St Agnes

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Virgin, martyr of Rome. St Agnes is one of the most famous of early Christian saints. Her death in 305 was recorded in the Deposito Martyrum just forty years later. Around that time a basilica was built over her grave in the Via Nomentana. Many early writers, including Ambrose, Jerome, Damasus and Prudentias praised her.

It seems she was a young girl who was killed because she refused to marry, having dedicated herself to Christ.

Because her name is similar to agnus, or lamb, her principal emblem is a lamb. Today in Rome, a special blessing ceremony is held for lambs that produce the wool from which the pallia for archbishops, are woven by the sisters of St Agnes.

There are hundreds of paintings, stained glass windows and church dedications to her across Europe. In England five ancient churches are named after her. The best surviving cycle of paintings is on a gold and enamel cup which once belonged to the Duke of Berry, then the Duke of Bedford and King Henry VI. It can be seen now in the British Museum.

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