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The Translation of Saint Rita of Cascia

Saint Rita of Cascia (1381-1457) was an Italian Catholic nun, who was canonised in 1900, 443 years after her death. Despite her repeated requests to be allowed to enter a convent, her parents arranged her marriage to the rich but immoral nobleman Paolo Mancini at the age of twelve. During their eighteen-year marriage, Rita endured her husband’s physical and emotional abuse but, over time, converted Paolo through her humility, kindness, and patience. Despite his changes in character, Mancini was betrayed and stabbed to death. After his death, Rita attempted to enter the monastery of Saint Mary Magdalen in Cascia, near her hometown of Spoleto but was turned away because of the scandal of her husband’s murder. The nuns tasked her with reconciling her family with her husband’s murderers before they would accept her. Rita implored her three patron saints to assist her, and she was able to resolve the conflict between the two warring families. According to legend, Rita was subsequently transported into the Convent of Mary Magdalen via levitation into the courtyard. Rita remained at the monastery until her death.  

The town in the background appears to be Spoleto in the Umbria region of Italy and is almost unique in Poussin's oeuvre for its possible true-to-life depiction of the landscape. X-rays reveal that the panel was first painted with the figure of a reclining nymph and was later cut down before being reused for the present composition. 

Not currently on display

Nicolas Poussin
48.8 x 37.8 cm
Oil on panel
Bourgeois Bequest, 1811
Accession number