Saint Agnes

(291 - 304. )

St. Agnes of Rome (c. 291 – c.  304) is celebrated as a virgin martyr and honoured as a saint in various Christian denominations, including the Catholic Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion, and Lutheran Churches. She holds a prominent place among the virgin martyrs commemorated in the Canon of the Mass. The St. Agnes parish, church,s chool and roads in Crumlin are named after her.

Born into a devout Christian family in Rome around AD 291, Agnes lived during a period of severe persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Despite her tender age, believed to be around twelve or thirteen at the time, Agnes demonstrated unwavering commitment to her faith, even in the face of grave danger.

According to tradition, Agnes was a member of the Roman nobility and was known for her exceptional beauty. Despite numerous suitors of high rank vying for her hand in marriage, Agnes remained steadfast in her dedication to religious purity, which ultimately led to her persecution.

The Prefect Sempronius, angered by Agnes’ steadfast devotion to Christianity, condemned her to a brutal fate. In one account, she was ordered to be dragged naked through the streets to a brothel, but as she prayed, her hair miraculously grew to cover her body. It is said that those who attempted to harm her were struck blind, and even the son of the prefect was struck dead but revived after her intercession.

Despite these miracles, Agnes was sentenced to death. She was either beheaded or stabbed in the throat and became a martyr for her faith. After her death, she was buried beside the Via Nomentana in Rome, and her tomb became a site of veneration.

Agnes is revered as the patron saint of those seeking chastity and purity, as well as young girls and girl scouts. Folk customs, such as rituals practiced on Saint Agnes’ Eve (20–21 January), reflect her enduring influence.

Depictions of Saint Agnes often portray her as a young girl with long hair, holding a lamb and a sword, symbolising her virginal innocence and martyrdom, respectively.

The tradition of blessing lambs on the feast of Saint Agnes continues to this day, with two lambs brought from the Trappist abbey of Tre Fontane in Rome to receive the Pope’s blessing. The wool from these lambs is later used to weave pallia, symbolising the unity of newly appointed metropolitan archbishops with the Pope.

Numerous churches worldwide are dedicated to Saint Agnes, and her legacy extends to cultural references in literature, music, and art. The Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes, founded in 1858 in Wisconsin, honours her memory through their work and devotion.

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Connection with area: Parish, school, church and streets named after St. Agnes.