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Feast Day of St. Agatha

February 5th, 2011 Headsman

(Thanks to Carl Pyrdum, III, the author of the hilariously incisive blog Got Medieval, for this guest post — which originally appeared as part of his decidedly irreverent Medieval Months stroll through the Catholic Church’s quirky calendar of saintly feast days. -ed.)

While not one of the Holy Helpers proper, St. Agatha, whose feast falls on February 5, has special powers to heal ailments of the breasts, on account of having had hers cut off for refusing to worship pagan idols.

Like Bartholomew, she is usually depicted in the unfortunate after state in iconography, carrying her severed breasts before her on a tray or plate.


St. Agatha of Sicily, by Orazio Riminaldi (1625).

Because detached breasts sort of resemble bells, she’s the patron saint of bellfounders, and because they also kind of resemble dough, she works double duty as the patron of bakers, too. Oh, and just to be clear, that last sentence isn’t one of those clearly nonsensical sentences I pepper my writing with for purposes of the comedy. Agatha is the patron saint of severed boobs and everything that kind of looks like a severed boob.


The treats on the left are a traditional Catania cassata known as “Agatha’s breasts” or “Virgin breasts” (“Minni di Vergini”). Image (c) Gergely Sipos and used with permission.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: Ancient,Arts and Literature,Burned,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,God,Guest Writers,Italy,Martyrs,Myths,Nobility,Other Voices,Religious Figures,Roman Empire,Torture,Uncertain Dates,Women

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2 thoughts on “Feast Day of St. Agatha”

  1. Laura says:

    her breasts were restored by S. Peter so it is symbolic she has them on a tray. Hard for some churches to allow gory pictures so they preferred to sometimes show her restored with a tray showing the past breasts when they were cut off.

  2. Meaghan says:

    In the painting you see her severed breasts on the tray, yet she clearly has visible cleavage as well. WTF?

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