This 1786 painting by Mariano Rossi (1731-1807), The Martyrdom of Saint Agatha (on display in the Museo Civico at Castello Ursino in Catania), gives us a glimpse into the fate of our beloved Christian patroness. To recap from yesterday’s post, after the beautiful virgin Agatha refused the advances of the Roman prefect Quintianus, he arrested her on account of her Christian faith and condemned her to a brothel as punishment. Well, Agatha was a strong-willed young woman, and there was no way she was going to break her vow of chastity and participate in the activities of the madam and her colleagues.
Finding her impossible to manage, Quintianus collected her from the brothel and threw her in prison. That did little to shake Agatha’s faith in Jesus Christ, to whom she proudly prayed. The irate prefect ordered his men to torture her, the gravest of acts against her was cutting off her breasts, a terror which she survived by continuing to call upon Christ for guidance and strength. Legend says that St. Peter visited her in a vision, offering her comfort and healing her wounds. After some days, Quintianus then ordered Agatha to be stripped and rolled over hot coals and then burned at the stake; however, an earthquake interrupted the ceremony, and she was spared from that grim fate. Still her new wounds were many, and once she returned to prison, she prayed to God to be taken peacefully. She died soon after from her wounds.
(More about Sant’Agata tomorrow…)