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Sant’Agata dei Goti

St Agatha’s of the Goths

16 Via Mazzarino / Via Panispera
00184 Roma
Tel. 06 48 88 06 31
Fax 06 48 88 06 55
Normally open Mon.-Sat. 07.00-09.00 and 17.30-19.00; Sun. 07.00-11.00 and 17.30-19.00.

Originally an Arian Church, dedicated to St Agatha, 3rd century martyr. 

St Agatha of the Goths - Facade

History

The church was built by Ricimerus for the Goths c. 460. The Goths were Arian, but when Arianism had been suppressed in Rome the building was taken over by the Catholic Church, in 592/3, and re-consecrated by Pope St Gregory the Great. It was restored in the 16th and 17th century. It’s the only Arian church that has been preserved in Rome.

It was restored in the 9th century, and a Benedictine monastery was founded next to it.

The apse of the church collapsed in 1589, and it was partially rebuilt in 1633, without major changes to the building itself apart from the new apse. The small courtyard outside the church was laid out at this time.

The church has been served by the Stigmatines since 1926. Their Generalate is adjacent to it.

The last titular priest of the church was Silvio Cardinal Oddi, who died on 29 June, 2001.

Exterior

St Agatha of the Goths - A relief of her above the door.

The façade was rebuilt by Francesco Ferrari in 1729. The relief above the door shows St Agatha holding her severed breast on a plate; her torturers severed her breasts when she refused to renounce her faith in Christ.

If you enter from Via Mazzarino, you will go through an 17th century courtyard. From 1836 to 1926, it belonged to the Irish College.

The Romanesque campanile was built in the 12th century.

Interior

Although it was redecorated in the Baroque style and has some 19th century additions, it is still possible to see traces of the 5th century plan, which was a basilica with three naves. The granite columns separating the naves are ancient.

The fresco in the apse shows the Glory of St Agatha, made by Paolo Gismondi in the 17th century.

There is a 12th or 13th century canopy above the altar, reassembled and erected here in 1933. It has four columns of pavonazetto marble, all decorated with Cosmatesque mosaic, and a temple roof. The former canopy was destroyed in 1589; fragments can be seen in the ceiling of the main chapel on the left-hand side.

The 15th century Cosmatesque pavement in the middle of the nave has an unusual, but very nice, design. It is a very late example of the style.

The rectangular windows were installed in the 17th century at the request of the Cardinals Francesco and Antonio Barberini.

By the altar of St Agatha is a large statue of the saint.

At the end of the right aisle, you can see relics from a group of Greek martyrs, brought here from the catacombs in the 8th century.

Ricimerus, who was buried in the church, had a mosaic installed. This was unfortunately destroyed in 1589, when the apse collapsed.

The Greek humanist John Lascaris (died 1535) is interred in the church.

Special notes

The feast of the Greek martyrs whose relics are preserved here is on December 2nd. It is usually celebrated with an evening Mass with the liturgy of the Byzantine Catholic rite.

Other important feasts are that of St Agatha on 5 February and St Gaspar Bertoni, founder of the Stigmatines, on 12 June.

Chris Nyborg, 2000

Saint Agatha

Saint Agatha was one of the women saints honoured as a martyr in antiquity and in the Arian Church. She is known as St Agatha of the Goths and of Sicily. Below are two articles about her life.

St Agatha of the Goths

Agatha, St (3rd century), according to tradition, a noble Sicilian virgin of great beauty and wealth, who rejected the love of a Roman consul and as a result suffered cruel martyrdom. In art, she is frequently depicted with her severed breasts on a plate. Whether Agatha ever lived, and, if so, whether she died in the persecution of Christians conducted during the reign (249-251) of the Roman emperor Decius or that of Diocletian, 50 years later, is unknown. She is the patron saint of Malta and of Catania, Italy. Legend relates that several times the mere carrying of her veil (taken from her tomb in Catania) in procession averted eruptions of nearby Mount Etna, and that her intercession saved Malta from Turkish conquest in 1551. St Agatha’s feast day is February 5.

Reference: Microsoft ® Encarta ® Premium Suite 2005. © 1993-2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

St Agatha - Microsoft ® Encarta ® Premium Suite 2005. © 1993-2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

St Agatha 
According to tradition, Agatha was martyred because she rejected the love of a Roman consul. This 13th-century depiction, by the painter known only as the Master of St Agatha, shows the saint visited by St Peter, while the consul walks away. It is in the church of St Agatha, in Cremona, Italy.


Microsoft ® Encarta ® Premium Suite 2005.
© 1993-2004 Microsoft Corporation.
All rights reserved.

 

Saint Agatha of Sicily - Martyr

The Martyrdom of Agatha, by Sebastiano del Piombo

The Martyrdom of Agatha,
by Sebastiano del Piombo

 

Born: Catania or Palermo.
Died: 251 AD, Catania.
Honoured in: Arian Catholicism.
Venerated in: Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, Oriental Orthodox Christianity.
Feast: 5 February.
Attributes: shears, tongs, breasts on a plate.
Patronage: Ali, Sicily; bellfounders; breast cancer; bakers; Catania, Sicily; against fire; earthquakes; eruptions of Mount Etna; fire; jewelers; martyrs; natural disasters; nurses; Palermo, Sicily; rape victims; single laywomen; sterility; torture victims; volcanic eruptions; wetnurses; Zamarramala, Spain.

Saint Agatha of Sicily or Saint Agatha (d. 251) is a Christian saint. Her memorial is on 5 February. Agatha was born at Catania and she was martyred in approximately AD 250. She is the patron saint of Catania. She is one of seven women, excluding the Blessed Virgin Mary, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, The martyrdom of Saint Agatha.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo,
The martyrdom of Saint Agatha.

According to variations of her legend, having rejected the amorous advances of a Roman prefect, she was persecuted by him for her Christian faith. Among the tortures she underwent was the cutting off of her breasts. She is therefore often depicted iconographically carrying her excised breasts on a platter.

The shape of her amputated breasts, especially as depicted in artistic renderings, gave rise to her attribution as the patron saint of bell-founders and as the patron saint of bakers. More recently, she has been venerated as patron saint of breast cancer patients.

Her scorned admirer eventually sentenced her to death by being burnt at the stake. However, she was saved from this fate by a mysterious earthquake. She later died in prison.

Orthodox icon of St Agatha

Orthodox icon of Saint Agatha

She is considered as patron saint of Malta since her intercession is reported to have saved Malta from Turkish invasion in 1551.

The memory of Agatha is upheld in particular by the Military Order of the Collar of Saint Agatha of Paternò.


Festivals
Basques have a tradition of gathering on Saint Agatha’s eve and going round the village. Homeowners can choose to hear a song about her life, accompanied by the beats of their walking sticks on the floor or a prayer for those deceased in the house. After that, the homeowner donates food to the chorus.

This song has varying lyrics according to the local tradition and the Basque language. An exceptional case was that of 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, when a version appeared that, in the Spanish language, praised the Soviet ship Komsomol, which had sunk while carrying Soviet weapons to the Second Spanish Republic.

An annual festival to commemorate the life of Saint Agatha takes place in Catania, Sicily, from 3 to 5 February. The festival culminates in a great procession through the city for which hundreds of thousands of the city’s resident turn out.

Reference:
Attwater, Donald and Catherine Rachel John. The Penguin Dictionary of Saints. 3rd edition. New York: Penguin Books, 1993. ISBN 0-140-51312-4.

The "Chi Rho" symbol of the early church representing the first two Greek letters of "Christ" - Alpha and Omega pertain to Revelation 22:13 - "I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."

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The "Chi Rho" symbol of the early church representing the first two Greek letters of "Christ" - Alpha and Omega pertain to Revelation 22:13 - "I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."

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