At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

13 November 2016

Agostina Livia Pietrantoni - Saint

Tragic sister’s simple virtue stopped the traffic in the capital

Sister Agostina Livia Pietrantoni was murdered by a patient
Sister Agostina Livia Pietrantoni
was murdered by a patient
Nun Agostina Livia Pietrantoni died on this day in 1894 in Rome after being attacked by a patient at the hospital where she was working.

Her story touched Romans so deeply that her funeral brought the city to a standstill as thousands of residents lined the streets and knelt before her casket when it passed them.

The November 16 edition of the daily newspaper Il Messagero reported that a more impressive spectacle had never before been seen in Rome.

‘From one o’clock in the afternoon, the streets close to Santo Spirito, and all the roads it was believed that the funeral procession would pass, were crowded with people to the point of making the flow of traffic difficult.’

Sister Agostina was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1972 and canonised by Pope John Paul II in 1999. Her feast day is celebrated each year on November 12.

Sant’Agostina was born Livia Pietrantoni in 1864 in Pozzaglia Sabina to the north east of Rome. She was the second of 11 children born to a poor farmer and his wife.

She started work at the age of seven doing manual labour, carrying heavy sacks of stones and sand for road construction.

The former Santo Spirito Hospital, now a convention centre,  is situated on the banks of the Tiber close to the Vatican
The former Santo Spirito Hospital, now a convention centre,
 is situated on the banks of the Tiber close to the Vatican
When she was 12, she went to Tivoli with other poor children to work during the olive harvesting.

Livia refused offers of marriage when she was older as she had her heart set on entering a religious order and, after an initial rejection, was accepted into the Thouret order, becoming a nun and taking the name of Agostina in 1887.

Sister Agostina was sent to work as a nurse at Santo Spirito Hospital in Rome. While working in the tuberculosis ward she contracted the disease herself, but miraculously recovered from it and continued to work there.

On one occasion while working on the tuberculosis ward she was attacked and beaten after seizing a knife from a male patient.

The patient, Giuseppe Romanelli, began to harass her and send her taunting death threats. Her fellow Sisters asked her to take time off work for her own safety but she refused.

On the morning of November 13, 1894, Romanelli stabbed Sister Agostina to death in a dark corridor at the hospital.

After suffering stab wounds to her shoulder, left arm, jugular and chest, she died, moments after forgiving her killer.

Following her canonisation, Sant’Agostina Pietrantoni was named as the Patron Saint of Nurses in 2003.

The village of Pozzaglia Sabina in Lazio, where Agostina was born and where her remains are buried
The village of Pozzaglia Sabina in Lazio, where Agostina
was born and where her remains are buried
Travel tip:

Pozzaglia Sabina, where Sant’Agostina was born, is a small comune in the province of Rieti in Lazio. In 2004 Sant’Agos- tina’s remains were returned to her home town and buried in her former parish church, the Church of San Nicola di Bari, in the first chapel on the left side of the church, which is now dedicated to her.

Travel tip:

Tivoli, where Sant’Agostina worked as a child harvesting olives, is to the north east of Rome. It is famous for its 16th century Villa d’Este, which has a terraced hillside garden with spectacular fountains. The Villa d’Este is now a state museum and is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

More reading:

Saint Giustina of Padua - murdered by Romans for preaching Christianity

The election of Pope John Paul II, the Polish pope

Saint Peter's Basilica - the largest church in the world

Also on this day:

1868: The death of composer Gioachino Rossini

(Photo of Pozzaglia Sabina by altotemi via Wikimedia Commons)


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