The Via del Teatro Marcello near the Capitoline Hill
has two doors that used to be a mystery to me.A couple years ago I featured this door with a fresco on my Advent blog. Several days ago an anonymous person commented on the posting and told me that the door would be open to visitors on March 9th, the feast of Santa Francesca Romana. This is the door to Tor de’ Specchi, the "old" monastery and the family home of Francesca.
In one room of the "old" monastery there are some monochrome frescoes of “demons” that Francesca (Frances) encountered in her life. She was gifted with the vision of her “guardian angel” who is present in each of the panels.
Frances was born into a wealthy Roman family in 1834. When she was 11 years old she wanted to be a nun, but her family arranged a marriage for her to Lorenzo Ponziani, the commander of the papal troops. They were married when Frances was 12 and had six children. Lorenzo was often away at war, and Frances encouraged other wealthy women to join her in caring for the poor and sick. She turned the family home into a hospital. Her own husband returned from one war and Frances cared for him until he died in 1436. Frances died three years later in 1440. She was canonized in 1608.
Frances organized the women committed to her work into the Oblates of Mary, which continues today under the name of the Oblates of Francesca Romana. The Tor de’ Specchi remains the only house of the order, and the oblates continue a ministry to the poor and to young people.
This door to the “new” monastery (17th century) opens to frescoed rooms that lead to a courtyard.
From the courtyard you go up two flights of steps to the chapel.
The chapel was built in 1601. The fresco in the apse is of the Archangel Michael.
The stunning ceiling has a carved image of Francesca Romana in the center, with her ever-present guardian angel.
In 1925 Pope Pius XI declared Francesca Romana the patron saint of automobile drivers because of a legend that an angel used to light the road in front of her with a lantern when she travelled, keeping her safe from hazards.