Chapter Eighteen[1]

Gurcu Hatun and Lady Jacoba, Mystic Cousins

Gurcu Hatun, Radiant Sun & Lady Jacoba of the Seven Suns

Gurcu Hatun, the “Georgian Lady” [1227-1286], christened in her native land as “Tamar” Bagrationi, was only 13 when she was brought to Konya, in 1240, to marry the Seljuk Sultan, Kaykusraw II, Ghiyāth ad-Dīn Kaykhusraw bin Kayqubād. Her betrothal, as were many in those eras, was a peace-keeping political alliance between her mother, the ruling Queen Rusudan of Georgia[2], and the young Seljuk Sultan, as they sought a balance of power in the face of Mongol aggression. Tamar was of the Bagratid dynasty, one of the oldest of royal lineages, reputed to be descendents of the Prophet David[3], and named in remembrance of his ancestral grandmother, “Tamar,” the “fertile palm”.

Cultured and well-educated, though Eastern Orthodox Christian, Tamar soon won the heart of her Muslim husband. He fell deeply in love with her, and it seems that love was happily returned. He repudiated his other wives, binding himself to Tamar alone. So entranced with her was he that he was compelled by heart to publicly declare his love. He minted coins with symbols of their likenesses, avoiding the censure of the mullahs for representation of human forms, yet all the same, clear in meaning. The silver dirham embossed with a sun shining over a lion, shir-u hurshid, was well-known to represent the couple—Tamar as the sun shining over and inspiring the leonine strength of the mighty sultan—and also echoing the sign of her birth, the constellation Leo.[4]

Her beautiful radiance was recognized by the people, as was her kind generosity. Not long after their marriage she ordered the price of bread to be reduced and gave bread away abundantly to the poor. She even established her own bread market to offer fairer prices to the people. She was a strong supporter of the arts, and frequently met with foreign emissaries, assisting Sultan Kaykusraw with political negotiations. Gurcu Hatun was, indeed, his radiant sun, shining bright.

She knew, from her grandmother, the value of all life, the grace of existence, and the need to serve. “Tamar the Great” of Georgia, the mother of her mother, with whom she shared her name of blessed nurturance, was the sainted Queen of Georgia, later referred to as “The Most Holy King” because she had so strongly guided its “Golden Age.” Her father, the “Unifier,” had Tamar co-reign with him before his death to ensure that her female rule, the first in the history of Georgia, would be accepted after his passing.[5] She was crowned when she was just eighteen, and together they ruled for six years. After his passing she was crowned again as sole ruler in 1184 and continued to rule for another three decades, until 1213. During her reign, Kars and the great Silk Road city of Ani[6] came under her dominion; her realm stretched from the Caucasus to Erzerum, in what is now eastern Turkey. Under her protection numerous Georgian churches were established in the Holy Land, and even Saladin, recognizing her integrity, allowed her safe passage with banners unfurled through Muslim territory in the Middle East.

When difficult times came for Tamar the Great’s people, and she was forced to send out an army in battle, she herself walked barefoot to the Church of Theotokos (God-bearer), the Virgin Mary, where she remained, offering prayers, until their safe return. Because of all the miracles that happened around her, she was canonized by the Georgian Orthodox Church not long after her passing as “The Holy Righteous King, Tamar.” Her feast day is May 12th.

Gurcu, herself, was a woman of deep spirit. She became close friends with the great mystic, Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, whom her husband, also, turned to for blessing. In the Menaqib al-Arifin,[7] there are numerous stories about their friendship. Through Rumi she caught the beautiful fragrance of Islam and turned to him for spiritual guidance. She was not unfamiliar with Islam, because in actuality her father, though separated early from her mother, Queen Rusudan, had also been a Muslim—Moughir-ed-din[8], the son of the Emir of Erzerum. The Emir, Toghril Shah ibn Kilij had asked his son to convert to Christianity to marry this female ruler of Georgia, to fortify peace. Gurcu and her husband, Sultan Kaykusraw, were actually cousins through other previous marriage alliances. Sometimes we forget how much we are all intertwined, by blood, by faith, and by Spirit.

Mevlana soon became Gurcu Hatun’s close companion and her spiritual support. He was accustomed to taking retreats in a local monastery and had many friends among the Christians in the Konya community—he understood both worlds, and recognized all the prophets of God. She hosted numerous gatherings for Mevlana, contributed support for the dervishes when it was needed, and was a close confidant of his wife, Kira Hatun. One of the anecdotes that relates a moment of their friendship envelops them all in the fragrance of roses:

Flowers from the Hand of the Friend


Kira Khatun (May God have mercy on her), Mevlana’s wife, who was the purest woman of the era, like a second Mary, recounts the following:

It was winter. Our Master was in retreat with Shamsuddin of Tabriz. He was deep in contemplation, leaning against Shams of Tabriz’s knee, and I was listening through an opening in the door to understand what they were saying. All of a sudden, the wall of the room split open and six awesome-looking individuals came in and greeted him, placing a bouquet of roses before him. They all sat there absorbed together, without saying a word, until the noon prayer. Mevlana then made a sign to Shamsuddin and said, “Let us offer the salaah; you be the imam.”

“When you are present, no one else should fill this role,” responded Shamsuddin.

After Mevlana had led the prayer, the strange individuals bowed in respect and vanished through the same wall through which they had come. In awe, I fainted, and just after I came back to consciousness, Mevlana came out and gave me the bouquet of roses, saying, “Keep these well.”

I sent several petals to the shop of the attar-maker, asking, “We have never seen this type of rose—where do they come from, and what is their name?”

All the druggists were amazed at the freshness, color, and fragrance of these flowers and wondered where they could possibly have come from in the middle of winter. A well-known merchant named Sharifuddin Hindi, who had made many trips to India on business, and who had often brought back marvelous and strange merchandise, was shown the flowers. He cried out in astonishment, “This is an Indian rose; it grows especially in Serendib (Ceylon). What is such a rose doing here? I must learn how they got here!”

Kira Khatun’s maidservant brought the flowers back and reported what he had said. The amazement of her mistress increased a thousandfold. Suddenly Mevlana entered and said to her, “Take special care of this bouquet, and keep it from the eyes of those who deny Truth, because it was brought to us by blessed beings from the Sanctuary of Generosity, by the guardians of the garden of Irem.[9] The qutbs[10] of India brought this for you, to serve as nourishment for the palace of your soul, and to give your eyes and your body strength. With God’s grace, guard it well, so that the evil eye does not fall upon it.”

It is said that Kira Khatun kept these flowers until her last breath. With our Master’s permission and blessing she gave some of the petals to Gurcu Khatun, the sultan’s wife. When someone had an eye ailment, she would rub the afflicted area with a petal, and it would be immediately healed. The color and the fragrance of these flowers remained forever fresh.[11]

Another of the stories related in the Menaqib tells of how Gurcu Hatun was to go on a journey with her husband but could not bear to leave Mevlana. So her husband, who loved her so deeply, sent for a Greek painter to paint a portrait of Mevlana, that she might carry it with her. The portrait painter attempted and after many false starts, broke his paintbrush, declaring that he could not capture in paint the full extent of Mevlana’s presence. Still, Gurcu Hatun was delighted to have the sketches and kept them close whenever she would journey, and it is said that when she was troubled, she would gaze upon them and find peace returning to her heart. 

When Sultan Khaykhusraw died in 1246, Gurcu was still a young woman and her son only six. The vizier, Pervane Mu‘in al-Din Suleyman, took over the government and insisted Gurcu marry him. This was about the same time that Shams of Tabriz, the beloved mentor of Rumi disappeared for the last time. This new marriage was troubling to her heart, but the close friendship of Gurcu Khatun and Mevlana continued for many years. Some say she converted to Islam; some say she continued as a Christian. Mevlana (“Our Master”) was welcoming to both Muslims and Christians; and even many Jews of Konya at that time considered him their Moses.

Thousands now, of varied faiths, journey daily to visit beloved Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, like bees to a honeycomb. And when they see the beautiful turquoise dome shining in the Konya sky, they know they have arrived near his resting place, and give thanks for the Presence of such a heart companion of deep spirit. Few know, though, that this turquoise dome, such a beacon to all the lovers who come to visit Rumi, was built under the guidance of his dear friend, Gürcü Hatun. It was she who sponsored the building of the dome to shelter him, in remembrance of her beloved teacher and close spiritual companion of heart. Still, after more than seven centuries, it remains as a testament to their friendship, Mevlana and this dear “Georgian Lady,” a cousin and “Grandmother of Spirit,” whom we remember with much love.

Subhanallah, Ya Wadud, Ya Haqq, Ya Kerim! Glory be to God, O You Who Are Infinitely Loving, O Truth, O Infinitely Generous One!


Lady Jacoba di Settisole

Lady Jacoba di Settisole, Giacoma dei “Settesoli”, she of “the seven suns,” was the wife of the noble knight, Gratiano Frangipane, whose family held the renowned Septizodeum[12] as one of their many castles. Lady Jacoba was born in 1190 at Torre Astura[13], a coastal fief of the Frangipani, and by the age of twenty had been betrothed to and married Gratiano. His family had been given the name “Frangipane” long before, in honor of the generosity of an ancestor who during a famine had provided bread for the Roman people and so saved them from starvation—hence the name, “Breaker of Bread” (Frangens panem).

Jacoba and Gratiano were blessed with two sons, Giacomo and Giovanni. Yet, their happiness was cut short; by 1217 she was widowed. Gratiano left to Jacoba and their sons immense wealth, numerous castles and landed estates scattered all over Rome and the outlying countryside, including the whole town of Marino. The Frangipani family was one of the noblest and most powerful of Rome; the Colosseum had even become their castle, linked by tunnels to other family palaces in the area. They also held a small tower at one end of the Circus Maximus that is still referred to as the Torre dei Frangipane.

We know little of Jacoba’s own family except that she was of noble Norman and noble Sicilian blood. The Normans had intermarried into what is now Italy predominately through Sicily, a major trading hub between Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, where just a hundred years earlier, Roger II had become King of Sicily and of Naples. At the time of that Norman conquest, after 250 years of prior Arab control, Sicily was inhabited by a multicultural population of Christians, Arab Muslims, and Muslims who had converted to Christianity. The Palatine royal chapel of the Norman kings in Palermo built at the beginning of Roger’s reign is a beautiful cultural blend of Norman architecture and Byzantine domes and mosaics, with Arabic arches, muqarna, and Arabic script embellishing the roof. The familiar Muslim design of clusters of eight-pointed stars form crosses on the ceilings and at the apex of the main dome, not the crucified Christ but the Pantocrater, “Creator of All,” gazes down in beneficence.

By the time of his coronation, King Roger had been married over a decade to his first wife, Elvira. She was the daughter of Alfonso VI of Castile[14] and his fourth queen, Isabella, who it seems was the converted Moor, Zaida, who had taken refuge in Alfonso’s court and was eventually baptised as “Isabella.” Zaida was a Muslim princess who Iberian Muslim sources identify as the daughter-in-law of Al Mutamid, the Muslim ruler of Seville, former wife of his son Abu al Fatah al Ma’mun, the ruler of the Taifa of Cordoba (d. 1091). When Seville fell to the Almoravids and her husband died, she sought refuge with Alfonso. Records indicate that together Alfonso and Isabella had three children, a son and heir to the throne, Sancho, and two daughters, Sancha and Elvira. King Roger spoke Arabic and, emulating his father-in-law in Toledo[15], also supported in his court renowned poets and scientists of many ethnicities. The Moroccan geographer, Al-Idrisi, who had also studied in Cordoba, was enlisted to write the most comprehensive geographical encyclopedia of the era, Nuzhat al-mushtaq fi ikhtiraq al-afaq, known as Roger’s Book (Al-Kitab al-Rujari).” When Elvira died, Roger became a recluse for years, so distraught was he with grief. A well-educated woman of Norman noble background, Jacoba would have been aware of these histories.

Often she would have passed and attended services in the Basilica of Our Lady in Trastavere, located at the heart of this central district of Rome where the Frangipani owned extensive property. This beautiful church, said to have been the first church built in Rome, in the 3rd century, had, around the time of King Roger’s coronation, been renovated and lovingly adorned with beautiful new mosaics. According to legend, on the day of the birth of Jesus a stream of oil flowed from the ground just near what became the altar area: “Fons olei.” It is the earliest church known to have been dedicated to Mary, and gracing the entry is a vast golden mosaic of the Madonna accompanied by ten women carrying offerings, with lamps of Spirit burning bright. This mosaic is one of the earliest known representations in Europe of Mary as a nursing mother. Here in this ancient city intimately linked to Egypt by the love of Antony and Cleopatra, we find in this mosaic echoes of portrayals of Isis in Egyptian art and other ancient near-eastern sculptures of the mother goddess, as well as early Coptic depictions of Mary in the Wadi El-Natrun 7th century churches of Egypt (from the time of the Prophet Muhammad). Everyone who enters here is welcomed with this acknowledgment of the nourishment of Mother Love. On the apse vault is celebrated the glorious coronation of Mary, with Christ holding her close; the exterior and the interior reflect this balancing of feminine and masculine, intimate and other-worldly, honoring both.

It seems Jacoba was not yet widowed when first she heard St. Francis preach one day in Rome. She was so deeply moved she asked of him how it might be possible for her to follow his Way of Poverty and Charity, she who was married, with such wealth and two noble sons to raise whom she dearly loved. Seeing her sincerity and noble heart, Francis told her that there were many ways to practice what he preached; that she did not need to leave her family to put into practice the principles of humility and charity. Thus began a deep friendship and the initiation of the Order of Penance of Assisi which later became the “Third Order of Saint Francis,” a way for those who due to other obligations were unable to take the full vows to become itinerant preaching friars, or poor sisters of St. Clare, but could devotedly follow the principle portions of the Rule of St Francis.

Thereafter, when Francis came to Rome, he would stay with Jacoba as her guest, and she would tend to his needs and take care of him when he was ill. To the brothers, she gave some of her property in Trastavere, which they used for caring for the lepers and the poor. The church of San Francisco a Ripa in Trastavere was built on land it seems was donated by her to St. Francis and the brethren. The cell where he sometimes stayed there remains, with the stone he used for a pillow and an orange tree that he planted nearby. In acknowledgement of her love and devotion, Francis gave Giacoma a lamb he had saved from slaughter that had become a cherished companion. It is said the lamb quickly became devoted, also, to Lady Jacoba and would follow her about, going with her to church, lying down beside her while she prayed, and accompanying her home. If she happened to oversleep, so that she might not miss the early prayer, the lamb would nuzzle her awake.

From her husband Jacoba had inherited, also, litigation with the Holy See. Attempting to follow the Rule of St Francis, also in this, to avoid entanglement in debt and litigation, she dissolved the debts claimed by her family by settling in favor of the Holy See, relinquishing the property rights her husband had disputed, and arranging payment of related debts by providing funds from her own personal wealth, not with funds from the inheritance left to her and her sons from her dear husband. In reference to the lamb, Francis had said that “one day cruelty would be conquered by gentleness and a time would come when no heart could resist kindness.”[16]

Jacoba continually attempted to do what is best for those around her, for whom she was responsible. Later, on 31st of May 1237, she and her son Giovanni gave to the little town of Marino[17], which they owned, its first Constitution or Statute.

In this, they anticipated concessions that would be made in the following centuries, which fixed rules and customs for the common good in many other places. The brief attached to the Constitutions of Marino reads: “In the year of the Lord 1237, the 11th of the pontificate of Pope Gregory IX, the tenth notice of 31 May. Since a simple written document would fall into forgetfulness, when it is concluded between men, therefore we Lady Jacopa and her son John, in whose domain is the castle of Marino, in proposing commitments and conventions to the inhabitants of the aforesaid castle, we want to draw up a public instrument that contains both rules and customs, therefore we, Lady Jacopa and John Frangipane, in this same day in the presence of a notary and witnesses, to this purpose formally invited, with free and spontaneous desire and by means of a solemn contract, we conclude an agreement with the inhabitants of the predicted castle present here and also on behalf of the absent in order to preserve and perpetuate all the good custom subscribed in these chapters. Putting our hand on the Holy Gospels we swear.”[18]

During his last visit to Rome in 1223, it is said Francis stayed with Jacoba as her guest in her Torre dei Frangipani, on the edge of the Palatine[19], the centermost of the seven hills of Rome. After his return to Assisi, quite ill and receiving intimation that the end of his life was near, Francis’s thoughts turned immediately to Lady Jacoba. He, also, remembered St. Clare, sending her a message saying she would see him again, which she did, but not until after his death. Aware though how sad Jacoba would be were he to leave without first seeing her, he dictated a letter to be sent:

“To the Lady Jacoba, the handmaid of the Lord, Brother Francis, the poor little one of Christ, wishes health and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit in our Lord Jesus Christ. Be it known to thee, most beloved, that Christ our Lord hath by his grace revealed to me the day of my death, which is near at hand. Wherefore if you wouldst find me alive, as soon as thou shalt receive this letter, do thou set forth immediately, and come to St Mary of the Angels.[20]

Francis asked her to bring with her cloth for his shroud, wax candles for the funeral, and, “I pray you that you would bring me, also, some of the food that you gave to me when I was sick in Rome.”

Suddenly, inwardly aware that Jacoba knew and was approaching, Francis told the brothers, “It need not be sent; there is no further need.”

After just a little while there was a loud knocking at the door. Francis sent the porter to open it—there was Lady Jacoba, the most noble lady of Rome, with her two sons, now senators, and a large escort of accompanying knights. At first the Franciscan brothers were hesitant to open the way for her, a woman, into the sanctuary of monks. But Francis said, “Let her come in immediately! Welcome Brother Jacoba!” in recognition of her inner strength and utter devotion. She, too, had received intimation from her Lord of the approaching moment of Francis’s death. She had brought with her waxen candles, the favorite food, the shroud, as well as a cushion for his head and a beautifully embroidered silken veil for his face. This delicate embroidered cloth can still be seen in the chapel of relics in the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi. She brought for him the only food “El Poverello” is known to have loved—her mustaccioli frangipane[21]—made by the one who loved him so well, she who by heart had heard his longing from a hundred miles away before he could even express it.[22]

She knelt beside him and was of the first to witness the stigmata, bathing these marks of love with her tears. Her son, as a consul of Rome, later testified to witnessing this. Remembering well her loving presence in those moments, the Franciscan brothers later spoke of her as another Mary Magdalene, Madonna (Our Lady) Jacoba.

As he lay dying one could hear the beautiful “Canticle of the Sun,”[23] which this troubador of Love had composed after his visit to the Holy Land.[24]

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.
To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.
Be praised, my Lord, though all Your creatures,
especially through my reverent Brother Sun,
who brings the day, and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.
Be praised my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which You give Your creatures sustenance.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water.
She is very helpful, and humble, and precious, and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and robust and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and keeps us,
and produces diverse fruits with colorful flowers and herbs.
Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You,
through those who endure sickness and trial.
Happy those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great Humility.

All the elements gathered in support; the songs of the birds were carried on the wind. This purifier of the faith died in 1226. Lady Jacoba and her companions provided all the funds for his honored burial. After his passing, Lady Jacoba moved to Assisi for the remainder of her life.

Blessed Jacoba continued to devotedly serve the poor and to receive and distribute funds and support to the Franciscan brothers who were unable by their Rule to directly receive money. Her home, like San Damiano, became a meeting place for the faithful. About four years after St. Francis passed, Lady Jacoba lost her son, Giacomo; his brother died in 1253, the same year as St. Clare and her beloved sister devotee, St. Agnes, who died on November 16th of that year. Some records indicate that Jacoba died in 1273, the same year as Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, while others suggest she had already passed in 1239.

In the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi, built in remembrance of him after his canonization in 1228, where his remains were then transferred, there is a beautiful fresco[25], painted by Simone Martini in the early 1300’s, depicting several noble devotees of the Way of Poverty and Humility opened by Francis. All were of noble Norman blood—St. Louis of Toulouse, St. Elizabeth of Thuringia[26], Blessed Lady Jacoba, and St. Louis IX, King of France[27]—all related by blood and by spirit. The portrait of the woman many consider to be Lady Jacoba has a glowing halo with seven suns, reflecting her name and her radiance. St. Elizabeth and St. Louis IX have become the patron saints of the Third Order (the lay branch) of St Francis, which many say he initiated for the sake of Lady Jacoba.

Francis was buried in the shroud she brought—said to have been woven from the wool of the lamb Francis had given her, whose gentle presence was a constant reminder of his love. And in love they continue to be united: Lady Jacoba, dear Frate Jacoba de Settesoli, rests still within close proximity of the abiding presence of her beloved friend, the only woman so honored, now within the same chapel of the Lower Basilica, still facing each other, even in death. Just adjacent to the urn with her remains, is the plaque that declares: “Here lies Jacoba, a holy Roman Noblewoman.”


Though these two dear mystic cousins, Gurji Khatun and Lady Jacoba, never met in this physical world, perhaps by heart they may have been aware of each other, through stories, told from east and west by travelers and troubadors, and songs of Love carried on the breeze.



Mostaccioli Frangipani recipe

There is one and only one earthly food that St. Francis of Assisi is known to have loved, and this particular delicacy he enjoyed so much that he asked for some on his deathbed. Some refer to it as Frangipane, others as Mostaccioli, a tasty almond cookie: Frangipane (Mostaccioli or Paletta di Mandorla), a special traditional delicacy of the town of Marino.

Originally, because sugar or honey was not readily accessible, these treats were sweetened with wine “must”  (pressed grapes that have a high glucose content), hence the name, mostaccioli. The sweets have been made in different shapes and with varied flavorings, sometimes with clove and cinnamon, sometimes with lemon zest, sometimes dipped in chocolate, but almost always flavored with almond. Those offered by Lady Jacoba were almond flavored; now they are, also, sometimes filled with almond cream, as her husband’s family name has come to indicate, “Frangipani,” and cut into multiple delicious diamonds served both on her feast day, on the feast days for St. Francis, and as a special Christmas remembrance.

3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups finely ground almonds
1/8 t cloves
1/8 t nutmeg
¼ t cinnamon
2 t baking powder
one pinch of salt
1/3 cup cream
3 large eggs
2 T butter room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ c honey
lemon zest from one medium organic lemon
½ t vanilla extract
2 T fresh lemon juice from the organic lemon


For Further Reading


Regarding “Gurcu Hatun” and Tamar the Great:

Rumi and His Friends, Stories of the Lovers of God, Translated by Camille Adams Helminski with Susan Blaylock. Fons Vitae, 2016?.

Studies in Christian Caucasian History, C. Toumanoff.

“Armenia and Georgia”, Cyril Toumanoff.  In J. M. Hussey, The Cambridge Medieval History 4. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966.

Studies In Medieval Georgian Historiography: Early Texts And Eurasian Contexts,  Stephen Rapp, Peeters Publishers 2003.

History of the Kingdom of Georgia, Vakhushti Bagrationi 1745


Regarding Blessed Jacoba de Settesoli and St Francis:

The Treatise on the Miracles of Saint Francis, Thomas of Celano.

Francis of Assisi, Arnaldo Fortini, New York, Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992.   A   translation by Helen Moak of “Nova Vita di San Francesco.”

The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace

by Paul Moses, Professor of Journalism at Brooklyn College, CUNY, New York.

Wisdom from Franciscan Italy – The Primacy of Love, David Torkington. 

Saint Francis of Assisi: A Biography, Johannes Jörgensen, Longmans, Green, 1912.

Francis of Assisi: Performing the Gospel Life, Lawrence S. Cunningham, Eerdmans, 2004.

God’s Troubadour, The Story of Saint Francis of Assisi, Sophie Jewett, New York, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1910.

The Image of St Francis: Responses to Sainthood in the Thirteenth Century, Roselind B. Brooke Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2006

The Little Flowers of St Francis of Assisi (Fioretti di Santo Francesco d”Ascesi , translated by Lady Georgina Fullerton in 1864, edited by Cardinal Manning and revised by Dom Roger Hudleston, The Heritage Press, New York, 1965.


Regarding Roger of Sicily, Zaida, and Alfonso VI:

Roger II of Sicily: A Ruler Between East and West. Houben, Hubert, Cambridge University Press, 2012.

“La Mora Zaida o la Reina Isabel, ¿De Concubina a Reina.” Luis Miguel Fernándes-Montes y Corrales, Antigua, Cápsula Histórica, 2017.

The Kingdom of León-Castilla under King Alfonso VI, 1065–1109, Bernard F. Reilly, Princeton University Press, 1988.



[1] Excerpt from Tree of Grace, Troubadors, Patriots, Mystics, and Lovers: A Journey of Discovery by Camille Hamilton Adams Helminski.

[2] Gürcü (pronounced Gurjoo in Turkish) Hatun’s maternal line (*through her mother’s ancestral Bagratid lines, it seems we are cousins):
4.Giorgi III, King of Georgia (d. 1184) + Burdukhan, Princess of Ossetia
3.Tamar I “the Great”, Queen of Georgia, “The Holy Righteous King” + David Soslan
Bagrationi  (of Ossetia), (son of Djadaron Bagrationi of Ossetia and the long line of Bagratid rulers)
2.Rusudan I, Queen of Georgia + Moughir ed-Din Emir of Erzerum
1.Tamar, the “Georgian Lady” (“Gürcü Hatun”) + Kaykhusraw (Kay Khosroe) II, Sultan of Rum (now Turkey); her brother was King David VI of Georgia

[3] “Bagrat” derives from the Old Persian Bagadata, “God-Given,” and the harp on the Bagratid coat of arms is in remembrance of their Davidic ancestry.

[4] One of these shir-u hurshid coins resides in Tbilisi’s Museum of Cinematography, Theater, Music and Choreography.

[5] After Giorgi III’s death, his sister, Tamar’s paternal aunt, Rusudan, returned to Georgia and served as regent in the first years of her niece Queen Tamar’s sole reign. This aunt also served as a tutor of the Alan prince, David Soslan, whom Queen Tamar chose for herself as her second husband in 1189, after divorcing her first husband, who had been chosen for her, with whom she felt incompatible.

Her aunt, Rusudan (რუსუდანი), was herself married briefly to a Muslim, Sultan Masud Temerik, until his death October 2, 1152. After several years, she married another Muslim, Hiyas ad Din, (Muizz ad-Dunya wa ad-Din Adud ad-Dawlah Abul-Harith Ahmad Sanjar ibn Malik-Shah), also known as Ahmad Sanjar, who was the Seljuk ruler of Khorasan, from 1097 until 1118, when he became Sultan of the Seljuq Empire until his death in 1157. They married not long after the death of his first wife in 1156, and had been married only a year before he died. He is remembered as one of the best of the Seljuq sultans, the longest reigning Muslim ruler before the arrival of the Mongols. He was a strong patron of the arts, and in his court Persian poetry flourished.

It seems there were numerous intermarriages among the nobility of Georgia and the Seljuks, so those who might consider themselves as descended from Christians may also have Muslim roots, and those who consider themselves Muslim may, also, have Christian grandparents.

[6] Ani, whose name is derived most probably from the Armenian “to take care of,” was known as “the city of one thousand and one churches.” Among the ruins that remain of this once prosperous medieval metropolis of over 100,000, one can still see a diversity of architecture—stones of cruciform, hexagonal, and octagonal churches, as well as mosques, some of the most beautiful and technically advanced of the medieval era, still whispering with breezes on this high plateau now completely empty of inhabitants. After many turbulent years before her time, during the reign of Tamar the Great a few decades of peace returned to Ani, this once renowned city of the Silk Road.

[7] This gathering of accounts of the life of Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi and his family and friends was written in the early 1300’s by Aflaki, a close friend of Rumi’s grandchildren. It is offered in English translation as Rumi and His Friends, Stories of the Lovers of God, by Camille Adams Helminski with Susan Blaylock.

[8] Gürcü Hatun’s paternal line:

7. Suleyman I, Ibn Kutalmish, Sultan of Rum + daughter of Tutush (Emir of Damascus, d. @1095, was the son of Alp Arslan Great Seljuk 1029-1072, and Miss ? of Lorhi, daughter of the Smabat ruler of Lorhi and Kata of Georgia, granddaughter of Kagig I, Shahinshah of Armenia
6.Kilij (Qilij) Arslan I, Sultan of Rum ( -1107) + Princess of Smyrna (daughter of Chaka, the Emri of Smyrna)
5.Masud I, Sultan of Rum + daughter of Al-Ghazni Danishmend (2nd ruler of Danishmend + ?)
4.Kilij Arslan II, Sultan of Rum (1115-1192) +  daughter of Qara-Arslan
3.Toghril Shah ibn Kilij, Emir/Sultan of Erzerum (brother of Kai-Khosroe I, Sultan of Rum) + ?
2.Moughir ed-Din, Emir of Erzerum + Rusudan I, Queen of Georgia
1.Tamar, “The Georgian Lady” (Gürcü Hatun)  + Kaykhusraw (Kay Khosroe) II, Sultan of Rum (now the Anatolian region of Turkey)

[9] The ancient garden of Irem is a legendary garden that was built as a model of the Garden of Paradise by Shaddad b. ‘Ad in Southern Arabia.

[10] Qutbs, often not publicly known, are the spiritual “poles,” divinely inspired beings around whom others turn in their devotion. It is taught that it is through their spiritual presence and connection with the Unseen that the world is maintained in being and blessing.  

[11] Rumi and His friends, Stories of the Lover’s of God, p.

[12] The Septizodeum was a seven-storied decorative façade of the royal palace, built by Roman Emperor Septimius Severus (193-211 A.D), with beautiful public fountains, just at the foot of the Palatine Hill where the Via Appia and commerce passageways from Africa and the East converged. This impressive building has sometimes been attributed to Marcus Aurelius because Septimius posted a plaque upon it designating Marcus Aurelius as his adopted father, and so placing himself in the lineage of “good emperors.” Its name derived from Septisolium (temple of the seven suns), referring to the seven planetary deities of that era: the Sun and Moon, Saturn, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, and Venus. (In the Islamic mystic tradition of Rumi, the soul passes through seven stages of development in the process of its perfected enlightenment; and in both Christianity and Islam we have references to “seven heavens.”)

[13] An island on the Italian coast south of Rome, almost midway to Naples.

[14] See Chapter Nineteen, p. of this volume, “Blanche of Castile and Berengaria, A Tale of Two Sisters,” both of whom were great —granddaughters of Alfonso VI.

[15] See Chapter   Three Eleanors.


[17] Marino is on the outskirts of Rome, near Lake Albano. Later, when Jacoba’s son, Giovanni, died, he left the town of Marino to the poor of Marino. It was sold and the money distributed among them.

(Vittoria Colonna, one of the most popular female poets of sixteenth-century Italy and spiritual mentor to Michelangelo Buonarroti, was born in Marino in 1490.)

[18] See

[19] This Palatine Hill, the oldest and most noble neighborhood of Rome, was also reputed to be the location of the cave where Romulus and Remus had been nursed by the she-wolf. How appropriate a last stop in Rome for Francis, he who had so nurtured with his love the wolf of Gubbio that he was no longer feared by the townspeople, but welcomed as a reminder of the transforming power of love.

[20] Santa Maria degli Angeli, is the small church of “Saint Mary of the Angels,” the Portiuncula in Assisi, where St. Francis had begun his mission. He had restored this blessed place where angels had been heard, in remembrance of the assumption of the Virgin, and gathered many around him there in service over the years. Now he was lying in this small chapel, awaiting the moment of return to his Lord.

See p.166, The Little Flowers of St Francis of Assisi (Fioretti di Santo Francesco d”Ascesi, one of the first books to be printed in the Italian language in 1476) translated by Lady Georgina Fullerton in 1864, edited by Cardinal Manning and revised by Dom Roger Hudleston, The Heritage Press, New York, 1965.

[21] See a recipe for this sweet almond cookie in the appendix.

[22] Thomas of Celano, a contemporary of St. Francis who wrote his earliest biography in 1252, wrote: “Jacopa of Settesoli, equally renowned for her nobility and her sanctity in the city of Rome, had merited the privilege of a special love from Saint Francis.” And reminiscent of the Song of Songs, he writes of how Francis was one “whom she loved so ardently.”

[23] Francis’s poem, “Canticle of the Sun,” is believed to be the first work of literature in the Italian language (see Italian in appendix p), even as the Roman de la Rose was in French, and the first Galician (early Spanish language) literary collection of the Cantigas de Santa Maria (hymns to Holy Mary), many written by King Alfonso X, grandson of Berengaria of Castile (see Chapter nineteen), descendent of Alfonso VI, published in Toledo in the mid 1200’s.

[24] Of this “Canticle of the Sun,” the verses of “Sister Death” were composed as Francis lay dying. He had begun this song of Love and praise in 1224, sometime after his journey to Egypt and the Holy Land. Moved by Spirit to join the 5th crusade, to attempt to bring the Crusaders (partly led by John of Brienne) and the Muslims under Sultan al-Kamil to peace through God’s grace, he had crossed enemy lines and was welcomed by the Sultan (who also arranged for him free passage to Jerusalem to visit the Holy Sepulcher). Francis was deeply moved by the devotional practice of the Muslims, as was Sultan al-Kamil by his devotion and sincerity. After immersion among the Muslims, he composed his “Song of Praise,” which reminds one of the “Ninety-Nine Names of God” so essential to Muslim practice. In praise and prayer, hearts intermingle beyond boundaries created by worldly forces. The first few lines of the “Canticle of the Sun” are very reminiscent of the first few lines of the Fatiha, the quintessential prayer and first chapter (surah) of the Holy Quran:
In the Name of God, the Infinitely Compassionate, the Infinitely Merciful,
All praise belongs to God, Sustainer of All Worlds,
the Infinitely Compassionate, the Infinitely Merciful.

[25] The fresco mentioned is in the Lower Basilica. Numerous other frescos adorn the walls of the Upper and Lower Basilica, portraying stories from the lives of Christ, Saint Francis, Saint Clare, Saint Louis and Saint Anthony, Mary Magdalene, (See Chapter  of this volume), and Saint Catherine of Alexandria (see Chapter  of this volume: Katherine Swynford). There are also beautiful paintings by Giotto and Cimabue including an image painted in 1280 of Our Lady Enthroned and Saint Francis, probably the closest early likeness of Francis, together with Beloved Mary, mother of Jesus (see Chapter of this volume). One of the very few people whose mausoleum is here is John of Brienne (See Chapter  Melusine), King of Jerusalem, emperor regent of Constantinople, another ancestral grandfather, who yearned to follow the Way of St. Francis and did take on the habit of a Franciscan just before he died. Above this last burial monument, also, stands a statue of the Blessed Virgin.

[26] Regarding St. Elizabeth (1207-1231), See chapter Phillipa of Hainault, p.

[27] Regarding St. Louis IX (1214-1270), see chapter   Blanche of Castile, p.

This fresco was completed after Simone Martini returned from visiting King Robert I of Anjou, King of Naples, “the peace maker of Italy,” the brother of St. Louis of Toulouse and the great-nephew of St. Louis IX. St. Louis of Toulouse (1274-1297) gave up being a bishop to serve the poor as a Franciscan and, like St. Elizabeth, died early, in his twenties. St. Elizabeth, ancestral aunt to both St. Louis’s was also the great-great-aunt of King Robert’s mother, Maria of Hungary. Perhaps while together they shared stories of these gracious souls and in remembrance their portraits emerged.

One of Lady Jacoba’s husband’s relatives, the Papal Legate Frangipani, was of great support to Queen mother Blanche and Louis IX, so they also had interwoven family ties. Perhaps Lady Jacoba and King Robert were distant Norman cousins. This fourth figure, thought to be Blessed Jacoba, some identify as St. Clare, but she is not wearing the full habit in the way that Clare is usually represented, including by Martini in the adjacent fresco over the entrance arch to the St Martin chapel; others say it might be St. Agnes of Hungary, a cousin of St Elizabeth who became a Franciscan Poor Clare, but she took on the Franciscan veil and was not canonized until 700 years after her passing. It is most likely that it is Beloved Jacoba in the delicate veil (reminiscent of Martini’s nearby depiction of Mary Magdalene), she of the “seven suns” who, like King Robert, had grown up in Italy and, like him, was of noble Norman blood, and was well remembered for her saintly devotion and support of this beautiful Way of St Francis.