1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Agnes, Saint

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Agnes, Saint, a virgin martyr of the Catholic Church. The legend of St Agnes is that she was a Roman maid, by birth a Christian, who suffered martyrdom when but thirteen during the reign of the emperor Diocletian, on the 21st of January 304. The prefect Sempronius wished her to marry his son, and on her refusal condemned her to be outraged before her execution, but her honour was miraculously preserved. When led out to die she was tied to a stake, but the faggots would not burn, whereupon the officer in charge of the troops drew his sword and struck off her head. St Agnes is the patron saint of young girls, who, in rural districts, formerly indulged in all sorts of quaint country magic on St Agnes' Eve (20th-21st January) with a view to discovering their future husbands. This superstition has been immortalized in Keats's poem, "The Eve of St Agnes." St Agnes's bones are supposed to rest in the church of her name at Rome, originally built by Constantine and repaired by Pope Honorius in the 7th century. Here on her festival (21st of January) two lambs are specially blessed after pontifical high mass, and their wool is later woven into pallia (see PALLIUM.)