Magdalena de Pazzi

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"Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzi" redirects here. For other uses, see Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi (disambiguation).
Saint Mary Magdalene of Pazzi
Magdalena de Pazzi.JPG
An engraving of Magdalena de Pazzi from an 1878 book, Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints
Born April 2, 1566
Florence, Italy
Died May 25, 1607(1607-05-25) (aged 41)
Florence, Italy
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 1626, Rome by Pope Urban VIII
Canonized April 28, 1669, Rome by Pope Clement X
Feast May 25 (May 29 from 1728-1969)
Patronage against bodily ills; against sexual temptation; against sickness; sick people; Naples (co-patron)

Saint Mary Magdalene of Pazzi (Italian: Maria Maddalena de Pazzi; April 2, 1566 – May 25, 1607) is an Italian Carmelite mystic and saint of the Roman Catholic Church.


Saint Mary Magdalene of Pazzi was born April 2, 1566,[1] into one of the wealthiest and most distinguished noble families of Renaissance Florence, the Pazzi. She was christened Caterina, but in the family, was called Lucrezia out of respect for her paternal grandmother, Lucrezia Mannucci.[2] Even as a girl Caterina was attracted to prayer, solitude, and penance.

At the age of nine she was taught how to meditate by the family chaplain, using a recently published work explaining how one should meditate on the Passion of Christ. Years later, this book was one of the items she brought with her to the Carmelite convent.[2] She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. She experienced her first ecstasy when she was only twelve, in her mother's presence. From then on, she continued to witness many varied mystical experiences.

At fourteen Catarina was sent to school at the convent of Cavalaresse.[1] In 1583 she was received as a novice in the enclosed Carmelite monastery of St. Mary of the Angels in Florence.[2] She took the name of Sister Mary Magdalene, and chose the Carmelite convent because the rule there allowed her to receive Communion daily.[1]


Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi

St. Mary Magdalene had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near, so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel during a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours.[3] This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings.[4]

As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. That particular week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, "Admonitions", is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious.[4]

Mary Magdalen de Pazzi was rather given to raptures and profound ecstasies through much of her life but she also experienced a period of great temptation and of spiritual dryness that lasted for over five years, ending only on Pentecost Sunday, 1590. A famous incident was her ringing the bells of the monastery one night to announce that Love was Itself not loved. While her mystical experiences sometimes caused dramatic, even eccentric, behavior she was never narcissistic or self-preoccupied.[5]

It is said that Sr. Mary Magdalene could read the thoughts of others and predict future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people.[4] She was able, even while in ecstasy, to perform the routine duties of the monastery conscientiously and well. She served terms as Mistress of Professed, Mistress of Novices, and Sub-Prioress. She also, and this is perhaps the most important part of her relevancy, had a deep longing for the reform of the Church.[5]

She died relatively young—even for her period in history—on Friday, May 25, 1607 at the age of 41. She was buried in the choir of the monastery. When the nuns moved from the site, they took the saint’s body with them. Today it rests in a glass casket in their monastery in the hills overlooking her native city. To say that her body is incorrupt would be something of an overstatement.[5]

Vision of Saint Maria Magdalena de Pazzi (painted by Pedro de Moya).

Beatification and canonization[edit]

Numerous miracles allegedly followed Saint Mary Magdalene's death, and the process for her beatification was begun in the year 1610 under Pope Paul V, and completed under Pope Urban VIII in the year 1626. She was not, however, canonized until 62 years after her death, when Pope Clement X raised her to the altars on April 28, 1669. The church of the Monastery of Pažaislis, commissioned in 1662 in Lithuania, was one of the first to be consecrated in her honor.

The saint herself is little known outside Italy, but her cult is very strong, especially in Florence. Paulist Press issued a selection of her writings in English translation in their series of "Classics of Western Spirituality".[5]

Feast day[edit]

In 1670, the year after her canonization, the feast day of the saint was inserted in the General Roman Calendar for celebration on 25 May, the day of her death. In 1728, the date of 25 May was assigned instead to Pope Gregory VII, and the feast day of Saint Mary Magdalene of Pazzi was moved to 29 May, where it remained until 1969, when it was restored to its traditional place in the calendar.

Critical reception[edit]

Pazzi was known to have worn little clothing and having whipped herself with a crown of thorns.[6] According to researcher Ian Wilson sometimes she would wear only a single garment but she would tear this off "in order to roll herself on thorns, or give herself another savage beating." Wilson described Pazzi as a "florid, sadomasochistic neurotic."[7]

Asti Hustvedt has written that "Pazzi wore a crown of thorns and a corset onto which she had attached piercing nails. She also walked barefoot through the snow, dripped hot wax onto her body, and licked the wounds of the diseased, including those afflicted with leprosy."[8]

The anthropologist Eric Dingwall wrote a chapter on Pazzi's masochism and sexual behaviors in his book Very Peculiar People (1962).[9]

Psychiatrist Armando Favazza in his book Bodies Under Siege (3rd edition, 2011) has written:

At about age 37, emaciated and racked with coughing and pain, she took to her bed until she died four years later. Her painful gums were so badly infected that her teeth fell out, one by one. Her body was covered with putrefying bed sores, but when the sisters offered to move her she warned them off for fear that by touching her body they might experience sexual desires... A large statue of her holding a flagellant whip can be seen in her church in Florence, where people around the world still come to pay her tribute.[10]

According to authors Sasha Alyson and Joe Chapple, 1585 was one of the "earliest recorded cases of masochism, Sister Mary Magdalene de Pazzi begs other nuns to tie her up and hurl hot wax at her."[11] Pazzi is said to have found pleasure in being publicly whipped.[12]

Psychiatrist Kathryn J. Zerbe has written that Pazzi was a sufferer of Anorexia mirabilis.[13] She also displayed behavioral symptoms of bulimia.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Capes, Florence. "St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 25 Feb. 2013
  2. ^ a b c Smet, O. Carm., Joachim, The Carmelites: The Post Tridentine Period 1550-1600, (vol III), La rinnovazione della Chiesa, Lettere dettate in estasi, Città Nuova - Edizioni O.C.D., 1986, ISBN 88-311-4804-4
  3. ^ Fabrini, Placido, The Life and Works of St. Mary Magdalen De-Pazzi, Philadelphia, 1900
  4. ^ a b c Foley OFM, Leonard, Saint of the Day, Lives, Lessons, and Feast, (revised by Pat McCloskey OFM), Franciscan Median, ISBN 978-0-86716-887-7
  5. ^ a b c d Major Carmelite authors
  6. ^ Nickell, Joe. (1993). Looking for a Miracle: Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions & Healing Cures. Prometheus Books. p. 227. ISBN 1-57392-680-9
  7. ^ Ian Wilson quoted in Nickell, 1993. p. 227
  8. ^ Hustvedt, Asti. (2012). Medical Muses: Hysteria in Nineteenth-century Paris. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 237
  9. ^ Dingwall, Eric. (1962). Very Peculiar People. University Books. pp. 127-133
  10. ^ Favazza, Armando. (2011). Bodies Under Siege: Self-mutilation, Nonsuicidal Self-injury, and Body Modification in Culture and Psychiatry. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 37. ISBN 0-8018-9965-6
  11. ^ Alyson, Sasha; Chapple, Joe. (1989). The Alyson Almanac: A Treasury of Information for the Gay And Lesbian Community. Alyson Publications. p. 12
  12. ^ Scott, George Ryley. (2010). History Of Corporal Punishment. Routledge. pp. 117-118. ISBN 0-7103-0970-8
  13. ^ Zerbe, Kathryn J. (1995). The Body Betrayed: A Deeper Understanding of Women, Eating Disorders, and Treatment. Gürze Books. p. 116. ISBN 0-936077-23-9
  14. ^ Garner, David M; Garfinkel, Paul E. (1997). Handbook of Treatment for Eating Disorders. Guilford Press. p. 13. ISBN 1-57230-186-4

Further reading[edit]

  • Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi, The Complete Works of Saint Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi Carmelite and Mystic (1566–1607), 5 vols, translated by Gabriel Pausback, O.Carm., Fatima 1969-1973.

External links[edit]