St. Agnes was born in a.d. 291, the daughter of Christian noble parents in Rome. She was virtuous in her youth, and yearned to live in perpetual virginity, refusing to marry the son of the Prefect Sempronius when approached with this offer when she was only thirteen years old. Sempronius was infuriated when he found out that she was a Christian, for at that time the persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian were raging in the Roman Empire. The prefect, wishing to shame and defile her, had her dragged naked through the streets to a brothel where she would be defiled.
God helped His pure lamb. Actually, the name Agnes comes from the Greek word for pure, agni, rather than from the Roman word for lamb, agnus. She was miraculously shielded from wanton eyes on her way to the brothel, and there an angel blinded all who came near her, so they could not see to touch her. Sempronius’ son came to defile her, but he died before he could touch her, and then St. Agnes restored him to life. When she was brought to be killed, the wood pile would not burn beneath her. Then she was stabbed in the neck, going to Christ at 13 years old in a.d. 304.