Sant'Agnese fuori le mura
The church of Saint Agnes Outside the Wall is a titulus church
Churches of Rome
There are more than 900 churches in Rome. Most, but not all, of these are Roman Catholic, with some notable Roman Catholic Marian churches.The first churches of Rome originated in places where Christians met. They were divided into three categories:...

, minor basilica
Minor basilica
Minor basilica is a title given to some Roman Catholic churches. By canon law no Catholic church can be honoured with the title of basilica unless by apostolic grant or from immemorial custom....

 in Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, on a site sloping down from the Via Nomentana
Via Nomentana
Via Nomentana is an ancient road of Italy, leading North-East from Rome to Nomentum , a distance of . It originally bore the name Via Ficulnensis, from the old Latin village of Ficulnea, about from Rome. It was subsequently prolonged to Nomentum, but never became an important high road, and merged...

, which runs north-east out of the city, still under its ancient name. What is said to be the remains of Saint Agnes
Saint Agnes
Agnes of Rome is a virgin–martyr, venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, the Anglican Communion, and Lutheranism. She is one of seven women, excluding the Blessed Virgin, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass...

's are below the high altar. The church is over one of the catacombs of Rome
Catacombs of Rome
The Catacombs of Rome are ancient catacombs, underground burial places under or near Rome, Italy, of which there are at least forty, some discovered only in recent decades. Though most famous for Christian burials, either in separate catacombs or mixed together, they began in the 2nd century, much...

, where Agnes was originally buried, and which still may be visited from the church. The church was built by Pope Honorius I in the 7th century, and largely retains its original structure, despite many changes to the decoration. In particular the mosaic
Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials. It may be a technique of decorative art, an aspect of interior decoration, or of cultural and spiritual significance as in a cathedral...

 in the apse
In architecture, the apse is a semicircular recess covered with a hemispherical vault or semi-dome...

 of Agnes, Honorius and another Pope is largely in its original condition. The current Cardinal Priest of the Titulus S. Agnetis Extra moenia
Extra moenia
Extra moenia is a Latin phrase that means outside the walls or outside the walls of the city.The phrase is commonly used in reference to the original attributes of a building, usually a church, where it was built outside the original city walls...

is Camillo Ruini.


A very large basilica was built some metres from the present church in the 4th century, to which was attached the large private mausoleum for Constantina
Constantina , and later known as Saint Constance, was the eldest daughter of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great and his second wife Fausta, daughter of Emperor Maximian...

, the daughter of Constantine I
Constantine I
Constantine the Great , also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine and co-Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all...

. The mausoleum was later converted into a church, which survives and is now known as Santa Costanza
Santa Costanza
Santa Costanza is a 4th century church in Rome, Italy, on the Via Nomentana, which runs north-east out of the city, still under its ancient name. According to the traditional view, it was built under Constantine I as a mausoleum for his daughter Constantina who died in 354 AD...

 (she was venerated as a saint, even though she was not one officially). It contains very important 4th century mosaic
Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials. It may be a technique of decorative art, an aspect of interior decoration, or of cultural and spiritual significance as in a cathedral...

s, especially large areas of ceiling in a secular style, but also two small apse mosaics, one including an early depiction of Jesus in what has become the standard style of long fair hair and a halo
Halo (religious iconography)
A halo is a ring of light that surrounds a person in art. They have been used in the iconography of many religions to indicate holy or sacred figures, and have at various periods also been used in images of rulers or heroes...


The large basilica decayed during the decline of Rome, and was replaced in the 7th century by the present much smaller church, commissioned by Pope Honorius I. The lower part of the walls from about half of one side of the Constantinian basilica, and its apse
In architecture, the apse is a semicircular recess covered with a hemispherical vault or semi-dome...

, can still be seen. The new church was over what was believed to be Agnes' grave. The floor level of the 7th century church is some two metres above the level of the catacomb floor, and the public street entrances are at the level of the 2nd floor gallery. A long wide internal set of steps, lined with inscriptions from the catacombs and other ancient buildings set into the walls, leads down from the street level to the floor level of the church. The apse mosaic from Honorius' time is still present, and less affected by restoration than most mosaics of this date. On a gold ground, a central standing figure of Agnes in the costume of a Byzantine empress is flanked by Honorius, offering a model of the building, and another pope, whose identity is uncertain. The church was also built with a separate upper gallery for women (matronaeum), similar to that of San Lorenzo fuori le mura
San Lorenzo fuori le Mura
The Papal Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Walls is a Roman Catholic parish church and minor basilica, located in Rome, Italy. The basilica is one of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome and one of the five Patriarchal basilicas, each of which is assigned to a patriarchate. St...

. Saint Emerentiana was also buried here.

The catacombs are on three levels, dating from the 2nd to the 5th centuries; part of the highest level dating to the 2nd century can be visited by a guided tour. Though no paintings remain in place, there are a number of inscriptions and engraved images of interest. Many more inscriptions line the large staircase leading from the main convent above to the church.

It is in this church that on the feast day of St. Agnes (January 21), two lamb
Domestic sheep
Sheep are quadrupedal, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Like all ruminants, sheep are members of the order Artiodactyla, the even-toed ungulates. Although the name "sheep" applies to many species in the genus Ovis, in everyday usage it almost always refers to Ovis aries...

s are specially blessed, usually by the pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 after a pontifical high Mass; their wool
Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, vicuña, alpaca, camel from animals in the camel family, and angora from rabbits....

 is later woven into pallia
The pallium is an ecclesiastical vestment in the Roman Catholic Church, originally peculiar to the Pope, but for many centuries bestowed by him on metropolitans and primates as a symbol of the jurisdiction delegated to them by the Holy See. In that context it has always remained unambiguously...

, ceremonial neck-stoles sent by the popes to newly-elevated Metropolitan-archbishops
Metropolitan bishop
In Christian churches with episcopal polity, the rank of metropolitan bishop, or simply metropolitan, pertains to the diocesan bishop or archbishop of a metropolis; that is, the chief city of a historical Roman province, ecclesiastical province, or regional capital.Before the establishment of...

 to symbolise their union with the papacy.

The church is currently administrated by a French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 traditionalist order, the Canons Regular of San Giovanni in Laterano.


A popular local legend says that every lord mayor of Rome secretly comes to pray at this church, on the third night after his election; in fact, there is little evidence that new sindaci really do so.

The church is the topic of Canadian author and anthropologist Margaret Visser
Margaret Visser
Margaret Visser is a writer and broadcaster who lives in Toronto, Paris, and South West France. Her subject matter is the history, anthropology, and mythology of everyday life....

's book The Geometry of Love, published in 2000, which describes it in exhaustive detail and discusses aspects of history, theology, architecture, symbolism and the emotional and aesthetic effects of visiting the church.

List of Cardinal Priests

  • Baccio Aldobrandini (5 October 1654 - 1 April 1658)
  • Girolamo Farnese (6 May 1658 - 18 February 1668)
  • Vitaliano Visconti (18 March 1669 - 7 October 1671)
  • Federico Borromeo (8 August 1672 - 18 February 1673)
  • Toussaint de Forbin-Janson (10 July 1690 - 28 September 1693)
  • Giambattista Spinola
    Giambattista Spinola
    Giambattista Spinola was a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and Archbishop of Genoa.Giambattista was born in Madrid, Spain but his family was of Genoeses origin, apparently connected with the Spinola Family that had been active in Medieval Genoese politics.In 1648 Spinola was made archbishop...

     (20 February 1696 - 7 April 1698)
  • Rannuzio Pallavicino (25 June 1706 - 30 June 1712)
  • Giorgio Spínola (20 January 1721 - 15 December 1734)
  • Serafino Cenci (27 June 1735 – 24 June 1740)
  • Filippo Maria De Monti (23 September 1743 – 10 April 1747)
  • Frédéric-Jérôme de la Rochefoucauld de Roye (15 May 1747 – 29 April 1757)
  • Etienne-René Potier de Gesvres (2 August 1758 – 24 July 1774)
  • Luigi Valenti Gonzaga
    Luigi Valenti Gonzaga
    Luigi Valenti Gonzaga was a cardinal of the Catholic Church. He was elected to the Roman Curia and the Papal diplomacy, and was also nuntius of Switzerland and Spain....

     (30 March 1778 – 29 November 1790)
  • Giuseppe Spina (24 May 1802 – 21 February 1820)
  • Dionisio Bardaxí y Azara (27 September 1822 – 3 December 1826)
  • Ignazio Nasalli-Ratti (17 September 1827 – 2 December 1831)
  • Filippo Giudice Caracciolo
    Filippo Giudice Caracciolo
    Filippo Giudice Caracciolo was an Italian prelate who was archbishop of Naples from 1833 to 1844.- Life :Born in a noble family in Naples on 27 March 1785 he entered in the order of oratrian in the late years of the 18th century. He was ordained on March 18, 1809...

     (30 September 1833 – 29 January 1844)
  • Hugues-Robert-Jean-Charles de la Tour d’Auvergne-Lauraquais (16 April 1846 – 20 July 1851)
  • Girolamo D’Andrea in commendum (18 March 1852 – 14 May 1868)
  • Lorenzo Barili (24 September 1868 – 8 March 1875)
  • Pietro Gianelli (31 March 1875 – 5 November 1881)
  • Charles-Martial Allemand-Lavigerie
    Charles Lavigerie
    Charles Martial Allemand Lavigerie was a French cardinal, archbishop of Carthage and Algiers and primate of Africa.Born at Bayonne, he was educated at St Sulpice, Paris...

     (3 July 1882 – 25 November 1892)
  • Georg von Kopp
    Georg von Kopp
    Georg von Kopp was a German Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who served as Bishop of Furda and Prince-Bishop of Breslau .-Biography:...

     (19 January 1893 – 4 March 1914)
  • Károly Hornig
    Károly Hornig
    Károly Hornig was an Austrian-Hungarian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Bishop of Veszprém from 1888 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1912.-Biography:...

     (28 May 1914 – 9 February 1917)
  • Adolf Bertram (18 December 1919 – 6 July 1945)
  • Samuel Alphonse Stritch (22 February 1946 – 26 May 1958)
  • Carlo Confalonieri (18 December 1958 – 15 March 1972)
  • Louis-Jean Guyot
    Louis-Jean Guyot
    Louis-Jean Guyot was a cardinal of the Catholic Church, and archbishop of Toulouse 1966–1978....

     (5 March 1973 – 1 August 1988)
  • Camillo Ruini (28 June 1991 - Present)

External links

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