St. Clare was born into nobility, but embraced the material poverty and spiritual wealth of St. Francis. While still a girl, Clare secretly left her home to follow Francis. He placed her with Benedictine nuns. After some time, Francis installed Clare as the first Abbess of San Damiano in Assisi. Her sisters, mother and aunt joined her in monastic life.
The monastic life that Clare forged was radical in that her cloistered nuns lived solely by the work of their hands and alms. Clare long labored to gain the privilege of poverty by Papal authority. To this day, the material poverty of the Poor Clares expresses total reliance on the care of God.
As in her life, St. Clare devoutly holds the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament in protection of the monastery. At her feet are cats, symbolizing the contemplative life. Consistent with Franciscan love of nature, a sparrow nests in the colonnade, “Even the sparrow has found a home ... where she may have her young – a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God.” (Psalm 84:3)