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Patron of Desenzano del Garda since 1962


Co-Patron of Brescia: 2010

Biographical outline

Angela was born in Desenzano del Garda, probably around 1474, although the precise year is not known. She spent her childhood in a place called "Le Grezze" in the municipality of Desenzano, the seat of a parish belonging to the Verona Diocese, a territory subject to Veneto Dominion. Angela’s father, Giovanni Merici, formerly a citizen of Brescia, was to become a citizen of Desenzano, verbally, in 1475.

The family was not entirely without worldly goods. Angela’s mother, Caterina, came from Salò; her brother was Ser Biancoso de’ Bianchi, a member for many years of the Town Council. The couple had five children: three boys and two girls and Angela was perhaps the second youngest one.

Giovanni Merici often used to read aloud to his family, about the lives of the Saints, determining, as the Saint herself was later to declare, his daughter’s desire to conduct a sober, spiritual and contemplative life. Angela’s youth was embittered by the loss of her sister, to whom hagiographic tradition connects a vision of the Saint, and by the loss of both of her parents.

Angela, an orphan, was taken in by her aunt and uncle in Salò. Here the young woman began to attend the church of the Franciscan friars and she would in fact become a tertiary Franciscan so as to be able to better dedicate herself to devout life: prayers and good works. Angela Merici was to remain faithful to her tertiary habit for all of her life and she even wanted to be buried wearing this garment. It is not known for how long she stayed in Salò. She later returned to Desenzano, where she had inherited some property and here she conducted a silent life, spent in the home and the fields, but dedicated to prayer and charitable work. In the meantime her own vocation was slowly maturing.

Her vision could be from that period: while she was in the fields in a place called Brudazzo, collected in prayer, it seemed to her that the skies opened and she saw angels and Virgins descend and heard a voice that announced her mission as founder. Since then she has been known as a Saint, thanks to her spiritual life and her capacity to understand and help people.

In 1516, on invitation, she moved to the home of Caterina Patengola, of Brescia, for a mission of consolation. Caterina had lost her husband and two children. Here Angela met Giovan Antonio Romano. Soon a group of people formed around her, united by the same desire for good.

In 1524 Angela embarked on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and a year later she went on pilgrimage to Rome where she had an audience with the Holy Father.

In 1529, worried that the army of Charles V would descend on Brescia, Angela retired to Cremona, as a guest of Agostino Gallo and his sister Ippolita. Many people wanted to meet her and visited her in Cremona. When she returned to Brescia she continued to be a guest of Gallo. Later she moved first to San Barnaba and finally to a house near the church of Saint Afra.

On the 25th November 1535, the feast day of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, she established the "Company of Saint Ursula": the first 28 members consecrated themselves to God, following in the steps of Angela, under the patronage of Saint Ursula, virgin and martyr, and patroness of education and some medieval universities.

Angela died on the 27th of January 1540 and was buried in the ancient church of Saint Afra (now Saint Angela’s sanctuary) in Brescia, where she still rests. She was beatified by the Church in 1768 and proclaimed "Saint" in 1807.

In 1962 St. Angela Merici was proclaimed the principal patron of Desenzano by a decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites. In 2010, she was declared co-patroness of Brescia during a period of solemnity from 24-27 January 2010.

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