Santa Rosa de Lima, the patroness of Lima, Peru, the Americas and the Philippines, was born on the 20th of April 1586 at the hospital 'Espiritu Santo' in Lima. Her parents Gaspar Flores, a Spaniard and María de Oliva, of Indian descent had thirteen children and were very poor. Santa Rosa received her baptism under the name of Isabel Flores de Oliva in the parish of 'San Sebastian' in Lima. Although baptized Isabel, her mother called her 'Rosa' since her childhood, because of her looks and the color of her cheeks.
Rosa spent the longest time of her childhood in a small mining town called Quive, which was an indigent place located in the hills of Lima at the Chillón and Arahuay River. The family Flores de Oliva moved there because father Gaspar was appointed as administrator of the mine. Already as a child Rosa was possessed with the veneration of every aspect of religion and spent hours staring at an image of the 'Madonna with her Child'. In 1598 Rosa was confirmed by the archbishop Toribio de Mongrovejo (he became a saint later as well).
Not showing any interest in mining, her parents hoped that Rosa, grown into an extremely attractive young woman, would marry well and assist the rest of the family. But Rosa had no intention of marrying, something her parents couldn't accept. Instead she took a vow of virginity and decided to live a religious life, following the example of 'Santa Catalina de Siena', devoting herself to a life of abnegation and self-mortification. Despite her family's objections Rosa practiced extreme forms of religious observance.
Oil painting of Saint Rose from Bartolomé Murillo (1617 - 1682)
Statue of Saint Rose at the Church and Sanctuaryof Santa Rosa in Lima's city center
Saint Rose of Lima
Painting of Saint Rose
Saint Rose painting
Rosa disliked her looks and the attention they brought her. After her family returned to Lima, she fasted, then became a vegetarian, mortifying her flesh with hard work and going so far as to cut her hair, rub lye, lime and pepper into her hands and onto her face and to wear a thorn crown. She underwent all this self-cruelty just to turn the attention away from her beauty and focus it on God.
In 1605 Rosa wanted to join the monastery 'Santa Clara', but was to poor to pay the necessary dowry. Instead she continued to live in absolute adoration of God. She moved out of her family's house into a small cottage built by herself on their property and filled her day with praying, hard work, self-torture and helping sick and poor people in her community. Rosa brought them to her little shed, fed and cared them. She sold her fine needlework and grew beautiful flowers that she offered at the market. With her exquisite lace and embroidery she supported her family and charity works.
Finally at the age of 20 she attracted the attention of the Dominican Order and was allowed to enter the 'Third Order' without payment. Thereafter she redoubled the severity and variety of her penances. She continued in her religious practices, gave up eating normal food and survived only on bread and water, which she combined with herbs, grown in her own tiny herb garden, and juices made of natural plants. Rosa wore constantly a metal spiked crown, concealed with roses and an iron chain around her waist.
The Church and Sanctuary of Saint Rose of Lima in Lima's city center
Beautiful patio of the church and sanctuary of Saint Rose in Lima
People write small notes with their wishes on them and throw them in the wishing well at the church and sanctuary of Saint Rose
Patio of the Saint Rose Church and Sanctuary
The image of the greatly venerated Saint Rose of Lima can be found on the S/. 200 banknote
More than fourteen years of this kind of self-martyrdom ended with her death on the 24th of August 1617, at the age of only 31 years. Her funeral couldn't take place for two days as people queued to see her body. Rosa was worshipped at that time to such an extent that the Viceroy, the archbishop, representatives of all religious fraternities and many public authorities of Lima attended her funeral. She was buried in the cemetery of the Dominican convent. Later Santa Rosa's remains were moved and laid to rest in a chapel at the 'Church of Santo Domingo', next to her friends San Martin de Porres and Alonso Abad.
Santa Rosa was beatified in 1667 by Pope Clement IX and canonized, as the first Saint in the New World, on the 12th of April 1671 by Pope Clemente X, who designating the 30th of August to her. This day is still a public holiday in Peru (and many other Latin American countries) and a very special day for all people who adore her, especially in Lima.