Magdalene, although not well known, was a great religious figure in her
Magdalene was born at the beginning of the fifteenth century into a noble
and well-to-do family in Como, Italy. Given their religious faith, financial
means, and social position, her parents saw to it that Magdalene received
a good Christian education. At the age of twenty she decided to enter religious
life and, while initially drawn to the Benedictines in Como, she experienced
a sudden change of heart and chose instead the poorer and more remote convent
of the Augustinian nuns at Saint Andrea in Brunate, outside the city.
Her clever wit and practical common sense, combined with her strong religious
spirit and attraction for simplicity and austerity, led to her eventual
election as abbess, a position she held, except for brief intervals, until
In 1455 Magdalene requested that her monastery be affiliated with the
Observant Congregation of the Augustinians of Lombardy, and that the friars
of this congregation serve as chaplains to the nuns because of the spirit
of observance which characterized both groups. Magdalene was largely responsible
for the expansion of Augustinian religious life in and around Como and throughout
Lombardy. She opened new convents, and by her fervor even drew established
congregations to seek affiliation with her community.
Magdalene was a sensible and practical woman who possessed a natural
talent for domestic affairs. She was frequently sought out for spiritual
guidance, and thus greatly influenced the religious spirit of her day, particularly
through her promotion of the Augustinian Third Order or Secular Movement.
She met with much success in promoting vocations to religious life by her
zeal, example, and instruction, and was an inspiration for her selfless
devotion to the sick and needy. Though the rules she devised for her sisters
would seem harsh by today’s standards, they nevertheless succeeded
in reviving the simplicity and austerity of the desert fathers, which had
a particular appeal to her generation. A secret to her effectiveness was
that she never asked others to do anything which she had not previously
put into practice herself. Her devotion to the Church and her allegiance
to the bishop of Rome during a period of upheaval and schism in the Church,
together with a firm commitment to the renewal of religious life, are special
marks of her life.
Magdalene died on either 13 or 15 May 1465, after suffering from a debilitating
disease for several years which greatly limited her participation in her
community’s activities. The number of faithful who came to venerate
her body and seek her intercession was so great that her burial had to be
delayed for eight days.
When the nuns of Saint Andrea left Brunate to join the monastery of Saint
Julian near Como in 1593, Magdalene’s body was also transferred there
and now lies buried in the cathedral of Como, where she is still venerated
by the faithful.
Her feast is observed by the Augustinian Family on 17 July.