20 April 2018

Sant’Agnese of Montepulciano

Miraculous life and death of young nun

A traditional image of Sant'Agnese
A traditional image of Sant'Agnese
Dominican prioress Agnese Segni, who was reputed to have performed miracles, died on this day in 1317 in Montepulciano in Tuscany.

She was canonised by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726 and her feast day is celebrated every April 20 on the anniversary of her death.

Agnese was born into the noble Segni family in Gracciano, a frazione - parish - of Montepulciano.

At the age of nine she convinced her parents to allow her to enter a Franciscan sisterhood. She had to have the permission of the pope to be accepted into this life at such a young age, which normally would not be allowed under church law.

After a few years she was one of a group of nuns sent to start a new monastery near Orvieto. When she was just 20 years old she was chosen to be abbess of the community.

She gained a reputation for performing miracles, curing people of their ailments just by her presence. She was reported to have multiplied loaves, creating many from a few on several occasions.

The tomb of Sant'Agnes in the church of  Sant'Agnese in Montepulciano
The tomb of Sant'Agnes in the church of
Sant'Agnese in Montepulciano
In 1306 she was recalled to head the monastery in Montepulciano and she started to build a church, Santa Maria Novella, to honour Mary, the mother of Jesus, as she felt she had been commanded to do in a vision.

She was also inspired to lead her nuns to embrace the Rule of St Augustine as members of the Dominican order.

When her health began to decline she was recommended to visit the thermal springs at nearby Chianciano Terme to take a cure but she received no benefit from the springs and was carried back to the monastery on a stretcher. She died in 1317 at the age of 49.

When her body had to be moved years later, it was found to be incorrupt, having not decayed, and her tomb became a site for pilgrims.

Michelozzo's Palazzo Comunale
Michelozzo's Palazzo Comunale 
Travel tip:

Montepulciano is a medieval hill town some 70km (43 miles) southeast of  Siena, known worldwide for its wine. Connoisseurs consider Montepulciano’s Vino Nobile to be one of the best wines produced in Italy. Among the important buildings in the town are the Palazzo Comunale, designed by Michelozzo, the favoured Medici architect, in the tradition of the Palazzo della Signoria in Florence, and the Duomo, dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta, which contains a huge triptych, Assumption of the Virgin, by Taddeo di Bartolo.

A panorama of Chianciano Vecchia
A panorama of Chianciano Vecchia
Travel tip:

Situated a little over 10km (6 miles) from Montepulciano, the town of Chianciano Terme has two parts. Chianciano Vecchia (Old Chianciano) is situated on top of a hill, entered via the elegant Porta Rivellini, and is quite distinct from the modern community, which has grown around the thermal springs. It is considered among the finest health resorts in Italy with attractive parks, many hotels and a range of therapeutic waters said to be beneficial for the liver, the kidneys, the urinary tract and even for respiratory problem.

More reading:

Why thousands take to the streets of Catania to celebrate Saint Agatha of Sicily

The wisdom of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Dominican philosopher

The First World War nurse who was made a saint

Also on this day:

1949: The birth of former prime minister Massimo D'Alema

1951: The death of Ivanoe Bonomi, statesman who helped Italy's transition to peace after World War Two


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