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Catherine of Bologna, St.


Poor Clare, mystic, writer, and artist; b. Bologna, Italy, Sept. 8, 1413; d. there, March 9, 1463. She was the daughter of John de Vigri and Benvenuta Mammolini. As companion to Margaret d'Este she was educated at the ducal court until Margaret's marriage. Catherine, then 14, joined a group of Franciscan tertiaries in Ferrara who later adopted the Rule of St. Clare. She served first as convent baker and portress, then as mistress of novices. During this time she wrote an important treatise on what she called the seven spiritual weapons; the treatise reflects the mystical quality of her interior life. It was also during this period, according to her own statement, that she was visited one Christmas Eve by Our Lady, who placed the newborn Christ in her arms. In 1456 Catherine was made abbess of a new convent of Clares in Bologna, and she remained in that office almost without interruption until her death. Clement XI canonized her May 22, 1712. Her body, seated and richly garbed, is incorrupt but blackened by age and dampness. Usually represented as a Poor Clare holding the Infant, she is also honored as patron of artists. Paintings and miniatures of hers, notably her illuminated Breviary, are extant. Writings include Le sette arme necessarie alla battaglia spirituale, in many editions and translations, from 1475 (Bologna) to 1922 (Florence); Sermones ad sacras virgines (Bologna 1522,1635); Rosarium metricum de mysteriis Passionis Christi Domini et de Vita BVM; and minor works in verse and prose.

Feast: March 9.

Bibliography: The Seven Spiritual Weapons, trans. h. feiss and d. re (Ontario 1998). j. wood, Women, Art and Spirituality:

The Poor Clares of Early Modern Italy (Cambridge 1996). Le sette armi spirituali, c. foletti, ed. (Padua 1985). s.-s. martinelli, "La Canonizzazione de Caterina Vigri: un problema cittadino nella Bologna del Seicento," in Culto dei santi, istituzionie classi sociali in eta preindustriale (Rome 1984), 71933. j. r. berrigan, "Saint Catherine of Bologna: Franciscan Mystic," in Women Writers of the Renaissance and Reformation, k. m. wilson, ed., (Athens, Ga.1987), 8195.

[f. laughlin]

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