St. Agatha's
  Crypt, Catacombs & Museum
 
 

 

 

 

 

Historical info. about St. Agatha
Agatha was born in a rich family, but no one knows exactly when and where she was born. She has been consecrated to God from her tender years. It is agreed that she was tortured in Catania, in the persecution of Decius, in the third consulship of that prince, in the year of our Lord 251. Quintianus, a man of consular dignity, bent on gratifying both his lust and avarice on Agatha's person and estate by means of the emperor's edict against the Christians. He therefore caused her to be apprehended and brought before him at Catania. She wept, and prayed for courage and strength all the way she went. On her appearance, Quintianus gave orders for her being put into the hands of Aphrodisia - a most wicked woman and her six daughters (all prostitutes). The saint suffered in this infamous place assaults and stratagems against her virtue infinitely more terrible to her than any tortures or death itself. But placing her confidence in God, she never ceased with sighs and most earnest tears to implore his protection, and by it was an overmatch for all their hellish attempts the whole month she was there.
Quintianus ordered Agatha to be brought before him. The virgin, in her first interrogatory, told him that to be a servant of Jesus Christ was the most illustrious nobility and true liberty. The judge, offended at her resolute answers, commanded her to be buffeted and taken to prison. She entered it with great joy, recommending her future conflict to God. The next day she was arraigned a second time at the tribunal, and answered with equal constancy that Jesus Christ was her life and her salvation. To this response, Quintianus then ordered her to be stretched on the rack, which torment was usually accompanied with stripes, the tearing of the sides with iron hooks, and burning them with torches or matches. The governor, enraged to see her suffer all this with cheerfulness, commanded her breast to be tortured, and afterwards to be cut off. At which she made him this reproach: "Cruel tyrant, do you not blush to torture this part of my body, you that sucked the breasts of a woman yourself? " After this torture, she was sent back to prison, with a severe order that food should not be allowed her. But God would be himself her physician, and the apostle St. Peter in a vision comforted her, healed all her wounds,. and filled her dungeon with a heavenly light.

Quintianus, four days later, not the least moved at the miraculous cure of her wounds, caused her to be rolled naked over live coals mixed with broken potsherds. Being carried back to prison, she made this prayer: "Lord, my Creator, you have ever protected me from the cradle; you have taken me from the love of the world, and given me patience to suffer: receive now my soul." Then, she died in peace.

(Info. obtained and edited from http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/AGATHA.htm)

Her name is found in the litany of saints and in all martyrologies, both Greek and Latin. St. Agatha is the patron saint for breast cancer patients, bell-founders, firemen, nurses and torture victims.

It is said that, through her intercession, Malta (where she is honored as patroness of the island) was preserved from the Turks who invaded it in 1551. Small portions of relics cf. St. Agatha are said to be distributed in many places.

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St. Agatha's Types of Torture
 
Her words
She was put in the hands of Aphrodisia (Wicked woman & her 6 prostitute daughters).    
Buffeted and sent several times to prison.   "Jesus Christ, Lord of all things, you see my heart, you know my desire-possess alone all that I am. I am your sheep, make me worthy to overcome the devil."
Stretched on the rack, the tearing of the sides with iron hooks, and burning them with torches or matches.    
Her breast were tortured and afterwards cut off.   To Quintianus: "Cruel tyrant, do you not blush to torture this part of my body, you that sucked the breasts of a woman yourself?"
Sent to a dark dungeon, with a severe order that no medicine and food were allowed to be given to her.  

 

 

After her wounds were miraculously cured, she was rolled naked over live coals mixed with broken potsherds. She was saved by a mysterious earthquake  

 

 

She was sent to prison for the last time when she offered her soul to God. (251A.D.)   "Lord, my Creator, you have ever protected me from the cradle; you have taken me from the love of the world, and given me patience to suffer: receive now my soul."

 

 

 


 

 

 

St. Agatha Today - Catania
For three days, Catanians and tourists swarm in the streets, numbering to almost a million. During those intense days, Catania turns into one and only crowd marching behind the Patron. The 4th and 5th of February stand out among the three days of festivities, when St. Agatha passes through the neighbourhoods on her silver carriage (Catanians call it, specifically, "fercolo" or, more commonly, "vara").
The first day of celebration, the 3th of February, develops itself into three distinct moments: the long and solemn Midday procession for "the offering of wax" to which civil, religious and militar authorities all attend bearing the standards of the City, the Province, and the University. In the afternoon, at 3.00 PM, St. Agatha's international cross-country race takes place through the old and new streets of the town-centre. Finally, in the evening, later than 8.00 PM, grandious fireworks are on display in piazza Duomo.
In the late morning of the 5th of February, a Pontifical Mass is celebrated by a specially invited prelate.
Catania, brought back to life after every eruption of the Etna volcano, has bestowed some of the most beautiful churches and monuments to the Patron. On the inside of "S. Agata al Carcere", the III century remains of the gaol, where St. Agatha faced her martyrdom and death, are still to be seen. The Church of "S. Agata alla Fornace" (in piazza stesicoro) and "S. Agata la Vetere" (the first Cathedral of Catania, and supposedly the first burial-place of the Saint) are non far. Many other places in Catania keep alive the memory of St. Agatha: "Badia S. Agata", the "stele" in piazza dei Martiri, the fountain in via Dusmet, the Norman-baroque Cathedral.  

St. Agatha is the Patron of 44 italian municipalities, and 14 of them bear her name. Besides, St. Agatha is among the Patrons of Malta and S. Marino. In Spain, she is worshipped in Andalucia and in Jèria (Valencia). The chapel in Barcelona where the Catholic sovereigns welcomed Christopher Columbus back from his first trip to America, is dedicated to St. Agatha. A peculiar tradition takes place in Zamarramal (Segovia): on the 5th of February, women are the masters of the city. In Portugal, St. Agatha is the Patron of Agueda. In Germany Agatha is the Patron of Aschaffemburg. In France, St. Agatha is venerated in Le Fournet (Normandy). The cult was grandiosely celebrated in Costantinople, while in Greece the Saint is extremely popular, specially in the Aetolian region. Even in India, in Viayawala, a cult of St. Agatha exists, and in Argentina, where sbe is the Patron of firemen. The cult is widely spread in Italy, specially in Lombardia, but also in Rome, Florence and Naples. (ragusaonline.com)

(Info. obtained and edited from http://www.ragusaonline.com/santagata/_index.htm)

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St. Agatha in Malta
It is said that Agatha, together with some of her friends, escaped from sicily because of the christians' persecution in 249 A.D. For a short time, they hid in the catacombs in rabat - Malta. She spent this time in Malta, praying and teaching the Christian Faith to the children.
The crypt where she used to pray was named after her, as were the nearby Catacombs and later on the Church now located over the crypt. At the time of St. Agatha's stay, the crypt was a small natural cave which later on, about 1000 years ago, was enlarged and embellished to the present state. In this crypt there is the main altar dedicated to the Saint. Till 1647, this altar was still used for worship.
St. Agatha thought about going back to her native place, that is, Sicily, even at the risk of being persecuted. On landing in Sicily, Agatha was brought before Quintanus, who condemned her to torture and imprisonment, which led to her death.
In 1551, according to the writings of Giacomo Bosio (Istoria della Sacra Religione Ill.ma Militia di San Giovanni Gerosolimitano - 1602) a pious nun from the Benedictine Monastery of Mdina, had a vision, in which she was told that the enemy was about to seige the city of Mdina. But if the marble statue of St. Agatha would be placed on the Walls of Mdina and Holy Mass will be celebrated, the city would not fall in the hands of the enemy. Eventually the Turks besieged the city but were not able of conquering it, notwithstanding that thousands of arrows were shot against the Maltese. The Turks lost all hope and retreated to the shores of St. Paul’s Bay where they embarked their ships in haste and left the island. To commemorate this event, a votive procession from Mdina Cathedral to this church takes place every year, on the nearest Sunday to the 5th February, feast day of the Saint.
 

Click HERE to read about St. Agatha's church, situated just above the Crypt and Catacombs.

Click HERE to read more info. about St. Agatha's Crypt.

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St. Agatha's Tower
St Agatha's tower is a former Knight's stronghold located in the north west of Malta. The seventeenth century tower offers views over to the neighbouring islands of Comino and Gozo. It was completed in 1649 during the Grand Mastership of Juan de Lascaris-Castellar to a design by Antonio Garsin. (Wikipedia.com)
The tower was painted red so it could be seen from a distance amongst the sunbleached Malta coastline and is also known as the Red tower or Mellieha tower due to its close proximity to the resort village.
St. Agatha's tower also served as a military base during both World Wars and was used as a radar station by the Maltese army.

By the close of the 20th century the tower was in poor repair with one turret completely missing and another turret severely damaged. The Tower was the substantially restored by Din l-Art Helwa starting in 1999, with restoration being completed in 2001, assisted by substantial industrial sponsorship. As part of the restoration work the damaged towers were replaced, the walls and were roof rebuilt and eroded stone facing replaced, the interior walls scraped and painted, the original floor uncovered, and the interior staircase to the roof rebuilt. (Wikipedia.com) The tower is open to the public.

Click HERE to watch a youtube video clip about St. Agatha's Tower, Mellieħa - Malta.

References

 

Photos of St. Agatha in Catania are obtained from http://www.galenfrysinger.com/saint_agatha_of_catania_sicily.htm

Ragusaonline. Retrieved from http://www.ragusaonline.com/santagata/_index.htm on November 3, 2008

Wikipedia.com. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Agatha's_Tower on September 8, 2008.

 

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