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Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Horley, Oxfordshire (†Oxford) Later C.15

St Zita

St Zita, with household articles

St Zita [Sitha, Citha] (1218-72) was a household servant in Lucca, Italy. At first her piety and her frequent ecstasies, during one of which angels completed her bread-baking for her, irritated her employers, but eventually her persevering devotion gained their respect. A popular, but local, cult grew up on her death, spreading later to many other countries including England, although she was not formally canonized until the early 16th century.

At Horley she is surrounded by household articles – what seems to be a series of platters and dishes at the left and at the top left, beside her head, something that might be a chatelaine with keys (Zita was particularly associated with keys, specifically with their loss). At the right is a wooden spoon, with below it a pair of bellows in red, and below that a three-legged cooking pot with a handle – a miniature version of that containing souls in Hell at Pickworth in Lincolnshire.

Zita is holding some other object, which I now think is a giant key (it resembles those held by the saint in 15th century screen panels) , in her right hand. Most prominent of all though is her large red rosary, probably attached to her belt but held out in her left hand to symbolise the piety which gained her fame and ultimately sainthood.

There is another painting of Zita at Shorthampton, also in Oxfordshire, and Horley has other paintings, one of which, a St Christopher, is now on the site.

Website for St Etheldreda’s, Horley