ALT="painting of nun in black hood and tunic with white eight-pointed cross on chest, holding chafing bowl and book"

Portrait of St Ubaldesca

Artist unknown
Oil on canvas
18th century

An Italian peasant girl, Ubaldesca was born in approximately 1136, dying in 1205. Lacking a dowry, her marriage prospects were limited and at the age of fourteen she travelled to Pisa to devote her life to serving others. Living with the Sisters of the House of San Giovanni, a Hospitaller Order, Ubaldesca assisted the nuns in their holy rituals, but did not take a direct part in nursing the sick, as this was considered to be inconsistent with the religious vows made on joining a holy order. Some time after 1268, Ubaldesca was canonised in recognition of her life devoted to charity, prayer and penitence. Many Hospitaller houses, including the convent in Jerusalem, contained both Sister and Brother Hospitallers, and these women performed a vital domestic role alongside the Knights’ military activities.


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