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Agatha of Sicily

For communities named after St. Agatha, see Sainte-Agathe.

Saint Agatha of Sicily or Saint Agatha (died 251) is a Christian saint. Her memorial is on 5 February. Agatha was born at Catania and she was martyred in approximately AD 250. She is the patron saint of Catania. She is one of seven women, excluding the Blessed Virgin Mary, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.

According to variations of her legend, having rejected the amorous advances of a Roman prefect, she was persecuted by him for her Christian faith. Among the tortures she underwent was the cutting off of her breasts. She is therefore often depicted iconographically 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 as the patron saint of bakers. More recently, she has been venerated as patron saint of breast cancer patients.

Her scorned admirer eventually sentenced her to death by being burnt at the stake. However, she was saved from this fate by a mysterious earthquake. She later died in prison.

She is considered as patron saint of Malta since her intercession is reported to have saved Malta from Turkish invasion in 1551.

The memory of Agatha is upheld in particular by the San Marinese Order of the Saint Agatha.

Festivals

  • from Ondarroa, 2001. Notice that it is sung by a single person and there are no stick beats.

Basques have a tradition of gathering on Saint Agatha's eve 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 those deceased in the house. After that, the homeowner donates food to the chorus.

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 3 to 5 February. The festival culminates in a great procession through the city for which hundreds of thousands of the city's residents turn out.

See also

  • Santa Gadea, a church of historical importance devoted to Agatha, located in Burgos.
  • The Incorruptibles, a list of Catholic saints and beati whose bodies are reported to be incorrupt; that is, the bodies did not undergo any major decay after their burial and hence are considered to be under some form of divine protection.

References

  • Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. The Penguin Dictionary of Saints. 3rd edition. New York: Penguin Books, 1993. ISBN 0-140-51312-4.

External links

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