According to tradition, she was born around AD 291 to a wealthy Roman family. Because of her beauty and her family's wealth, by the time she hit puberty she already had several suitors from high-ranking families. When she rejected them, some of the jilted suitors informed on her, telling the authorities that she was a Christian. She was executed on January 21 in the year 304.
As the story goes, the Roman Prefect Sempronius ordered that she be dragged naked through the streets to a brothel. According to one legend, as she prayed, hair grew to cover her body; and the men who tried to rape her were all struck blind. According to another story, the son of the Prefect was struck dead, but came back to life when Agnes prayed for him, causing Sempronius to release her. Another magistrate ordered her burned at the stake, but the wood for the fire would not ignite and when it was lit the flames parted around her. Finally, the officer in charge of the execution just drew his sword and beheaded her.
Agnes's bones are kept today in a church bearing her name which was built over the catacomb in which she was buried.
The name Agnes means "pure" in Greek, and since she was only about twelve or thirteen at her death, she very likely was. For that reason, she is regarded as a patron saint of virgins. Because lambs are often symbols of purity, and because her name also sounds like the Latin word for lamb, "agnus", she is often portrayed with a lamb. She is also considered patron saint of chastity, gardeners, young girls, engaged couples, and, not surprisingly, rape victims.
In some folk traditions, young girls would perform special rituals on the eve of her Feast Day in order to discover their future husbands.
Game and Story Use
- The PC's come to a town where the find a young girl being dragged off to an abominable fate. Do they intervene?
- A young female character might regard Agnes as her patron saint.
- The traditon of rituals associated with St. Agnes's Eve might make interesting background for a place the PC's visit, or perhaps where they come from.
- For Darklands style theurgy, Agnes might be an appropriate saint to be invoked by women in danger of molestation.