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The saint whose hair was cut by St Francis of Assisi

St Clare, drawn by Simone Martini in 1320, from a fresco in the Lower Basilica of St Francis in Assisi

Clare was born in Assisi in 1193. Her mother was Blessed Ortolana di Fiumi and her father is thought to be Favorini Scifi, Count of Sasso-Rosso.
She was heavily influenced by St Francis of Assisi, hearing him preach at the church of St George of Assisi when she was 18 years old, an event that dramatically changed the course of her life.

The day after Palm Sunday, 1212, St Clare visited St Francis at his chapel of the Portiuncula. Before the Blessed Virgin’s altar Clare took off her fine cloak and St Francis cut off her hair, giving her a penitential habit of coarse cloth tied with a robe. As there was no convent nearby, St Francis took Clare to the Benedictine convent of St Paul. Despite her family’s attempts to remove her, she soon moved to the Church of St Damian, with her sister Agnes. Joined by other women, they became known as the “Poor Ladies”.

St Damian’s became the centre of St Clare’s new religious order, and although St Francis originally led the order, Clare was made abbess in 1216. By 1263, 10 years after she died, the order became known as the Order of St Clare. She had defended the order from moves by prelates to impose the Rule of St Benedict, which was less strict than the rules imposed by St Francis, and sought to imitate Francis so much that she was referred to sometimes as alter Franciscus, which means “another Francis”. She nursed Francis during his illnesses until his death in 1226.

Following Francis’s death, Clare struggled to maintain the order’s radical rule of commitment to corporate poverty. On August 9 1253, the papal bull of Pope Innocent IV confirmed that Clare’s Rule would serve as the governing rule for the order. She died two days later, aged 59.

In August 1255 Pope Alexander IV had her canonised as St Clare of Assisi. The Basilica of St Clare was completed in 1260 and her remains were removed there soon after.