The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century – Venerable Anna Maria Taigi

Blessed Anne Marie Taigi holy card, artist unknownArticle

The fame of the Venerable Anna Maria Taigi has already spread throughout the world. The opening words of the decree introducing the process of beatification of this servant of God are as follows:

“When God wills to show His power and wisdom, He chooses what is weakest and most foolish in the eyes of the world to confound its vanity, frustrate the plans of the godless, and repulse the assaults of hell. Thus, in our days, when human pride seems to have conspired with the powers of hell to undermine both the foundations of the Church arid the very principles of human society, He chose for this work Anna Maria Jesualda Taigi, who, born of poor but virtuous parents, married a working-man and, since the care of the family lay mostly upon her shoulders, supported it by the work of her hands. God selected her to lead souls to Him, to serve as a victim of atonement, to be a bulwark against the assaults of His enemies and to avert misfortune by her prayers. After he had drawn her away from the current of the world, He united her to Himself by the bond of charity and adorned her with miraculous gifts and with such virtues as exercised a salutary influence upon pious persons, even in the highest stations, and also upon the godless and made the sanctity of the servant of God to shine before all men in the clearest light.”

That the words of the decree are not exaggerated, a few facts from the life of the servant of God will make fully clear. Anna Maria was born on May 29, 1769, at Siena, the daughter of an apothecary, Luigi Giannetti. Heavy reverses of fortune had reduced the once distinguished family almost to beggary. In 1775 Giannetti and his wife went to Rome and obtained positions as house-servants. He placed his daughter under the care of religious women devoted to the education of the children of the poor. When Anna Maria was thirteen she was obliged to help in earning the daily bread for the family. She first worked in a factory as a silk-spooler, afterward she was chambermaid to a lady of the nobility. Anna Maria could not altogether resist the allurements of the world, which exercise so strong an attraction upon persons of her age and condition. She longed to taste all the pleasures of life. She had no suspicion of the great danger she was exposed to, and it was only the good example of her parents and her religious training that kept her from ruin.

On 7 January 1790, she married Dominic Taigi, a servant in the Chigi Palace. During the first year of her marriage she still indulged in vanity and pleasure-seeking. But Anna Maria did not find the expected peace. Grace ever knocked harder at the door of her heart. Thoughts of God and of the hereafter continually rose more and more vividly before her mind. She now went to a priest for the purpose of making a general confession of her life. He barely allowed her to complete her confession, gave her absolution and said: “Go! You do not belong among my penitents.” This rough treatment caused the poor woman to fall into despondency and anxiety of mind. After a time she picked up courage again and sought another confessor. This time Providence led her to a wise director. It was the decisive hour of her life. She called it her conversion.

She had now put her hand to the plow, never more to look back; and till her death remained the most pliant instrument of grace. Rich gifts of mind and heart adorned her – a clear understanding, a deep humility, a strong and magnanimous character. To these natural gifts was added an extraordinary measure of grace. With all these powers Anna Maria now endeavored to reach the perfection of her state in life. She avoided all finery in dress, all exterior show and rejoiced in appearing poor. She seldom took part in worldly amusement and then only to please her husband. She considered it important that others should notice her change of mind, because she hoped thus to make amends for any scandal she might have given in the past. In prayer she now found an indescribable consolation and in prayer she spent all the time not employed in the performance of her duties as mother and housewife. Frequently she deprived herself of her night’s rest to satisfy the longing of her heart for God. There is no sanctity without mortification. Anna Maria Taigi eagerly looked for every occasion to make a victim of herself, though always careful to conceal it from others. Only her director and the duties of her state could set bounds to her zeal for external penance.

She well understood that her desire for prayer and penance should not in the least interfere with her duties as wife and mother. Her husband was a truly religious and good-hearted man, while at the same time somewhat narrow, eccentric, and hard. But she was so much mistress of herself that she could always anticipate his wishes and treat him with the greatest love and friendship. Dominic Taigi has left us a candid declaration on this point:

“It often happened that on my return home I found the whole house filled with people” – he speaks of the time when his wife was already known throughout all Rome – “at once she would leave them all alone – let them be prelates or great nobles who were present – and come to serve me with courtesy and attention. And they realized that her whole heart was in it when she loosened the latchets of my shoes, although I would have prevented her. In a word, she was a consolation to me and to everybody else. She knew how to admonish one skilfully and J. can thank her for the amendment of certain faults which I had. She gave me her admonitions with incomparable kindness and gentleness. . . . She was able by her wonderful prudence to preserve a heavenly peace in the family, although we were numerous and had very opposite characters among us, especially when my oldest son Camillus came to live with us at first after his marriage. My daughter-in-law had a very irascible temper and would play the mistress in everything. But the Servant of God was most tactful in keeping every one in the proper place, and this with so great courtesy that it can not be described in words . . . I was often sad, discouraged, and ill-tempered on arriving at home, but she knew how to cheer me and to restore peace by her amiability.”

Practically the whole care of providing for the family and the management of the house devolved on Anna Maria. It was not a small family. She had borne seven children, two of whom God took early to Himself. In addition, she had to care for her aged parents. In after years, persons of rank often proposed to make ample provision for her family, but she would never accept anything for herself or hers. She desired to remain in the condition of life in which God had placed her. She was and remained a poor workingman’s wife, but one wholly imbued with Christian spirit and therefore the possessor of profound contentment.

The Servant of God let pass no opportunity of promoting the spirit of religion. In the morning she gathered the whole family for prayer. Condition of work permitting, all in the house heard a Mass in the course of the forenoon and frequently received the sacraments. At night the family assembled for pious reading, to which the mother added some instructive religious conversation, ending with the Rosary and night-prayers. She watched over her children most carefully, especially when they were growing out of boyhood and girlhood, encouraging them to frequent Communion and guarding them against dangerous companions. Even when they were about to enter the married state, she would not permit the betrothed to converse together without supervision.

The goodness of God brought it to pass that the extraordinary virtues of Anna Maria became known to the world around her during her lifetime. Her little house became the chief center of attraction in Rome. Princes of the Church, prelates, and persons of high station in the world came and went, asking the intercession of her prayers or seeking her advice. The Venerable Bartolomeo Menochio, Papal Sacristan; the Venerable Vincent Strambi, and many others distinguished for their sanctity were her intimate friends, and the Popes Pius VII, Leo XII, and Gregory XVI showed the greatest veneration for the poor workman’s wife. Many miraculous events, due to her intercession, are well attested. God supernaturally enlightened her concerning the state of consciences, the designs of Providence in the afflictions of the Church, the mysteries of faith, and so forth. All was revealed to her in a mysterious sun which was continually suspended before her eyes.

It was the chief purpose of her life to aid the Church by prayer and suffering; and she was consumed with a burning zeal for its interests. She made sacrifices, prayed, and caused others to pray, whenever any important matter was in progress. Sinners were the principal object of her care. She was rich in sufferings. God tried her with dreadful desolation, sent her many illnesses, and permitted her to meet with hatred and persecution. She herself said that it often seemed impossible to bear the torture of the martyrdom any longer. Yet her courageous spirit of sacrifice never wavered.

In spite of such extraordinary graces, Anna Maria Taigi looked upon herself as the least among the people and fit only to serve others. It touches the heart to read of her profound humility. Truly the saints have so lofty an idea of God’s majesty that they deem it presumption to desire to be considered anything in themselves.

May we not piously assume that Anna Maria prayed to be permitted to die unhonored? For when she departed this life on 9 June 1837, no attention was paid to her death. But it was not long till her tomb became glorious. High and low revered her as a saint and at length the Apostolic See took steps to inaugurate the canonical process of her beatification. Its completion is near at hand.

MLA Citation

  • Father Constantine Kempf, SJ. “Venerable Anna Maria Taigi”. The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century: Saintly Men and Women of Our Own Times, 1916. CatholicSaints.Info. 17 September 2018. Web. 18 January 2019. <>