History of the Devotion

Pontifical Documents

The Liturgic And Popular Devotion In The Pontifical Documents

  1. Introduction

Before the decree of the Congregation of Rites of 1961, Saint Philomena was venerated and her figure was present in all the hagiography books (the writings and critical studies of the lives of saints). After 1961, not only was she removed from the liturgical calendar, but in the majority of hagiography books she was treated as a symbol for all legends. Therefore, just like the other “obscure” Saints, even among Saint Philomena’s devotees there were those who continued to venerate her more than ever, while others, confused, fell by the wayside. The purpose of this chapter is to stimulate the reflection of both groups. To the first, we want to give a solid base for their faith. To the second, we want to insinuate doubt, encouraging them to critically evaluate their own opinions. If so many High Pontiffs have approved her Devotion, Saint Philomena is a reality, and cannot be regarded as only legendary.

  1. The liturgical Devotion in the pontifical documents

a – Leo XII, with decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, on March 15, 1826 only granted the celebration of the solemn Mass de Communi Virginum et Mart. In the day of Saint Philomena’s feast, in her Sanctuary of Mugnano del Cardinale, as long as it was not a fixed Sunday occurring on the Office Double of First class.

b – Gregory XVI, with decree of September 6, 1834, granted the singing of the Mass even on a Sunday, as long as the feast falls on the 10th of August, day of the Translation of the Saint’s body.

c – The Sacred Congregation of Rites, with decree of September 6, 1834, granted to the secular and regular clergy of the Diocese of Nola the possibility to recite, on the 11th of August, the Office with the Mass of de Comm. Virg. et Mart., primo loco with the Fourth Lesson proprius in honor of Saint Philomena Virgin and Martyr. Pope Gregory XVI on January 30, 1837 approved such decree.

d – Gregory XVI, with decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, on March 16, 1839 grants the clergy of Mugnano to recite the Office of Saint Philomena V. and M. on her feast with double major rite.

e – Gregory XVI, with decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, on January 1, 1841 promotes the Office of Saint Philomena Virgin and Martyr to double rite of second class without Octave in her own Church of Mugnano.

f – Pius IX, on the request of King Ferdinand II of Bourbon (fig. 17) in 1854 proclaims Saint Philomena second Patroness of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, where the devotion towards the glorious Martyr is widely spread.

g – Pius IX, on January 11, 1855, approves the decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, granting the clergy of Mugnano the new Office with its own Mass in honor of Saint Philomena V. and M., with the double rite of second class.

h – Pius IX, on January 15, 1857, approves the decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, on request of Mons. Joseph Formisano, Bishop of Nola, extending to the secular and regular clergy of the diocese of Nola the concession to celebrate with the double minor rite the proper Office with the Mass in honor of Saint Philomena V. and M. already approved and granted to the clergy of Mugnano and other dioceses.

i – Pius IX, on April 15, 1858, approves the decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites that grants the foreign priests who go to Mugnano to visit the Sacred Body of Saint Philomena, the indult to celebrate once only the Saint’s votive mass at her altar, although it would require the Office of double rite, excluding the double rite days of first and second class, the holidays, the vigils and the privileged octaves.

l – Pius IX, with Brief Pontificate of December 9, 9, grants temporarily to the Rector of the Sanctuary of Saint Philomena in Mugnano the privilege to use the pontifical insignias to accomplish all the sacred functions in the Sanctuary.

m – Leo XIII, on January 14, 1896, grants the Patronage Feast of Saint Philomena.

n – Leo XIII, with Brief Pontificate, grants the privileged altar in the Sanctuary of Saint Philomena.

o – Leo XIII, promotes the feast of Saint Philomena to second class rite for the whole Diocese of Nola.

  1. The popular Devotion in the pontificate documents

a – Leo XII, with re-script of the Sacred Congregation of Indulgence, on May 10, 1826, declares the altar of Saint Philomena as daily privileged.

b – Gregory XVI promotes Saint Philomena to Patroness of the Living Rosary.

c – Pius IX more than once grants indulgences, both plenary and partials, and other privileges to the Sanctuary of Saint Philomena with proper decrees bearing the following dates: 16.10.1849; 4.5.1852; 4.1.1853; 31.12.1853; 18.3.1859; 26.6.1863; 3.7.1863.

d – Leo XIII, on December 15, 1883, approves the devotion of the “Cord of Saint Philomena” and on April 4, 1884 he enriches it of precious indulgences.

e – Leo XIII, on September 24, 1889, grants to France alone, the title and privilege of Archconfraternity to the work of Saint Philomena.

f – Pius X, on May 21, 1912, extends to the whole Church the Archconfraternity of Saint Philomena. This Pius association is proclaimed Universal Archconfraternity. In the Brief Apostolic, with regard to the historical authenticity of Saint Philomena, ordains that: “The current statements are and remain always fixed, valid and effective; in this way it has to be regularly judged; and if it is proceeded in another way, it will be null and void, whatever its authority”.


Fig. 17 – Ferdinand II of Bourbon (1840-1859), great King of Naples. He first married Marie Christine of Savoy, then Marie Theresa of Austria. In the Sanctuary Treasury there are their precious “ex voto”. The whole Royal Family was very devoted to Saint Philomena and very munificent toward her Sanctuary. With Ferdinand II, the Neapolitan Kingdom excelled for prestige, power and wealth. The Army and military fleet were the best ones in Italy. The mercantile one was one of the most important in the world. Ferdinand II strengthened agriculture, commerce and industry. Sharp and dynamic, he was open to culture and progress. The money circulation in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was double of all the other Italian States put together! He protected the Church and Pius IX. He died prematurely, was succeeded by his son Francis II (1836-1894) from whom the sceptre will quickly be removed, originating the decline of the whole glorious and flourishing South of Italy.

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