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Rome: The Church of Saint Agnes in Agony

About Saint Agnes:

A young martyr of the early Church, Agnes was born in Rome in 291 AD and raised in a Christian family, at a time when Christianity was still a crime. She was very beautiful as well as belonging to a wealthy family, so she had many men asking for her hand in marriage. But Agnes had vowed to remain a virgin and devote herself to God. Whenever a man wished to marry Agnes, she would always say, “Jesus Christ is my only Spouse.”

Ultimately this brought her trouble….details vary as to the actual events, but in any event she refused to renounce her faith and was condemned to death.  She is often represented with a lamb, the symbol of her virgin innocence, and a palm branch, like other martyrs. She is shown as a young girl in robes holding a palm branch with the lamb either at her feet or in her arms.

St. Agnes is the patron saint of young girls as well as patron saint of chastity, rape survivors and the Children of Mary.

A religious congregation was founded in her name in 1858 in Barton, Wisconsin by Father Caspar Rehrl, an Austrian missionary to the U.S. It is known as The Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Agnes.

St. Agnes is widely known as the patron saint of young girls. She is also the patron saint of chastity, rape survivors and the Children of Mary.

About the Church of Saint Agnes in Agony (Sant’Agnese in Agone)

The crypt, or sacellum infimum, is the only surviving part of the ancient church constructed at the place where Saint Agnes was martyred. The crypt was developed from three ruined halls of the stadium of Emperor Domitian (inaugurated 86 AD), facing what is today Piazza Navona. Borromini designed the Chapel of Saint Agnes and carried out the first restoration of the crypt in 1653, as part of the project for construction of the new church of Saint Agnes. Borromini realised that that humidity and moisture were the sources of ongoing problems, but was unable to fully resolve them.  And, over the centuries, the spaces flooded many times and most of the early frescoes are now ruined.

The church is notable for, among other things, a reliquary containing the head of Saint Agnes.  You will also notice a statue of Saint Agnes being consumed by fire.  Restoration work continued throughout the late 20th and early 21st century and is ongoing.


Her feast day is celebrated on January 21.

On her feast day, it is customary for two lambs to be brought in to be blessed by the pope. Then, on Holy Thursday, the lambs’ wool is removed and woven into the pallium the pope gives to a newly consecrated archbishop as a sign of his power and union with the pope.


Finding the Church of Saint Agnes in Agony:

The church is located facing Piazza Navona, one of the city’s most popular attractions.  Don’t let the plain exterior fool you, it is beautiful inside.

Address:  Via di Santa Maria dell’Anima, 30/A, 00186 Roma RM, Italy


Click here for the official website of Saint Agnes Outside the Walls

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