Life of Saint Agnes

Saint Agnes of Bohemia | Charles Bridge museum According to the tradition she was born in Prague as the daughter from the second marriage of the Czech King Premysl Ottocar I and Constancia of Hungary on the 20th January 1211. At the age of three she was betrothed to the Polish duke Bolesław and under the supervision ofher aunt St. Hedvig was sent together with her sister Anne to be educated in the Silesian nunnery of Cisterci - an Sisters in Trzebnica.

When her childhood fiancé died, she was sent back o Bohemia for another two years to continue her education, this time at the nunnery of Praemonstratens Sisters in Doksany. As her father Premysl was interested in forging a strong link with the imperial family of Hohenstauffen, he betrothed his daughter Agnes to the nine years old son of emperor Ferdinand II, he future Henry VII and sent her to Vienna to the Court of Leopold VI, a Babenberg.

In the meantime Leopold VI, however, had won Henry for his own daughter. In 1225 the Premysliden Princess returned to Prague. A deputation of English KingHenry III, from the Plantagenet House, arrived he next year. An engagement took place, but Henry revoked it in 1229. The already married Henry VII was again interested in her but her next suitor was o become Henry’s father Frederick II, whom she, however, refused.

In spite of the politically motivated proposed marriages, which nevermaterialied, Agnes decided to become the bride of Christ. Inspired by the holy life ofher cousin Elizabeth of Hungary she joined the Order of St. Clare. With her brother Wenceslas I Agnes founded the Hospital of St. Francis in Prague 1232) and in 1234 accepted a religious robe and became the first abbess of the newmonastery of Poor Clares in Prague.

Gradually with the King, her brother, he established a double monastery for the Clares and for the Smaller Brothers of Strict Observance. The large early Gothic site of the Cistercian type, which comprised a monastery, a nunnery, two churches and Hospital Brotherhood quarters, was founded by the Holy Princess in 1233, and eventually evolved into he independen tOrder of the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star.

Agnes of Bohemia, imbued by the ideals of St. Francis and St. Clare, sought strict adherence to the original rules and was in written contact with St. Clare as well as with popes Gregory IX, Innocent IV and Urban IV. The energetic nun was a pious follower of the Franciscan ideal as well as a wise advisor to her royal family. In 1249, thanks to her influence, King Wenceslas I was reconciled with his son Premysl, Margrave of Moravia. Later she had a diplomatic role in settling a dispute between a nephew of Premysl Ottocar II and Rudolf I of Habsburg.

Called the "Elder Sister" af ter her resignation fromthe office of abbess she was striving for personal holiness, genuine humility, love for her co-sisters, the poor and the abandoned. We know from legends conveyed through the ages about her charitable acts, mercy and the art ofdiplomacy. She died after a pious and active life on 2 March 1282 in her Prague nunnery.

As early as n 1328 Elisabeth of Bohemia asked for her canonisation, but her request was not met for many centuries, in spite of powerful intercessions of Prague’s archbishops, sovereigns and grandmasters of the Order of the Knights of the Cross. The real reason for this was the missing body of St. Agnes, which disappeared during the Hussite wars. Only in 1874, at the request of Archbishop Schwarzenberg, she was recognized as blessed, and thus she could be worshiped publicly outside the Order of the Knights of the Cross. She was canonised on 12 November 1989 by Pope John Paul II. Our Saint Agnes of Bohemia is rightly associated with the fall of the Czechoslovak totalitarian regime on 17 November of that year.