Jacopa dei Settesoli
Jacopa dei Settesoli, “whose fame in the town of Rome equalled her holiness, had deserved the privilege of the saint’s particular affection. It is not my business to recall in her praise her illustrious lineage, the nobility of her family, her great wealth, and finally the marvellous perfection of her virtues, her long widow’s chastity…” The figure of this Roman noblewoman is thus described by Friar Thomas of Celano, St. Francis’ first biographer, in his Treatise on the miracles (Franciscan Sources 860)
Jacoba was born in Rome in about 1190 into a Norman family, and was married to the Roman nobleman Graziano Frangipane from the Settesoli (or Settesogli) branch of the family. When her husband died, he left her in charge of family affairs. Although being an energetic, strong-willed woman, she was always extremely helpful and affectionate towards the friars. She gave up her life of comfort for one of austerity, putting her riches at the disposal of the poor.
St. Francis called her affectionately “Brother Jacoba”. As he was dying he wrote her a tender note with these words: “Brother Francis, the poor man of Christ, wishes Lady Jacoba, the servant of the Most High, health in the Lord and communion in the Holy Ghost. Dearest, I want you to know that the blessed Lord has done me the grace of revealing that the end of my life is nigh. So, if you want to find me still alive, hurry here to Santa Maria degli Angeli as soon as you receive this letter. Because if you get here later than Saturday, you might not see me alive. And bring with you an ash-coloured cloth to wrap my body in, and the candles for the burial. I also ask you to bring me those sweetmeats which you used to give me when I was ill in Rome” (Franciscan Sources 253-255).
Jacoba was however already on her way, intuiting that her friend’s death was imminent, and she reached Assisi bringing with her exactly what Francis had asked her for. In the following years Jacoba lived in Assisi as a Franciscan tertiary. She probably died in 1239 and was buried in the Basilica of San Francesco, where her remains still lie, right in front of the Saint’s Tomb.