Piazza Navona


, Piazza Navona,


The Site: This long oval piazza—owing its shape to the ancient Stadium of Domitian, formerly on this spot, and often flooded in the 19th century for mock naval battles—is one of Rome's most popular and pretty squares, with café tables and street artists surrounding Bernini's extravagant Four Rivers Fountain.

The Miracle: Few of the piazza's thousands of daily visitors venture into the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone, preserving the miraculous skull of St. Agnes, patroness of virgins and girls. In AD 304, a 13-year-old Christian named Agnes was sentenced to death for refusing to marry a powerful pagan. Roman law wouldn’t allow the murder of a virgin, so she was dragged to a brothel on this site and stripped. She prayed, and her hair grew to cover her nakedness. Soldiers hacked off the hair, but every lecherous man who looked upon her was blinded. They tried burning her at the stake, but the fire wouldn't light. Beheading, sadly, did the trick.