Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Saint Agnes is that she was martyred at the young age of twelve or thirteen. The legends say that she rejected a marriage proposal because of her devotion to faith and the slighted man reported to authorities that she was a Christian.
There are two churches dedicated to Saint Agnes in Italy, Sant’Agnese fuori le mura in Rome, which houses Saint Agnes’ bones, and Sant’Agnese in Agone in Piazza Navona, which has claim to Agnes’ skull. Saint Agnes was beheaded and when both churches laid claim to her remains, they compromised.
Today, Saint Agnes is venerated as the patron saint of young women. On her feast day, the twenty-first of January, lambs are processed into mass and blessed, and then brought to the Pope for his blessing. Their wool will later be used in a special garment called the pallium which will be given to new Archbishops by the Pope.
Saint Agnes is depicted as a shepherdess and associated with lambs primarily because her name, Agnes, sounds very similar to the Latin word agnus, which means lamb. This imagery corresponds nicely with the common Christian image of Jesus as a good shepherd and the Lamb of God, agnus dei. – Rebecca Patterson