Agatha of Sicily

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There is this story about the martyrdom of Agatha, a Sicilian virgin (c. 231 – 251 AD) a Christian saint. Her memorial is on February 5. Agatha was born in Catania or Palermo, Sicily, and was martyred c. 251

According to the 13th-century Golden Legend (III.15) by Jacobus de Voragine, 15 year-old Agatha, from a rich and noble family, made a vow of virginity and rejected the amorous advances of the Roman prefect Quintianus, who thought he could force her to turn away from her vow and marry him. His persistent proposals were consistently spurned by Agatha. This was during the persecutions of Decius, so Quintianus, knowing she was a Christian, reported her to the authorities. Quintianus himself was governor of the district. Quintianus expected Agatha to give in to his demands when faced with torture and possible death, but Agatha simply reaffirmed her belief in God by praying: “Jesus Christ, Lord of all, you see my heart, you know my desires. Possess all that I am. I am your sheep: make me worthy to overcome the devil.” To force her to change her mind, Quintianus sent Agatha to Aphrodisia, the keeper of a brothel, and had her imprisoned there; however, the punishment failed, with Agatha remaining a Christian.

Quintianus sent for Agatha again, arguing with her and threatening her, before finally having her imprisoned and tortured. She was stretched on a rack to be torn with iron hooks, burned with torches, and whipped. Amongst the tortures she underwent was the excision of her breasts with pincers. After further dramatic confrontations with Quintianus, represented in a sequence of dialogues in her passio that document her fortitude and steadfast devotion, Agatha was then sentenced to be burnt at the stake; however, an earthquake prevented this from happening, and she was instead sent to prison, where St. Peter the Apostle appeared to her and healed her wounds.

Agatha died in prison, probably in the year 251 according to the Legenda Aurea. Although the martyrdom of Agatha is authenticated, and her veneration as a saint had spread beyond her native place even in antiquity, there is no reliable information concerning the details of her death.
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The legend inspired many artists who illustrated their versions of the story in their artworks. I tried to put together a collection and as much info as I could find for the artists.

When you like these historical stories and mythes, be sure to check out the category Mythe & History, as well as the ones related to Bondage and to Spanking.

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