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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  March 2015

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION March 2015

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Subject:

FEAST - A Saint for the Day (March 6): St. Agnes of Bohemia

From:

John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 6 Mar 2015 16:22:57 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

Agnes of Bohemia (d. 1282). Agnes (also Agnes of Prague; in Czech, Anežka Česká or Anežka Přemyslovna) was the youngest daughter of king Ottokar I of Bohemia. Through her mother she was a cousin of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. A very devout person, educated in Cistercian and Premonstratensian monasteries, she devoted herself to prayers and good works while waiting through a series of betrothals that never got as far as an actual marriage. In 1231, with the assistance of pope Gregory IX, Agnes extricated herself from the last of these unwelcome arrangements of state. She soon founded a hospital at Prague, next to which she established a convent of Poor Clares, entering it in 1233 or 1234 along with five other religious sent by St. Clare of Assisi, with whom she remained in correspondence. In time Agnes herself became its abbess, though she preferred to be called _soror maior_.

To manage and staff her hospital, in 1233 Agnes founded a community of Franciscan-affiliated lay brothers, _Fratres hospitalares_. The community was approved canonically in 1235, was raised to the status of an exempt Order in 1237, and in 1252 was authorized to use the differentiating symbol that made them the Crosiers of the Red Star (Ordo militaris Crucigerorum cum rubea stella; Kreuzherren mit dem Roten Stern). In that year the hospital was moved to a new location.

Agnes was beatified in 1874 and canonized in 1989. Her _dies natalis_ would seem to have been 2. March but her day of commemoration in the RM is 6. March. Herewith an English-language account of Prague's Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia (Klášter sv. Anežky České), built from the 1230s to the 1280s:
http://tinyurl.com/7h3d9wh
Better views:
http://tinyurl.com/dy3j6o
http://media.novinky.cz/982/249825-original1-1slkj.jpg
http://www.kudykam.com/img/mista/mid/1345-3711.jpg

Some medieval images of Agnes of Bohemia:

a) Agnes presenting to the Grand Master of the Crosiers a model of their church, as depicted in a full-page illumination the mid-fourteenth-century Breviary of Grand Master Leo (1356; Prague, National Library, sign. XVIII f. 6):
http://tinyurl.com/lxcgmhu
There's a somewhat clearer image in Gábor Klaniczay, _Holy Rulers and Blessed Princesses: Dynastic Cults in Medieval Central Europe_, tr. Éva Pálmai (Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 239; in Google Books at:
http://tinyurl.com/na8r9sd [click on the hotlink].

b) Agnes presenting to the Grand Master of the Crosiers a model of their church and Agnes ministering to a man sick in bed, as depicted on panels of the late fifteenth-century Kreuzherren-Altar (a.k.a. Altarpiece of Nicolas Puchner; 1482) in the National Gallery's site at her convent:
http://tinyurl.com/o3732kr
and
http://tinyurl.com/mjlelg5
http://tinyurl.com/pcubek6

Somewhat less certain images of Agnes of Bohemia are:

c) this hooded figure on a carved column capital from the altar area of the convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia's later thirteenth-century church of the Holy Savior (kostel Sv. Salvátora), also in the National Gallery site at the convent:
http://tinyurl.com/ktunbu7

and 

d) the nun depicted in the lower register of the initial "S" at the outset of the Passio of St. Agnes of Rome in the later thirteenth-century Lectionary of Arnold of Meißen (the _pars hiemalis_ of the so-called Osek Lectionary of ca. 1270, dubiously thought to be of Franciscan origin), also in the National Library in Prague:
http://bajger.wz.cz/frk/img/osecky_lekcionar_low.jpg
Detail view (nun):
http://tinyurl.com/ow77tvk
Traditionally interpreted as a portrait of Agnes of Bohemia, this image could be that of Agnes of Kamenz, a nun of the Cistercian convent of Marienstern (possibly the lectionary's original home) and, on one interpretation, a daughter of its noble founder. Or that of some other Agnes, identity unknown.

Best,
John Dillon
(matter from an older post revised)

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