Agatha of Sicily

Saint Agatha[4] of Sicily (c. 231 – c. 251 AD) is a Christian saint. Her memorial is on 5 February. Agatha was born at Catania or Palermo, Sicily, and she was martyred in approximately 251. She is one of seven women, who, along with the Blessed Virgin Mary, are commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.[5]

She is the patron saint of Catania, Molise, Malta, San Marino, and Zamarramala, a municipality of the Province of Segovia in Spain. She is also the patron saint of breast cancer patients, martyrs, wet nurses, bell-founders, bakers, fire, earthquakes, and eruptions of Mount Etna. Her arms and legs are incorrupt until our days.[6]

Saint Agatha of Sicily
Martirio de Santa Águeda, por Sebastiano del Piombo
Martyrdom of Saint Agatha
Virgin and Martyr
Bornc. 231[1]
Catania or Palermo, Sicily
Diedc. 251
Catania, Sicily
Venerated in
CanonizedPre-congregation by tradition confirmed by Pope Gregory I
FeastFebruary 5
Attributesshears, tongs, breasts on a plate[2]
PatronageSicily; bellfounders; breast cancer; bakers; Catania, Sicily; against fire;[3] earthquakes; eruptions of Mount Etna; fire; jewelers; martyrs; natural disasters; nurses; Palermo, Sicily; rape victims; San Marino; single laywomen; sterility; torture victims; volcanic eruptions; wet nurses; Zamarramala, Spain, Malta

Early history

Agatha is buried at the Badia di Sant'Agata, Catania.[7] She is listed in the late 6th-century Martyrologium Hieronymianum associated with Jerome,[8] and the Synaxarion, the calendar of the church of Carthage, ca. 530.[9] Agatha also appears in one of the carmina of Venantius Fortunatus.[10]

Two early churches were dedicated to her in Rome,[11] notably the Church of Sant'Agata dei Goti in Via Mazzarino, a titular church with apse mosaics of ca. 460 and traces of a fresco cycle,[12] overpainted by Gismondo Cerrini in 1630. In the 6th century AD, the church was adapted to Arianism, hence its name "Saint Agatha of Goths", and later reconsecrated by Gregory the Great, who confirmed her traditional sainthood.

Agatha is also depicted in the mosaics of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, where she appears, richly dressed, in the procession of female martyrs along the north wall. Her image forms an initial I in the Sacramentary of Gellone, which dates from the end of the 8th century.


One of the most highly venerated virgin martyrs of Christian antiquity, Agatha was put to death during the persecution of Decius (250–253) in Catania, Sicily, for her determined profession of faith.[8]

Her written legend[13] comprises "straightforward accounts of interrogation, torture, resistance, and triumph which constitute some of the earliest hagiographic literature",[14] and are reflected in later recensions, the earliest surviving one being an illustrated late 10th-century passio bound into a composite volume[15] in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, originating probably in Autun, Burgundy; in its margin illustrations Magdalena Carrasco detected Carolingian or Late Antique iconographic traditions.[16]

According to the 13th-century Golden Legend (III.15) by Jacobus de Voragine, fifteen-year-old Agatha, from a rich and noble family, made a vow of virginity and rejected the amorous advances of the low-born Roman prefect Quintianus, who thought he could force her to turn away from her vow and marry him. His persistent proposals were consistently spurned by Agatha, so Quintianus, knowing she was a Christian during the persecution of Decius, had her arrested and brought before the judge. He was the judge.

He expected her to give in to his demands when she was faced with torture and possible death, but she simply reaffirmed her belief in God by praying: "Jesus Christ, Lord of all, you see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am. I am your sheep: make me worthy to overcome the devil." With tears falling from her eyes, she prayed for courage. To force her to change her mind, Quintianus sent Agatha to Aphrodisia, the keeper of a brothel, and had her imprisoned there. Agatha never lost her confidence in God, even though she suffered a month of rape, assault, and efforts to get her to abandon her vow to God and go against her virtue.[17]

Quintianus sent for her again, argued, threatened, and finally had her put in prison and had her tortured. She was stretched on a rack to be torn with iron hooks, burned with torches, and whipped. Amongst the tortures she underwent was the cutting off of her breasts with pincers. After further dramatic confrontations with Quintianus, represented in a sequence of dialogues in her passio that document her fortitude and steadfast devotion, Saint Agatha was then sentenced to be burnt at the stake, but an earthquake saved her from that fate; instead, she was sent to prison where St. Peter the Apostle appeared to her and healed her wounds.[18]

Saint Agatha died in prison, probably in the year 251 according to the Legenda Aurea. Although the martyrdom of Saint Agatha is authenticated, and her veneration as a saint had spread beyond her native place even in antiquity, there is no reliable information concerning the details of her death.[8]

Osbern Bokenham, A Legend of Holy Women, written in the 1440s, offers some further detail.[19]


According to Maltese tradition, during the persecution of Roman Emperor Decius (AD 249–251), Agatha, together with some of her friends, fled from Sicily, and took refuge in Malta. Some historians believe that her stay on the island was rather short, and she spent her days in a rock hewn crypt at Rabat, praying and teaching the Christian Faith to children. After some time, Agatha returned to Sicily, where she faced martyrdom. Agatha was arrested and brought before Quintanus, praetor of Catania, who condemned her to torture and imprisonment. The crypt of St. Agatha is an underground basilica, which from early ages was venerated by the Maltese. At the time of St. Agatha's stay, the crypt was a small natural cave which later on, during the 4th or 5th century, was enlarged and embellished.[20]

After the Reformation era, Agatha was retained in the calendar of the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer with her feast on 5 February. Several Church of England parish churches are dedicated to her.

Festival of Saint Agatha in Catania

The Festival of Saint Agatha in Catania is a major festival in the region, it takes place in the first five days of February. The Catania Cathedral (also known asCattedrale di Sant'Agata) is dedicated to the saint.

Catania I cannalori


Folklore catania sant'agata la salita dei cappuccini (2247621233)


Catania Festa S.Agata CANDELORA


Catania's duomo and balloons

Catania's duomo during the festival


Mons Ste Agathe 919
Saint Agatha's breasts sculpted in the fortification walls, Mons, Var

Saint Agatha is the patron saint of rape victims, breast cancer patients, wet nurses, and bellfounders (due to the shape of her severed breasts). She is also considered to be a powerful intercessor when people suffer from fires. Her feast day is celebrated on February 5.

She is also a patron saint of Malta, where in 1551 her intercession through a reported apparition to a Benedictine nun is said to have saved Malta from Turkish invasion.[20] She is the patron saint of Catania, Sorihuela del Guadalimar (Spain), Molise, San Marino, Malta and Kalsa, a historical quarter of Palermo.

She is claimed as the patroness of Palermo. The year after her death, the stilling of an eruption of Mt. Etna was attributed to her intercession. As a result, apparently, people continued to ask her prayers for protection against fire.[21]

In Switzerland Agatha is considered the patron saint of fire services.


Minnuzze di sant'aita
Minne di Sant'Agata, a typical Sicilian sweet shaped as a breast, representing the cut breasts of Saint Agatha

Saint Agatha is often depicted iconographically carrying her excised breasts on a platter, as in Bernardino Luini's Saint Agatha (1510–1515) in the Galleria Borghese, Rome, in which Agatha contemplates the breasts on a standing salver held in her hand.

The tradition of Agatha Buns, Agatha bread, or so-called St Agatha's Breasts or Minne di Sant'Agata (Italian/Sicilian for Breasts of St. Agatha) or Minni di Virgini (Italian/Sicilian for Breasts of (a) virgin), served or blessed on her feast day, is found in many countries. The small round fruit buns are iced and topped with a cherry, intended to represent breasts.[22][23]


Basques have a tradition of gathering on Saint Agatha's Eve (Basque: Santa Ageda bezpera) and going round the village. Homeowners can choose to hear a song about her life, accompanied by the beats of their walking sticks on the floor or a prayer for the household's deceased. After that, the homeowner donates food to the chorus.[24] This song has varying lyrics according to the local tradition and the Basque language. An exceptional case was that of 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, when a version appeared that in the Spanish language praised the Soviet ship Komsomol, which had sunk while carrying Soviet weapons to the Second Spanish Republic.

An annual festival to commemorate the life of Saint Agatha takes place in Catania, Sicily, from February 3 to 5. The festival culminates in a great all-night procession through the city for which hundreds of thousands of the city's residents turn out.[25]

St. Agatha's Tower is a former Knight's stronghold located in the north west of Malta. The seventeenth-century tower served as a military base during both World Wars and was used as a radar station by the Maltese army.[20]

Saint Agatha in art

Agatha is a featured figure on Judy Chicago's 1979 installation piece The Dinner Party, being represented as one of the 999 names on the Heritage Floor.[26]

Alessandro Turchi - Saint Agatha Attended by Saint Peter and an Angel in Prison - Walters 37552

Alessandro Turchi, Saint Agatha Attended by Saint Peter and an Angel in Prison, The Walters Art Museum

Santa Agueda - Zurbarán (detalle)

Saint Agatha, detail from a painting of Francisco de Zurbarán

Piero, sant'agata

Saint Agatha bearing her severed breasts on a platter, by Piero della Francesca (c. 1460–1470)

Giulio Campi Entierro de Santa Agata

Burial of St Agatha, by Giulio Campi, 1537

Lanfranco, Giovanni - St Peter Healing St Agatha - c. 1614

Saint Peter Healing Agatha, by the Caravaggio-follower Giovanni Lanfranco, c. 1614

See also


  1. ^ D'Arrigo, Santo. Il Martirio di Santa Agata (Catania) 1985
  2. ^ Delaney, John P. (1980). Dictionary of Saints (Second ed.). Garden City, NY: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-13594-7.
  3. ^ Catholic Culture
  4. ^ Latinized form of Greek Ἀγαθή (Agathe), derived from Greek ἀγαθός, agathos, "good" (Behind the Name: the etymology and history of first names); Jacobus de Voragine, taking etymology in the Classical tradition, as a text for a creative excursus, made of Agatha one symbolic origin in ἅγιος agios, "sacred" and Θεός Theos, "God", and another in a-geos", "without Earth", virginally untainted by earthly desires ("Agatha", III.15).
  5. ^ Attwater, Donald; John, Catherine Rachel (1993). The Penguin Dictionary of Saints (3rd ed.). New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-051312-4.
  6. ^ Roman Catholic Saints
  7. ^ D'Arrigo 1985, p. 15; the present rebuilding of the ancient foundation is by Giovanni Battista Vaccarini (1767).
  8. ^ a b c Kirsch, Johann Peter. "St. Agatha." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 25 Apr. 2013
  9. ^ W.H. Frere, Studies in Roman Liturgy: 1. The Kalendar (London, 1930), p 94f.
  10. ^ Carmen VIII, 4, De Virginitate, noted by Liana De Girolami Cheney, "The Cult of Saint Agatha" Woman's Art Journal 17.1 (Spring – Summer 1996:3–9) p. 3.
  11. ^ Sant'Agata in via della Lugaretta, Trastevere, and Sant'Agata dei Goti, (Touring Club Italiano, Roma e dintorni [Milan, 1965], pp 444, 315).
  12. ^ (date in TCI, Roma e dintorni; a letter from Pope Hadrian I (died 795) to Charlemagne remarks that Gregory (died 604) ordered the church adorned with mosaics and frescoes (Cheney 1996 note 5).
  13. ^ Acta Sanctorum IV, February vol. I (new ed. Paris, 1863) pp. 599–662
  14. ^ Magdalena Elizabeth Carrasco, "The early illustrated manuscript of the Passion of Saint Agatha (Paris, Bibl. Nat., MS lat. 5594)", Gesta 24 (1985), p. 20.
  15. ^ The volume comprising texts of various places and dates was probably compiled when it was in the collection of Jean-Baptiste Colbert from which it entered the French royal collection.
  16. ^ Carrasco 1985, pp. 19–32.
  17. ^ "Fabio, Michelle. "Feast of Saint Agatha in Catania, Sicily", Italy magazine, 2 February 2009". Archived from the original on 30 December 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  18. ^ Stracke, J. R., "Saint Agatha of Sicily", Georgia Regents University, Augusta Georgia Archived August 13, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ Osbern Bokenham, (Sheila Delany, tr.) A Legend of Holy Women (University of Notre Dame) 1992, pp. 157–167.
  20. ^ a b c "St. Agatha", St. Agatha's Crypt, Catacombs & Museum
  21. ^ Foley O.F.M., Leonard. Saint of the Day, (revised by Pat McCloskey O.F.M.), Franciscan Media ISBN 978-0-86716-887-7
  22. ^ Illustration and details at Good Food Stories website.
  23. ^ Reference with picture at Adventures of the Kitchen.
  24. ^ J. Etxegoien, Orhipean, Gure Herria ezagutzen (Xamar) 1996 [in Basque].
  25. ^ "Feast of Saint Agatha in Catania, Sicily", Italy magazine, February 2, 2009
  26. ^ "Agatha". Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: The Dinner Party: Heritage Floor: Agatha. Brooklyn Museum. 2007. Retrieved 17 December 2011.

External links

1169 Sicily earthquake

The 1169 Sicily earthquake occurred on 4 February 1169 at 08:00 local time on the eve of the feast of St. Agatha of Sicily (in southern Italy). It had an estimated magnitude of between 6.4 and 7.3 and an estimated maximum perceived intensity of X (Extreme) on the Mercalli intensity scale. Catania, Lentini and Modica were severely damaged. It triggered a tsunami. Overall, the earthquake is estimated to have caused the deaths of at least 15,000 people.

Agatha (given name)

Agatha also Agata, is a feminine given name derived from the Ancient Greek word ἀγαθός (agathos), meaning good.

It was the name of St. Agatha of Sicily, a third-century Christian martyr. The name has been rarely used in English-speaking countries in recent years. It was last ranked among the top 1,000 names for girls born in the United States during the 1930s.

Athleta Christi

"Athleta Christi" (Latin: "Champion of Christ") was a class of Early Christian soldier martyrs, of whom the most familiar example is one such "military saint," Saint Sebastian.


Beverwijk (Dutch pronunciation: [ˌbeːvərˈʋɛi̯k] (listen)) is a municipality and a city in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland. The town is located about 20 kilometres (12 mi) northwest of Amsterdam in the Randstad metropolitan area, north of the North Sea Canal very close to the North Sea coast. A railway tunnel and two motorway tunnels cross the canal between Beverwijk and the nearby city of Haarlem on the south bank.

Around 1640, a town called Beverwyck was founded in the Dutch colony of New Netherland. That town's modern name is Albany, New York.

Confessor of the Faith

The title Confessor, the short form of Confessor of the Faith, is a title given by the Christian Church to a type of saint.

Dalua of Tibradden

Saint Dalua of Tibradden (Irish: Do-Lúe, Latin: Daluanus), also called Dalua of Craoibheach, was an early Irish saint who is said to have been a disciple of St. Patrick. He founded a church that became known as Dun Tighe Bretan (Tibradden) which is located today in the townland of Cruagh, Co. Dublin.

Festival of Saint Agatha (Catania)

The Festival of Saint Agatha is the most important religious festival of Catania, Sicily. It commemorates the life of what is the city's patron saint, Agatha of Sicily. It takes place annually from 3 to 5 February and on 17 August. The earlier dates commemorate the martyrdom of the Catanaian saint, while the latter date celebrates the return to Catania of her remains, after these had been transferred to Constantinople by the Byzantine general George Maniaces as war booty, having then remained there for 86 years.

Great martyr

Great Martyr or Great-Martyr (Greek: μεγαλομάρτυς or μεγαλομάρτυρ, megalomartys or megalomartyr, from megas, "great" + "martyr") is a classification of saints who are venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Rite of Constantinople.

Generally speaking, a Great Martyr is a martyr who has undergone excruciating tortures—often performing miracles and converting unbelievers to Christianity in the process—and who has attained widespread veneration throughout the Church. These saints are often from the first centuries of the Church, before the Edict of Milan. This term is normally not applied to saints who could be better described as hieromartyrs (martyred clergy) or protomartyrs (the first martyr in a given region).

Judas Barsabbas

Judas Barsabbas was a New Testament prophet and one of the 'leading men' in the early Christian community in Jerusalem at the time of the Council of Jerusalem in around 50 A.D.

Michael of Synnada

Michael of Synnada (Michael the Confessor) (died 818) was a bishop of Synnada from 784. He represented Byzantium in diplomatic missions to Harun al-Rashid and Charlemagne. He was exiled by Emperor Leo V the Armenian because of his opposition to iconoclasm. Honored by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, his feast day is May 23.

Oudenbosch Basilica

The Oudenbosch Basilica is a Roman Catholic basilica in the Dutch village of Oudenbosch. The basilica is named after Agatha of Sicily and Barbara of Nicomedia, two Christian martyrs from the third century. It was built at the initiative of Willem Hellemons who was parish priest between 1842 and 1884. Its nave and interior were modeled after St. Peter's Basilica, while the facade is a replica of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, both located in Rome. The basilica was designed by architect Pierre Cuypers. Construction began in 1865 but was not fully completed until 1892. The basilica is unique in the region in that it is relatively large with a classical Italian appearance that is atypical for most of northern Europe, let alone a small town in North Brabant.

Dutch Papal Zouaves and local Catholics gathered in Oudenbosch and left for Rome in 1868 to defend the Papal State against Giuseppe Garibaldi's Italian nationalist army. Therefore Pope Pius IX agreed to build a relatively big basilica in a small place. Originally a church, it was designated a minor basilica in 1912. A piece of the cloak Pope John Paul II wore during the 1981 assassination attempt is kept there as a relic.Elements inspired by their counterparts in Rome include Michelangelo's Pietà, Bernini's baldachin, the Chair of Saint Peter, and Bernini's Gloria.

Polyptych of Perugia

The Polyptych of Perugia (also known as Polyptych of St. Anthony) is a complex of paintings by the Italian Renaissance master Piero della Francesca, finished around 1470. It is housed in the Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria, Perugia, Italy.

The work was executed for the new Franciscan convent of Sant'Antonio da Padova in Perugia, most likely in the years following his sojourn in Rome. It portrays the Virgin enthroned with the Child in the central part, flanked by several saints: Anthony of Padua and John the Baptist on the left, Francis and Elizabeth of Hungary in the right. In the cusp is the Annunciation. The upper part of the predella shows the saints Clare and Lucy, while in the lower part are miracles stories of the main Franciscan saints.

The central part of the polyptych shows a still archaic formula, both in the composition of the frame and in the gold backgrounds: Piero della Francesca was in fact called to complete a work already begun by a local painter. The figures are impressively robust and full-bodied, the realism of iconography innovative and the perspective of the niche throne on which Mary sits is meticulously worked out. Of lesser quality are the predella panels, which are in fact attributed to assistants. More innovative and typical of the artist's style is the Annunciation, set in a bright cloister, whose illusionist view is considered amongst the greatest perspective renderings of Renaissance art.

Saint Agatha's Vision of Saint Peter in Prison

Saint Agatha's Vision of Saint Peter in Prison is a c.1625 oil on canvas painting by Simon Vouet, showing the imprisoned Agatha of Sicily having a vision of a visit from Peter the Apostle, who heals her wounds. It is now in the Galleria Regionale del Palazzo Abatellis in Palermo, which it entered from the former Jesuit college in Cassaro.

Saint Agatha (Zurbarán)

Saint Agatha is a 1630-1633 painting by Francisco de Zurbarán, bought by the French town of Montpellier in 1852 for 1540 francs and now in the city's Musée Fabre.


Agatha of Sicily is a Christian saint.

Sainte-Agathe or St. Agatha may refer to the following places:

St. Agatha, a rural community in Wilmot, Ontario, Canada

Ste. Agathe, Manitoba, Canada, an unincorporated community

Sainte-Agathe, Puy-de-Dôme, Thiers, France, a commune

St. Agatha, Maine, United States, a town


Sainte-Agathe-de-Lotbinière is a municipality in the Municipalité régionale de comté de Lotbinière in Quebec, Canada. Part of the Chaudière-Appalaches region, it had a population of 833 as of 2009. This town is also known for La Ferme Laitière Du Village Run by Luc Poirier. This Highly Profitable farm that earns approximately 52 046 962 dollars per year (according to a report from 2008) is very well known for its interesting process with new born calves

Although the new constitution dates from 1743, following the amalgamation of the village and parish of Sainte-Agathe, the territory was opened to colonizers in 1830. Sainte-Agathe-de-Lotbinière's early development was linked to the construction of the chemins Craig and Gosford in the mid-19th century.

It is named after Agatha of Sicily, who died as a martyr in 251.

Sant'Agata Bolognese

Sant'Agata Bolognese (Western Bolognese: Sant'Èghete; City Bolognese: Sant'Ègata) is a small comune in the Metropolitan City of Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, in the north of Italy. It is notable for being the headquarters of the luxury automobile manufacturer Automobili Lamborghini.

It is named after Saint Agatha of Sicily.


Silas or Silvanus (; Greek: Σίλας/Σιλουανός; fl. 1st century AD) was a leading member of the Early Christian community, who accompanied Paul the Apostle on parts of his first and second missionary journeys.


Sint-Agatha-Rode, named after the third-century Christian martyr Saint Agatha of Sicily, is a Dutch-speaking village in Belgian province of Flemish Brabant and lies within the district of the town of Huldenberg. Historically Sint-Agatha-Rode was an independent municipality (Gemeente) until the merger of Belgian municipalities in 1977 when it was joined to the town of Huldenberg.

Sint-Agatha-Rode is located east of the town centre of Huldenberg, in the hills between the valleys of the river Dijle which is the eastern boundary of the Huldenberg district and the river Laan which is the western boundary. North of the town center of Sint Agatha-Rode the Laan joins the Dyle. The eastern boundary of the village is the language barrier with the Walloon villages of Nethen and Pecrot and to the south is the Flemish village of Ottenburg. Sint-Agatha-Rode has developed from being an agricultural village to become a rural residential town.

Virgin Mary
See also

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