Veronica Giuliani (1660-1727) was an astonishing mystic, who received exceptionally well-attested imprints of the stigmata.
As a nun, however, she remained determinedly unimpressed by such phenomena, concentrating rather on instilling in her charges the virtues of humility, obedience and charity.
She was born Ursula Giuliani at Mercatello in the Duchy of Urbino to parents of some consequence. Indeed in later years she reproached herself for the pride she had taken in the family’s enhanced social status after her father was appointed to an important office at Piacenza.
Her religious consciousness was early aroused: the legend goes that at 18 months she ticked off a shopkeeper who had sold a false measure of oil. “Do justice; God sees you,” she told the unfortunate man.
At three Ursula believed herself favoured with divine communications; at six she began giving away her own food and clothing to the needy and at nine she declared her devotion to the Lord’s Passion.
It was noticed, however, that the girl was inclined to be dictatorial when others failed to share her religious enthusiasms. This fault was duly corrected by a vision in which she saw her own heart, apparently made of steel.
Yet Ursula was not a bit pliable when her father began to parade a succession of eligible suitors. Already determined to become a nun, she made manifest her distaste for matrimony through a bout of sickness. Her father soon yielded, and the 17-year-old Ursula, restored to health, began her novitiate at the Capuchin convent of Città di Castello, in Umbria, taking the name of Veronica in religion.
After making her profession her absorption in the Passion deepened, until in 1694 the impress of the crown of thorns appeared on her head, and then, on Good Friday 1697, the imprints of the five sacred wounds.
These phenomena were closely investigated by the local bishop who eliminated any possibility of fraud on Veronica’s part by having her closely surveyed every moment of the day and night. Her wounds were dressed and bandaged, but to no effect.
The bishop was duly convinced that the stigmata were genuine. Yet Veronica, both during her 34 years as mistress of the novices, and for her last 11 years as abbess, strongly discouraged overheated devotions.
Outwardly, it seemed that she preferred to concentrate on practical affairs such as arranging for the convent’s water supply to be improved, and organising extensions to the buildings.
Nevertheless, she recorded in her journal, and told her confessor, that the instruments of Christ’s Passion were imprinted on her heart, even making a sketch of their whereabouts.
A post-mortem investigation, carried out in the presence of the bishop, the mayor, medical experts and other witnesses, duly discovered in her right ventricle objects corresponding to those she had drawn.