Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 6 March 2015

St Agnes of Bohemia

Today is the feast or commemoration of St Agnes of Bohemia (d. 1282). John Dillon posted the following about her on the Medieval Religion discussion group;

Agnes (also Agnes of Prague; in Czech, Anežka Česká or Anežka Přemyslovna) was the youngest daughter of King Ottokar I of Bohemia. Through her mother she was a cousin of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. A very devout person, educated in Cistercian and Premonstratensian monasteries, she devoted herself to prayers and good works while waiting through a series of betrothals that never got as far as an actual marriage. In 1231, with the assistance of Pope Gregory IX, Agnes extricated herself from the last of these unwelcome arrangements of state. She soon founded a hospital at Prague, next to which she established a convent of Poor Clares, entering it in 1233 or 1234 along with five other religious sent by St. Clare of Assisi, with whom she remained in correspondence. In time Agnes herself became its abbess, though she preferred to be called soror maior.

To manage and staff her hospital, in 1233 Agnes founded a community of Franciscan-affiliated lay brothers, Fratres hospitalares. The community was approved canonically in 1235, was raised to the status of an exempt Order in 1237, and in 1252 was authorized to use the differentiating symbol that made them the Crosiers of the Red Star (Ordo militaris Crucigerorum cum rubea stella; Kreuzherren mit dem Roten Stern). In that year the hospital was moved to a new location.

Agnes was beatified in 1874 and canonized in 1989. Her _dies natalis_ would seem to have been 2. March but her day of commemoration in the RM is March 6th . Herewith an English-language account of Prague's Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia (Klášter sv. Anežky České), built from the 1230s to the 1280s:
Better views:

Some medieval images of Agnes of Bohemia:

a) Agnes presenting to the Grand Master of the Crosiers a model of their church, as depicted in a full-page illumination the mid-fourteenth-century Breviary of Grand Master Leo (1356; Prague, National Library, sign. XVIII f. 6):
There's a somewhat clearer image in Gábor Klaniczay, Holy Rulers and Blessed Princesses: Dynastic Cults in Medieval Central Europe, tr. Éva Pálmai (Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 239; in Google Books at:
http://tinyurl.com/na8r9sd [click on the hotlink].

b) Agnes presenting to the Grand Master of the Crosiers a model of their church and Agnes ministering to a man sick in bed, as depicted on panels of the late fifteenth-century Kreuzherren-Altar (a.k.a. Altarpiece of Nicolas Puchner; 1482) in the National Gallery's site at her convent:

Somewhat less certain images of Agnes of Bohemia are:

c) this hooded figure on a carved column capital from the altar area of the convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia's later thirteenth-century church of the Holy Savior (kostel Sv. Salvátora), also in the National Gallery site at the convent:


d) the nun depicted in the lower register of the initial "S" at the outset of the Passio of St. Agnes of Rome in the later thirteenth-century Lectionary of Arnold of Meißen (the _pars hiemalis_ of the so-called Osek Lectionary of ca. 1270, dubiously thought to be of Franciscan origin), also in the National Library in Prague:
Detail view (nun):
Traditionally interpreted as a portrait of Agnes of Bohemia, this image could be that of Agnes of Kamenz, a nun of the Cistercian convent of Marienstern (possibly the lectionary's original home) and, on one interpretation, a daughter of its noble founder. Or that of some other Agnes.

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