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St. Agnes of Bohemia, Pray For Us!

St. Agnes of Bohemia, Pray For Us!

Bohemian Master, “St. Agnes Tending the Sick,” 1482, National Gallery, Prague (photo: Public Domain)


This patroness of the Czech Republic was canonized by Pope St. John Paul II on Nov. 12, 1989

The feast day of St. Agnes of Bohemia (1211-82) is March 2.

Agnes was the daughter of Queen Constance and King Ottokar I of Bohemia. Ottokar is one of the most important monarchs in Czech history and played a key role in the rise of the Czech state. Agnes had many suitors who sought to marry her for political reasons, including Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor, King Henry VII of Germany and King Henry III of England.

It was her desire, however, to enter religious life. Rejection of Frederick’s proposal could have led to war, but at Agnes’ request Pope Gregory IX spoke to Frederick about her desire, and he relented and said he was not offended that Agnes preferred the King of Heaven to him.

Agnes’ first cousin was St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a princess in the Kingdom of Hungary who used her wealth to aid the poor. Agnes, too, used her position to aid those in need, building a hospital for the poor staffed by the Military Order of Crusaders of the Red Star as well as two Franciscan friaries. She began an affectionate correspondence with St. Clare of Assisi, an early follower of St. Francis and founder of the Franciscan community for women known as the Poor Clares.

Agnes joined the Poor Clares with seven other women in Prague in 1236 and served as abbess. Clare sent five nuns from San Damiano to join them and wrote Agnes four letters about the beauty of her vocation and her duties as an abbess. She embraced a life of prayer, obedience, mortification and strict adherence to the community’s vow of poverty. She had the gift of miracles, predicting the victory of her brother Wenceslaus over the Duke of Austria. Although she was superior of the community, she embraced its lowliest duties, such as cooking for the other sisters and mending the clothes of lepers.

Agnes died at age 71. She was buried in her convent church. Her remains were later moved to protect them from flooding and the anti-Catholic followers of Jan Hus (the “Hussites”); Hus was a Catholic priest who came to reject many Catholic teachings and became an early or “proto” Protestant. Agnes’ remains have since been lost.

Agnes was canonized by Pope St. John Paul II on Nov. 12, 1989 (just five days before the so-called “Velvet Revolution” which led to the nonviolent fall of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia). She is the patron of the Czech Republic.


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