St Agatha, Virgin & Martyr – 05 Feb
One of the most highly venerated virgin martyrs of Christian antiquity, Agatha was put to death during the persecution of Decius (250–253) in Catania, Sicily, for her determined profession of faith.
Her written legend comprises “straightforward accounts of interrogation, torture, resistance, and triumph which constitute some of the earliest hagiographic literature”, and are reflected in later recensions, the earliest surviving one being an illustrated late 10th-century passio bound into a composite volume in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, originating probably in Autun, Burgundy; in its margin illustrations Magdalena Carrasco detected Carolingian or Late Antique iconographic traditions.
Although the martyrdom of Saint Agatha is authenticated, and her veneration as a saint had spread beyond her native place even in antiquity, there is no reliable information concerning the details of her death.
According to Jacobus de Voragine, Golden Legend of ca. 1288, having dedicated her virginity to God, fifteen-year-old Agatha, from a rich and noble family, rejected the amorous advances of the low-born Roman prefect Quintianus, who then persecuted her for her Christian faith. He sent Agatha to Aphrodisia, the keeper of a brothel.