The three day mid-winter Feast of Sant’Agata is upon us! Agata was a virgin martyr who died in 251 CE. Legend is that she was the beautiful daughter of a wealthy family from Catania. A faithful Christian, Agatha swore herself to Jesus. Important to know, during her lifetime, Christianity was illegal under Roman rule. So, when she refused the strategic advances of Quintianus, a Roman prefect, 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.
(This 1635 painting by Pietro Novelli of the story of Sant’Agata exists in Ragusa Ibla in the church of Sant’Agata ai Cappuccini.)