Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Agnes of Rome: Saint and Martyr

Agnes of Rome (martyred 21 January 304)

Born about the year 291 in Rome, Agnes is revered as a saint and martyr. The date of her martyrdom is conventionally given as 21 January 304.

The tomb of Saint Agnes,
Chiesa Sant'Agnese fuori la mura, Rome
According to tradition, Agnes of Rome lived at the time of the Emperor Diocletian. Dedicating herself to chastity and refusing all suitors, Agnes was arrested and condemned after one of the disappointed young men she rejected reported her to Roman authorities. 

Accounts of her life and martyrdom vary: she may have been dragged naked through the streets or  forced into a brothel as ways of humiliating her for her dedication to virginity. Men who tried to rape her went blind, or they were struck dead--whether blind or dead, they were restored to life after her prayers.  

Once she had been sentenced, Agnes was led to a stake to be burned, but the wood refused to burn. Ultimately, an executioner drew his blade, either beheading her or stabbing her in the throat--again, stories differ. 

Today, you can visit the tomb of St. Agnes at the church of Saint Agnes Outside the Wall (Chiesa Sant'Agnese fuori la mura). A second shrine, preserving her skull, is in the church of St. Agnes in Agony (Sant'Agnese in Agone) in Rome's Piazza Navona. 

Sant'Agnese in Agone,
Piazza Navone, Rome