Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Saint Agatha

St Agatha's martyrdom by Alessandro Allori

St. Agatha was born in Catania, Sicily, and died there a martyr in approximately 251 AD. In the legend of her life, we are told that she belonged to a rich, important family. When she was young, she dedicated her life to God and resisted any men who wanted to marry her or have sex with her. One of these men, Quintian, was of a high enough rank that he felt he could force her to acquiesce. Knowing she was a Christian in a time of persecution, he had her arrested. He expected her to give in when faced with torture and possible death, but she simply affirmed 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: help me to overcome the devil."
Quintian imprisoned her in a brothel in order to get her to change her mind. He brought her back before him after she had suffered a month of assault and humiliation in the brothel, but Agatha had never wavered. Quintian sent her to prison, instead of back to the brothel - a move intended to make her more afraid, but which probably was a great relief to her. When she continued to profess her faith in Jesus, Quintian had her tortured by cutting off her breasts. He refused her any medical care but God gave her all the care she needed in the form of a vision of St. Peter.
Saint Agatha is often depicted in paintings carrying her excised breasts on a platter. The shape of her amputated breasts, especially as depicted in artistic renderings, gave rise to her attribution as the patron saint of bell-founders and of bakers, whose loaves were blessed at her feast day. More recently, she has been venerated as patron saint of breast cancer patients.
Because she was asked for help during the eruption of Mount Etna she is considered a protector against the outbreak of fire. She is the patron saint of Catania, Molise, Malta, San Marino and Segovia in Spain. She is also the patron saint of breast cancer patients, martyrs, wet nurses, fire and earthquakes.
The two following paintings are a modern impression of St Agatha, in relation to her role as patron of breast cancer patients.

A modern depiction of St Agatha's martyrdom
St Agatha, patron of breast cancer patients

1 comment:

  1. Hi there!
    Who are the artists of each of these paintings? I'm trying to collect research on modern depictions of St. Agatha! The artist names would be a huge help.
    Thanks in advance!