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Early Women Writers

Agnes of Bohemia



Agnes of Bohemia


Bohemia, Prague (Czech Republic)




Agnes of Prague was the youngest daughter of King Otakar Přemysl and his wife, Queen Constance, a relative of St. Elizabeth. From early childhood, Agnes was the subject of various proposed dynastic political marriages. As a child, she was sent to the monastery of Treinitz. She was betrothed to Frederick II, Emperor of Germany, but refused to betray her oath to God. These plans let to a good education for her, including Latin, but Agnes was determined not to marry. In 1235, she wrote to Pope Gregory IX, asking him to prevent this marriage as she wished to consecrate herself to Christ permanently. Instead of public acclaim, honours, and worldly status, Agnes voluntarily chose the poverty and physical want that had been embraced by Jesus Christ himself. Influenced by her cousin, Elizabeth—who was canonized and hailed as a symbol of the papal agenda—Agnes built a large hospital in Prague dedicated to Francis Assisi, founder of the Franciscans, a mendicant religious order within the Catholic Church. Agnes learned of Clare of Assisi and her Order of Poor Ladies, the monastic counterpart of the friars. She began a correspondence with Clare (which lasted for over two decades), which led to Clare's sending five nuns from the monastery in Assisi to Prague to begin a new house of the order. Agnes built a monastery and friary complex attached to the hospital. she became the first abbess of the Convent of the Poor Clares at Prague. Their poverty was absolute and Agnes undertook tasks of sweeping, cleaning, and cooking besides the care of leper’s clothes. She maintained important connections in the church and corresponded with Pope Gregory IX in order to strengthen links between the Bohemian branch of the Franciscan order and its spiritual home in Italy. Her correspondences with the Pope and letters to Clare remain extant. Agnes lived out her life in the cloister, leading the monastery as abbess, until her death on 2 March 1282. In 1874, Pope Pius IX beatified Agnes. Pope John Paul II canonized Blessed Agnes on 12 November 1989. While she was known by her contemporaries because of her supposed visions and healing, such as her prophecy that King Wenceslaus would be victorious in his battle against the Austrians, her canonization was based on her practice of the Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity to an extraordinary degree.


Correspondence with Pope Gregory IX and St Clare of Assisi




Epistolary, Letters, Spiritual, Religious


The Privilege of Poverty: Clare of Assisi, Agnes of Prague, and the Struggle for a Franciscan Rule for Women. Joan Mueller. Penn State Press, 2006; Agnes Of Prague And the Juridical Implications of The Privilege Of Poverty by Joan Mueller Franciscan Studies, Vol. 58 (2000), pp. 261-287. St. Bonaventure University - Franciscan Institute Publications;Light Shining Through a Veil: On Saint Clare's Letters to Saint Agnes of Prague By Edith van den Goorbergh, Theo H. Zweerman;
The Oxford Dictionary of Saints By David Hugh Farmer;
Clare of Assisi: The Letters to Agnes J Mueller - 2003.

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