Thursday, January 21, 2016

St. Agnes in Flames

(Ercole Ferrata)
From the Golden Legend:

Then the bishops of the idols made a great discord among the people, so that all they cried: "Take away this sorceress and witch that turned men’s minds and alieneth their wits." When the provost saw these marvels he would gladly have delivered Saint Agnes because she had raised his son, but he doubted to be banished, and set in his place a lieutenant named Aspasius for to satisfy the people, and because he could not deliver her he departed sorrowfully. This Aspasius did make a great fire among all the people and did cast Saint Agnes therein.

Anon as this was done the flame departed in two parts, and burnt them that made the discords, and she abode all whole without feeling the fire. The people weened that she had done all by enchantment. Then made Saint Agnes her orison to God thanking him that she was escaped from the peril to lose her virginity, and also from the burning of the flame. And when she had made her orison the fire lost all his heat, and quenched it. Aspasius, for the doubtance of the people, commanded to put a sword in her body, and so she was martyred.

Anon came the Christian men and the parents of Saint Agnes and buried the body, but the heathen defended it, and cast so stones at them, that scarcely they escaped.


  1. One of my favorite things about the old Office is that She gets sort of a second feast day on the 28th (unofficial Octave Day?) The commemoration reading at Matins that Day (Beata Agnes, parentibus ad ejus sepulcrum assidue vigilantibus...) is one of my favorite readings in the year.

    St. Agnes, pray for us!

  2. I'm surprised the saints named in the Canon were never First Class feasts (or highly classed feasts). It would make sense to me.

    1. Ah, but many of them were, under the old rankings; many were doubles of second class, major doubles, or doubles, which outranked the Sundays.

    2. We should remember that before the 17th century the only feast rankings were ferial, simple, semi-double, and double. Feasts of Roman virgin martyrs were usually doubles, meaning that they were full feasts that could displace Sunday (St Lucy probably isn't so she doesn't displace Advent Sundays). St Lawrence was a double with an octave and many martyrs (popes and otherwise) were either double or semi-double. The over population of the kalendar has perhaps lost this impression for people, but in prior times these feasts were very important to the people of Rome.