(active 7th century in Rome)

Interior view

Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura, Rome

The seventh-century basilica was built on a sloping site on the Via Nomentana above the catacombs that contain the remains of the martyr St Agnes (d 304). Although the basilica was later restored by Pope Symmachus (reg 498–514), it subsequently fell into decay and the ruined buildings were eventually replaced by Pope Honorius I (reg 625–38) to accommodate the pilgrims who flocked to the site. The new church, several metres away from the original church and partly built into the 2nd-century catacombs below, was developed from a small chapel above the relics of St Agnes. (Her bones are said to be authentic although her head is supposedly enshrined in the Baroque church of Sant'Agnese in Agone, also in Rome.)

The majority of the construction took place during the Byzantine rule of Rome and shows many Eastern stylistic influences. The nave and aisles are separated by 14 ancient Roman columns. There is a narthex for the catechumens, and a matroneum, or separate upper gallery for women, was built in over the west end in 620.

Besides the narthex and galleries that face the three sides of the central nave, there are other Byzantine architectural elements such as impost blocks above the capitals of the lower colonnade.

The apse mosaic was completed under Pope Honorius I and depicts St Agnes wearing regal vestments, holding a scroll sealed with a cross, and standing on a platform surrounded by flames. She is flanked by popes Symmachus and Honorius I, the latter holding a model of the church and to whom there is a dedicatory inscription beneath.

The church was later restored by Pope Adrian I (reg 772–95) and again in the 15th, 16th, and 19th centuries.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.