Also known as the little saint, St Rosalia was born in 1130 and she died at the young age of 36 in 1166. She was born from a noble family that descended from Charlemagne.
St Rosalia was a devoted religious individual who went on to live as a hermit in a cave in Mount Pellegrino. She stayed there until she died in solitude in 1166. She is also believed to have been led to the cave by two angels and she wrote on the cave wall that she was going to live in the cave for the love of my Lord, Jesus Christ.
St Rosalia practiced great mortification and lived in constant communion with God. When she moved to Mount Pellegrino, it was her way of entirely triumphing over the instincts of flesh and blood. She had a strange yet wonderful life.
There was plague in Palermo in 1624 and it was a time of hardships. Rosalia reportedly appeared to a sick woman and a hunter, and she told them where her remains are. She ordered them to have her remains carried in a procession through the city.
The hunter was able to climb the indicated mountain and he recovered her bones in the cave that had been described. The hunter also did as she had requested during the apparition. Her body was carried around the city three times and then the plague ceased. This resulted in her being venerated as the patron saint of Palermo and a sanctuary was built in the cave where her remains were discovered.
In 1825, a geologist William Buckland on his honeymoon asked to see the bones of Rosalia and he determined the bones to be non-human. Specifically he said the bones belonged to a goat. However according to Buckland, the priests told him that Rosalia would not let him see her bones because he was not a Catholic Christian.
St Rosalia was an important subject in Italian Renaissance and Baroque painting particularly in sacre conversazioni. A number of artists produced a painting of St Rosalia with the Flemish master Anthony Van Dyck producing the most paintings of her. Other artists who made her paintings include Riccardo Quartararo, Anthonello da Messina and Vincenzo La Barbara.
In the paintings by Anthony Van Dyck, she is depicted as a young woman with blonde hair, wearing a Franciscan cowl and this became the standard iconography of Rosalia. Sometimes she is also depicted as a woman holding a cross, book or skull or spray lilies.
Some images also show her holding a chisel and harmer with which she carved her dedication. Also, she is sometimes depicted wearing a crown of roses, attended by winged angels often with a view through a cave opening.
Van Dyck’s series of St Rosalia paintings have been studied by Gauvin Alexander Bailey and Xavier F Solomon.
She is the patron saint of Parlemo in Italy, Camargo, Chihuahua and three towns in Venezuela namely El Hatillo, Zuata and Anzoategui.
In Palermo the Festino di Santa Rosalia is held every year on 14 July and it continues until the next day. Her feast day is September the 4th.
5 Interesting Facts About St. Rosalia
- She is the saint that is invoked during the time of a plague and from 2020 she has been invoked by some to protect them from covid 19.
- A tradition of walking barefoot on the 4th of September from Palermo up to Mount Pellegrino is observed in honour of St Rosalia.
- At one point it was proposed that she be named as the patron saint of evolutionary studies.
- She is believed to have performed a miracle more than 500 years after her death. The one where she showed people where to find her bones.
- St. Rosalia is one of the most venerated saints in Christianity.
Prayer to St. Rosalia
Father in heaven, we thank You for the communion of saints so that we can draw near to You through the prayers of St. Rosalie. Through her prayers, help us to remember that our destiny is heaven. As St. Rosalie gave up all things in this world for the sake of Your Kingdom, through her prayers, may we love more fully Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who together with You and the Holy Spirit are one God forever and ever. Amen. O God, our Father, mercifully look upon Your people who come to You and grant through the intercession of St. Rosalie, who turned away from earthly delights to the joys of contemplation, that we may be delivered from all harm here on earth and one day be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven. St. Rosalie, confessor and virgin, we pray to God for our families and friends. Through your powerful prayers, may we obtain health, life, and eternal salvation. I also pray today for this special need and intention (make your intention known). O glorious virgin and confessor, St. Rosalie, I promise henceforth to remember and follow your example of faith and love. Pray for me and mine. Amen.