HomeOur Parish › Feast of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr


By: Sr. Sheila Browne, RSM

In January 2006,  I had the opportunity to be in Rome and was able to participate in the Eucharist at the church of St. Agnes Outside the Walls on her feast day.  What a good experience it was!  This is the church where the traditional blessing of two lambs takes place.  (Agnes is a derivative of the Latin word “agnus” which means “lamb”). 

Before Mass began, people gathered in a beautiful anteroom of the church where two lambs were nestled in baskets.  One had a garland of white roses and the letters SAV (St. Agnes, virgin), the other a garland of red roses and the letters SAM (St. Agnes, martyr).  As you can see from the pictures below, the lambs were much admired, especially by the children who were present!  When Mass began, the lambs were borne in the Entrance Procession, placed upon the altar and blessed by the Cardinal.  There was much snapping of pictures, but I wasn’t quick enough to get a good picture of this!  After the blessing they were taken out of the church, and mass continued.  The congregation was quite culturally diverse, and they sang very well!

These two lambs were brought to the Carmelite monastery in Rome, and at Easter time their wool will be shorn.  This wool is used to make the pallium, a  stole-like vestment which is worn by Archbishops.

The interior of the church is very beautiful and worth a visit if you are in Rome.

One of the many websites with tourist information about the church is www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/rome-st-agnes-outside-walls.htm. From here you can get to the parish website in Italian. 

The body of Saint Agnes lies in the catacomb beneath St. Agnes Outside the Walls.  Her head is in the Church of St. Agnes in the Piazza Navona in the city of Rome.

  The lambs prepared for the blessing at St. Agnes This lamb marked SAM, St. Agnes Martyr  
  This lamb, marked SAV, St. Agnes Virgin Everyone wants to pet the lambs  
  The staircase down to the church Remnants of the ancient catacomb on the staircase down to the church  
  More of the remnants The beauty of St. Agnes  
  The assembly awaits the beginning of Mass The lambs are placed on the altar for blessings  
  Decorating the door for the feast  

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