Agnes of Rome

Agnes of Rome (c.  291 – c.  304) is a virgin martyr, venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, the Anglican Communion, and Lutheranism. She is one of seven women who, along with the Blessed Virgin, are commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass.

Agnes is depicted in art with a lamb, evoking her name which resembles the Latin word for "lamb", agnus (the given name is Greek, from hagnē ἁγνή "chaste, pure"). She is also shown with a martyr's palm. She is the patron saint of girls[1] and chastity.

Agnes' feast day is 21 January.

Saint Agnes
Saint Agnes by Domenichino
Virgin and Martyr
Bornc.  291
Diedc.  304
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church, Eastern Catholic Churches, Eastern Orthodox Churches, Oriental Orthodox Churches, Anglican Communion, Lutheranism
Major shrineChurch of Sant'Agnese fuori le mura and the Church of Sant'Agnese in Agone, both in Rome
Feast21 January; before Pope John XXIII revised the calendar, there was a second feast on January 28
Attributesa lamb, martyr's palm
PatronageBetrothed couples; chastity and virgins; Children of Mary; Colegio Capranica of Rome; gardeners; Girl Guides; the diocese of Rockville Centre, New York; the city of Fresno.


Substantially the circumstances of her martyrdom are believed to be authentic, though the legend cannot be proven true, and many details of the fifth century Acts of Saint Agnes are open to criticism. [2] A church was built over her tomb, and her relics venerated.[3]

The details of her story are unreliable, but according to tradition, Agnes was a member of the Roman nobility, born in AD 291 and raised in an early Christian family. She suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve[4] or thirteen during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, on 21 January 304.

A beautiful young girl of wealthy family, Agnes had many suitors of high rank, and the young men, slighted by her resolute devotion to religious purity, submitted her name to the authorities as a follower of Christianity.[5]

The Prefect Sempronius condemned Agnes to be dragged naked through the streets to a brothel. In one account, as she prayed, her hair grew and covered her body.[6] It was also said that all of the men that attempted to rape her were immediately struck blind. The son of the prefect is struck dead but revived after she prayed for him, causing her release. There is then a trial from which Sempronius recuses himself, and another figure presides, sentencing her to death. She was led out and bound to a stake, but the bundle of wood would not burn, or the flames parted away from her, whereupon the officer in charge of the troops drew his sword and beheaded her, or, in some other texts, stabbed her in the throat. It is also said that her blood poured to the stadium floor where other Christians soaked it up with cloths.

Agnes & Procopius
Agnes depicted on the medieval Royal Gold Cup in the British Museum.

Agnes was buried beside the Via Nomentana in Rome.[5] A few days after her death, her foster-sister, Emerentiana, was found praying by her tomb; she claimed to be the daughter of Agnes' wet nurse, and was stoned to death after refusing to leave the place and reprimanding the pagans for killing her foster sister. Emerentiana was also later canonised. The daughter of Constantine I, Saint Constance, was said to have been cured of leprosy after praying at Agnes' tomb. She and Emerentiana appear in the scenes from the life of Agnes on the 14th-century Royal Gold Cup in the British Museum.

An early account of Agnes' death, stressing her young age, steadfastness and virginity, but not the legendary features of the tradition, is given by Saint Ambrose.[4] BHL 156-167.


Agnes was venerated as a saint at least as early as the time of St Ambrose, based on an existing homily. She is commemorated in the Depositio Martyrum of Filocalus (354) and in the early Roman Sacramentaries.[7]

Agnes' bones are conserved beneath the high altar in the church of Sant'Agnese fuori le mura in Rome,[8] built over the catacomb that housed her tomb. Her skull is preserved in a separate chapel in the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone in Rome's Piazza Navona.

According to Robert Ellsberg, in his book Blessed among all women: women saints prophets and witnesses for our time,

In the story of Agnes the opposition is not between sex and virginity. The conflict is between a young woman’s power in Christ to define her own identity versus a patriarchal culture’s claim to identify her in terms of her sexuality. According to the view shared by her “suitors” and the state, if she would not be one man’s wife, she might as well be every man’s whore. Failing these options, she might as well be dead. Agnes did not choose death. She chose not to worship the gods of her culture. ...Espoused to Christ, she was beyond the power of any man to ‘have his way with her’. ‘Virgin’ in this case is another way of saying Free Woman.[9]

Her feast day is 21 January.


Because of the legend around her martyrdom, she is patron saint of those seeking chastity and purity.[3]

Agnes is also the patron saint of young girls. Folk custom called for them to practise rituals on Saint Agnes' Eve (20–21 January) with a view to discovering their future husbands. This superstition has been immortalised in John Keats's poem, "The Eve of Saint Agnes".[10]

Fr Guarino Santa Inés 1650
Santa Inés, Guarino, 1650.


Since the Middle Ages, Agnes has traditionally been depicted as a young girl in robes, with a lamb, the symbol of her virginal innocence,[11] and often, like many other martyrs, with a palm branch.


Skull Saint Agnes
The purported skull of Saint Agnes, as displayed in the Sant'Agnese in Agone church in Rome


The Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes is a Roman Catholic religious community for women based in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, USA. It was founded in 1858, by Father Caspar Rehrl, an Austrian missionary, who established the sisterhood of pioneer women under the patronage of Agnes, to whom he had a particular devotion.

It is customary on her feast day for two lambs to be brought from the Trappist abbey of Tre Fontane in Rome to the Sant'Agnese in Agone church to be blessed by the Pope. On Holy Thursday they are shorn, and from the wool is woven the pallium which the pope gives to a newly consecrated metropolitan archbishop as a sign of his jurisdiction and his union with the pope.[5][15]

In popular culture

Hrotsvitha, the tenth-century nun and poet, wrote a heroic poem about Agnes.

In the historical novel Fabiola or, the Church of the Catacombs, written by Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman in 1854, Agnes is the soft-spoken teenage cousin and confidant of the protagonist, the beautiful noblewoman Fabiola.[16]

The instrumental song "Saint Agnes and the Burning Train" appears on the 1991 album 'The Soul Cages' by Sting.


Saint Agnes and the Lamb of God

18th-century statue of Saint Agnes and the Lamb of God by Vincenzo Felici, located in the Pantheon, Rome, Italy


9th-century Mosaic in the Church of St. Praxedes, Rome


16th-century polychrome statue in Burgos Cathedral, Spain


The saint's statue is among those on the colonnade in St. Peter's Square

Frari (Venice) nave right - Statue of Saint Agnes by Girolamo Campagna

1593 by Girolamo Campagna Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

St agnes statue

Statue in a church on Gora Oljka

Matthias Gruenewald-Coburger Tafel-Heilige Agnes

Matthias Grünewald, c. 1500, tempera on coniferous wood, Kunsammlungen der Veste Coburg, Coburg.

Saint Agnes in Caloocan

Statue of Saint Agnes, Camarin, Caloocan City, Philippines

Francisco de Zurbarán - Santa Inês

Santa Inês (Saint Agnes)
by Francisco de Zurbarán

See also


  1. ^ "Saint Agnes", Franciscan Media
  2. ^ Monks of Ramsgate. “Agnes”. Book of Saints, 1921. CatholicSaints.Info. 12 May 2012
  3. ^ a b "St. Agnes", Faith ND, University of Notre Dame
  4. ^ a b "NPNF210. Ambrose: Selected Works and Letters – Christian Classics Ethereal Library". 2005-06-01. Retrieved 2009-01-21.
  5. ^ a b c "St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr". St. Agnes Cathedral.
  6. ^ "St. Agnes of Rome". Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese.
  7. ^ Duffy, Patrick. "Jan 21 – St Agnes (d. 305) martyr", Catholic Ireland, 21 January 2012
  8. ^ "Virginmartyr Agnes of Rome", Orthodox Church in America
  9. ^ Ellsberg, Robert. Blessed among all women: women saints prophets and witnesses for our time, Crossroad Publishing Company, 2007, ISBN 9780824524395
  10. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Agnes, Saint" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 377.
  11. ^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: St. Agnes of Rome".
  12. ^ "History", St. Agnes Cathedral
  13. ^ Church of St Agnes, English Heritage National Monuments
  14. ^ "Saint Agnes Parish - Arlington, MA - Welcome!". Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  15. ^ "Pope modifies and enriches Pallium Investiture Ceremony". Vatican Radio. January 29, 2015. Retrieved January 29, 2015.
  16. ^ Librivox. "LibriVox". Retrieved 2018-03-16.

External links

Agnes (name)

Agnes is a female given name, which derives from the Greek name Ἁγνὴ hagnē, meaning "pure" or "holy". The name passed to Italian as Agnese, to Portuguese as Inês, and to Spanish as Inés or Inéz.

It was the name of a popular Christian saint, Agnes of Rome, a fact which encouraged the wide use of the name. Agnes was the third most popular name for women in the English speaking world for more than 400 years. Its medieval pronunciation was Annis, and its usage and many of its forms coincided with the equally popular name Anna, related in medieval and Elizabethan times to Agnes, though Anne/Ann/Anna are derived from the Hebrew Hannah ('God favored me') rather than the Greek. It remained a widely used name throughout the 1960s in the United States. It was last ranked among the top 1,000 names for American baby girls during that decade. The peak of its popularity was between 1900-20, when it was among the top 50 given names for American girls. Agnes was the sixth-most popular name for girls born in Poland in 2007, having risen as high as third place in Sweden and Poland in 2006. It was also ranked among the top 100 names for baby girls born in Hungary in 2005. Neža, a Slovene shortened variant of the name, was ranked among the top 10 names for baby girls born in Slovenia in 2008. French forms Inès and Ines were both ranked among the top 10 names for girls born in Brussels, Belgium in 2008.

Agnesar saga

Agnesar saga is an Old Norse-Icelandic saints' saga that recounts the legend of St Agnes of Rome. It survives in three versions, all based on Pseudo-Ambrose's passion, BHL156. Agnesar saga I omits the epilogue and is somewhat abridged. It follows the source text more closely than Agnesar saga II. Agnesar saga III is significantly abridged and is different from the first two versions.

Athleta Christi

"Athleta Christi" (Latin: "Champion of Christ") was a class of Early Christian soldier martyrs, of whom the most familiar example is one such "military saint," Saint Sebastian.

Cantilena Antiqua

Cantilena Antiqua is an Italian early music group founded in 1987 and based in Bologna. The ensemble of 3 to 13 musicians is directed by musician and sound engineer Stefano Albarello. The ensemble's repertoire is primarily of medieval, renaissance and Andalusian music.

Confessor of the Faith

The title Confessor, the short form of Confessor of the Faith, is a title given by the Christian Church to a type of saint.

Dalua of Tibradden

Saint Dalua of Tibradden (Irish: Do-Lúe, Latin: Daluanus), also called Dalua of Craoibheach, was an early Irish saint who is said to have been a disciple of St. Patrick. He founded a church that became known as Dun Tighe Bretan (Tibradden) which is located today in the townland of Cruagh, Co. Dublin.

Great martyr

Great Martyr or Great-Martyr (Greek: μεγαλομάρτυς or μεγαλομάρτυρ, megalomartys or megalomartyr, from megas, "great" + "martyr") is a classification of saints who are venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Rite of Constantinople.

Generally speaking, a Great Martyr is a martyr who has undergone excruciating tortures—often performing miracles and converting unbelievers to Christianity in the process—and who has attained widespread veneration throughout the Church. These saints are often from the first centuries of the Church, before the Edict of Milan. This term is normally not applied to saints who could be better described as hieromartyrs (martyred clergy) or protomartyrs (the first martyr in a given region).

Ines (name)

Ines, and variants, is a feminine given name related to Agnes.

Used alone it may refer to:

Saint Ines (Agnes of Rome; c. 291 – c. 304), virgin–martyr, saint

Ines (Eda-Ines Etti; born 1981), Estonian singerAs a first name, it is used by:

Inés Alberdi (born 1948), Spanish sociologist

Inés Ayala (born 1957), Spanish politician

Inés Arrondo (born 1977), Argentine field hockey player

Ines Aru (born 1939), Estonian actress

Inês de Castro (1325–1355), Galician noblewoman, wife of King Peter I of Portugal

Ines Diers (born 1963), German swimmer

Inés Echeverría (1868–1949), Chilean writer

Inés Efron (born 1985), Argentine actress

Inés Ferrer Suárez (born 1990), Spanish tennis player

Inès de La Fressange (born 1957), French model and fashion designer

Inés García de Durán (born 1928), Colombian folklorist

Inés Gaviria (born 1979), Colombian singer

Ines Geißler (born 1963), German swimmer

Inés Gorrochategui (born 1973), Argentine tennis player

Inês Henriques (born 1980), Portuguese race walker

Inès Ligron (born 1962), French fashion and beauty expert

Ines Maričić (born 1988), Croatian 9 pin bowling player

Inés Melchor (born 1986), Peruvian long-distance runner

Inés Mendoza (1908–1990), Puerto Rican teacher, writer and socialite, the First Lady

Inés Molina, Argentine actress

Inês Monteiro (born 1980), Portuguese runner

Ines Müller (born 1959), German shot putter

Inés Palombo (born 1985), Argentine actress and model

Ines Pellegrini (born 1954), Eritrean-Italian actress

Ines Putri (born 1989), Indonesian beauty pageant

Inés Remersaro (born 1992), Uruguayan swimmer

Inés Rivero (born 1975), Argentine model

Inés Rodena (1905–1985), Cuban radio and television writer

Inés Sainz (born c. 1978), Mexican journalist

Inés Sastre (born 1973), Spanish model and actress

Inés de Suárez (c. 1507–1580), Spanish conquistadora

Ines Torelli (born 1931), Swiss comedian, radio personality, and stage, voice and film actress

Inés de la Torre (fl 1618), Spanish courtier

Ines Uusmann (born 1948), Swedish politicianAs a middle name:

María Inés (María Inés Guerra Núñez; born 1983), Mexican TV-hostess, actress and singer

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, O.S.H.(12 November 1651 – 17 April 1695) New Spain (current Mexico) nun and poet

José Luis Cuevas Museum

The José Luis Cuevas Museum is located just off the Zócalo within the Historic center of Mexico City, in Mexico City, Mexico. The museum and Church of Santa Inés were built as parts of the Convent of Santa Inés (Agnes of Rome) complex. The museum is in the convent's colonial era residential hall.

Judas Barsabbas

Judas Barsabbas was a New Testament prophet and one of the 'leading men' in the early Christian community in Jerusalem at the time of the Council of Jerusalem in around 50 A.D.

Michael of Synnada

Michael of Synnada (Michael the Confessor) (died 818) was a bishop of Synnada from 784. He represented Byzantium in diplomatic missions to Harun al-Rashid and Charlemagne. He was exiled by Emperor Leo V the Armenian because of his opposition to iconoclasm. Honored by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, his feast day is May 23.

Mission Santa Inés

Mission Santa Inés (sometimes spelled Santa Ynez) was a Spanish mission in the present-day city of Solvang, California, and named after St. Agnes of Rome. Founded on September 17, 1804, by Father Estévan Tapís of the Franciscan order, the mission site was chosen as a midway point between Mission Santa Barbara and Mission La Purísima Concepción, and was designed to relieve overcrowding at those two missions and to serve the Indians living north of the Coast Range.

The mission was home to the first learning institution in Alta California and today serves as a museum as well as a parish church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. It is also designated a National Historic Landmark, noted as one of the best-preserved of the 21 California missions.

Saint Agnes (Massimo Stanzione)

Saint Agnes is a painting currently exhibited at the National Art Museum of Catalonia.

Saint Agnes Academy (Texas)

St. Agnes Academy is a Dominican college-preparatory school for young women grades 9 through 12 in the Chinatown area and in the Greater Sharpstown district of Houston, Texas. The school operates within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

Saint Lucy

Lucia of Syracuse (283–304), also known as Saint Lucy or Saint Lucia (Latin: Sancta Lucia), was a Christian martyr who died during the Diocletianic Persecution. She is venerated as a saint by the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Orthodox Churches. She is one of eight women along with the Blessed Virgin Mary who are commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass. Her feast day, known as Saint Lucy's Day, is celebrated in the West on 13 December. St. Lucia of Syracuse was honored in the Middle Ages and remained a well-known saint in early modern England.


Silas or Silvanus (; Greek: Σίλας/Σιλουανός; fl. 1st century AD) was a leading member of the Early Christian community, who accompanied Paul the Apostle on parts of his first and second missionary journeys.

Virgin (title)

The title Virgin (Latin Virgo, Greek Παρθένος) is an honorific bestowed on female saints and blesseds in both the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.

Chastity is one of the seven virtues in Christian tradition, listed by Pope Gregory I at the end of the 6th century. In 1 Corinthians, Saint Paul suggests a special role for virgins or unmarried women (ἡ γυνὴ καὶ ἡ παρθένος ἡ ἄγαμος) as more suitable for "the things of the Lord" (μεριμνᾷ τὰ τοῦ κυρίου).

In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul alludes to the metaphor of the Church as Bride of Christ by addressing the congregation

"I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ".

In the theology of the Church Fathers, the prototype of the sacred virgin is Mary, the mother of Jesus, consecrated by the Holy Spirit at Annunciation.

Although not stated in the gospels, the perpetual virginity of Mary was widely upheld as a dogma by the Church Fathers from the 4th century.

Zechariah (Hebrew prophet)

Zechariah was a person in the Hebrew Bible and traditionally considered the author of the Book of Zechariah, the eleventh of the Twelve Minor Prophets. He was a prophet of the Kingdom of Judah, and, like the prophet Ezekiel, was of priestly extraction.

Virgin Mary
See also

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