Sunday, January 10, 2010

St. Bona of Pisa (1156 to 1207)

"I'm looking for the Leaning Tower of Pisa," I said to numerous locals outside the train station. No one knew what I meant.
Maybe, if I started walking around, I might spot it in the distance but in Italy, it's different. Some of the most famous structures are situated on side streets or in nooks where you'd never think to look.
Then, it hit me. If I tilted my body to one side when I asked my question, someone might get it. Sure enough.
"Torre pendente di Pisa," said the elderly man shaking his head in recognition.
Thank God I waited for directions. The Leaning Tower of Pisa was nowhere near the train station. It was on the other side of the city.
Forty five minutes later, there it was, in the Field of Miracles (Campo dei Miracoli). An image that appears so frequently on takeout pizza boxes in the United States.
I was glad I took my cousin Freddie's advice early that morning at the kitchen table of his apartment in Santa Margherita Ligure when he said, "Sometimes, Sis, you have to do touristy things. You've got to see it."
Despite what one might think, there was so much more to the medieval city than its famous bell tower. I stayed a couple of nights and got to spend time at the university (founded in 1343), have dinners in the piazza, enjoy music, and learn about St. Bona of Pisa, it's patron saint.
She was born in 1156 and early on became known as a mystic. She had frequent visions of the Blessed Mother, Jesus, and many saints surrounded in light. I know the feeling having seen an apparition of the Infant Jesus of Prague with a red glow around it.
James the Greater, one of the Twelve Apostles, was a popular vision of St. Bona of Pisa. And, he calmed her fears. By age 10, she devoted her life to the Augustian tertiary.
In her lifetime, she encountered many adventures travelling to Jerusalem, being captured by Muslim pirates on her way home, and leading 10 pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela in Spain which is dedicated to St. James the Greater.
St. Bona of Pisa died in 1207 and her remains are on display at the Church of San Martino in Pisa. Her feast day is May 29. She is the patron saint of travellers, flight attendants, and Pisa.

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