For the first time, women didn't belong to any order and were considered a free lay association.
This place is closed to the public, it can only be visited on the day when we celebrate Santa Francesca Romana's anniversary's death, 9th March.
The Convent of the Oblates was founded in 1433 by Santa Francesca Romana, incorporating the so called "Torre degli Specchi" which means tower of mirrors (probably due to the round shape of the windows of an ancient tower or to the name of the spinning and carding tools used by the many craftsmen working in this area).
Francesca, who came from a rich family, chose for the congregation she founded a house located in the center of the old Campitelli district, at the foot of the Campidoglio and in front of the Marcello theater.
In this urban context, thirteen oblates moved on March 25, 1433, Festa dell'Annunziata, in a small building rented by the Clarelli family, to follow Francesca's message: they began to lead a common life by dedicating themselves to contemplative prayer and manual labor, helping poors anliving as hermits within the city walls, bound by a promise of stability and obedience, but without vows and without enclosure.
Oblate are lay persons who dedicate themselves to God or his service. The term oblate (from the Latin oblatum = offered) indicates precisely the self-giving to Christ. Without having pronounced the vows, they follow the rules of a monastic order by providing particular services.
At the very beginning this small community of women, devoted to the monastery of Olivetans, did not have any legal coverage: the "Periculoso constitution" of Pope Boniface VIII (1298) imposed the enclosure on the female communities, while the decrees of the Lateran Council IV (1315) imposed the adoption of an approved rule on those who wished to lead a common life; instead with the Olivetan monks, as with all the Benedictines, the oblation did not involve the issuing of vows or the observance of the rule, but indicated only a spiritual link with the order.
To heal the condition of the community, Francesca addressed Pope Eugene IV.
With a letter dated 4 July 1433, the pontiff granted to the oblates the privilege of living regular life, of electing a president, exemption from the jurisdiction of the local parish priest, of freely choosing a confessor, of welcoming other women. This was really a great result for all the women who wanted to help the community without being considered nouns and being autonomous from the parish life.
Francesca Romana, despite her vocation, was forced to marry very young and gave her husband 3 children, of whom only one survived.
Today, inside the convent we find an ancient stable, where a reversed sarcophagus lid served the saint to distribute food and clothes to the poor, a renaissance oven used by the monastic community, the fifteenth-century Cappella Vecchia and the oratory used to dine by the women, frescoed by Antoniazzo Romano, a very important medieval painter, who decorated the so-called holy staircase with steps carved from the marble of the ancient capitals of the nearby Roman Forum to access the upper floor.
On 9 March 1440 she died in Trastevere where she was to assist his sick child.
She was so much beloved, that Santa Maria Nova church took its name and from 1494, by decree of the Senate, the day of his death was considered a public holiday.
Later Paul V Borghese sanctified her.
Today what do they do the oblate of Santa Francesca Romana?
They dedicate themselves above all to the teaching of catechism to the children who are preparing for the first communion: in their convent they welcome and host the university students out of office for the whole period of their studies.