Saint Fina of Gimignano

St. Fina or Seraphina, was an Italian Christian girl who is venerated in the Tuscan town of San Gimignano. Fina dei Ciardi was born in San Gimignano in 1238. The Daughter of Cambio Ciardi and Imperiera, a declined noble family, she lived all her existence in a humble house located in the historic centre of the famous “city of beautiful towers”.

The child was pretty and attractive. Poor as she was she always kept half her food to give to those who were worse off than herself. As far as possible she lived the life of a recluse at home, sewing indeed and spinning during the day, but spending much of the night in prayer. Fina has a strong devotion to the Virgin Mary, and that she went out only to hear Mass. She was also said to be extraordinarily kind.

Around 1248, her father died when she was still young and about the same time Fina was attacked by a sudden complication of diseases. Fina’s life was changed by a serious illness, which began, progressively, to paralyse her. Desiring to be like our Lord on the cross, for six years she lay on a plank in one position, unable to turn or to move. Her mother had to leave her for hours while she went to work or beg, but Fina never complained. Although in terrible pain she always maintained serenity and with her eyes fixed upon the crucifix she kept on repeating, “It is not my wounds but thine, O Christ, that hurt me”.

Her mother died suddenly and Fina was left utterly destitute. In spite of her misfortune and poverty, she thanked God and expressed a desire that her soul might separate from the body in order to meet Jesus Christ.

Fina’s immense devotion was an example to all the citizens of San Gimignano, who frequently visited her. Visitors were surprised to receive words of encouragement from a desperately ill young girl who was resigned to the will of God. On March 4, 1253, after five years of sickness and pain, her nurses Beldia and Bonaventura were waiting for her to die. Eight days before her death as she lay alone and untended, Gregory appeared to her and said, “Dear child on my festival God will give you rest”. Fina died on the 12th of March at the age of 15. At the exact moment of Fina’s passing away, all the bells of San Gimignano rang without anyone touching them.

When Fina’s body was removed from the pallet that was her deathbed, onlookers saw white violets bloom from the wood, and smelt a fresh, floral fragrance throughout her house. The violets grew on the walls of San Gimignano and still grow there today. For this reason, the townspeople call them “The Saint Fina violets”. The young girl’s body was brought to the Pieve Prepositura and during the transfer, the crowd proclaimed “The Saint is dead!”

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