Praying to Saints and Folk Magic
Santa Zita di Lucca

Santa Zita di Lucca (1212?-1272) is a 13th century Italian saint. She is also known as St. Zita of Lucca, Citha of Lucca and Sitha of Lucca. She is also refered to as the Gentle Servant, Little Cook, Maid of Lucca, and Servant of God.

St. Zita is the patron saint of housemaids, domestic servants, bakers, butlers, manservants, maids, ladies-in-wating, servants, servers, waiters, waitresses, single laywomen, rape victims, people ridiculed for their piety, and Lucca, Italy. She is one of the most famous saints of Lucca.

St. Zita is especially invoked against losing keys or appealed to in order to request help in finding lost keys.

Judika Illes in her Encyclopedia of Mystics, Saints & Sages: A Guide to Asking for Protection, Wealth, Happiness, and Everything Else!, 2011, (p. 699) provided this rhyming Santa Zita Prayer for Lost Keys:

Zita, Zita, I've lost my key!
Please look around and find it for me!
Her feast day in the Roman Catholic Church is April 27.

Santa Zita loves all flowers, but daffodil is the flower that is often connected with this saint and her feast day.

Santa Zita is depicted in art with a bag and keys, or loaves of bread and a rosary, or keys and loaves. She is often shown giving bread to a begger

Santa Zita was born circa 1212 in the region of Tuscany in the village of Monsagrati. At the age of 12 due to her own family's poverty, she became a servant in the wealthy Pagano di Fatinelli (or Faintinelli) of Lucca, a wool and silk merchant. Zita remained a single laywomen all her life employed as a domestic servant to the Fatinelli household.

Santa Zita viewed her service in the household as a way to serve God. Young Zita was glad to work and be able send some money home to her parents.

She sought to live piously. She often gave food and clothing to anyone in need who came to the Faintinelli door. As she was diligent in her assigned household duties, Santa Zita formed habits of praying that fit around her work schedule. She rose early from her sleeping quarters in the Fatinelli household attic in order to attend daily Mass and still get her her assigned work finished.

Generous to a fault, Santa Zita often not only gave away her own food to beggars, she gave leftover food and bread from the household.

This generosity frequently caused her to get in trouble with her employers and fellow sevants.

She also had a habit of giving away clothing as well as food to the poor of Lucca--including items belonging to her employers. Her persistant generosity earned the extreme annoyance of her employers and enmity of her fellow servants.

One of her household duities was to bake the daily bread for Fatinelli household each morning. Thus, Santa Zita often took leftover bread from the household kitchen to share with the poor.

According to another legend, during a local famine she gave away much of the family supply of beans without mentioning this act of charity to anyone. When her master held a surprise inspection of the pantry, he commented that he was glad that they had so many beans. To the Gentle Servant's relief, the beans had been miraculously increased. (Similar stories are told about other generous saints).

Another tale recounts that Signore Pagano di Fatinelli stopped his saintly servant girl on her way out, asking what was the large bundle she was carrying in her apron. Apparently one of the other servents had informed him that she was again taking bread to give to the poor in direct opposition of his orders. Santa Zita replied it was only "flowers" of devotion. He ordered her to open the apron and show him. Slowly she opened her apron and numerous flowers miraculously spilled out, rather than the leftover bread.

It is because of this legend, that Lucca celebrates the feast of its patron saint with a spectacular floral tribute to commemorate this miracle. Flowers and visitors fill Piazza dell' Anfiteatro during the feast of Santa Zita di Lucca in April. The glass coffin containing the saint's body is brought to the front of the church for veneration.

For a long time, she was unjustly despised and often beaten by her employers for her over-generous nature and obvious piety. Likewise, she was overburdened and reviled by fellow servants for her hard work and mocked for her piety. Occasionally other servants shirked their own duties, knowing that she would be stuck with the work instead. They treated her poorly, often teasing and ridiculing her pious and cheerful attitude.

Once, one of the other servants physically attacked and attempted to rape her. She severly scratched the face of the attacker and fought him off. (This story explains her patronage of rape victims.)

The master of the household noticed the scratches on the face of the attacker. Eventually, he questioned Zita and she told him the truth. He removed the would-be rapist from the Fatinelli household.

A legend recounting her generosity told how she gave away a woolen cloak lent to her by her mistress. On a wintery December 24, the lady of the Fatinelli house lent Santa Zita her own fine woolen cloak to go to church to hear mass that morning. Upon reaching the church door, Santa Zita spied a poor man in rags, shivering with cold and begging for alms. On the impulse, she gave this begger the cloak. As she put it around him, she said, "It will keep you warm, and you can return it to me when the service is over." When she came out of the church, the beggar had vanished. Sadly, she returned home without the woolen cloak. She was severely scolded by her mistress.

Yet the next day, a mysterious stranger came to the door of the Fatinelli house, bringing a wool cloak as a gift for the lady of the household to restore what had been lost. This stranger did not provide his name. People later decided that the poor old begger must have been an angel in disguise. Hence, the door of the Church of San Frediano, Lucca, where she saw the old man is now known as the Angel Portal.

Yet, Santa Zita slowly won over her employers and the members of the household--particularly since so many events seemed to work out in her favor.

According to one tradition, the other servants smugly noticed that Santa Zita was slow returning from her prayers to get the household bread baked that morning. Several servants rather gleefully shared this news amongst themselves. When a couple of the servants decided to check if Zita had indeed forgotten to make the bread, they saw a shining spirit in the kitchen baking loaves of bread. At mealtime, this bread was like mana from heaven. Her fellow servants believed that the angels of heaven must have baked the bread for her.

From then on, the rest of the serving staff treated the pious girl with a little more respect.

Due to this legend, many families will bake a loaf of bread for Santa Zita in celebration of her feast day on April 27.

Eventually, due the fact that the family prospered because her hard work and responsible manner, she was given charge of the staff, the family's children were placed directly in her care, and she was entrusted with the household keys. (I wonder if there is a legend about these keys being lost or stolen and then miraculously turning up in Santa Zita's possesion.)

When she died at age 60 years old, she had served the family for 48 years. Santa Zita was practically venerated by the family by then.

Indeed, due to various stories circulating about her, the veneration of the "Servant of God" began shortly after her death in 1272. In the later Middle Ages, this saint's popular cult had aready spread outside Italy. Her tomb in the church of San Fridiano was an object of veneration and pilgrimage for numerous people.

Santa Zita's glass-coffined body is currently on display for public veneration in the Basilica di San Frediano in Lucca. The Cappella di Santa Zita (Chapel of St. Zita) in San Frediano's was built in the 17th century to preserve her mummified body.

According to David Hugh Farmer in The Oxford Dictionary of Saints, third edition, 1992, (pp. 513-514): "In England she was known as Sitha and was invoked by housewives and domestic servants, especially when they lost their keys or were in danger from rivers or crossing rivers."

For those who wish for aid in finding keys, here is a version of a prayer in both English and Italian.

Santa Zita of Lucca, I invoke you and call you to help me to find my house keys. Santa Zita of Lucca, please help me find my keys. Thanks to you, by the power of Our Lord, Amen.

Santa Zita di Lucca, che si richiama e vi invito ad aiutarmi a trovare le mie chiavi di casa. Santa Zita di Lucca, ti prego, aiutami a trovare le mie chiavi. Grazie a te, per la potenza di Nostro Signore, Amen.

copyright 2012, Myth Woodling

Internal links:

Useful Prayers: Prayer to Saint Zita
Useful Prayers: St. Zita Prayer
Useful Prayers: Short Prayer to Santa Zita
Useful Prayers: Prayer to Santa Zita to Find Lost Keys
Useful Prayers: Rhyming Prayer to Saint Zita to Find Lost Keys
Useful Prayers: Prayer to Sant' Antonio and Santa Zita for Lost Keys

External link:

There is an image of Saint Zita invoked to find lost keys on a magnet for sale at: Saint Zita badge, lux: "INVOCATAPER IL RITROVAMENTO DELLA CHIAVI DI CASA - SANTA ZITA"

Trudie, April 27th - St. Zita, virgin, mystic Sun, 27 Apr 2008 11:15:05 -0500, accessed 6/13/12

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