Saints and Holy People

Find out about their lives and how they changed the world

Saint Agnes (d. 304)

Saint Agnes (d. 304)

Patron saint of engaged couples, chastity, girls, and rape victims

Feast day: January 21

Saint Agnes made a pledge to God, whom she called her heavenly Spouse, that she would remain a consecrated virgin throughout her life. Agnes was very beautiful, and many young men wanted to marry her. In order to keep her pledge to God, Agnes politely turned them all down. One enraged suitor accused her of being a Christian, and she was brought to the governor. He tempted Agnes with elaborate gifts to deny God, but Agnes stood firm in her beliefs. He tried to shake her faith by chaining her and then throwing her into a house of prostitution, but an angel protected Agnes through her hardships and she did not deny God. Finally, the emperor condemned her to death; Agnes was only 13 years old.

Many people wept for beautiful Agnes on her execution day, but she radiated joy to be going to her heavenly home to be with her Spouse. She bowed her head in prayer when she awaited her execution by sword. Saint Agnes’s name means “pure one” and she is the patron saint of engaged couples, chastity, girls, and rape victims.

Because her name is very close to the Latin name for lamb (agnus), Agnes is often pictured with a lamb and it has become her special symbol. On her feast day, January 21, two lambs are brought to the Pope to be blessed. On Holy Thursday, these lambs are shorn, and their wool is woven into the pallium (special stole) that the Pope gives to new archbishops, signifying their close relationship to the Holy Father. 

(Image Domenichino, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)