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Santa Rosa De Lima: A Home-grown Saint

Peru has the distinction of producing the first saint born in the Americas: Santa Rosa de Lima. Often depicted with a crown of roses and holding the infant Christ, she is the patron saint of not only Lima and Peruvian police, but also of the entire country, as well as the Americas and the Philippines.

Isabel Rosa Flores de Oliva was born in Lima in 1586. When she came of age, her parents wished their beautiful daughter to marry. Rosa, though, had other desires: To minister to Lima’s poor and ill. She built a hut in her family’s garden, where she grew flowers and did fine needlework to sell and raise funds for her charity work. At the age of 20, she became a lay member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic.

From an early age, Rosa imposed harsh penances on herself, including flagellation and long fasts. She quickly gained fame for her many visions and as a healer. Legend also claims she saved Lima from a Dutch pirate attack in 1615. She was leading a group of women in prayer at the Iglesia del Rosario, when suddenly she stood on the altar, cut off her habit and wrapped them around the crucifix. Within days, the Dutch corsair died without ever attacking the capital.

When she died in 1617, her funeral was a state affair, drawing thousands of Limeños, including the viceroy himself. All along the procession, so many people took snippets of her clothes as a relic that authorities worried her corpse would arrive to the Iglesia del Rosario naked.

Santa Rosa was canonized in 1667. Peru celebrates her feast day on August 30, which is a national holiday, with processions through downtown Lima.

Her physical remains repose in Lima’s Iglesia Santo Domingo, along with fellow saint and friend, San Martín de Porres (1579-1639). Today her home is the Santuario de Santa Rosa de Lima, a popular pilgrimage spot for her devotees. Santa Rosa appears on the 200-soles bill.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Peru: History Of Moquegua, The People of the Clouds, History, History, History Of Puno, History Of Yurimaguas, Piura History , History Of The Pacific Coast South Of Lima, History Of Lake Titicaca and History.

By Lorraine Caputo

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