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Saint Agnes of Rome

Saint Agnes of Rome
  • Century: 3rd & 4th Century
  • Patronage: Engaged Couples, Chastity, Crops, Children of Mary, Gardeners, Girls, Rape Victims, Virgins
  • Feast Day: January 21st

St. Agnes was a member of the Roman nobility born in 291, who was raised in a Christian family.  She suffered martyrdom at the age of thirteen during the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian, on January 21, 304.  The Prefect Sempronius wanted Agnes to marry his son, but Agnes refused and was condemned to death.  Since Roman law did not permit the execution of virgins, he had Agnes stripped naked, and dragged her through the streets to a brothel.  

Legend says that she had several methods to escape this predicament.  One says as she prayed, her hair grew and covered her body.  One says that every man that tried to rape her was immediately struck blind.  In another the son of the Prefect is struck dead, but revived after Agnes prayed for him, causing her release.  After this, there was another trial where the Prefect excused himself, and another judge sentenced her to death.  She was tied to a stake, but the bundle of wood would not burn, or the flames parted away from her.  Angered, the officer drew his sword and beheaded her.  A few days later, her foster-sister St. Emerentiana, was found praying by her tomb.  When caught she was stoned to death.  

St. Agnes’s bones are conserved beneath the high Altar in the Church of “St. Agnes” in Rome, built over the catacomb that housed Agnes’s tomb.  Her skull is preserved in a separate chapel in the Church of St. Agnes in Agone.  An interesting custom is observed on her feast day.  Two lambs are brought from the Trappist Abbey of Tre Fontane in Rome, and blessed by the Pope.  On Holy Thursday, those same two are shorn, and the wool is woven into the “pallium” which the pope gives to a newly consecrated Archbishop as a sign of his jurisdiction and his union with the Pope.  

Practical Take Away

St. Agnes is one of seven women, excluding the Blessed Virgin, commemorated by name in the “Canon of the Mass”.  She was a martyr under the Roman emperor Diocletian.  She escaped her death by a series of miracles, which only angered her guard.  He couldn’t burn her at the stake, because the flames parted around her.  Eventually she was beheaded.  She was only thirteen years old when she was martyred.  Many miracles have taken place through her intercession, and she is the patron saint of Engaged Couples, Chastity, Crops, Children of Mary, Crops, Gardeners, Girls, Rape Victims, and Virgins.