Today (13 May) we commemorate St. Agnes, abbess at Poitiers.
From Miss Dunbar: V. 7th century. Abbess at Poitiers. Patron of the Trinitarians, and against perils at sea. Brought up by ST. RADEGUND, queen of France, who founded the abbey of Ste. Croix, at Poitiers, and gave it the rule of ST. CESARIA ; she appointed Agnes first abbess of her convent, and went with her to Arles to be instructed in the rule. Radegund died a nun in the same convent in 687, leaving to it a large endowment by a will, in which Agnes is mentioned. The existence of these two saints within their ‘narrowing nunnery walls’ was enlivened by the friendship and sympathy of a poet whose works have come down to us. Venantius Fortunatus, the last Latin poet of Gaul, was for many years an inmate of the monastery of Ste. Croix. After visiting the kings and bishops of France, he came to pay his respects to the widowed queen Radegund, stepmother of the kings, and was so charmed with the amiable and intellectual society and the superior cultivation of the sisterhood, that he stayed there as chaplain and almoner till the death of St. Radegund. The queen often sent him on important missions to various personages, and thus the community were kept informed and interested concerning what was going on in other places. He managed the external business of the nuns, and took part in their occupations. They read and transcribed books, they acted plays, they received visitors, they had little feasts on birthdays. Fortunatus made himself agreeable to them as he had done to saintly bishops and half-civilized kings ; and he found their house an oasis of peace and refinement in a desert of barbarism. His writings describe the convent life and the food, in which he seems to have been a connoisseur. He takes Christ to witness that his affection for Agnes was that of a brother. Among his poems are two hymns adopted by the Church, Pange lingua and Vexilla Regis. He wrote a Life of St. Radegund, which, as well as another by one of her nuns, is preserved by the Bollandists. He was born in Italy about 530, and died bishop of Poitiers early in the 7th century.
SS. Radegund and Agnes had a great deal of trouble with two very naughty princesses, Chrodielde and Basine (see AUDOVERA), who were placed under their care, and who, after the death of these first rulers of Ste. Croix, rebelled against Ludovera, the next abbess, one of them demand ing that office as a king’s daughter, though utterly unqualified for the post. A great scandal ensued ; bishops and kings had to interfere before the refractory ladies were removed, to the great relief of Ludovera and the good nuns. AA.SS. Boll., Aug. 13. St. Radegund is in all the collections, and St. Agnes is always mentioned in her story.
Holy St Agnes, pray to God for us.