St Agnes of Bohemia (March 2) is honoured as the Saint of the overthrow of Communism

St Agnes of Bohemia was not beatified for over 700 years following her death in March 1282. She was canonised by Pope John Paul II a few days before the Velvet Revolution began in 1989. She is honoured as the Saint of the overthrow of Communism.

Also known as Agnes of Prague, her father was King Ottokar I of Bohemia and her mother was Constance of Hungary, making her a descendant of St Wenceslaus, patron saint of Bohemia, and first cousin of St Elizabeth of Hungary, who built a hospital before her death aged 24.

Having been sent aged three to her aunt, the wife of King Henry the Bearded of Silesia, Agnes was educated at a priory of Premonstratensian Canonesses, and at the age of eight she was engaged to Henry, son of the Emperor Frederick II. However it was cancelled and the Emperor planned to marry Agnes himself but she refused, having vetoed an attempt to marry her to Henry III of England.

Thus raised as a pawn of political power games, she resolved not to consent to any more engagements and instead to devote her life to prayer instead. On land donated by her brother, King Wenceslaus I of Bohemia, she founded the hospital of St Francis in 1232 and two friaries for the Franciscan friars.

They taught Agnes about Clare of Assisi and her Order of Poor Ladies, the monastic counterpart of the friars. She began corresponding with Lady Clare, which resulted in Clare sending five nuns from the monastery in Assisi to Prague to begin a new house of the order.

The monastery and friary attached to the hospital, founded by Agnes, was one of the first Gothic buildings in Prague. In 1235 Agnes gave the property of the Teutonic Knights in Bohemia to the hospital.

She herself became a member of the Franciscan Poor Clares in 1236. As a nun, she cooked and cared for the lepers and paupers personally, even after becoming the Abbess of the Prague Clares the following year.

A lay group working at the hospital was organised by Agnes in 1238 as a new military Order, dedicated primarily to nursing, known as the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star. Agnes later handed the hospital over to the Knights before she died in 1282. Agnes lived out her life in the cloister, leading the monastery as abbess until her death, and was venerated almost immediately, although it took another 600 years for her to be beatified in 1874.