Saint Agatha is one of the venerated virgin martyrs of the Catholic Church. She was persecuted by the Roman prefect Quintianus of Catania during Emperor Decius 250-253 AD rule. The fifteen-year-old Agatha dedicated her virginity to God. She was from a rich and noble family. She rejected the amorous advances of the low-born Roman prefect Quintianus, who then persecuted her for her Christian faith. As the story goes he sent Agatha to Aphrodisia, the keeper of a brothel. The madam there found her intractable.
Quintianus sent for her, argued, threatened, and finally had her put in prison. Amongst the tortures she underwent was the cutting off of her breasts with pincers. This is graphically depicted in several paintings. (I have spared you of these paintings) Saint Agatha was then sentenced to be burnt at the stake, but an earthquake saved her from that fate; instead, she was sent to prison where St. Peter the Apostle appeared to her and healed her wounds. Saint Agatha died in prison in Catania, Sicily, in 253 AD.
On February 3-5 each year Saint Agatha is celebrated in Catania, Palermo, in Spain, in Basque country and in other places. Not to be overlooked is the culinary pastry cakes that are part of the ceremony and feast in Sicily. Round cakes made with sheep’s milk ricotta and with a sugar glaze. In Sicilian “i minni di Sant’ Agata”. Literally Saint Agatha’s breasts, the cakes made in the shape of breasts with a cherry on the top of each one.