Saint Agnes of Montepulciano: The Iconography

In Montepulciano, Tuscany, St. Agnes, Virgin, of the Order of St. Dominic, noted for her miracles. – Roman Martyrology for April 20

St. Agnes entered the convent at Mon­te­pul­ci­ano at the age of nine, then at fifteen founded another convent in nearby Proceno, and finally established a second convent back in Mon­te­pul­ci­ano several years later. She was canonized in 1726. She was noted for her charity, self-abnegation, and intense devotion to Jesus.

Raymond of Capua's vita relates that the young Agnes was praying beneath the large crucifix above the altar in the Montepulciano chapel when her fervor became so strong that she rose bodily through the air to embrace the crucifix. Years later when she was dying she asked the sisters to bring her the Montepulciano crucifix. They were reluctant, so angels were sent to bring it to her.1 We see her with the crucifix in the first picture on the right.

In another episode in Raymond's vita the Virgin Mary brought Agnes the Christ Child to hold in her arms. A small cross hung from the child's neck by a thin thread. When Mary took the child back and the apparition ended, the cross remained in Agnes's hand.2 In the second picture on the right Mary hands the child to Agnes, and in the third the saint gazes on the cross in meditation.

Both the large crucifix and the small cross appear in portraits of St. Agnes as attributes. Other images may identify her by a lamb, punning on agnus, the Latin word for "lamb." Lilies may also be included in her portraits, symbolic of her chastity. Her habit is sometimes all white, as in the first picture at right, but otherwise she wears the usual Dominican black cape and veil.

Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University.


Statue of St. Agnes of Montepulciano, circa 1750 (See description page)

Boiserie from St. Maximin's, Var, France: The Virgin Presents the Christ Child to St. Agnes (See description page)

A detail from Tiepolo's The Virgin Appears to SS. Agnes of Montepulciano, Rose of Lima, and Catherine of Siena, 1748: St. Agnes with the cross and thread that had hung on the Christ Child's breast. (See the painting's description page. )


  • A large crucifix and/or a small cross on a string
  • A lamb
  • A nun's habit: either all white or a black veil and mantle over a white gown


  • 1723: In a tondo in a German church St. Agnes prays before the crucifix on on altar.
  • Undated: Statue of St. Agnes holding the Christ Child in a church in Vicenza, Italy.


  • Feast day: April 20
  • Lived 1268-1317


  • Raymond of Capua, Vita Sanctae Agnetis de Monte-Politiano, in Acta Sanctorum April vol. 2, 790-810. Google Books lists an English translation by Sister Mary Martin Jacobs, but I have not seen it.
  • For an English-language life based on Raymond, see Butler II, 135-137.



1 Acta Sanctorum, April vol. 2, 794-95 and 806 (II ¶¶10, 65, 66 in the vita).

2 Ibid., 797 (II ¶23 in the vita).