Saint Clare

c. 1470
Germany, Swabia
oil on panel
68 x 32 cm

Born as the daughter of a count, Saint Clare (1193 – 1253) abandoned her family and her way of life after hearing Saint Francis preach in San Giorgio in Assisi. She quickly became a fervent follower of Francis and moved to a convent, despite the disapproval of her father. With the help of Francis, she founded the Order of the Poor Clares, originally known as the Order of the Poor Ladies of San Damiano, a name taken from the church adjacent to their foundation. In 1216, Clare accepted the role as Abbess. In early 13th century Europe, all nuns lived their lives according to monastic guidelines written by men, most commonly following the Rule of St Benedict. However, Clare wanted to create guidelines which relied closely on the teachings of Saint Francis but which were also composed to fit the life of a woman. In 1253, she wrote the Rule of Life, which was the first set of monastic guidelines written by a woman and which focused on helping the poor and the sick. Eloquently summarised by Catherine Mooney, ‘scholars of Saint Clare see her not just as an influential figure for her contemporaries and subsequent history, not just as a woman able to achieve and gain fame in a world and Church dominated by men, but as a woman whose life, writings, personality, spirituality, and theology are integrally connected to her gender.’ Clare was canonised two years after her death in 1255.

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Sam Fogg
Art of the Middle Ages