Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, the pain freak saint

May 25 is the feast day of Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, pronounced “potsy”.  This saint intentionally sought out pain and refused to be treated for her illnesses.  She is said to be able to help people who are afflicted with pain, sickness, and lust.

This Roman Catholic saint was born in 1566 into the second most influential family in Florence, and when her father became governor of a town she was placed in the town’s convent school.  At an early age, she entered a convent because it was known for daily communion, which was rare at that time (wine anyone? or is that just for priests).  At the age of 14 she was briefly removed from the convent for potential marriage, but returned to the religious life in short order.  It seems the potential groom had a close call there.

Like many female saints, this one experienced mystical visions – a spiritual gift that was allowed women – in this case something called “ecstasy”, in which she had conversations with Jesus, and visions of people suffering in purgatory, whose torments affected her deeply. She apparently experienced an aura before the visions, so would go back to her room when she felt one coming on. These ecstasies would often take place right after receiving communion.  During the ecstasy, she would sometimes lose consciousness but at other times be able to carry on activities of the convent like painting and embroidery. She did not leave any writings herself, outside of her letters – unclear if she wrote these herself – but people were sent in to record her visions, in order to forestall potential gossip and criticism.

mary-magdeline-de-pazzi 1It’s kind of hard to see why she was a saint.  With her apparent desire to erase herself, and all the pop-psychology talk about self-esteem these days, it’s easy to see why translations of her visions might be slow to emerge, and why the sermons commemorating her saint day focus instead on how her corpse was found to be uncorrupted, thus proving her sainthood. Also she did dictate some church reforms to important personages in the church, which were apparently written down but never delivered, LOL can’t imagine why not, a nun dictating the will of God to some church fathers.

Her main work seems to be something called “Admonitions”, a group of aphorisms collected by the novices she was in charge of instructing.  The search title is “Ammaestramenti, avvisii, e ricordi della Madre Beata Maria Maddelena”: there is a copy here, which can be read with the help of google translate.  It contains such gems as “The more obedient you are, the more you will be quiet.” But maybe you have to be part of this religious tradition to really appreciate it.  Here is the blog of a Carmelite nun in Dallas who has written extensively about this saint.

So here is the rest of her bibliography, per Carmelite theologian Ernest E. Larkin, and incorporating this document in Italian of known manuscripts from the 16th to the 21st centuries.  Also a really really detailed thing here about her confessors and the members of her convent etc.

At the end is a decent Gregorian chant about one of Mary Magdalene de Pazzzi’s visions in Portuguese.


  • Admonitions (MS title: Ammaestramenti, avvisii, e ricordi della Madre Beata Maria Maddelena, Arch.Monast., Pal IV, N. 57 and 65; pub. as Avvertimenti et avvisi da S. Maria Maddalena de Pazzi a verse religiose, Rome 1683, 1669) (see link to text above)

Five volumes written over 6 years, attested by witnesses and approved by ecclesiastical authorities and theologians, preserved in the archives of the convent now called the convent of S. Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi in Florence.

  • Book 1, called The Forty Days “I Quaranta giorni“, covers the first period from May 27 to July 26, 1584, and includes intermittent ecstasies until August 15.
  • Book 2, The Colloquies “Colloqui“, records experiences between Christmas 1584 and the following July 4, 1585.
  • However, Pentecost week, June 8 to June 16, 1585, is recorded separately in book 3, Revelations and Intelligences “Revelatione e Intelligenze“. This week was a preparation for a severe, 5-year trial that began on Trinity Sunday.
  • Book 4, The Probation “Probatione“, records this trial, which lasted until 1590. After this time ecstasies were less frequent. The majority occurred in the 2-year period from 1584 to 1586.
  • The final volume, book 5, The Renovation of the Church, or The Renewal of the Church letters dictated in ecstasy “La rinnovazione della chiesa. Lettere dettate in estasi“, recounts only one ecstasy but includes 12 letters concerning reform and renewal that were dictated in July and August 1586 and were directed to important personages in the Church (and apparently never delivered to them).

    (Contemporary biographers: Virgilio Cepari and Vicenzo Puccini)

  • The life of St. Mary Magdalene of Pazzi, Carmelitess, by Virgilio Cepari, approximately 1563-1631. Full text at, translated from the Italian
  • V. Puccini, Vita della veneranda Madre suor Maria Maddalena de’Pazzi Fiorentina…1619. Google books, multiple copies in Italian.
  • Tutte le opere di Santa Maria Maddalena de’ Fazzi dai manoscritti originali , ed.F. Nardoni (Florence 1960-). 1 v. pub. yearly; 7 v. when complete in 1966, F. Baertius and C. Janningus, ActSS May 6 (1866) 175 – 348. (These are her five books as released by the monastery that holds the originals, the last volume published in 1966.)
  • Ermanno Del Ssmo. Sacramento, “I manoscritti originali di S. Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi,” Ephemerides Carmeliticae 7 (1956) 323 – 400.
  • M. Minima, Seraph among Angels: The Life of S t. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi , ed. and tr. G. W. Pausback (Chicago 1958).
  • S. Thor – Salviant, Secrets of a Seraph: The  Spiritual Doctrine of St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi , ed. and tr. G. W. Pausback (Downers Grove, IL 1961).

2 thoughts on “Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, the pain freak saint

  1. do you have any saints from friuli? i know we have marco di aviano and stuff like that, was just wondering if there were any others.

  2. I don’t know of any female saints offhand but the google tells me the 9th c Eberhard of Friuli was a saint.

    Commons has a category of Churches in Friuli-Venezia Giulia by patron saint, if that’s any help

    Northern Italy does have a tradition of beatas, or local female saints, you can read more here:

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