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AGNES OF PRAGUE AND THE JURIDICAL IMPLICATIONS OF THE PRIVILEGE OF POVERTY In 1234, Agnes of Prague, the youngest daughter of King Otakar Pïemysl and his wife, Queen Constance, entered the Monastery of Saint Francis that Agnes herself had built.1 Inspired by the stories that she had heard from the Franciscan friars in Prague regarding the lives of Clare of Assisi and her sisters, Agnes rejected an offer of marriage from Emperor Frederick II and chose instead the life of a Poor Sister of Saint Damián. The sisters of San Damiano lived without regular income from property, and refused all papal and secular privileges other than the privilege of living without possessions.2 Having known both the comforts of courtly life as well as the austerity of monastic life, Agnes, who was more personally suited to austerity than to luxury, chose to embrace the lifestyle of San Damiano. Clare of Assisi was not Agnes's only inspiration. Agnes's cousin, Elizabeth of Hungary, had died in 1231 and was canonized with great ceremony by Gregory IX four years later. Elizabeth had been married to the landgrave, Lewis IV, and had given birth to a son and two daughters. After Ludwig's death in 1227, Elizabeth founded a hospital for the sick and poor and died in poverty. 'For biographical information on Agnes of Prague see: Alfonso Marini, Agnese di Boemia (Roma: Istituto Storico dei Cappuccini, 1991); Jaroslav Nemec, Agnese di Praga (Assisi: Edizioni Porziuncola, 1982); Jaroslav Pole, Agnes von Böhmen 121 1-1282: Kànigstocheter—Äbtissin—Heilige (München, R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 1989); Helena Soukupová, Anezsky Master ? Praze (Odeon: Prague, 1989). For background information in English see, Peter Demetz, Prague in Black and Gold. Scenes from the Life of a European City (New York: Hill and Wang, 1997): 48-71; Petr Pitha, "Agnes of Prague—A New Bohemian Saint," Franziskanische Studien (1990): 325-40; Poor Clare Colettine Community, Aneska: Princess of the House of Premysl (Wales: Ty Mam Duw, 1996); Helena Soukupová, The Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia (Prague: The National Gallery in Prague, 1993). 2See Gregory IX's September 17, 1228 letter, Sicut manifestum est, in MarieFrance Becker, Jean-François Godet, Thaddée Matura, Claire D'Assise.Écrits (Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 1985), 200. I agree with Werner Maleczek concerning the questionable authenticity of the 1216, Privilege of Poverty, and consequently have based my argument on the 1228 text. See Werner Maleczek, "Questions About the Authenticity of the Privilege of Poverty of Innocent III and the Testament of Clare of Assisi," Greyfriars Review 12 (1998): 1-80. 261 Franciscan Studies, 58 (2000) 262Joan Mueller Immediately after her death, Elizabeth's tomb became a place of miracles and a center for pilgrimage. Inspired by the Franciscan lifestyle of her cousin, and using the fame of Elizabeth's sanctity to her own advantage, Agnes first petitioned Gregory IX and then her brother, Wenceslas I, for permission to enter the Order of Poor Ladies. Agnes's choice left the powers of Europe in an upheaval and was no small victory for Gregory IX, who had actively worked against the union of the Premysl and Staufen families and had supported and encouraged Agnes's decision.3 Gregory IX's support for Agnes's entrance into the Order of Saint Damián, however, was not influenced only by the political ramifications of Agnes's choice. Already during his tenure as papal legate under Pope Honorius III, Gregory IX, then Cardinal Hugolino Conti di Segni, had proved himself to be greatly sympathetic to the early 13th century women's movement of which Agnes was part. Living on the outskirts of towns and cities, new penitential monasteries of women became spiritual centers for city dwellers who came seeking prayer, guidance, and healing. Gregory IX worked tirelessly, first as legate, and then as pope to protect these monasteries from the often capricious hands of diocesan bishops and other local nobles, and to organize them under the forma vitae vel religionis pauperum dominarum de Valle Spoleti sive Tuscia 3See Gregory IX's June 10-11, 1228 letter to Agnes's mother, Constance, the queen of Bohemia, Cum apud Romanam, Codex diplomaticus...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 261-287
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
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