Saints in Art – Saint Agatha

[Saint Agatha of Sicily]Article

(5th February) According to the legend was a Christian maiden of Catania, in Sicily, in the reign of the Emperor Decius. Quintianus, who was sent to govern Sicily, when he heard of her beauty and virtue, sent for her, and tried by all means in his power to get her for himself. Agatha said that neither wild beasts nor fire nor scourging would move her, she would remain the servant of Christ. Then Quintianus had her bound and beaten, and ordered his slaves to tear her breasts with iron pincers. She was then carried to a dark dungeon, where Saint Peter, accompanied by a youth bearing a torch, appeared in the night with ointment, and healed her. Then Quintianus had her thrown into a fire, but an earthquake came at the moment, and terrified the people so much that they begged him to stop the murder. Agatha was carried to a dungeon, but died of her wounds. Her tomb became a sacred spot to Christians, and, at a great eruption of Mount Etna, they took her silken veil from it, fixed it on a lance, and went forth to meet the lava, which ceased to flow at their approach, and the eruption ended.

She is represented with a martyr’s palm and the instruments of her torture, pincers or shears, or with her breasts in her hand or on a salver. She sometimes has a long veil. A picture of the martyrdom is in the Pitti, Florence, by Sebastiano del Piombo.

MLA Citation

  • Margaret E Tabor. “Saint Agatha”. The Saints in Art, with Their Attributes and Symbols. Saints.SQPN.com. 27 February 2014. Web. 28 July 2014. <>