Cascia is the small Italian town that is forever associated with the name of the Augustinian nun, Saint Rita O.S.A. Clustered on the side of a steep hill, the delightful town of Cascia is remote. Located in the most mountainous part of Umbria, it is situated at 563 metres above sea level near the Corno river in the southeastern corner of the Umbria region of central Italy.
Cascia was founded during Roman times, but nothing remains from then because of devastation by barbaric tribes and by a number of earthquakes that have disturbed the town and the neighbouring cities. It suffered from very destructive earthquakes in 1599 and 1703.
With most of the towns of the region of Umbria, Cascia experienced its period of major splendour during the Middle Ages. Finally, at the beginning of the 16th century, Cascia surrendered to the territory controlled by the Pope, under whose rule it remained for less than thirty years. After that, Cascia has always maintained its independence. Its principal claim to fame is as the home of Saint Rita, who was born in nearby Roccaporena in 1381 and died there in 1457.
Saint Rita was born in 1381 in nearby Roccaporena and baptized with the name of "Margherita", on desire of her father she married renouncing, in a first time, to enter in an Augustinian convent according to what were really her most intimate aspirations. After 18 years of a difficult and violent marriage, her exemplary conduct led the husband to convert himself. In a period of communal battles the husband was killed by the family of the Casciani; "Margherita", in order to avoid bloody and never-ending vendetta, forgave her proper compatriots and was welcomed in the Monastery of the Augustinian Sisters of Santa Maria Maddalena. In 1442, during the night of Holy Friday, she received the stigmata from a thornbush of the crown of the Crucifix that according to the tradition embedded itself in her forehead.
She died on 22 May 1447, and despite the fact that she was the object of veneration already during the last years of her life, it is only in 1628 that she was beatified by Pope Urbano VIII and only on 24 May 1900 she was she canonised by Pope Leo XIII. After her canonisation a large Santuario (shrine) to her was built in the town, which is an important place of pilgrimage. It is one of the most visited sanctuaries in Italy.
The major annual celebration in honor of Saint Rita takes place each May, when the whole side of the mountain flickers with the lights of thousands of candles in an evening procession to the Santuario. The Santuario of Saint Rita was completed in its present form in 1948. There is to be seen the tomb of Rita. Through its glass sides can be seen the body of Rita, which has not corrupted.
Because Saint Rita is the most popular Italian female saint, the Santuario draws a many people for religious reasons. Memories of the saint are preserved in the adjoining Monastero of Saint Rita (twelfth century), in the oldest section of which Saint Rita lived. A fresco of Jesus on the Cross in front of which she prayed is still visible.
The town has about 3,200 residents. Enclosed Augustinians nuns still occupy the monastery where Saint Rita was in charge. A community of Augustinian priests lives in the town and ministers at the Santuario. The local house where St Rita was born may still be visited.For the first time since it opened in 1948, the Church of St Rita had to be closed on 29 October 2016; on that date an earthquake damaged a mosaic on the inner side of the large dome (cupola) that stands high over the nave of the church. The nave, although undamaged itself, had to be closed for months because it was part of the construction site to repair the mosaic; scaffolding was erected in the nave of the church, and hence required its closure. The downstairs Shrine (and burial casket) of St Rita, however, remained accessable through an undamaged seconday entrance. Photo GalleryFor the Augnet gallery on the Augustinian history of Cascia, click here.
Map locator. Type in the word "Cascia." http://www.supertravelnet.com/welcome.cgi?country=184_5318_7&systeemi=10
Shrine of Saint Rita of Cascia. A brief description of the shrine. http://www.bellaumbria.net/Cascia/saint_rita.htm
Sanctuario of St Rita. A selection of photographs. http://www.frcreations.it/fabgallery/pictures/italy/Cascia/cascia01.htm Augnet page on St Rita. From elsewhere in this website. Click here