27th April every year is the feast day of St Zita.

Zita, also written Citha or Sitha, lived between 1218 & 1272. Born in Monsagrati, she was a serving maid of the Fatinelli household from the age of 12 to the end of her life. She was often misunderstood and criticized by them but won their respect through her preserving devotion. It was in the later middle-ages that her cult spread across Europe.  In 1696 her memory was confirmed and, in 1748, her name added to the Roman Martyrology by Pope Benedict XIV.

In England she was – and is – most commonly known as St Zita and was invoked by housewives and domestic servants, especially when they had lost their keys or were in danger from rivers or crossing bridges.  She appears in this mural painting in All Saints’ Church, Shorthampton – a hamlet in Chilson about 2 miles west of Charlbury, in Oxfordshire. The oldest parts of the church are Norman, and a round-headed lancet window from this period survives in the north wall of the nave. The present chancel arch is small and was built in the 13th or 14th century.  The church contains several 15th century wall paintings including a rare one of the “Miracle of the Clay Birds” as well as Saint Zita’s.  St Zita is also in stained glass in St Andrew’s Church, Mells and All Saints’ in Langport in Somerset. She also adorns rood screens at St Michael’s in Barton Turf in Norfolk; St Mary’s in Somerleyton, Suffolk and St John the Baptist in Ashton, Devon. However, her cult appears to have been popularist, and unofficial because there are no records of an English church being dedicated to her. However the 11th century church of St Benet Sherehog in London did have a chapel dedicated to St Zita.

 

If your church is a ‘home’ of Saint Zita I’d love to hear about it.

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