Keeping You Abreast


From February 3 to 5 the city of Catania is alive with passionate fervor as devotees celebrate their patron, Saint Agatha. These ricotta-filled pastry, pictured, called “minna di Sant’Aita” or Saint Agatha’s Breast represent Agatha, who is the patron saint of martyrs, bakers, earthquakes, wet nurses, and breast cancer patients. Her story starts in early Christian times (Exact dates are hard to say, but it’s believed she died between 250 and 253 AD.), when the young virgin from a wealthy, nobel family rejected advances of the Roman prefect Quintianus. Like Siracusa’s Santa Lucia, who Agata inspired, Agata dedicated her virginity to God. When she refused the advances of Quintianus, he sought to persecute her for her Christian faith, which during early Roman rule, was outlawed. As punishment, Quintianus sent Agata to a brothel, but she continued to be steadfast in her resolution to virginity and God. The madam, frustrated, sent Agata back to Quintianus, who threw her in prison and subjected her to brutal torture–the most sensational of which was cutting off her breasts. After enduring much misery, Agata was sentenced to be burned at the stake, but an earthquake intervened and she was incarcerated again, eventually dying in prison.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Reading about torture makes my stomach hurt. I don’t think I could even eat the prize. 🙁

  2. Sorry, Allison, it was part of my childhood. Some things you can move past. Some things you can move past only 90%.

    1. You are right Dana. This is not pleasant stuff, which is why I think the pastry attempts to make light of a tragic story. Just as we learned from Santa Lucia and San Sebastiano, these early Christians were quite extreme in their faith. Hmmm… how might this apply to the world today–for better or for worse?

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