St. Francis was born in Assisi in Umbria about 1182.
"...St Francis answered him: ""Thou knowest, dearest brother, that two years ago, when we were at Foligno, God revealed the end of my life to thee, and he revealed it to me also − that in this sickness, and in a few days, this my life shall come to an end. And in this revelation God assured me of the remission of all my sins, and of the bliss of Paradise. Until I received that revelation, I wept over my sins and at the thought of death; but since I have received it, I have been so full of joy that I can weep no longer; and therefore I sing, and will sing to God, who hath bestowed on me the gift of his grace, and hath certainly promised me the gift of heavenly glory. For our departure hence, it pleaseth me well, and I willingly consent thereto; but find you a way to carry me, for because of my infirmity I cannot walk.""
"Then the brethren took him up and bore him on their shoulders, and many of the citizens went with them. And coming to a hostel which was on the way, St Francis said to those who bore him:
""Set me down upon the ground, and turn my face towards the city" and when he was thus turned towards Assisi, he blessed the city with many blessings, saying: "Blessed be thou of God, O holy city, forasmuch as by means of thee many souls shall be saved, and in thee many servants of God shall dwell, and of thy children many shall be elected to eternal life.""
"And when he had said these words, he caused himself to be borne onwards to St Mary of the Angels; and they carried him to the infirmary, and there laid him down to rest. Then St Francis called to him one of his companions, and said to him: "Dearest brother, God has revealed to me that by this sickness, a few days hence, I am to pass from this life; and thou knowest that the devout Lady Jacopa di Settesoli, who is so dear to our Order, would be deeply grieved, should she hear of my death, not to have been present at it; therefore signify to her that, if she desire to see me again in life, she must come hither with all speed." And the brother made answer: "Too true, Father; for indeed, because of the great devotion she bears thee, most unmeet were it that she should not be present at thy death."
""Go, then,"" said St Francis; ""bring pen and paper, and write as I shall bid thee."" And when he had brought them, St Francis dictated the letter in the following form:
""The the Lady Jacopa, the handmaid of the Lord, Brother Francis, the poor little one of Christ, wisheth health and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost in our Lord Jesus Christ. Be it known to thee, most beloved, that Christ our Lord hath by his grace revealed to me the day of my death, which is near at hand. Wherefore, if thou wouldst find me alive, as soon as thou shalt receive this letter, do thou set forth immediately, and come to St Mary of the Angels; for if thou come not forthwith, thou shalt not find me alive. And bring with thee hair−cloth wherein to wrap my body, and the cerecloth that will be needed for my burial. I pray thee that thou wouldst bring me also some of the food such as thou gavest to me when I was sick at Rome.""
"Now, while this letter was bring written, it was revealed to St Francis that the Lady Jacopa was coming to him, and was already near at hand, and that she had brought with her all the things which were asked for in the letter. Having, then, received this revelation, St Francis bade the brother who was writing to write no more, for it was not needed, but to lay the letter aside; whereupon brethren greatly marvelled why he would not have it finished or sent.
"But a short space afterwards, came a loud knocking at the door, and St Francis bade the porter open it; which, when he had done, he saw the Lady Jacopa, the most noble of all the ladies of Rome, with two of her sons, who were senators of Rome,and a great company of horsemen, and they entered the house; and the Lady Jacopa went straight to the infirmary to St Francis. And St Francis felt great consolation at her coming, and she also rejoiced exceedingly to find him alive, and to speak with him. Then she declared to him how, being at Rome in prayer, God had revealed to her that his life would shortly come to an end, and that he would send for her and ask those things of her which she had now brought. Then she brought them to St Francis and gave him to eat; and when he had eaten, and was now much strengthened thereby, the Lady Jacopa knelt at the feet of St Francis, and with such exceeding devotion kissed and bathed with her tears those feet, marked and adorned with the wounds of Christ, that the brethren who were standing round thought they beheld the Magdalene at the feet of Jesus Christ, and could in no way remove her from him.
"At length, after a long space of time they raised her up, and, taking her aside, they asked her how it was she had come thus opportunely, and thus well provided with all things needful for St Francis, both in his life and for his burial. To this the Lady Jacopa answered, that as she was praying one night in Rome she heard a voice from heaven, which said:
"If thou wouldst find St Francis alive, go without delay to Assisi, and take with thee those things which thou hast been accustomed to prepare for him in sickness, and those which shall be needed for his burial."
"And, continued the Lady, ""As the voice bade me do, so have I done."" So the Lady Jacopa abode at Assisi until St Francis passed from this life and was buried; and she and all her company paid great honour to his burial, and bore all the cost of it."Then returning to Rome, that noble lady soon afterwards died a holy death, desiring, out of devotion to St Francis, to be carried to St Mary of the Angels, and there to be buried; which was done according to her will.
--The Little Flowers of St. Francis
Few people, especially feminists, know there was a woman in the cell with St. Francis when he died. Fewer people know this woman baked for him. I've tried to find *the* recipe for the almond cookies Lady Jacopa made for St. Francis but too many people make too many different claims on what exactly they were. Most claim honey and almonds with a few other ingredients. Others say sugar and honey. My preference is to lean towards sugar as sugar was available in Italy -thanks to the Crusades. A rich woman, which Lady Jacopa was, would've baked with sugar, easily, for such a holy man. Yet to honor him, she would have kept it simple -making either a biscotti-like cookie or a macaroon. Since medeival times, the Umbrians have made an almond serpent cake for Christmas. Since Easter also concerns the biblical triumph over the serpent why not a serpent cake for Easter? Especially a simple serpent cake that is really like a yummy giant almond macaroon and has to contain almost the same exact ingredients as the sweets Lady Jacopa made for St. Francis?
Serpente Di Todi
4 1/2 cups of ground almonds
2 1/4 cups of granulated sugar
5-6 egg whites
1 tbspn sweet butter
1/2 tsp flour
2 candied cherries (for eyes)
1 tbspn confectioner's sugar
Put all ingredients except the cherries and conf, sugar ino a bowl or heavy mixer. Mix together until a smooth dough forms. Form the dough into the shape of a snake, making the head of larger proportion to the body. Use cherries for eyes and use scissors to make scale-like designs on the body.
Place on buttered and floured or lined with parchmant paper baking sheet and cook in oven at 300 degrees for abot 40 minutes - a light goldne brown. Allow to cool, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and serve.
-Renaissance of Italian Cooking, Lorenza De Medici
"HIC REQUIESCIT IACOPA SANCTA NOBILISQUE ROMANA"