Feast Day : August 17
Name meaning: Brilliant, bright
Also known as: Clare of the Cross
Clare was born at Montefalco, Italy, around 1268. As a young woman she joined a convent of Franciscan tertiaries. This group established Holy Cross Convent at Montefalco in 1290, adopting the Rule of St. Augustine. Clare’s sister Joan was the abbess of this community, but when she died Clare succeeded her. Clare led an austere life, being particularly devoted to Christ’s passion and His cross. She became known as a miracle worker. Clare was given an apparition of the Lord in which He said to her, “I have sought a place in the world where I might plant my cross, and have found no better site than your heart.” Later, Clare told her sisters, “If you seek the cross of Christ, take my heart; there you will find the suffering Lord.” When Clare was on her deathbed in 1308, she repeatedly said, “Know that in my very heart I have and hold Christ crucified.” Soon after her death, her sisters were inspired to take out her heart. When they did so, a quantity of blood rushed out and was collected in a vial that had been washed and purified. Her heart was larger than normal. They opened it and found clear symbols of the passion of Christ that were part of the cardiac tissue itself. The symbols were: • A thumb-sized crucifix. The body of Christ was white and his lance wound red, and his loins were covered in white tissue. • A scourge formed of a hard, white nerve • The crown of thorns composed of tiny sharp nerves • The three nails formed of a dark, sharp fibrous tissue • The lance and sponge formed of nerve tissue In addition, three mysterious pellets were found in the gall. The pellets were about the size of hazel nuts, and were judged by theologians to be symbols of the Trinity. Any one of them was as heavy as the other two, while at other times any one of them equaled the weight of all three together. The sisters locked the heart and vial of blood in a box. The next day these items were examined by a group of officials who included the chief magistrate, the leading doctor in the town and a public notary, with a representative of the Franciscan house at Foligno in attendance. More examinations were conducted later by other Church officials and politicians. Clare’s body and heart remained incorrupt. At various times the blood was seen to liquefy and also to boil and bubble. These episodes seemed to presage political disturbances and turmoil. Liquefactions were recorded in 1495, 1500, 1508, 1560, 1570, 1601, 1608 and 1618. In the 17th century a commission was established to investigate the mystery of the blood, and concluded that no natural explanation could be found. In 1608 the body was moved from its shrine. The blood in the vial had dried and coagulated. The vial was dropped and everything broke into pieces. All the pieces were collected and placed in a crystal vessel. Over time this vessel cracked and was placed in a third vessel. The incorrupt body of Clare can be viewed at the Sanctuario S. Chiara da Montefalco. Her incorrupt heart is enclosed in a bust and can be viewed under a crystal. The pellets are in a jeweled cross kept in the Church of the Holy Cross in Montefalco. In art Clare is portrayed holding a crucifix, the bottom of which penetrates her heart.