Reason #5388 to love Rome: Sant’Agnese church

Sant'Agnese church, Rome, ItalyI recently returned to visit the beautiful early Christian church of Sant’Agnese, a church I hadn’t been back to in years.

Since the Roman metro line has been extended, it’s even easier to get here via the B metro line, where it has its own stop: Sant’Agnese.

This 7th century church, designed like a basilica, is definitely worth a visit. This church is dedicated to Sant’Agnese – or Saint Agnes in English. Agnes was a Christian martyr, killed alongside other Christians in the persecutions carried out under the reign of Emperor Diocletian (284-305 A.D.) – before Christianity became the official religion of the Ancient Roman Empire.

Sant'Agnese church, Rome, ItalyAgnes was a 12-year-old girl when her father told her she would marry the son of the Praetor (an official government title granted in Ancient Rome). Agnes, who had become Christian, had no wish to marry (and especially not to a pagan), saying she had vowed her soul to God.

For this, she was punished and forced to stand naked in Rome, but her nakedness was miraculously covered by long hair and a dazzling cloak. Next, the poor girl was burned at the stake – and survived! Apparently, however, the third time was the charm, and Agnes was beheaded by the sword and buried in the cemetery on Via Nomentana.

Sant'Agnese, RomeHer grave became an important site for Christians praying to the martyrs and the basilica was built at the orders of Pope Onorio I (625-638) in order to house her remains and to welcome the faithful to pray to Saint Agnes.

A striking mosaic was part of the basilica’s construction, and you can see Agnes in the accompanying photo. There are many such examples of these mosaics displaying the Byzantine influence in early Christian art of Rome (see my earlier post on the spectacular Santa Prassede).

A visit to Sant’Agnese is definitely worth a trip your next time in Rome.


Sant'Agnese church, Rome, Italy

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