Our Lady of Fire, Forli, Italy (1428) – 4 February:
The best-known print in early times was certainly the miraculous woodcut of Forli in north-eastern Italy, which became famous as Our Lady of Fire, or Our Lady of the Fire. It is the subject of the earliest monograph on a printed picture, which also fixes the earliest date that can be attached to a surviving Italian print. This book is Giuliano Bezzi’s “Il Fuoco Trionfante,” printed in 1637 at Forli, between Florence and Ravenna and he speaks of the miracle remembered as Our Lady of Fire.
“Around the year of our Lord 1420, in a pleasant house by the Cathedral at Forli, the devout and learned Lombardino Brussi of Ripetrosa imitated Christ among the disciples at Emmaus by breaking the bread of the fear of the Lord and of humane letters with school boys. Their household devotion turned to the Virgin. They ever began and ended their literary exercises by praising and praying to this great sovereign of the universe. They said their prayers before an image of Our Lady rudely printed from a woodblock on a paper about a foot square. Printing was then new and who knows if this may not have been the first print by the first printmaker? The simplicity of the image certainly matched the well-mannered scholar’s simplicity of heart. It showed and still shows, the most Blessed Virgin holding her Holy Infant and surrounded by saints like King Solomon by his guard. Above to the right and left shine the sun and the moon, luminously forecasting that the Virgin was to consecrate this paper with a power like the moon’s over water and the sun’s over fair weather.
The devotion to the Virgin had advanced these happy boys from easy letters to graver studies when, on 4 February 1428, fire broke out in the downstairs classroom. Whether it started by accident or by design, is not known but certain it is, that the outcome so glorified God and His Blessed Mother that fires nowadays cause joy where they burn! When this fire had feasted on the benches and cupboards of the school, it followed its nature to ascend and sprang at the sacred paper. In awe at the sight of the most holy image, the flames stopped and – wonder of wonders – like the blameless fingers of a loving hand, they detached it from the wall to which it was tacked. The fire thought the wall too base a support for so sublime a portrait and longed to uphold the heaven of that likeness, like the other heaven, on a blazing sphere. Above the flames raging in the closed room the unscorched image floated as on a throne. When the fire had consumed the ceiling beams it wafted out the revered leaf, not to burn but to exalt it. With this leaf on its back it flew to the second floor, to the third, to the roof, then through the roof and behold, the Virgin’s image burst above the wondrous pyre like a phoenix, triumphant and unconsumed! The miracle drew the eyes of all the populace and came to the ears of Monsignor Domenico Capranica, the Papal Legate, who carried the paper in a procession, accompanied by all the people, to the Cathedral of Santa Croce, where it was placed in a holy but simple chapel.”
The building burned to the ground but the image of Our Lady of Fire was not forgotten. Copies were made of the image and they could be found in every Christian home in the region. The original print itself, was the focus and centre of religious life in the town of Forli, which had been blessed to witness such a great miracle.
St Andrew Corsini O.Carm (1302-1373) Bishop
Bl Dionisio de Vilaregut
St Donatus of Fossombrone
St Eutychius of Rome
St Filoromus of Alexandria
St Firmus of Genoa
Bl Frederick of Hallum
St Gelasius of Fossombrone
St Geminus of Fossombrone
St Gilbert of Sempringham
St Isidore of Pelusium
St Jane de Valois O.Ann.M and TOSF (1464-1505)
St John de Britto SJ (1647-1693) Martyr Priest
St John of Irenopolis
Bl John Speed
St Joseph of Leonissa OFM (Cap) (1556-1612)
St Liephard of Cambrai
St Magnus of Fossombrone
St Nicholas Studites
St Phileas of Alexandria
Blessed Rabanus Maurus OSB (776-856)
Blessed Rabanus’ Life:
St Theophilus the Penitent
St Vincent of Troyes
St Vulgis of Lobbes
Jesuit Martyrs of Japan: A collective memorial of all members of the Jesuits who have died as martyrs for the faith in Japan.
Martyrs of Perga – 4 saints: A group of shepherds martyred in the persecutions of Decius. The only details we have about them are the names – Claudian, Conon, Diodorus and Papias. They were martyred in c 250 in Perga, Asia Minor (in modern Turkey).