Catherine of Alexandria, St.
CATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA, ST.
Martyr. Data of her life derive from two works without historical value. A Conversio recounts her royal birth and her mystical espousal with Christ in a vision just after her baptism. A Passio reports her discourses at Alexandria before the Emperor with pagan philosophers whom she converted. When she persuaded the Empress to become a Christian, Catherine was tortured on the wheel
and decapitated (Nov. 24 or 25, 305). The Passio ends with angels translating her relics to Mt. Sinai, where, however, nothing seems to have been known of her c. 820. The earliest evidence of her cult, apparently introduced by Eastern monks who had fled from iconoclasm, appears in a painting of the early 8th century in Rome. After the 10th century her cult became very popular, especially in Italy. She is one of the fourteen holy helpers; is the patroness of some 30 groups, including philosophers and maidens; and is portrayed with a book (knowledge), a crown (royal birth), and a wheel.
Feast: Nov. 25.
Bibliography: Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hÖfer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 6: 60–61. d. balboni, Bibliotheca sanctorum (Rome 1961–) 3:954–965. k. lewis, "Pilgrimage and the Cult of Katherine of Alexandria in Late Medieval England," in Pilgrimage Explored (Woodbridge, England 1999), 145–160. s. nevanlinna and i. taavitsainen, Katherine of Alexandria: The Late Middle English Prose Legend in Southwell Minster Ms 7 (Woodbridge, England 1993). s. jefferis, "The 'Saint Catherine Legend' of the Legenda Aurea Traced through its German Translations and Other German Versions in Prose, Verse, and as a Play," in Legenda Aurea (Montreal 1986), 253–265.
[m. j. costelloe]