Skip to Content

Medieval Wall Painting
in the
English Parish Church

Shorthampton, Oxfordshire (†Oxford) Later C.15

St Zita

St Zita, Shorthampton

The story of St Zita [Sitha, Cita] (1218-72), a household servant of Lucca renowned and eventually canonized for her piety, is told in more detail on the page for Horley, also in Oxfordshire, where she is painted surrounded by household articles.

She is presented more simply, in a window-splay, at Shorthampton, holding in her right hand something described by ET Long¹ as a bag and a bunch of keys. There may well have been more accompanying details though in the black area below her, and possibly on the red background as well. At Horley she wears a cloak in a rich scarlet, but here she is in a more subdued green version, with a plain white headress below her halo.

Zita is, unsurprisingly, a patron saint of domestic servants. Her story and her cult, originally local to her home area, are said to have been introduced to England by Italian merchants, which may well be the case. Although the only two paintings known are this one and the Horley example, she appears on screens in Norfolk and Suffolk and in stained glass elsewhere, and devotion to her seems to have been widespread in England, as it was elsewhere, despite the fact that she was not formally canonized until the early 16th century.

There are several other paintings at Shorthampton, and one of them, the very unusual Miracle of the Clay Birds, a legend of the Infancy of Christ, is on this site now.

Website for Shorthampton All Saints

¹ ET Long, Medieval Wall Painting in Oxfordshire Churches, Oxfordshireiesia, vol. XXXVII, 1972, p.103