Italy: Theft St. Agatha’s Relics

August 29, 2023

On Friday, August 18, 2023, in the afternoon, unknown persons stole the relic of the famous Catanese saint from inside the Church of St. Agatha, in the center of Brescia, just off Piazza Vittoria.

As the sexton went out to clean the presbytery, he noticed that the golden urn containing the saint's relics was open. He approached and realized that it had been emptied of its contents.

The parish priest, Giambattista Francesconi, admitted that the urn containing the relics was not locked: “The thieves only stole the relic, leaving the urn which, paradoxically, has a much higher economic value than its sacred content,” he said.

He added: “Anyway, there are television cameras in the church. We have filed a complaint with the carabinieri, who have already come and have the images. We are confident that the case will be quickly resolved and that St. Agatha will soon return to her place.”

The Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection Unit was alerted and was able to verify that the cameras showed women near the chest while the relics were still inside. As it is the cultural heritage of Italy, the military have put in place a protective device to prevent the relic from leaving the territory of Brescia.

St. Agatha of Catania

The virgin Agatha was born in Sicily and in Catania obtained the crown of a glorious martyrdom, under the persecution of Emperor Decius. Renowned for her beauty and her modesty, Quintianus, governor of Sicily, fell in love with her with a violent passion.

After trying in vain to make Agatha consent to his desires, he had her arrested as a Christian, and handed her over to a woman named Aphrodise to be corrupted. This woman after having been unable to shake Agatha's firmness in her faith, nor her resolution to keep her virginity, announced to Quintianus that all her efforts had been useless.

The governor had the virgin brought to him: “Are you not ashamed,” he said to her, “being of illustrious birth, of leading the low and servile life of Christians?” Agatha responded: “The humility of Christian servitude is worth more than all the treasures and all the pride of kings.” The governor, irritated, gives her the choice, either to adore the gods or to suffer the rigors of torment.

The virgin, remaining constant in faith, was slapped and then thrown into prison. The next day, as her sentiments had not changed, she was tormented on the rack and burned with fiery blades; then her breasts were cut off. She called out to Quintianus: “Cruel tyrant,” she said to him, “are you not ashamed to snatch from a woman what you yourself have sucked in your mother?”

They put her back in prison; but the following night she was cured by an old man, who told her he was one of the Apostles of Jesus Christ. Brought again before the governor, and persevering in the confession of the name of Jesus Christ, they rolled her over fragments of pottery and hot coals.

At the same time an earthquake shook the city, and two walls fell and crushed Silvin and Falconius, intimate friends of the governor. The city was in the grip of a strong emotional stress, Quintianus, who feared sedition, secretly brought the half-dead Agatha back to her prison.

She made this prayer to God: “Lord, who has kept me from my childhood, who has removed the love of the world from my heart, and who has made me overcome the rigors of torment, receive my soul.” As she finished this prayer, she passed from earth to heaven. Her feast day is celebrated on February 5.