The Catholic Defender: Saint Agnes of Bohemia
Agnes had no children of her own but was certainly life-giving for all who knew her.
Agnes was the daughter of Queen Constance and King Ottokar I of Bohemia. She was betrothed to the Duke of Silesia, who died three years later. As she grew up, she decided she wanted to enter the religious life.
Agnes, St. Agnes, St. According to tradition, Agnes was a beautiful girl, about 12 or 13 years old, who refused marriage, stating that she could have no spouse but Jesus Christ. Her suitors revealed her Christianity, which was then condemned as a cult, and in punishment she was exposed in a brothel.
After declining marriages to King Henry VII of Germany and King Henry III of England, Agnes was faced with a proposal from Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor. She appealed to Pope Gregory IX for help.
The pope was persuasive; Frederick magnanimously said that he could not be offended if Agnes preferred the King of Heaven to him.
Emperor Frederick is said to have remarked: "If she had left me for a mortal man, I would have taken vengeance with the sword, but I cannot take offence because in preference to me she has chosen the King of Heaven."
Agnes refused to play any more part in a politically arranged marriage. She decided to devote her life to prayer and spiritual works, for which she sought the help of Pope Gregory IX.
After Agnes built a hospital for the poor and a residence for the friars, she financed the construction of a Poor Clare monastery in Prague. In 1236, she and seven other noblewomen entered this monastery. Saint Clare sent five sisters from San Damiano to join them, and wrote Agnes four letters advising her on the beauty of her vocation and her duties as abbess.
Agnes built a monastery and friary complex attached to the hospital. It housed the Franciscan friars and the Poor Clare nuns who worked at the hospital.
Agnes became known for prayer, obedience and mortification. Papal pressure forced her to accept her election as abbess, nevertheless, the title she preferred was “senior sister.”
She herself became a member of what became known as the Franciscan Poor Clares in 1234.
As a nun, she cooked for and mended the clothes of lepers and paupers, even after becoming abbess of the Prague Clares the following year.
Her position did not prevent her from cooking for the other sisters and mending the clothes of lepers. The sisters found her kind but very strict regarding the observance of poverty; she declined her royal brother’s offer to set up an endowment for the monastery.
A lay group working at the hospital was organized by Agnes in 1238 as a new military order, dedicated primarily to nursing, known as the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star, following the Rule of St. Augustine.
As can be seen in their correspondence, Clare wrote with deep maternal feelings toward Agnes, though they never met.
Agnes handed over all authority over the hospital she had founded to these monastic knights. They were recognized as an order by Pope Gregory IX in 1236–37.
Agnes lived out her life in the cloister, leading the monastery as abbess, until her death on 2 March 1282.
Devotion to Agnes arose soon after her death on March 6, 1282. Canonized in 1989, her liturgical feast is celebrated on March 6.
While she was known by her contemporaries because of her supposed visions and healing, such as her prophecy that King Wenceslaus would be victorious in his battle against the Austrians, her canonization was based on her practice of the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and charity to an extraordinary degree, and the church's view is confirmed either through a miracle granted by God in answer to the saint's prayers or as in this case, by the continuing devotion of the Christian faithful to a saint's example across centuries.
She kept her virginity and faith in God through it all, and had miracles surrounding her before she died. “Her hair grew during her martyrdom, which covered her body. Then, when she was thrown into a fire to die, as a result of her prayers, the flames went out. These are the two main miracles noted.”
Tradition holds that, as she was being dragged through the streets, her hair grew miraculously to cover her nakedness, and an angel prevented her tormentors from bringing her into the brothel. However, though she was spared the disgrace of the brothel, she was later beheaded.
Though Agnes died in 1282, she is still venerated by Christians around the world more than 700 years later. She was honored in 2011, the 800th anniversary of her birth, as the Saint of the Overthrow of Communism, with a year dedicated to her by Catholics in the Czech Republic.
In 1874, Pope Pius IXbeatified Agnes.
Pope John Paul IIcanonized Blessed Agnes on 12 November 1989
Girl. Greek. A latinised form of the Greek Hagni, derived from hagnos, meaning 'chaste'. The name was later associated with the Latin agnus, meaning 'lamb'. Agnes Grey is the name of a novel written in 1847 by Anne Brontë, the youngest of the literary Brontë sisters.