these orders rejected the previously established monastic model. This foresaw living in one stable, isolated community where members worked at a trade and owned property in common, including land, buildings and other wealth. By contrast, the mendicants avoided owning property at all, did not work at a trade, and embraced a poor, often itinerant lifestyle. They depended for their survival on the goodwill of the people to whom they preached.

From a little window she spoke to visitors and received an insufficient amount of food. Tradition holds that two snakes penetrated her cell in the last years of her life. These increased her mortification of the flesh, but she never revealed their existence. Another local tradition holds that upon her death, the bells of Castelfiorentino began to ring unaided by any human hand, unexpectedly and simultaneously.

Snake limbless, scaly, elongate reptile

Snakes are elongated, legless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpentes. Like all other squamates, snakes are ectothermic, amniote vertebrates covered in overlapping scales. Many species of snakes have skulls with several more joints than their lizard ancestors, enabling them to swallow prey much larger than their heads with their highly mobile jaws. To accommodate their narrow bodies, snakes' paired organs appear one in front of the other instead of side by side, and most have only one functional lung. Some species retain a pelvic girdle with a pair of vestigial claws on either side of the cloaca. Lizards have evolved elongate bodies without limbs or with greatly reduced limbs about twenty-five times independently via convergent evolution, leading to many lineages of legless lizards. Legless lizards resemble snakes, but several common groups of legless lizards have eyelids and external ears, which snakes lack, although this rule is not universal.

Mortification of the flesh Religious practice

Mortification of the flesh is an act by which an individual or group seeks to mortify, or put to death, their sinful nature, as a part of the process of sanctification. In Christianity, common forms of mortification that are practiced to this day include fasting, abstinence, as well as pious kneeling. Also common among Christian religious orders in the past were the wearing of sackcloth, as well as flagellation in imitation of Jesus of Nazareth's suffering and death by crucifixion. Christian theology holds that the Holy Spirit helps believers in the "mortification of the sins of the flesh." Although the term 'mortification of the flesh', which is derived from Romans 8:13 and Colossians 3:5 in the Bible, is primarily used in a Christian context, other cultures may have analogous concepts of self-denial; secular practices exist as well. Old Testament precursors include Zechariah 13:6 and I Kings 18:28-29. Some forms unique to various Asian cultures are carrying heavy loads and immersion in water.

Her cult was approved by Pope Clement VII in 1533. Her feast day is 1 February.

Pope Clement VII pope

Pope Clement VII, born Giulio di Giuliano de' Medici, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 19 November 1523 to his death on 25 September 1534. “The most unfortunate of the Popes,” Clement VII’s reign was marked by a rapid succession of political, military, and religious struggles — many long in the making — which had far-reaching consequences for Christianity and world politics.

The church of Santa Verdiana in Florence Santa verdiana.JPG
The church of Santa Verdiana in Florence


Knowledge of Verdiana and her life comes from two hagiographies, one from the fourteenth century and the other from the fifteenth. The first was redacted around 1340 and attributed to Biagio, a monk and perhaps abbot of the Vallombrosan convent of Santa Trinità in Florence during the first half of the fourteenth century. Very little else is known about him other than the fact that around 1340 he collected and assembled from preexisting materials a compendium of the lives of saints venerated in Florence and Tuscany, now contained in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana. Verdiana’s second hagiographer, Lorenzo Giacomini, was a native of Castelfiorentino born circa 1369. He entered into the Dominican order in Florence in 1383, and after acting as a lettore for many years in various convents, including those of the Roman and Lombard provinces, he was made bishop of Acaia in 1413 by Pope John XXII. It is thought to be shortly after this time, around 1420, that he wrote a new vita in deference to his native city and to his particular devotion to Verdiana. His account borrowed faithfully from Biagio, though Giacomini sought to enrich it with miracles and information on the cult and translations of Verdiana known from contemporary traditions and his own experience. It is this version, erroneously attributed to Bishop Attone of Pistoia, that appears in the Acta Sanctorum. Because of the two vitae, it is possible for scholars to compare Verdiana’s hagiographically “typical” life in Biagio’s earlier vita and the greater emphasis on Verdiana’s connection to the community of Castelfiorentino in Lorenzo Giacomini’s.

Pope John XXII pope from 1316 to his death in 1334

Pope John XXII, born Jacques Duèze, was Pope from 7 August 1316 to his death in 1334.

<i>Acta Sanctorum</i> encyclopedic text in 68 folio volumes of documents examining the lives of Christian saints

Acta Sanctorum is an encyclopedic text in 68 folio volumes of documents examining the lives of Christian saints, in essence a critical hagiography, which is organised according to each saint's feast day. The project was conceived and begun by Jesuit Heribert Rosweyde. After his death in 1629, the Jesuit scholar Jean Bolland continued the work, which was gradually finished over the centuries by the Bollandists, who continue to edit and publish the Acta Sanctorum.


  1. Mariano da Firenze, Chronache generali dell’Ordine di S. Francesco (II, cap. XIV, § 12) cited in Niccolò Del Re, “Verdiana” in Biblioteca Sanctorum, XIII, col. 1023-1027.
  2. André Vauchez, Sainthood in the Later Middle Ages, Trans. Jean Birrell (Cambridge, 1997), 208.

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