Key to Umbria: Orvieto

Blessed Vanna da Orvieto (23rd July)

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Detail of a polyptych (ca. 1394)

attributed to Andrea di Bartolo

Museo del Vetro, Venice

The Blessed Jane (Giovanna, Vanna) of Orvieto was born in ca. 1264 at Carnaiola, a village outside Orvieto.   She was brought up by relatives after her parents died when she was still a small child.  When they insisted that she should marry, she fled to Orvieto (in ca. 1304) and entered domestic service under a Dominican tertiary named Ghisla.  Ghisla was probably the head of the lay community for whom Munio di Zamora, the Minister General of the Dominicans, wrote the “Regola dei Fratelli e delle Sorelle della Penitenza di San Domenico” (Rule for the Dominican Brothers and Sisters of Penitence) in 1286.  

Jane became renowned for her ecstatic meditations on the suffering of Christ and for her ability as a prophetess.   Blessed James Bianconi acted as her spiritual guide during his period as Lector at San Domenico in the last months of his life (1301).  Blessed died in 1306, aged 42, after 22 years spent in the city.    A legend that was written relatively soon after her death (perhaps by Fra. Giacomo Scalza) survives. 

At the behest of the redoubtable Ghisla, the relics of the Blessed Jane were translated to San Domenico in 1307.  Although she had been dead for some 15 months, her body was apparently uncorrupt.

Pope Benedict XIV confirmed the cult of the Blessed Jane in 1754.  Her relics were translated to her native Carnaiola in 2000.

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