Lucca has several Saints protecting the city. One of the most loved by the Lucchesi (the name for Lucca citizens) is Santa Zita. She is celebrated on 27th April, when the Piazzas around the magnificent Church of San Frediano where she rests and is venerated are planted with magnificent blooms and the famous amphitheatre is filled with colour as stalls sell plants for the locals to decorated their terraces and make Lucca a city of flowers for the summer months. The flower that symbolizes Santa Zita most is the daffodil and it is traditional to gift a bunch to commemorate this modest saint.
What is the story, that led this simple local peasant girl to sainthood? Like all the stories of Saints, versions vary slightly but the core of the story is always the same. Zita was born into a peasant family just outside Lucca; she was a good pious child, always trying to please God. As a young girl of 12, the Fratinelli Family took her into service. Zita wasn’t distracted by the bright lights of the city and tried her best to serve her master and mistress, however, she was aware of the poverty. In order to help the poor, Santa Zita ate less and gave her excess rations to the needy but this wasn’t enough, she, therefore, stole excess bread and legumes from the kitchen. Her employers were unaware and indeed she was very much loved by her master and mistress for being a loyal servant. Perhaps a jealous servant tipped off her master that Zita was stealing, but when he saw the servant girl holding her bulging apron in front of her he asked her what she was carrying, the shy pious girl replies flowers and leaves and indeed as she opened her apron flowers fell out. This is the reason the Saint is celebrated by botanical offerings. Santa Zita has become the patron saint for housewives and domestic staff.
The colours abound around San Frediano and the church is full of people on 27th April paying tribute to this tiny mummified figure lying in her chapel. It is part of the miracle that the body has never decomposed. As an aside, it is said that her little toe is missing as it was given as a relic to a visiting British Bishop.
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