Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in October 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Giacinta Marescotti


THERE was a prince Marescotti, [1] who had two daughters, Cecilia and Giacinta. From her childhood Cecilia had always been gentle and pious, and everyone said, 'When she grows up she will be a nun.' Giacenta was proud, handsome, and passionate, and everyone said, 'She will be a leader of society, and woe betide whoso offends her.'

               But their father, good man, [2] knew them better, and one day he announced to them the choice of a state of life which he had made for them; for the pious, gentle Cecilia there was a great lord coming from abroad to make her his wife; but the proud, passionate Giacinta was to enter a convent.

               The one was as dismayed as the other at the time, though the event showed he had chosen right. Cecilia, who loved quiet and repose, tenderly entreated her father to let her off the anxieties and responsibilities of becoming the head of a great family, while Giacinta made a great noise [3] at the idea of her beauty and talents being laid up hidden in a nun's cell. Nevertheless, in those days long gone by, girls were used to obey. [4] Cecilia married and proved herself an exemplary wife and mother, and carried respect for religion wherever she went.

               Giacinta, on the other hand, took all her worldly state into her convent with her; her cell was furnished like the drawing-room of a palace, and she insisted on having her maids to wait on her; the other nuns she scarcely spoke to, and treated as the dust under her feet.

               One day the bishop came to visit the convent. 'What a smell!' [5] he said, as he passed the cell of Giacinta Marescotti.

               'A smell, indeed! In my cell which is not only the sweetest in the convent, but which is the only one fit to go into!' exclaimed poor Giacinta in deep indignation. 'What can you possibly mean by "a smell!"'

               'A smell of sin!' responded the bishop; and it was observed that for a wonder Giacinta made no retort.

               'A smell of sin,' said Giacinta to herself, as she sat alone in her elegant and luxurious cell that night. The words had touched her soul and awakened a train of thoughts latent and undisturbed till then. Always hitherto she had ambitioned the loftiest, most refined objects of research, and thought she knew the secret of attaining them. The bishop's words spoke to her of there being 'a more excellent way' yet. They cast a light upon a higher path than that which she was treading, and revealed to her that those who walked along it, lowly as they might seem, could afford to look down upon hers.

               She saw that those who despised distinctions were grander than those who courted them, to become, in the end, their slaves; that those who aspired to celestial joys were nobler than those who surrounded themselves with the most exquisite luxuries of earth. [6]

               From that day, little by little, [7] Giacinta's cell grew nearer and nearer to the pattern of the House of Nazareth. The mirror, the cosmetics, and the easy couch made way for the crucifix, the discipline, and the penitential chain. [8] From having been shunned as a type of worldliness, she became to her whole order a model of humility and mortification. [9]



[1] The Marescotti were a noble family of Bologna, the second city of the Pontifical Dominions; there were two cardinals of the name.

[2] 'Il buon uomo di loro padre.'

[3] 'Faceva il diavolo,' lit. 'raised the devil.'

[4] 'In quei tempi antichi ubbedirono le figlie, capisce.' 'Capisce,' lit. 'understand,' equivalent to 'you see.'

[5] 'Puzza--puzza di peccato!' Lit. 'It stinks--it stinks of sin.' (See n. 5, p. 13.)

[6] I give the story, as near as possible, in the words which the pious faith of the narrator prompted her to use. The success of the final results of a measure may prove that what seemed tyranny was really prudent foresight; the contemporary views of parental responsibility must also be taken into account. But it is impossible for the modern English mind to sympathise readily with so violent an interference with natural instincts.

[7] 'A mano, a mano.'

[8] 'Catenella,' lit. 'little chain,' an instrument of penance worn by some persons on the arm or waist.

[9] The following are briefly the authentic particulars of her life from Moroni, xxx. 194. She was daughter of Marc Antonio Mariscotti and Ottavia Orsini, born in 1535, and baptised by the name of Clarice. Although brought up in the fear of God and led to appreciate holiness, her youth was passed in worldliness and vanity. Her younger sister having been asked in marriage before her, she was so much vexed and annoyed that she became insupportable at home, on which account her father proposed to her to become a nun in the convent of S. Bernardino at Viterbo, where she had been educated, and she adapted herself to his counsel, though without any personal inclination for it. At the end of her noviciate she made her father arrange that she should have a room of her own magnificently furnished. Sister Giacinta lived ten years thus a religious in name but not in mind. Nevertheless she was not without virtue, for she was always obedient to her superior as she had been to her parents; and her modesty, purity, and respect for holy things was observed by all. A serious illness was to her the call of grace; having given up to the abbess of the convent all the things that had been brought in for her use by special privilege, she devoted herself to severe penance and continual meditation. On occasion of a contagious disease with which Viterbo was afflicted, she gave abundant proof of her charity towards her neighbour, for she founded two societies, the object of one of which was to collect assistance for the convalescent and those who had fallen into reduced circumstances; the other to support a hospital built to receive the sick. These two societies, which she called 'Oblates of Mary,' still continue (the date of Moroni's work is 1845) in full activity.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Giacinta Marescotti
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Book Title: Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Publisher: Estes and Lauriat
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1877
Country of Origin: Italy
Classification: unclassified

Back to Top