St Zita

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Domestic servant. Patron of maidservants. Born at Monsagrati, in 1218, she worked for the Farinelli household all her life from the age of 12. She was very conscientious, which initially did not make her popular with the other staff. She was also very generous with food for the poor, which annoyed her employers. However she eventually won everyone over by her patience and good nature and became a confidential friend of the family. Many miracles were attributed to her. Once angels are said to have baked her cakes while she was rapt in prayer.

Soon after her death at Lucca in 1272, a popular cult grew up around her tomb. In 1748 her name was added to the Roman Martyrology. By that time there were chapels in her honour as far afield as Palermo and Ely. In England she was known as Sitha, and invoked by housewives and domestic servants, especially when they lost keys, or were in danger from rivers or crossing bridges.

Her emblem is a bunch of keys. St Zita is depicted in murals in (Shorthampton, Oxon), in stained glass (Mells and Langport, Somerset) and on rood screens in Norfolk (Barton Turf) Suffolk, (Somerleyton) and Devon (Ashton). No churches were dedicated to her, but St Benet Shorehog in London had a chapel of St Zita, known as St Sythes.

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