Agnes was born into a noble Roman Family in 291 A.D. Her family was deeply religious, which influenced great piety in Agnes, as well as a desire to devote herself to Christ from an early age. At this time the Roman Emperor Diocletian was persecuting the Christian community, the rapid growth of which had alarmed many pagans. Despite this, Agnes and her family were still committed to their faith.
As well as being from a wealthy family, Agnes was young and beautiful, and therefore had many suitors who wanted to marry her. At this time, girls Agnes' age were routinely engaged. However, Agnes had decided to dedicate herself to God and live a life of prayer. One suitor that she rejected, aware of her Christianity, denounced her to the authorities. Soon after, the Roman official in charge of the city had the Agnes arrested and imprisoned. She was tormented by her captors during her imprisonment, but did not renounce her Christian faith, showing remarkable bravery.
Among the torments that Agnes had to endure was the threat of being dragged through the streets naked, as well as attempted rapes. Her persecutors were enraged by the bravery of the young girl and her defiance. Eventually, she was brought to trial and condemned to death. Agnes suffered martyrdom by either being burned at the stake or beheaded.
St. Agnes was buried secretly. Later on, when the Empire became Christian, her body was transferred to a tomb. The site became a place of many pilgrimages.
There are many miracles associated with Agnes. It was said that all of the men who attempted to rape her were immediately struck blind. According to one source, Agnes' spilled blood was preserved by some Christians and used to cure many people, including her chief persecutor's only son. A daughter of the Emperor Constantine was cured of a serious illness when she prayed at the saint’s tomb.
St. Agnes believed that nothing in this world is stronger than faith, as is indicated by some of her final words:
“You may stain your sword with my blood, but you are not able to profane my body, consecrated to Christ.”
Agnes' shining example of fortitude has inspired Christians throughout the centuries. Today she is revered by almost all of the Christian Churches.