Agnes (d. Possibly c. 304)

views updated

Agnes (d. Possibly c. 304)

Saint and Christian martyr. Name variations: Formerly Annes, Annis, Annice; (French) Agnüs. Born in Rome, though date of birth unknown; some historians place her death around 254 (under emperor Decius), some about 304 (under Diocletian); dau. of a noble Roman family; foster sister of St. Emerentiana (d. around 305).

At 12, was sought after by wealthy suitors for marriage; when she refused, saying she wanted to devote her life to Christ, was denounced as a Christian to the Roman governor; unmoved by threats of torture, was sent to the public brothel (there, only one man dared touch her, and he was stricken blind until his sight was restored in answer to her prayers); though scholars disagree as to the date of her death, it is thought that she was beheaded in Rome by order of the emperor Diocletian. Through the centuries, young girls observed St. Agnes' Eve (Jan 20-21) with rites that supposedly divined the form of their future husbands; John Keats used this superstition as mise en scène for his poem "The Eve of St. Agnes" (1819); another poem, "Saint Agnes' Eve," was written by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

See also Women in World History.

About this article

Agnes (d. Possibly c. 304)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article