Agnes of Montepulciano, St. (pure, chaste) (1268–1317) In Christian legend, Dominican abbess. Feast, 20 April. Agnes was placed in a nunnery at the age of nine and was made abbess of a new convent at Procino when she was 15 years old. For 15 years she slept on the ground, using a stone pillow, and lived on bread and water until she nearly died and had to “diminish her austerities on account of her health,” according to one account. The citizens of her town, Montepulciano, promised to build a convent for Agnes if she would return to them. They tore down some brothels and constructed the convent. When Agnes arrived, she was made the prioress, a position she held until her death. Numerous miracles are recorded in her later life. One tells of how she had a vision in which an angel held her under an olive tree and offered her a cup, saying, “Drink this chalice, spouse of Christ: the Lord Jesus drank it for you.” At 49 she died, after telling her nuns she was going to her “spouse,” Jesus Christ. Another saint, Catherine of Siena, visited her tomb, as did Emperor Charles IV. When St. Catherine visited the shrine she stooped to kiss the feet of the “incorrupt body,” and the foot “lifted itself to meet her lips,” according to legend. In Christian art the scene of the foot rising is often portrayed. When St. Agnes is shown alone, she is dressed as a Dominican abbess, with white habit and black mantle and with a lamb (for her purity), a lily and a book. Often she is shown gazing on the cross, since she was devoted to the Passion of Christ.
Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow – Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante