This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April 17 -- Feast of Blessed Clara Gambacorta

The Gambacorti had been in control of Pisa, allied to the Florentine rulers, for a good bit of the fourteenth century.  They lost control for a little while; during their time out of power, Pietro Gambacorti spent some time in a dungeon, roped and racked, and some time in exile.  His escape is attributable to Blessed Maria Mancini, who would one day become a friend of his daughter, but that might be a story for next January 30 (her feast). 

Nice digs, huh?  Growing up Gambacorti
In 1369, when Pietro Gambacorta was restored to the office of Governor of Pisa, he of course set about not winding up in the dungeon again.  Military, internal security, prosperity, politics -- you've got to fire on all cylinders if you want to stay in office.  Sons, of course, are essential for a dynasty.  More than providing the actual continuity itself, they project the promise of continuity that says to rivals, Don't even try it.  But daughters, too, are useful -- marriages are the cement of alliances among ruling families. 

Clara Gambacorta
Twelve-year-old Thora Gambacorta did not want to be cement.  She was quite sure she was supposed to be a nun.  But dad said that she had to marry that dashing warrior, Simon di Massa, and she was duly wed at age fourteen.  Simon went off to war soon after, and she was duly widowed at age fifteen.  Rightly fearing that another marriage would soon be arranged, she cut her hair, got some homespun clothes, and joined the Poor Clares (Franciscan nuns).  Inside the convent, she took the name Clara.  One of her brothers showed up and the convent and dragged her home, where she was locked up as tight as... well, so she couldn't escape.  The plan was to wait until her hair grew back in and then get her married again. 

One of her sisters-in-law got permission to take Clara to church on the feast of Saint Dominic.  The preacher was a Dominican friar.  As portents go, it seems pretty tenuous, but Clara made it work.  Papa Gambacorti was persuaded that she was rightly called to the Dominican sisterhood, and it wasn't too many more years before she was the abbess of the convent that he built for her and her friend Maria Mancini. 

In 1392, the Duke of Milan saw his chances and he took them.  He persuaded Jacopo Appiano, Pietro Gambacorti's secretary, to murder him.  Jacopo had a little trouble subduing the city, during which time Clara stated her forgiveness for his actions and even offered sanctuary for his family inside her convent.  This was probably motivated by pure love and the spirit of forgiveness, but it wasn't bad politics either.  When Jacopo did quell the opposition and take over Pisa, her monastery was left untroubled. 

Papa Pietro would have been proud.

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