San Francesco Caracciolo

Ascanio Caracciolo born at Villa Santa Maria on 13 October 1563, deceased in Agnone, June 4, 1608, was an Italian priest, founder of the Clerics Regular Minor (Caracciolini), proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius VII in 1807. He is a co-patron of Naples since 1840, and since 1996 of the chefs in Italy. His feast day is June 4. The year 2013 is the 450th anniversary of his birth.
San Francesco Caracciolo
Italian stamp for the 400th anniversary (2008) of San Francesco Caracciolo's death.


Ascanio Caracciolo, born 13 October 1563 in Villa Santa Maria (province of Chieti, Abruzzo) belonged to one of the most important families in southern Italy. Son of Don Ferrante Caracciolo, Lord of Villa Santa Maria, and Isabella Barattucci, he received an education in keeping with his noble rank, and since childhood he showed a religious inclination.

At twenty-two he was affected by a disease (perhaps elephantiasis) that disfigured the face. Miraculously healed, he decided to devote himself completely to the Lord as a priest. He moved to Naples, he resumed his studies and devoted himself especially to the reading of the theological writings of Thomas Aquinas. Ordained in 1587, he began his ministry by joining the Company of the Whites of Mercy, whose purpose was to assist the sick, the poor, prisoners and death convicts.

Since in the Bianchi Company was also a man with his same name, he was mistakenly delivered a letter by Giovanni Agostino Adorno and Fabrizio Caracciolo containing the invitation to join them to start a new religious congregation: the exchange of person was considered a sign of Providence and Ascanio was admitted in the number of the founders of the institute.

The three retreated to the Camaldoli hermitage of San Salvatore in Naples, where they drew out the rule of the future Congregation of Clerks Regular Minor, then the two Caracciolos went to Rome, where Pope Sixtus V gave them his approval with the bull Sacrae religionis of 1 July 1588. At Francesco's suggestion, to the classic three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, a fourth was added: that of not accepting any ecclesiastical dignity.

On April 9, 1589 Ascanio made his solemn profession in the chapel of the company of the Whites and took the name of Francesco, for his great devotion to Saint Francis of Assisi. After the death of Adorno, who until then had been the group leader, Francesco Caracciolo was elected superior general of the order, and gave a significant boost to the spread of his followers both in Italy and abroad, founding in 1594 the first houses in Spain. He left the government of the Clerics Regular Minor (which in his honor became known as Caracciolini) in 1607 and would not hold any office in the order.

In 1608, with his brother Antonio, he went on a pilgrimage to the Holy House of Loreto. Once near the sanctuary, he suddenly exclaimed: "Here's the place of my rest." Then he proceeded to Agnone, where he had been invited by the Fathers of the Oratory, who wanted to join the Clerics Regular Minor and had asked him to open a house at their church.

Taken by a violent fever, he was able to receive the last sacrament on his knees, then went into agony repeating, "Come on, let's go!", And when asked where, he replied: "To heaven, to heaven." He died on June 4 of that same year, on the eve of Corpus Christi.

Painting by Romano Corradetti, church of SS. Angeli Custodi, Roma.
San Francesco Caracciolo

The worship

The first miracle attributed to his intercession was the healing of an invalid man that took place on June 11, 1608, during his funeral. Beatified by Pope Clement XIV in 1769, Francesco Caracciolo was proclaimed a saint by Pius VII on May 24, 1807. His body was moved to the church of Santa Maria di Monteverginella, where it is still preserved, on May 9, 1844.

The bull of canonization says that nothing was sweeter for him that speaking of God. He used to prolong the worship of the Holy Host for nights, and to spread the worship of the Eucharist, stating that the members of the Order every day, in turn, would dedicate themselves to the worship. Also, he never grew tired of urging priests to celebrate Mass everyday and to promote the exposure of the Holy Host for "Forty Hours" on the first Sunday of every month.

His great love for the Lord was by Francis poured on his fellow beings, working with untiring zeal for the conversion of sinners, taking away from the street prostitutes, and assisting death convicts: for this reason he was called a "hunter of souls." His relics were moved to Naples into the church called Monteverginella. In 1840 he was proclaimed patron of the city of Naples.

On March 26, 1996 for the well-known professionalism of the chefs of Villa Santa Maria, whose origins can be traced back to the Caracciolo family, after a well-established veneration of the saint by the chefs in Villa and Italy, complying with the request of the Federazione Italiana Cuochi and with the approval of the Italian Episcopal Conference, the Holy See declared San Francesco Caracciolo Patron of cooks in Italy.

In Villa Santa Maria during the second week of October there is a traditional Cuisine festival and a religious celebration with procession of the statue's saint.

San Francesco Caracciolo
Statue in Villa Santa Maria.


In art San Francesco Caracciolo is often depicted with elements that emphasize his devotion to the Eucharist or the spirit of humility that led him to reject the ecclesiastical dignities (symbolized by the episcopal insignia placed at his feet).

Among these works is a silver bust kept in the Museum of the Treasure of San Gennaro in Naples, a painting by Romano Corradetti in the church of the Holy Guardian Angels in Rome and a marble statue by Francesco Massimiliano Laboureur and Innocent Fraccaroli in the basilica of St. Peter's, Rome, along with other founders of religious orders.

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