St. Agatha often referred to as St Agatha of Sicily was born in 231AD inCatania, Italy to a wealthy and noble Christian family. Today, she iswidely celebrated on her feast day which is on the 5th of February.
St. Agatha is celebrated as the saint of rape victims, breast cancerpatients, wet nurses and bell founders and natural disasters. Wonderinghow she became patron saint for these social groups? Well, read aheadand find out!
When she was was 15, she decided to live her life as a consecratedvirgin. This means she was to remain celibate and give herself wholly toJesus and the Church in a life of prayer and service.
She became a deaconess in the church (most paintings depict her in thisrole). As a deacon, she was responsible for teaching new believers aboutthe Christian faith. She also assisted them in preparing for Baptism andthe Holy Communion.
Between 250 to 253 AD, the Roman Emperor (Trajan Decius) ordered thatall Christians be persecuted. A man known as Quintianus was the Romanprefect of Catania at the time.
Quintianus was in love with Agatha and made several advances to her.(Rumour has it that he just wanted to get his hands on the family’sproperty and land). Because Agatha had a vow of virginity, she turneddown the advances.
Being in a position of power, Quintianus was used to getting everythinghe wanted, so he didn’t take the rejection well. Quintianus broughtAgatha before the judge (Quintianus was the judge) because of herChristian beliefs.
Quintianus sent Agatha to prison as she was a Christian and there was anorder for all Christians to be persecuted. He then later decided to sendher to a brothel as punishment. At the brothel, she refused to acceptcustomers and she was sent back to Quintianus.
Quintianus upbraided her and made it known to her that she was a freeand noble woman who had allowed herself to be seduced into the servitudeof Christians. Agatha courageously informed Quintianus that she was aChristian and wanted to be a servant of Jesus Christ. She continuouslyrejected his advances.
As a result of her resistance to Quintianus’ advances, Agatha was sentto prison where she was brutally tortured. She was stretched on a rackto be torn with iron hooks, burnt with torches and whipped.
As part of the torture, her breasts were cut off. She responded to thishorrible act by saying, “Cruel man, have you forgotten your mother andthe breast that nourished you, that you dare to mutilate me this way?”to Quintianus. She did not receive any form of treatment after thatincident.
As a result of his continuously growing hatred for Agatha, Quintianusordered that she lay on a bed of coals and be burnt. While they wereburning her, an earthquake struck Catania and Quintianus ordered thatAgatha be sent back to prison.
A few hours later, Agatha died. This was on the 5th of February 251 AD.That is why she is celebrated on the 5th of February.
Agatha was buried at the Badia di Sant’Agata in a cave but later, herbody was taken to Constantinople where it was kept for nine years. In1126, it was brought back to Catania and now it rests in a Cathedral.
In Catania, the festival of St Agatha takes place on the 1st five daysof February and there is an all-night procession through the city. Inart, she is often depicted carrying her excised breasts on a platter.Most paintings also show her with a red veil.
She is celebrated not only in Catania but the whole of Sicily andworldwide.
5 Interesting Facts About St. Agatha
- When she had her breasts cut, it is believed that during the night
Saint Peter appeared in her cell, and healed her wounds.
- When she was being burnt, her red veil remained intact
- In Catania, it is believed that the carrying of Santa Agatha’s veil
in procession, has saved the city from many eruptions of Mount
Etna, earthquakes, the plague, and is also responsible for saving
the people of Catania from the wrath of Emperor Fredrick II
- A year after her death, there was an eruption of Mount Etna. when
her veil was held against the onrushing flames, the danger ceased.
- St. Agatha’s remains are currently in the same cathedral as Bellini,
a famous opera composer.
Prayer to St. Agatha
Saint Agatha, you suffered sexual assault and indignity because of yourfaith and purity. Help heal all those who are survivors of sexualassault and protect those women who are in danger. Amen