Agnes is said to have been martyred in 304 at the age of thirteen, when her spurned suitors turned her over to Roman authorities.
The LEGEND OF SAINT AGNES is one of the oldest in Christianity, and one that has had a great impact on sacred an secular literature up to modern times. Saint Jerome, writing in the fourth century, claimed that in his day the fame of Saint Agnes had spread to all the nations, and that homilies and hymns and poetry and prose had effusively honored her in various languages. Her youth and beauty, her innocence and heroism in defending her chastity all fueled the drama of her clash with imperial Roman authority in the waning days of its pagan dominion.
Saint Augustine says that Agnes was only thirteen years of age when in AD 304 she rejected the advances of Eutropius, the son of the prefect of Rome. One Day while riding through the city, Eutropius fell into lust at first sight and decided that Agnes must be his at all costs. So he presented her with gold and gems……and asked her parents for her hand in marriage. But Agnes rejected him and his gifts with such eloquence and determination it is no surprise that she has joined iconic status as a female in command of both her faith and her body. “Be gone, tempter!” she declared, “I am already betrothed to a lover……..(she was talking about Jesus)
He took to his bed, told his father he must have Agnes. His father became angry and checked on Agnes. He found that Agnes was a Christian from birth and the Object of her affections was none other than Jesus Christ. Since Christians were threatened with death, he threatened her with torture and death, if she did not offer homage to the gods of Rome. He planned to mock her virginity and vanquish her resistance. He ordered her to be publicly dragged naked to a house of prostitution, where she would be exposed to outrageous degradations. When the guards stripped her of her garments and she saw herself exposed, she bent her head down in meek shame and prayed. For it was then that heaven intervened and answered Agnes’ prayer. To the shock of the crowd her hair miraculously grew to cover her nakedness. And when she was imprisoned in the house of infamy, an angel appeared and clothed her in a white protective garment.
The legend says the Eutroplus attempted to rape her while she was imprisoned and vulnerable. But he was struck down by the angel. Saint Ambrose records that “she went to her place of execution more cheerfully than others go to their weddings.”
She was a martyr for her religion and her beliefs. She chose to die instead of lose her virginity to someone she did not love. She remembered she was a child of God, made in His image and likeness. She is the patron saint of young women.