Saint Agatha

Continuing my post from yesterday about my visit to the Loreta in Prague...

While I was puzzling over the cherub holding the pulled tooth aloft to the left of the altar, my son Brenden was puzzling about a cherub to the right of the altar.

After having drawn Brenden's attention to the pulled tooth Brenden said, "I think I got you beat. Look what's on that platter the angel is holding over there."

Opposite the cherub holding St. Apollonia's pulled tooth, there was a cherub holding a platter. I inspected what the platter was holding.

"Are those two breasts?" I asked.

They were.

We were looking at iconography associated with St. Agatha. And her story is very horrific.

Agatha was an early Christian martyr, dying in 251 AD.

Agatha had dedicated her life to Christ at the young age of 15. But Quintianus, a Roman official, fell in love with Agatha, and he tried to force her to marry him. Refusing to break her vows of chastity, Agatha said no.

Infuriated, Quintianus had Agatha imprisoned in a brothel where she suffered sexual assault and rape.

After a month of this, Quintianus brought Agatha back, confident that her month in the brothel would have destroyed any aspirations to sexual purity she might have harbored. Quintianus again demanded that Agatha marry him. Agatha again refused.

So Quintianus had Agatha tortured. She was stretched on the rack, torn with hooks, whipped, and burned with torches. And she had her breasts cut off.

Agatha became one of the most venerated saints in the Christian tradition, and a part of her iconography is a platter that holds her two breasts.

Movingly, Saint Agatha has become the patron saint of breast cancer survivors, rape victims, and torture victims.

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