St. Agnes of Prague

by A Friar Minor  Translated from a Fourteenth Century Manuscript  (Bamberg, Misc. Hist. 146, E. VII, 19)


St. Agnes of Bohemia, was born at Prague in 1200 A.D.. The daughter of Premsyl Ottokar I, King of Bohemia (1198-1230 A.D.) and his second wife,
Constance, daughter of Béla III, King of Hungary, she was at the age of three betrothed to Boleslaw, the elder son of Henryk I, Duke of Silesia. Sent to reside in his father’s domains, she was taken to Trebnitz in that year, and there was endowed with a rich Catholic upbringing by the Cistercian nuns. Shortly after the engagement, her young husband died, and in 1207 A.D. she was taken back to Bohemia, to the Premonstratensian Convent at Doxan to learn how to read and write. In 1208 A.D. she returned home to live with her parents at Prague. Such was the importance of her father’s kingdom and her own grace and beauty, that shortly after 1220 A.D., she was sought by the Emperor as a bride for his elder son Henry. After the betrothald she went to reside at the court of Leopold VI, Duke of Austria, in preparation for the wedding. However it was not to be, since Henry later married the daughter of the Austrian Duke in 1225 A.D., much to the delight of Agnes, who now had her heart set on entering the convent. In 1233 A.D., after the death of his second wife, Jolante, the Emperor himself sought Agnes’ hand in marriage. It was only with the assistence of Pope Gregory XI, whose intervention Agnes expressly sought, that she avoided marriage, and obtained permission to found and enter a Monastery of Poor Clares in the city of Prague shortly thereafter. St. Clare of Assisi, who through correspondence had assured herself of Agnes’ holiness and firm resolve, sent five of her own nuns from Assisi to assist in the foundation. As a poor bride of Christ, Agnes of Bohemia lived a heroic life of humility, moritifcation, and charity for God and neighbor. She died in 1282 A.D., having lived 46 years in the convent. St. Agnes was canonized by Pope John Paul II on Noveber 12, 1989 A.D.. Her feast is March 2.

In the Breviarium Romanum (1961) the collect for Bl. Agnes’ feast reads as follows:

Deus, qui beatam Agnetem Virginem per regalium deliciarum contemptum, et humilem tuae crucis sequelam ad caelum sublimasti; tribue nobis,
quaesumus, ut eius precibus et imitatione; aeternae gloriae mereamur esse participes:  Qui vivis et regnas.

O God, who has raised the virgin Blessed Agnes aloft through contempt for the delights of royalty and a humble following of Thy Cross to Heaven; grant us, we beseech Thee, that by her prayers and (our) imitation of her, we may merit to be partakers in eternal glory: Who lives and reigns.

The Life and Deeds of St. Agnes

by a Friar Minor



Struck by the frequent prayers of the sacred virgin sisters of the Order of St. Clare at Prague, to compose a Life & Deeds of the most illustrious virgin, Sister Agnes, renowned daughter of the lord King of Bohemia, so that her exceptional sanctity not be kept reticent by a damning silence; • whose eternal memory deservedly ought to be (celebrated) with praises, for the reason that the inscrutible Wisdom of God has placed her as a lamp upon the candlestick of the Church Militant, and has clemently kindled (her) with the fire of His grace, with which she burned fervently at heart1 through merit of life, and lighted others clearly through (her) salvific example. • To which reasonable and pious petition I indeed had a good will to give way for the sake of the hope of everlasting retribution. • But by clever consideration perceiving myself insufficient and unworthy to the task, I restrained my quill from writing down (anything), trembling to darken with unskilled speech what it had to express with clear and great cries of praise. • At last constrained by a precept of obedience from my reverend father, the Minister (provincial), concerning this task, I took up a business beyond my strength, prefering to do less than I might by giving way under a burden of so great a labor than to pertinaciously contravene the will of the one (who was) precepting (me), since disobedience is censured as a sin of soothsaying or a crime of idolatry. • But because we are not sufficient to think anything by ourselves, and what is more (because) our sufficiency is from God, who for the sake of His mercy2 works in us both to will and to achieve, in proportion to (our) good will, for this reason placing my entire trust for assistence in Him, I do not intend to write things about this renowned virgin other than those which I have been able to obtain from other persons, who in their dealings with her3 have beheld with their own eyes the greatness4 of her virtue, (and) whose assertions on account of the merit of a life of (such) greatness5 cannot easily be thwarted; • and (let the reader) wonder that by means of her merits both in life and after her happy transitus the Lord deigned to bring about, that some (of her great deeds) indeed have been seen, and what is more that others by those to whom they had happend to have been narrated and received by faithful observation6 have come to my notice. • Indeed in the course (processus) of this history I have not always described the things done according to chronological sequence7 for the sake of avoiding confusion, but whatever was appropriate to a certain matter, whether they were accomplished at the same or at diverse times, in proportion to the little measure of my simplicity as concisely and conveniently (as) I could, I chose to include, so that those (who) rejoice in brevity do not have to dislike the subject-matter (of this book). • And to more ardently inflame the affection of the faithful to the imitation of this remarkable virgin, the course (decursus) of her whole life is contained in the thirteen chapters written below. • In the first:  on her origin and comportment in the first age (of her life). • In the second:  on the holiness of life which she had after the death of her parents having been carried off among her sibling (brother). • In the third:  how she entered the order of the most holy virgin Clare. • In the fourth:  on her great humility and obedience. • In the fifth:  on her holy and true poverty. • In the sixth:  on (her) severe macerations of (her) flesh. • In the seventh:  on (her) eagerness for prayer and her wonderful devotion regarding the Sacrament of the Altar. • In the eighth:  on (her) most fervent love (amor) of Christ’s Cross. • (In) the ninth:  on her frequent8 charity towards  (her) sisters and the afflicted. • (In) the tenth:  on the revelations divinely made to her. • (In) the eleventh:  on her transitus and on those things which happened during it. • (In) the twelfth:  on the burial of her sacred body. • Finally: on the miracles accomplished by (her) divine virtue.



The shining brightness of eternal Light and the immacluate Mirror of the Majest of God, and the Image of the Goodness of the Eternal Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, whose acts of pity over all His (Father’s) works, already on the verge of the end of the world, having remembered the children of His mercy, from His exalted dwelling has deigned to look out over the sons of men seated in darkness and in the shadow of death. • And to show in the ages to come the abounding riches of His grace and goodness, from the mass of the human race, as from a darkness, has caused a light of admirable sanctity to brighten, when He brought forth the most fortunate Agnes in this last hour as a lightbearer in her own time,9 • and as at vespers caused her to rise up over the sons of Earth: so that by her comportment, remarkable as the splendor of a true star, a people from the nations who walked in darkness, would direct the feet of their affections into the way of peace.

For (she was) from a stock (as) renowned, as could be brought forth from a royal lineage, because her father, Premsyl, surnamed Ottakar, (was) the illustrious King of Bohemia;10 (and) indeed (her) mother (was) Constance,11 the sister of lord Andrew, King of Hungary, the father of St. Elizabeth: and as progeny wholly royal on both sides, she charmed (her) noble origin with a wonderful elegance of morals. • Whose mother, while she still bore her in the womb, had a dream containing a prediction of the things that must come.12 • For it seemed to her that she entered the room in which the clothing of her precious and numerous royal family was kept. • Which as she caught sight of (these), she saw among them a tunic and cloak grey in color, and a cord with which the sisters of the Order of St. Clare were girt.13 • And when she greatly wondered who had placed clothes so coarse and simple among her precious vestments, she heard a voice saying to her “Do not wonder, because the child which you carry will use such clothes, and will be a light for the whole of Bohemia!” • God, prescient also of future things, who wants to show the things to come rather than that they come to pass, caused tiny Agnes, having (just) sprung into the world, to manifest by a certain wonderful instict bodily signs as an image of (her) future sanctity. • For often she used to be found by her nurse lying in the cradle, having hands and feet conceled in the shape of the Cross, to designate that He who endured the bitterness of the Cross on our behalf was to continually dwell as a bundle of myrrh within the breasts of her mind and that she ought to perpetually observe His flowering virginity.

Moreover when she had arrived at the age of three, she was generously betrothed by her parents, as befitted (their) will that she be marrried, to a certain Duke of Poland,14 • and having been escorted there with her nurse and an respectible retinue into the monastery which is called Trebnitz,15 she was honorably received, • where at first from the mouth of a daughter16 of St. Hedwig she grasped the rudiments of morals and faith with a docile heart, thereafter remaining there, although as a baby she did nothing childish in her works:17 • but rather when the ladies of the monastery entered the choir to perform the canonical hours, she used to devoutly offer the Lord’s Prayer and the Angelic Saluation to Christ and the Virgin, His Mother, by more frequently repeating (these) on bended knees before images of Christ and the glorious Virgin; • she used to exhort her companions to do likewise with numerous sermons.

It came to be,18 however, after Divine providence arrranged somthing better for her, that with her spouse, the aforesaid Duke, already dead six years, she returned to (her) father; • and was by him committed to the cloister at Doxan,19 in the Kingdom of Bohemia for a more ample formation in morals and the acquirement of a knowledge of letters from the nuns (who were) more studiously serving the Lord there. • And when she had remained with them there for a whole year progressing (in studies), the Interior Teacher, the Holy Spirit, who does not delay to teach, thoroughly annointed and taught her heart with so great an unction of His mercy, that what daily reading was accustomed to impart to others, the Holy Spirit provided her. • And thus, surpassing (her) age in morals, she used to avoid the novelties20 and games of the other girls: only a place for holy prayer, namely the church, used to delight her.

Therefore in the eighth year of her life, the noble disciple of Christ was led from the monastery back to (her) paternal home; • and there on account of her gravity of morals, which she used to conver in all (her) actions, she used to be venerated with the dearest affection, not only by (her) parents, but also by all living with them. • After an interval of some time, she was requested as a wife by the son of the Emperor Frederick,21 acting through messangers, and was betrothed to the same youth by the said parents, by means of the aforesaid messangers.22 • In which betrothal it happened that a certain party was not silent.23 • For the name of the renowed virgin, which had been known to nearly everyone, no bystander suceeded in remembering in regard to this betrothal, so that it would shine as an indication that she was to be joined not to a mortal man but by a perpetual convenant to the immacluate Lamb, in whose book her name had been written from memory. • At last, with the engagement feast having been celebrated just before the Emperor’s betrothal,24 with the pomp of royal magnificence she was sent by (her) father to Austria (where) in the course of time she (was) to be handed over by the Duke of Austria25 to the son of the Emperor as (his) wife. • However (while) remaining at the court of the aforesaid Duke, she gave her spirit up to no carnal pleasure, but throughout the whole of Advent, when all of the Duke’s household according to the custom of their homeland fed off meat, she alone fasted on bread and wine.26

Moreover in Lent when the children of the Duke used dairy products, she (was) content (even) then with bread and wine. • Nevertheless not wanting to be seen fasting by men, she passed the whole of Lent by fasting so cautiously, that besides her nurse and certain of her intimate friends27 scarcely anyone else was able to percieve this. • Thus putting on the mortification of Jesus Christ as a ring to surrounded her whole body, she used to torment (her) tender flesh, by constraining her concupiscences with a thong of parsimony, lest living among delights she be censured as dead before God. • Further, by persisting in almsgiving and prayers, she used to commend herself and her purity to the unspotted28 Mother of Christ, whom she chose as her own Patroness,29 by praying devoutly so as to be able to be a worthy imitator and companion of Her virginal purity. • Whence, among all the festivities (of the year), she even used to honor the Annuciation of the Lord with the most ardent devotion as long as she lived, going back over in pious meditation how (that) girl, untouched of the human race, made fertile by the dew of the Holy Spirit, conceived and with (her) virginal privilege unscathed, (as) one alone worthy of the name of virgin and mother, did sprout the Savior.

Therefore by the wonderful virtue of God, who reproves the counsels of princes, it came to be that with the marriage ignored and almost secret, during the time that she attained her fourteen year (of age),30 she was lead back once more to the land of her birth. • And behold after not much time the messangers of the Emperor and the King of England,31 coming to the virgins parents, were (each) asking as at a contest, that she be handed over as a wife to their (own) lord. • And as they undertook a delay there, to a certain soldier of the messangers of the Emperor a vision, certainly worthy of famous renown, was manifested by revelation. • For he saw in (his) dreams a crown of wonderful greatness descend upon the head of the virgin: which as she layed it down, an incomparibly better was placed upon her head. • Rising however in the morning and studying the things seen with (his) mind and refering to others, as a carnal man having no share in spiritual understanding, he interpreted them to mean that his legation was going to fortuitously obtain its desired end: • that namely Agnes, having been despised by the King of England, would accept as (her) husband him who is greater in dignity, that is, the Emperor. • But the Great God, revealing mysteries in the heavens, wanted to indicate by this dream that in place of a diadem of a corruptible kingdnom, Agnes, the soon-to-be spouse of Christ, was to be crowned by Him forever with a crown of unwithering glory.



Moreover when her father, of famous memory, King Ottokar, went forth from this life,32 she remained with her sibling (brother), the sucessor of the King, the renowned lord Wenceslaus,33 and growing older in body, she grew more through affection of devotion, progressing from virtue to virtue. • For arising at dawn she used to change her habit and those things which were unkown to him were consciously put into practice; • she most devoutly attended the (feasts of) the dedications of the churches, which are many, in Prague, and visiting the vicinity of those that were shut up, and she more urgently used to commend herself to their prayers. • Indeed often when returning (home) after work [she warmed] herself (at the fire), her feet were seen reddened with blood on account of the asperity of the cold; • for the reason that as one contending to enter into life by the narrow way, she used to keep to hard roads. • At last with the day growing more clearly light, proceeding to the chapel of the royal house [or] to the Cathedral church,34 (this) member of the noblity pressed by the crowds35 was intent not on the vain remarks of men but on the divine utterances; • and entering the church or chapel, she used to persist in hearing most devoutly as many masses as she could, and now reciting the penetential psalms with other prayers, now undertaking vigils on behalf of the desceased, repaying (her) debts to the Lord with attention, she did not use to relax (her) indefatigable spirit from prayer. • Moreover, discerning that the form of this world is passing away, she was with difficulty already striking a blow at fleeting, earthly glory; • and avoiding to display (her) comliness in secular attire, beneath vestiments woven from gold, as was befitted a royal child, she used to secretly wear a little cilice. • Avoiding her room, decorated with manificent pomp, she used to lie down upon hard and humble straw near (her) delicate bed. • Such were the marks of (her) comportment in (her) brother’s house, such (was her) affection for the things of Heaven and (her) contempt for things of earth. • But because such a luminous lamp could not lay hidden beneath a bushel-basket, the fame of her virtues and name, having been diffused according to the likeness of (fragrant) oil throughout the adjacents provinces, arrived even to the Emperor. • Who just as first to the father, so second to the brother of the virgin he directed messangers (to be sent), with many promises having been pledged, asking that he not deny his own sister as his wife. • With him nodding to the wishes of the petitioner, the virgin of Christ, thinking those things which are the Lord’s, that as one existing in a holy body and spirit, with the lily of the continent virgins, she would prevail to follow the celestial Lamb, she proposed that she be wed to no one among mortals of whatever state or prominence. • And so that in her proposal, which with God inspiring she had conceived, she would remain continuously (faithful), putting (her) hands to the plow handles, she disclosed her hidden intent by means of honest and discrete messangers to the noble Vicar of Christ, the lord Pope, Gregory IX.36 • Who as priest happy to preside, thoroughly rejoicing over the devotion of so generous a virgine, he comforted her in the Lord with gracious letters by means of the same messangers, equally commending her holy proposal and confirming it, and he looked upon her as an adopted daughter with many spiritual gifts, attending her all his days with a pious father’s affection. • But as a member of Christ’s household, filled with much consolation of spirit because of these things which she had received from the Supreme Pontiff in response (to her letters), she at once calmly made her proposal public to her sibling (brother), the lord King Wenceslaus. • The King attended to what had been heard not without a great disturbance and to excuse himself he directed messangers (to be sent) to the Emperor to disclose the proposal of (his) sister. • To whose legation the Emperor reponded so cleverly, “If this injury had been brought upon Us by any man, We would not hesitate to vindicate the reproach of such a contempt. But because she chose a greter Lord before Us, we do not reckon this a contempt to Our (person), since we believe this to have come to be by a divine inspiration.” • Whence extolling the good intention of the virgin with great cries of praise, he sent over to her precious gifts and many relics, urging by means of letters and inducing (her) to consumate happily what she had soberly begun.


1: lit. arsit in se, “she burned inside herself.”
2: lit. miseria sua grata here grata is read gratia; the author uses miseria as an abbreviated form of misericordia.
3: lit. conversando, “by having dealings (with her).”
4: lit. magnalia, “great things.”
5: lit. vitae ipsarum, “of a life of these (great things).”
6: lit. asseveracione, here translated as observatione.
7: lit. ordinem temporis, “order of time.”
8: lit. multa, “much, numerous.”
9: lit. in tempore suo : here read as in tempore ipsae.
10: Premsyl Ottokar I (1155-1230), a relative of St. Wenceslaus (d. 929), was Duke of Bohemia from 1193-98. An ambitious and shrewd man, he obtained the title King of Bohemia in 1198 from Philip of Swabia, the Hohenstaufen King of Germany 1198-1208 A.D..
11: In 1198 A.D. Premsyl Ottokar obtained an annulment of his marriage to Adelaide (d. 1211), the daughter of Otto, Margrave of Meissen; he married Constance (d. 1240), the daughter of Béla III, King of Hungary, in that same year.
12: lit. vidit somnium evidens presagium fiendorum.
13: St. Clare had founded the Poor Clares in 1213 A.D..
14: A civil war raged in the Poland during this period: 1194-1211 A.D.. This Duke of Poland was Boleslaw, the elder son of Henryk I (the Bearded), Duke of Silesia (1201-1238). The younger sister of Bl. Agnes, Anna (1204-1265) was to marry his second son, Henry II, Duke of Silesia (1238-1241) in 1216 A.D..
15: The monastery of Trebnitz, located in the Duchy of Silesia, north of it capital Breslau (modern Wroclaw, Poland) was founded in 1203 A.D., the year Bl. Agnes went to reside there, cf. William R. Shepherd, Shepherd’s Historical Atlas, plate 80 E f (Barnes & Noble Books: 1980).
16: This would be Gertrude, the Abbess of the convent. St. Hedwig (d Oct. 15, 1243), the wife of Henryk I, Duke of Silesia, founded this Cistercian monastery in 1203; she later joined it herself, as a nun, after the death of her husband in 1238 A.D.
17: lit. infantula nihil puerile gessit in opere.
18: lit. factum est. The year is 1207/8. A.D..
19: Doxan was a convent of the Premonstratensian Order, cf. W. Seton, op.cit., p. 170.
20: lit. insolentias, those things which are unusual, and contrary to custom.
21: This was Henry (1211-1242), who became the Roman King, i.e. King of Germany in  1220, and who would soon marry Margaret (d. 1267), the daughter of Leopold VI, Duke of Austria, instead in 1225 A.D..
22: lit. perinter nuntios . . .mediantibus prefatis nuntiis. This betrothal took place sometime between 1220-1225 A.D..
23: A reference to the Divine disfavor towards the union.
24: Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor (1220-1250), married Yolante (d. 1228), the daughter of John de Brienne, King of Jerusalem, in 1225. In 1233 A.D., after the death of Yolante, Frederick sought St. Agnes’ hand in marriage for himself.
25: Leopold VI (the Glorious) was Duke of Austria from 1199-1230.
26: Advent had long been a penitential season in the West, as it still is in the East (cf. homilies of Pope Leo Great).  St. Joan of Arc, a franciscan cordbearer, also was known to fast in this manner.
27: lit. secretarias.
28: lit. intemerata.
29: The pratice of choosing Mary as one’s patroness was a popular aspect of Marian devotion since the time of St. Bernard of Clarivux (1090-1153 A.D.). It was at the time of St. Agnes’ betrothal that the hymn Salve Regina, which incorporates this approach to Mary, became popular throughout the Cistercian, Domincan and Franciscan Orders; cf. Michael O’Carroll, Theotokos: a Theological Encyclopedia of the B.V.M, Michael Glazier, Inc. (Wilmington, DE: 1983).
30: Either the author is mistaken in recoking Agnes’ age at 14 sometime after her betrothal to Frederick’s son, Henry, or he incorrectly styles Frederick II as Emperor; for the latter assumed the imperial title only in 1220 A.D., when Agnes was already 20 years of age. According to W. Seton, op.cit., p. 171, “According to Palachy, the Bohemian historian (Dejiny Narodu Ceskeho, vol. II., part 1. Prag. 1877), ‘at the beginning of 1213 the Emperor Frederick II and Ottokar I met in Frankfurt and there entered into an alliance, upon which occasion it appears that a betrothal of the children of the two kings took place, viz. of him who was afterwards Henry King of the Romans and the Bohemian Agnes; which betrothal was broken off in 1225.'” W. Seton continues: “In 1225 Leopold sought a dispensation from Honorius III to break off the betrothal between Henry and Agnes, and instead to marry his own daughter Margaret to Henry. He suceeded, went to Naples to Frederick II, and in July, 1225, Frederick broke off the betrothal of his son to Agnes. The marriage of Margaret and Henry took place in December, 1225.”
31: Henry III (1207-1272), King of England from 1216-1272, would marry Eleanor (1222-1291) daughter of Raymond Berenger V, Count of Provence, in 1236 A.D.
32: Premsyl Ottokar I died in 1230 A.D.
33: The eldest son of Ottokar, Wenceslas I (1205-1253), had married Kunigunde (1200-1248), the daughter of Frederick II’s uncle, in 1228 A.D..
34: W. Seton, op.cit., p. 170, says: “The Royal Castle here mentioned is on the Hradchin, overlooking the city. The present castle is built on the site of an older building, which was destroyed by fire in 1303. The Cathedral dedicated to Saint Vitus, is on a site adjoining the Royal Castle; the present building dates back to 1344, but it was preceded by an earlier building dating back to the thenth century. This would be the Cathedral referred to in the text.”
35: lit. nobilium commitativa stipata.
36: Ugolino dei Segni: reigned March 19, 1227 – August 22, 1241 A.D.
37: lit. quod mente tractaverat cupito effectui mancipare.
38: The religious Order founded by St. Francis is called the Order of Friars Minor to indicate that its members are to be as the least of Christ’s disciples (cf. Mt 25:40).
39: lit. regula memorata, “the rule (which had just been) called to mind.”
40: lit. pauperibus erogare; St. Francis himself used this phrase “to pay out to the poor” (RegB II,5; RegNB II,4) to remind his brothers that alms are owed out of justice to the poor since Christ had commanded His disciples to give them alms (cf. Mt 25:31-46).
41: These were the words which St. Francis spoke when he heard the Gospel explained to him at the Portiuncula on Feb. 24, 1208 A.D., cf. St. Bonaventure, Legenda maior, III,1.
42: lit. iocalia pretiosa, “precious things that amuse.”
43: An allusion to Mt. 19:21.
44: St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231), a niece of St. Hedwig, was the daughter of Andrew II, King of Bohemia, who was himself the brother of St. Agnes’ mother, Constance.
45: So called because unlike other hospitals of the age, it was not dedicated to the needs of both the infirm and the pilgrim-traveller, but solely to the infirm.
46: Here “rents and ample possessions” refers to the fuedal arrangements made to provide the institution with an income.
47: In 1915 W. Seton, op.cit., p. 171 wrote: “The Crucigerous Knights are an order of Hospitallers and were brought to Bohemia by Blessed Agnes. Their Church and monastery are still to be seen in Prag in the position stated in the text …The Order was confirmed by Gregory IX in 1238.” The ‘a red cross and star’ is a reference to the Knights’ distinctive heraldic insignia.

Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe, Jiri Louda & Michael Maclagan. Clarkson N. Potter (New York:  1981).

Some New Sources for the Life of Blessed Agnes of Bohemia: including a Fourteen Centruy Latin Version …, Walter W. Seton. Longmans, Green &
Co. (London: 1915).

Feudal Germany, James Westfall Thompson. Univ. Chicago Press. (Chicago: 1927).

The Book of Saints. Benedictine Monks of Ramsgate. Morehouse Publ. (Harrisburg, PA: 1994).

Shepherd’s Historical Atlas, William R. Shepherd. Barnes & Noble Books. (Totowa, NJ: 1980).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, William Bridgwater & Seymour Kurtz, eds. Columbia Univ. Press. (New York: 1968).


This English translation is released to the public domain by its author. Chapter numbers have been added by the translator. Items in round brackets have been likewise added for clarity sake. Solid dots indicate versification. Notes added by translator incorporate notes from text source (see Bibliography). The Introduction is by the translator.