St. Agnes, virgin and martyr, is one of the oldest saints of Rome. Her legend is described in the fifth century Acts: St. Agnes was born c. 291 A.D. into Roman nobility, into a Christian family. While a young girl she refused a number of suitors to remain faithful to her vow of chastity. As punishment she was put in a brothel, but her virginity was miraculously preserved – all men who looked at her nakedness became blind; when she was publicly stripped naked, her long hair hid her body (according to another version of the story: an angel covered her with a white cloak). After many such humiliations she was finally sentenced to death in c. 350 A.D. by burning at the stake, however the wood would not light. The officer in charge of the execution then drew his sword and drove it through her throat (according to other sources: beheaded her). After her death she appeared to her parents accompanied by a white lamb. This and a resemblance of her name to agnus (lamb) made a lamb her principal emblem. Two Roman Churches, the church of Sant’Agnese fuori le mura and the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone claim relics of her head and body.
St. Agnes is the patron saint of betrothed and young girls. Feast: 21 January.