Pope Gregory XVI
Virgin & Martyr Philomena a SAINT
by his decree on January 30, 1837
Part II

Miracle of Giovanna Cescutti took place in Venice on July 6th, 1835
Famous miracle of Pauline Jaricot in Mugnano on August 10th, 1836
Absence of the initial document of the cult
Archaeological and theological considerations

First Miracle

Miraculous healing of Giovanna Cescutti (Venice, 1835) through the intercession of Saint Philomena.

This miracle happened one month before the equally astonishing healing of Pauline Jaricot at the Sanctuary in Mugnano del Cardinale, which, as previously mentioned, amazed Don Francesco De Lucia himself.  The story of this miracle echoed throughout Italy because a Neapolitan Nobleman was its witness: Don Gennaro Caracciolo dei Duchi di Rodi (The Duke of Rodes), Knight to His Majesty Ferdinand II of Bourbon, King of Naples, who was greatly devoted to Saint Philomena together with the Royal family, and who was also a benefactor of our Sanctuary which he visited on numerous occasions.

After the Miracle, the Venetian Curia had written an official and thorough report on the exceptional event, outlined in legal format, with the proper seals and signatures.  Cavalier Caracciolo was assigned to deliver it to Don Francesco De Lucia, guardian of the Sacred Body of the glorious Martyr. Here is a summary of the content of the document:

Giovanna Cescutti, was a young woman of about 20 years of age who lived in Venice. She suffered various illnesses which could not be cured. She suffered extreme pains which often left her at death’s door. One day she was stricken by a sudden illness, and she was at the end of her rope.  In the evening of the 6th of July 1835 the parish priest of Santa Maria del Giglio, Don Antonio Magnana, who had been assisting the woman for a long time, called together her family to recite a prayer to Saint Philomena.  It could barely be spoken by the sick woman who was so weak she could follow only with her mind and heart.  It was around 11 in the evening when the parish priest ended the prayers for the sick, and thinking that the woman had passed away, asked the people there to recite together three Our Fathers in honor of Saint Philomena.  As soon as it was completed, the young woman said “A Miracle!”  She got up from her reclined position in which she had been the whole day, and with clear and vigorous voice she proclaimed: “Oh Dear! I am better, thanks to God I am in good health again after then years of suffering!”  This instant recovery from her incurable illnesses was of great amazement to all and was confirmed by well-known doctors.  On the 16th of July 1835 the miraculously cured woman went to Santa Maria del Giglio to “Solemnly thank God in the church.”  An epigraph in Latin was placed in the church praising Saint Philomena.  By coincidence on the same day in which Cavalier Caracciolo came to Mugnano to deliver the document detailing the miracle to Don F. De Lucia, Monsignor Ferretti, apostolic nuncio of Naples, also arrived bringing a splendid gold and silver lantern sent by Pope Gregory XVI, along with other precious gifts.  The other messenger read the important document delivered from Venice, and astonished by the miracle obtained through the intercession of Saint Philomena, asked for a copy because he thought the event was worthy to be known everywhere.  

Second Miracle

The Venerable Pauline Marie Jaricot (1799-1862)

Pauline Marie Jaricot, founder of the Living Rosary and the Society for the Propagation of the Faith was highly appreciated by Pope Gregory XVI who wanted to personally receive her when she passed through Rome, directed to Mugnano to invoke her healing to Saint Philomena.  The astonishing miracle of her healing, which he verified in person, induced Pope Gregory XVI, to sign the well-known decree of 1837.

It was she who gave the relic of Saint Philomena to the Curate of Ars and she was one of the promoters of Saint Philomena’s devotion in Lyon and in the whole of France.

Miracle of Pauline Marie Jaricot and her statement

Pope Gregory XVI, after the audience granted to Monsignor Anselmo Basilici, who had informed him of the many miracles of Saint Philomena, and after the approval by the Congregation of Rites in 1834 to grant the Mass “de Communi” and the Office with his own fourth lesson, the Holy Father, conscious of the situation and its delicacy, before approving the decree of the Sacred Congregation, decided to wait for some other miracle.  It arrived with the astonishing healing of Pauline Jaricot, who had founded the Living Rosary in Lyon, and the l’Opera della Propagazione della Fede (The Society for the Propagation of the Faith).

                Struck by a violent illness, Pauline Jaricot, paralyzed and nearly dying, came on pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Mugnano, where she arrived, carried on a chair, on August 8, 1835.   According to some witnesses she already looked like a cadaver.  She remained for two days in prayer in front of the Altar with the reliquary of Saint Philomena.  On August 10th, during the blessing with the Most Holy Sacrament, she had the sensation of having been healed; she got up and walked without any support.  This is how the Servant of God, Pauline herself, describes the event;

                “For many years I had been affected by various illnesses, so serious that I had no hope of healing, as established by a consultation of the doctors of Lyon, who asserted that the resurrection of the dead would have been a miracle of the Most High, and my health, for the incurable illnesses, required more miracles, and major ones.

                “But what scared me most of all, and made me tremble every moment with the possibility of imminent death, was an aneurysm of the heart, with which I had suffered for many years, and that especially for the past fifteen months caused me deadly heart palpitations that took my breath away and forced me to stay nearly always in bed.  The doctors considered my life like a daily wonder because the blood that palpitated in my heart, would strike back in my chest, where a sore had developed, which would constantly make me sick with bad blood, which gave off an intolerable smell even for myself.  I had also developed a large obstruction in my liver that caused an enormous swelling of my whole body, from the soles of my feet to my neck, as everybody could see.  Everybody was moved to compassion, especially the people in Mugnano, who kept observing me the whole time preceding the miracle.  In this mortal state I had some moments of improvement, but only after the Novenas in honor of Saint Philomena, from devoted people, who for pity took an interest in me.

                “My state of immobility in bed, and the aneurysm, the enormous swelling, would not even allow my hand to bring food to my mouth, which I had to receive from other people’s hands.  All this was mitigated by Saint Philomena in honor of her merciful, and worthy patronage, in virtue of which, I had unexpected strength of holding in my hands a book which talked about her, her martyrdom, and her miracles.  I managed all this without provoking the deadly illnesses, which would return, especially when I wanted to use my left hand.  Oh, the amount of hope that I received in the loving patronage of this great Virgin and Martyr!

                “Even greater was the effect of these prayers on my behalf to Saint Philomena, so that I was able to leave the bed, and to remain seated for the whole day in a chair which was made for my special use, which I still needed for my journey which I will talk about later.  I was able to summon my strength under the protection of my Saint, who took such care of me, to undertake the pilgrimage to Paray le Monial, the Sanctuary near Lyon famous for the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Glory to this adorable Sacred Heart, which has given me the strength to visit the Basilica of Loreto, Rome, and to be in Mugnano for the visit to the sacred Body of the most lovable Thaumaturge Saint Philomena.  Glory to You Most Venerable Virgin Mary.  Glory also to you, chosen daughter, most beloved by the Empress of Heaven, and favorite bride of Jesus, Philomena.  You have been my protecting Angel and my support for my whole painful journey.  You have been like a helpful cloud, keeping covered from the harmful heat of the fervent season, which threatened deadly effects, and protecting me from the dangers of such a long journey from Lyon to Mugnano, as well as from the dangers usually encountered by the night travellers.

                “With the medals of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, and of Saint Philomena, which we had placed in many spots both inside and outside of the coach, and which we also provided even for our carriage attendants, it felt as if we had called the Angels of the Lord around us for protection during our journey which was uninterrupted day and night, and which was completely free from the slightest incident.  By simple accidental circumstances, which I attribute to my lovable protector Philomena, I arrived in Mugnano at the same time that the Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament was taking place, at the end of the Solemn Vespers for my dear advocate’s important feast, this was for me a sign for a happy, and Saintly wish.

                “My ardent intention to come to the glorious tomb of Saint Philomena to pay her homage, was not to ask for my healing, since I thought that I’d be better to entrust myself in the hands of God, who knows best what is most advantageous.  But for the charity of the good people who were in the church, and of the numerous foreign devotees of the Saint, who were present at my arrival, thought that the intention of my journey was the return of my health, and so I heard their shouting, which made me understand, that all those souls moved with pity for me were asking the Thaumaturge for my healing.  From the night of Saturday the eighth of August until Monday the tenth, I was brought to the church twice a day, on my chair with armrests, while the people who were at the feet of the Saint Virgin and Martyr, were asking with fervor for my healing.

                “At last on Monday evening, at the moment of the Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament I felt unusual strength in me, and with ease I wanted to kneel down.  I felt the urge to try to walk and to leave the church without my chair.  I had it brought after me as a precaution, in case my weakness returned, but to my amazement I managed without it, and without any support, to walk up to my hotel, and more remarkably I managed to freely climb a whole flight of steep stairs, which I had not managed for the last fifteen months.  From that moment I managed without any help, to go from my accommodation to the church, to walk across Mugnano, and even accompany the Most Holy Viaticum in difficult places  without feeling any of the terrible aches typical of my illness.

                “Furthermore I have been able to kneel like all the other faithful during the sacred functions, and I can say without any exaggeration, that my health is improving more and more.  This glorifies her, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Queen of Virgins, and honors this lovable girl, in whom the power of the Divine victory has so visibly revealed itself.  Oh Philomena, chosen Daughter, and gift of Our Lady of Grace!  Your heavenly mother delights in the beauty of your merits!  She glories in all the wondrous features of your virtues for the honor of her Son, your spouse, and her heart rejoices at the sight of the palms and crowns, which all the people of the earth recognize as given to you with such honor!  Oh Philomena, your generosity has made you admirably known by all the nations, your name has come to give my unfortunate country a great reason for hope, your sweet and powerful name has reached even to me.  As soon as I heard it, I was drawn to your celebrated tomb, and I have received the effects of your generous charity.  I need to say for your glory, that the spiritual benefits already received by me through your intercession, are much greater than the ones of my body, of which I have already reported in detail.  Therefore because of this generosity bestowed on me, I consecrate myself to my illustrious Benefactress.  Yes, Philomena, all my life I want to love you as my beloved, honor you as my protecting Angel, and I hope, with divine help, to contribute as much as I can to honor you, so that everyone may experience, as I myself have, how generous and good you are towards those who tenderly love you, and invoke you.

                “I have written down all these details to inform everybody of the deplorable state of my health prior to the miraculous grace of my restoration to good health, details that I have signed, and written with my own hand, and with people as witness, to give homage to the truth, and fulfill the debt, although ineffectively, of my due recognition, as well as to comply to the request made by the ecclesiastic and civil authority of Mugnano” .

                This miracle is reported by many authors .  Here we want to highlight that;

1.            Pope Gregory XVI saw Jaricot before she went to Mugnano and affirmed; “In this instance if there will be a miracle, it will be first class”.

2.            Returning to the Vatican after the miracle, the aforementioned Pope recognized the healing of Jaricot as an occasion with which God wanted to let the Sanctity of the martyr Philomena glow.

3.            Jaricot stayed in Rome for a full year after the miracle, to satisfy the Pope’s desire to be sure of her full recovery.

                Because of this miracle  on January 30, 1837, Pope Gregory XVI decided once and for all to confirm solemnly the decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites of September 6, 1834.

                Following the extraordinary miracle obtained thanks to the intercession of Saint Philomena, Pauline Jaricot returned to France.  Having gone to visit the Curé of Ars, she gave him a small relic of the Blessed Martyr which she brought with her from Mugnano .  In 1839, as a sign of gratitude, Pauline Jaricot returned to Mugnano for four days.  She subsequently built a chapel in honor of Saint Philomena on her property in Lyon.

Absence of the initial document of the cult

                The figure of Philomena,  a young roman martyr, emerged after nearly seventeen centuries of silence.  There is not, therefore, a tradition ab antiquitate that certifies her cult.  Therefore, the primary documents to be considered consist of the acts relating to the finding of her body and the beginning of the marvelous “signs” offered to her devotees.

                Since the finding of her body, the extraordinary presence of Saint Philomena in the Church has been noted at all the religious and social levels.  All of the Popes since that time have venerated her with public  declarations and personal devotion.  In addition there has rarely been one Catholic, however simple or sophisticated, King or Queen, who has not felt her beneficial influence.  She has been a model of the spiritual life for many Saints, Blesseds and Venerables.

                For this reason, the great devotion toward Saint Philomena has spread all over the world and Pontiffs have granted the Saint a “Liturgical Cult” with a proper Mass texts and a proper Office.

                It is important to highlight the elevation of Saint Philomena with Saint Gennaro patron of the kingdom of the Two Sicilies. This is very important because not only is the affirmation of the sanctity of Philomena but also its importance given that she became Patroness of the Two Sicilies equivalent Saint Philomena being the patron saint of Italy or Ireland or France, that her cult has established nationwide because at that time The Kingdom of Two Sicilies was one of the most important kingdoms. To highlight: Pope Pius IX, at the request of King Ferdinand II of Bourbon in 1854 proclaims Saint Philomena second Patroness of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, where the devotion toward the glorious Martyr is widely spread.

Archaeological and theological considerations

                The fundamental theological merit of the continuous cult concerning our Saint has not ignored the archaeological problems, although it has not been conditioned by it.  The Pontiffs who have affirmed the devotion and the liturgical cult of the Saint knew the issue very well.  Enlightening, in respect to this, is Saint Pius X’s comment: “Why do they not realize that the great argument in favour of the cult of Saint Philomena, is the Curé of Ars?  Through her, in her name, thanks to her intercession, he received countless graces, continuous prodigies.  His devotion to her was very well known by everybody.  He continuously recommended her [].  It has been ascertained that the soul that inhabited these sacred remains was a pure and saintly soul that the Church has declared the soul of a virgin and martyr.  This soul has been so loved by God, has been so much appreciated by the Holy Spirit, that it has obtained the most marvelous graces for those who recurred to her intercession” .

                Regarding the archaeological question, it is necessary to note that after the decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites of 1961 , Father Anthony Ferrua S. J., professor of the Gregorian University, in 1963, on request of Mons. Luigi Esposito, Rector of the Sanctuary of Mugnano, studied the three slabs with the epigraph, elaborating on his qualified tests of November 29, 1963, the results of which confirm the absolute legitimacy of the cult of our Saint.  This report is kept in the archive of the Sanctuary of Mugnano and we hereby transcribe it for the interest which it holds.

                “I have examined with diligence the three slabs which sealed the burial niche of Saint Philomena and have come to the following conclusions:

                These were inscribed on the ground before they were placed on the opening of the burial niche, the text was written with a brush before they were sealed with the mortar.  This can be ascertained from the fact that in more than one place the mortar covers the edges of the inscription.

                This particular fact easily explains the fact that the three slabs were plastered to the niche in the incorrect order.  That is, the ending of the message is in the first place, instead of last, as is well known.

                This happened by mistake of the fossor who was closing the niche, and perhaps could neither read nor write.  Errors and transpositions of this kind are often found in regard to the closing of the catacomb niches, and the fact that the fossors often did not understand Latin has been widely proven.  The protest of Marucchi that the three slabs with the inscription come from another tomb and were fixed to this second one in that incorrect order is not tenable to indicate that the epigraph did not belong to it because:

                a - In that case there would be visible traces of the second lines of mortar.  The ones now visible, and these are numerous, all belong to the first seal.

                b – In the passage from the first to the second use there would have been some visible signs of chipped edges on the slabs; in particular two of them appear to have been cut from a full slab, and today they still preserve their sharp and intact lines of fracture.

                c – It was often the case that larger and more valuable marble slabs were reused, but this is not the case with smaller pieces of clay tile, especially if it was already inscribed.  Besides, in order to prevent the danger of a mistaken identity, the normal procedure would have been to place the written side on the inside (as was often done with reused marble slabs) and this way it would also have avoided the difficulty of applying new mortar over old. 

                d – Lastly, it would be strange and surprising if all three tiles had previously belonged to one sepulchre.    

                In Conclusion - the hypothesis finally suggested by Marucchi is abstract, unlikely, and contrary to the ordinary procedural mode of the ancient fossors.  From an examination of the concrete facts his position must be considered untrue.

                P. Delahaye has given an ugly compliment to the worthy archaeologist when he said that “le savant archéologue n’a rien écrit de mieux” “the wise archaeologist has never written anything better”. (An. Boll. 24, 1905, p. 120).  

                In other words, in the famous controversy concerning this point between Bonavenia and Marucchi, reason is on the side of the first. (cfr. G. BONAVENIA, Controversy about the famous epitaph of St. Philomena, Rome 1906 and the purely archaeological and historic-archaeological question of the Philomenian controversy, Rome 1907). To this conclusion have come two archaeologists Prandi and Mustilli with the approval of M. Guarducci (Graffiti of Saint Peter 1, p 501)”. 

[1] The recent studies promoted by the Rector of the Sanctuary of Mugnano del Cardinale, Mons. Giovanni Braschi, and made public in the “Conference of Philomenian Studies – 1805-2005”, held in Priscilla’s catacombs on April 9, 2005, confirm in full the theory of Prof. Anthony Ferrua.

    The thermoluminescence analysis performed by Arcadia, “Technologies and cultural heritage”, to date the period of the brick slabs found on the tomb conclude that: “The analyses have not highlighted particular problems.  The experimental errors, calculated according to the standard procedure are within the norm.  The results are all perfectly matching between them and the comprehensive average dates obtained, with the relative errors, results to be -  1800 +/- 120 that is 202 +/- 120 A.D., where 202 represents the most probable date for the baking of the brick slabs, +/- 120 indicates an estimate for the global error”.

    The studies carried out by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure e Laboratori di Restauro (Factory of Hard Stones and Restoration Laboratories) of Florence, to establish if the brick slabs had been reused or not, confirmed the non-reuse, as had already sustained Prof. Anthony Ferrua.  The analysis conclusion is: “To study the mortar limes, 8 micro fragments have been taken from the slabs that from a preliminary research might have come from two different types of mortar lime.  The 8 samples have been analyzed through infrared Spectrophotometry and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FT-IR) and in parallel with the shiny selections technique. The analysis results show that the mortar lime is of one kind.  The apparent difference between the samples 1,5,8 and the others consists in the fact that the three samples are spatters of mortar lime left in small cavities of the terra cotta”.

    Therefore the analysis allows ruling out, at least from this point of view, the reutilization of the tombal slabs.

    “To study the polychromes relating to the inscription and the symbols of martyrdom, from the brick slabs 6 samples have been taken consisting of micro fragments.  These fragments have been inglobated in resin, ground and polished following a technique for the luminous sections, then analyzed under the optical microscope with reflex light, both in visible and ultraviolet radiations.

    Micro chemical analyses have been carried out on the samples to determine the chemical nature of the utilized pigment.  In confirmation of the results obtained by the microanalysis, two samples have been analyzed by scanning electron microscopy (SEM-EDS).  Both the analysis carried out under the optical microscope by the micro chemical tests, and the ones carried out by the electron microscope confirm the use of red lead as the pigment used for the inscription and for the symbols of the martyrdom”.  These studies will be published in detail in the conference acts.

Msgr. Giovanni Braschi
Rector of the Sanctuary of Saint Philomena
Custodian of her Sacred Body

Sanctuary of Saint Philomena
Piazza Umberto I
83027 Mugnano del Cardinale
Avellino, Italy
Tel: 0039 081 825 7204 Fax: 0039 081 511 2733
Rector, Msgr. Giovanni Braschi