Saint Fina (1238-1253) is a blessed who is venerated in the Tuscan town of San Gimignano.
In 1248 Fina’s life was changed by a serious sickness which began, progressively, to paralyse her (probably a form of tubercolosis like osteomyelitis or coxitis). Her deep faith relieved her pain. She refused a bed and decided to lie down instead on an oak table. During her long sickness her wounded body attached on the wood and her march flesh became food for worms and rats. During her illness, she lost her father and later the mother died when fallen down. In spite of this bad luck and her poverty she thanked God and expressed a desire that her soul could separate from the body in order to meet Jesus Christ.
This immense devotion was an example to all the citizen of San Gimignano, who frequently visited Fina. Visitors were surprised to receive words of encouragement from a desperately ill young girl who was resigned to the will of God. On March 4, 1253, after five years of sickness and pain, while her nurses Beldia and Bonaventura were waiting for her to pass away, Saint Gregory the Great appeared in Fina’s room and predicted that she would die on the 12th of March. Fina passed away on the predicted date. She was only 15 years old.
When Fina’s body was detached from the oak wood table, the people who were there saw yellow violets bloom from the wood and smelt a fresh flower fragrance through the whole house. The violets grew on the walls of San Gimignano too and still today they grow there. For this reason the people of San Gimignano call them “The Saint Fina violets” from San Gimignano’s people. The young girl’s body was brought to the Pieve Prepositura and during the transfer all the people said “The Saint is dead!”.
For several days pilgrims went to the Pieve to see Fina’s remains and in the same period there were many evidences of her curative power. One was her nurse Beldia. The woman had a paralysed hand for the labour in supporting Fina’s head during her sickness. While she was near the body, the dead young girl cured Beldia’s hand. Legend say that, at the moment of Fina’s passing away, all the bells of San Gimignano rang without anyone touching them.
Many sick people who visited her grave during the following years were recovered and some of these became some of the most fervent apostles on S. Fina’s worship. The decision of Fina to lie down on a wood table is still a mistery. Some documents tell about her sympathy for a soldier: before her sickness she received an orange from him as love pawn. After the disappointing of he parentsr for Fina having accepted the present she might have chosen the pain.
Another legend tells that during a walk with two of her friends she heard another young girl cry. Smeralda, this is her name, had broken a pitcher that her mother had given her in order to fill in water from Fonti. While she was stopped to play with other children, she forgot the recipient on the ground which unfortunately roll down and broke. Fina told her to arrange the pieces and put them under the water: the pitcher became complete and full of water.
Another anecdote about Fina’s miracles is the one of Cambio di Rustico: the Ciardi family’s neighbour. The man, a few years after Fina’s death on March 12 when all people had stopped working in order to remember the poor young girl, went to cut the wood and unfortunately hurted his leg. Suffering for his pain he asked forgiveness to Saint Fina and was very sorry for not having respected the holy day, so that his cut disappeared. Other miracles attributed to Fina are mentioned in some stories, paintings, poetries and in notary documents.
Inside the Civic Museum of San Gimignano there is a wood tabernacle (by Lorenzo di Nicolò de Martino 1402) where the Saint Fina is painted with the town on her lap, St. Gregory icon and some her anecdotes of life. Another important image of Fina is in the nearby St. Agostino Church painted by Benozzo Gozzoli. Many other artists were inspired by Saint Fina’s life (Piero del Pollaiolo, Pier Francesco Fiorentino etc.). In others small churches in the countryside other painting about Saint Fina were discovered.
The most credited biographer of Saint Fina is Fra’ Giovanni del Coppo (“Historia vita et morte di Sancta Fina da San Gimignano”, written on 14th century and translated from latin by Jacopo Manducci on 1575), who lived closest in time to Saint Fina. Many others have tried to tell Saint Fina’s life (Enrico Castaldi, Giovanni Bollando, Filippo Buonaccorsi, Teodoro Ferroni, Ignazio Malenotti, Luigi Pecori, Ugo Nomi Veronesi Pesciolini, Enrico Fiumi).
The best and most updated book is “Fina dei Ciardi”, written by Prof.ssa Iole Imberciadori Vichi in 1979: a deep research of all documents and biography existing in San Gimignano archives.