St. Agnes of Montepulciano
St. Agnes of Montepulciano became a well-known for the supernatural signs that accompanied her growth in holiness.
She was born 1268 to a wealthy family. She joined the convent in her hometown as a very young girl, and vigorously applied herself to prayer and formation. She was wise, even as a youth, and was entrusted with role of housekeeper for the convent when she was 14.
When a new convent was opened nearby, Agnes was among those who departed to help begin the new community. She inspired a number of other young women to join that new convent, and she was chosen to lead the community as abbess. She was only 15 and had to receive special permission from the pope to take on that role at such a young age.
With such a great responsibility at hand, Agnes practiced a strict discipline with herself—for the next 15 years, she lived on bread and water alone and slept on the ground with a stone for a pillow. Only when she faced a serious illness did she relent these disciplines.
She became well-known for her holiness, and special signs accompanied her prayer. She received several visions—she held the infant Jesus in her arms at one point, and received Communion from an angel in another. The nuns in her community saw her lifted two feet off the ground when she was praying. When the convent ran out of food, she could feed the whole community with a handful of bread after she had blessed it.
Most interesting of all, though, was the appearance of manna about her body when she prayed. She would sometimes be consumed in rapturous prayer, and a white, frosty-looking manna would appear on her cloak and in the place where she was kneeling. Her sisters reported that in these instances she looked like she had been outside in a heavy snowstorm.
The people of her hometown, Montepulciano, wanted her to return to them, so she returned to found a new convent and asked that it be placed under the order established by St. Dominic. They built the convent building on a site that had previously held a brothel.
She lived at this new convent until she died, and served as its prioress. Signs of holiness continued to follow her, including prophecies and healings—she miraculously resuscitated a child who had drowned. The community thrived under her guidance until she fell gravely ill at the age of 49.
When it was clear that she would die, her community became distressed, and she told them, “If you loved me, you would be glad because I am about to enter the glory of my Spouse. Do not grieve over my departure—I shall not lose sight of you. You will find that I have not abandoned you.”
Her tomb became a pilgrimage site, and Agnes’ body remained incorrupt there. The great St. Catherine of Siena visited her tomb, and it is said that when she bent down to kiss the foot of Agnes’ body, it lifted itself to meet her lips.
Relics of St. Agnes rest in the reliquary chapel in the Basilica on campus, and her image is used here with permission from Catholic.org.
St. Agnes of Montepulciano, the prayerful nun who showed supernatural signs of holiness, pray for us!