Agnes of Bohemia (1205–1282)

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Agnes of Bohemia (1205–1282)

Hungarian princess who popularized the Franciscan order in Bohemia. Born in Prague in 1205; died in 1282; daughter of Otakar or Ottokar I, king of Bohemia and Hungary (r. 1198–1230), and Constance of Hungary (d. 1240); sister of Wenceslas I (1205–1253), king of Bohemia (r. 1230–1253); joined the Order of the Poor Clares.

Revered as a saint but never canonized, the German princess Agnes was renowned for her piety and for popularizing the Franciscan order in Bohemia. The daughter of King Ottokar I of Bohemia and Constance of Hungary , Agnes was born in Prague. When she was three, a marriage was arranged for her with the son of the duke of Silesia, and the child was sent to be brought up with her future husband's family.

Agnes returned to Bohemia at age six after the death of the duke's son, at which time her parents arranged for her to be educated in the cloister. The son of Emperor Frederick II was her next betrothed, and Agnes was moved to Vienna to complete her education at the emperor's court. At this time, Agnes began to show a great interest in charitable work; she often visited and cared for the poor, but did so in secret to escape notice. When this second arranged marriage was broken off, she returned once more to Bohemia.

Two more offers of husbands came for Agnes: one from Henry III of England and the other from the now-widowed Emperor Frederick II. While these were being discussed, Agnes' brother Wenceslas I inherited his father's throne. Agnes, now in her 20s and determined not to marry, wrote to the pope to ask for permission to pursue a religious life. The pope agreed and wrote to Wenceslas, who, concerned for his sister's happiness, ended all marriage prospects about 1233.

Agnes had already adopted an ascetic lifestyle, including sleeping on a hard pallet, but in 1234 she joined the Franciscan order of the Poor Clares. She cut off her hair and gave up her sumptuous wardrobe for a simple grey habit. Her property was divided between the church, the poor, and the nuns of the order. Although the pope commanded that she be the abbess of the newly established convent, Agnes maintained that she was not superior to the other nuns and insisted on performing all menial tasks.

Constance of Hungary (d. 1240)

Queen of Bohemia. Name variations: Constantia. Died in 1240; daughter of Anne of Chatillon-Antioche (c. 1155–1185) and Bela III (1148–1196), king of Hungary (r. 1173–1196); sister of Emeric I, king of Hungary (r. 1196–1204), and Andrew II (1175–1235), king of Hungary (r. 1205–1235); second wife of Ottokar I (d. 1230), king of Bohemia (r. 1198–1230); children: Wenzel also known as Wenceslas I, king of Bohemia (r. 1230–1253); Agnes of Bohemia (1205–1282).

Her growing fame as a pious and virtuous abbess was heightened when she managed to reconcile her brother with his rebellious son Ottokar II. The Franciscan order was spread throughout Bohemia because of Agnes' personal popularity; in addition, she founded several convents as well as a monastery and a hospital at Prague. Agnes of Bohemia was so revered that after her death at age 77, many sick people wore her relics and prayed to Blessed Agnes in the belief that her spirit could effect miracles of healing.

Laura York , Anza, California

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Agnes of Bohemia (1205–1282)

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