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Saint Fina - Seraphina

Saint Fina - Seraphina
  • Century: 13th Century
  • Patronage: Physically Challenged People
  • Feast Day: March 12th

St. Fina, also known as Seraphina, was born Fina dei Ciardi, in Gimignano, a village in Tuscany, Italy in 1238.  She was the daughter of the Imperiera, a declined noble family.  She lived all her life in humble house located in the historic center of the famous “city of beautiful towers”.   In 1248, Fina’s life was changed by a serious illness, which began to progressively paralyze her body.  Her deep faith relieved her pain.  She refused a bed and chose instead to lie on a wooden board.  According to her legend, during her long sickness her body became attached to the wood board, and worms and rats fed on her flesh.  

During her illness, she lost her father, and later her mother died after a severe fall.  In spite of her misfortune and extreme 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.  With her mother and father both gone, she was at the mercy of neighbors and a young girl that was her friend, to take care of her.  

On March 4, 1253 after five years of sickness and pain, being bound to a board she used as her bed, those around her were waiting for her passing away.  During this time, St. Gregory the Great allegedly appeared in Fina’s room and predicted that she would die on March 12th.  Fina died on the predicted date, and she was only 15 years old.  She was one of the most beautiful girls in her town, and the disease disfigured her to a point of being grotesque.  She did pass on March 12, which at that time was the Feast Day of St. Gregory the Great, just as she predicted he told her.  

When Fina’s body was removed from the pallet in which she had laid for over 5 years, the people who were there saw white violets bloom from the wood and smelt a fresh flower fragrance through the whole house.  The violets grew out of the board on which she laid, and the violets also grew on the walls of San Gimignano, something that is still occurring to this day.  For this reason, the white violets have been called throughout the world as the “St. Fina Violets”.  As they transferred her body through town, the town’s people shouted, “The Young Saint is Dead”.  

For the next several days, pilgrims went to the Pieve to see Fina’s remains and in that same period, many miracles of healing took place.  One person healed was her young friend, who had a hand paralyzed while caring for Fina during her illness, holding her head up.  While she was near the body, the dead young girl cured her hand.  At the exact moment of Fina’s passing, all the bells of San Gimignano rang without anyone touching them.  Many sick people who visited her grave during the following years were cured and some of these became some of the most fervent supporters of St. Fina.  The decision of Fina to lie down on a wood table is still a mystery, but legend says she did it to offer her suffering for the conversion of sinners.  

Another legend tells that during a walk with two of her friends, she heard another young girl cry out.  The young girl crying had broken a pitcher that her mother had given her in order to fill water from the well.  While she stopped to play with the other children, she forgot the pitcher on the ground, which unfortunately rolled down and broke.  Fina told her to arrange the pieces and put them under the water.  The Pitcher became complete and full of water.  Another miracle was Fina’s neighbor, the man, a few years after Fina’s death on March 12th stopped working to remember the poor young girl’s passing, went to cut the wood and unfortunately hurt his leg.  Suffering for his pain he asked forgiveness of St. Fina and was very sorry for not having respected the holy day of her passing.  Then his cut disappeared, completely healed.  Many miracles are attributed to St. Fina through writings, paintings, poems, and legend.  

St. Fina’s Feast day is celebrated since 1481.  In 1479, two years before her feast day being celebrated, she was implored to stop the plague.  The plague stopped and this miracle occurred again in the same period of 1631, when the plague returned.   The most important thing produced from St. Fina’s intercession, is the hospital that took her name and was built in 1255.  It was built thanks to the donations given at her tomb.  The hospital gave housing to the old and poor, and pilgrims too.  It became in the following century, one of the best in Tuscany.  In the hospitals chapel, the original oak wood board where St. Fina lay down for five years, is preserved.  

Practical Take Away

St. Fina was a young girl born in Tuscany, Italy. She was one of the most beautiful girls in her town, and became paralyzed from an illness at the age of 10.  The disease disfigured her greatly, and then she lost her parents.  Her survival was dependant on her friend, who’s arm became paralyzed from taking care of her and holding her head up, and the town’s people who came to visit the young girl.  She chose to lie on a board, rather than a bed during her illness, which lasted for five years.  When she died, her body was grown fast to the board.  When she was removed, instead of finding her decaying flesh, white violets suddenly grew from the board.  The white violets grew on the stone walls throughout the city as well.  The town folks named them “Fina Violets” and to this day, you can purchase them throughout the world, known as Fina Violets.