Just two days before Clare of Assisi died, Pope Innocent IV’s papal bull, Solet annuere, written August 9, 1253, confirmed that Clare’s rule would serve as the governing rule for her community of Poor Ladies at San Damiano. Two days later, Clare died at the age of 59. Her remains were interred at the chapel of San Giorgio (where St. Francis’s remains had initially lain) while an adjacent basilica to hold her relics was being constructed.

On August 15, 1255, Pope Alexander IV canonized Clare as Saint Clare of Assisi. Construction of a Basilica to honor her memory and contain her remains was completed in 1260, and on October 3 of that year Clare's remains were transferred to the newly completed basilica where they were buried beneath the high altar.

For roughly six centuries, the body of St. Clare lay buried deep under the high altar of her basilica. Following the excavations and findings of St. Francis’s remains, in 1850, Pope Pius IX granted permission that excavations be made to search for the body of Clare. Thus, after seven days the stone coffin containing her body was found. When it was opened, it was discovered that St. Clare’s body, though blackened with age, was still incorrupt. She was buried with her poor tunic in addition to the rule that she had written. Her remains were put into a crystal coffin, which was placed in a newly constructed crypt (completed in 1872) within the basilica. The feast of the Finding of the Body of St. Clare, which was instituted by Pope Pius IX, is celebrated by the Franciscans and Conventuals, as well as the Poor Clares.

In time, Saint Clare's remains began to deteriorate; thus, a mask was constructed to cover her remains, which were soon reduced to bones. The mask can be seen by the public today, while her actual relics can be seen only by the sisters who have access to the rear of the crypt.

A Poor Clare sister, who made a pilgrimage to Assisi and was allowed access to the rear of St. Clare’s remains, gave me permission to post this photograph of St. Clare’s remains that she took. Here is a photo of the remains of Clare that can be seen only by Poor Clare Sisters. You can discern Clare's skull in the lower middle right.
 
 
Below is a photograph of the mask of St. Clare's body that can be seen by the public. The mask made to cover Clare's face in 1850 was of dark leather. In the last restoration an entire new head was made digitally to correspond with her bone structure. This is the face of Clare seen today. St. Clare's body is in the crypt below the main altar of her basilica. In the picture of St. Clare's bones above, you can see the rear of her veil as well as the left side of the mask's face.
 


Comments

09/11/2012 11:18am

Thank you, so very much, for this very fine presentation on St. Clare's life. I appreciate all your research and time put into your work. This segment is especially useful to introduce candidates for Poor Clare life to Saint Clare.

May I offer an observation? The mask made to cover Clare's face in 1850 was of dark leather. In the last restoration an entire new head was made digitally to correspond with her bone structure. This is the face of Clare seen today.Thank you & God bless you. S.Mary Francis Hone, OSC

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Joan Pogson sfo.
09/25/2012 4:49pm

Thank you so much for this gift!

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Good to discuss about St. Clare of Assisi. It is good to know that the body remains were perfectly preserved and thank you for the wonderful and rare photos. These are really informative for the new generations to come. Good luck.

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