Saint Clare, Virgin (Died 1253): The Iconography

In 1212, with the help of St. Francis, St. Clare founded the Order of Poor Ladies, which continued to be closely associated with the work of Francis and his order.

Narrative Images

Narrative images are usually based on Thomas of Celano's Life of St. Clare. A 13th-century altarpiece presents eight episodes from that work. The first is also the subject of a painting from the 14th century: On a Palm Sunday the Bishop was distributing palms to the faithful who crowded around the altar rail. Clare stayed back, but the bishop
left the sanctuary to hand her a palm branch personally. Taking that as a sign, she secretly left her home that night, met with Francis, and vowed her life to the service of Christ (Life 13f).

The Life relates a miracle in which St. Clare was able to repel the Saracen troops of Frederick II by holding the Eucharistic host before them and asking God to save her sisters and the city (Life 36, see image).


In portraits St. Clare is usually shown in the habit of the "Poor Clares," as at left, and carrying a lamp or a stalk of lilies. The lamp refers to her name, the lilies to her virginity. Sometimes she will also have a book or crozier (example). Occasionally the attribute will be a monstrance, because of the episode of the Saracen troops (example).

Feast day: August 12 (traditional), August 11 (since 1970)

At left, portrait by Lippo Memmi, ca. 1330

Images with other saints:
In a 1506 Crucifixion
In a Virgin Enthroned in Assisi
Thomas of Celano, The Life of St. Clare
Caxton's Life of St. Clare: html or pdf