Emmerich, (Anne) Catherine (1774-1824)

views updated

Emmerich, (Anne) Catherine (1774-1824)

German nun of the Augustine order who had ecstatic visions. Born September 8, 1774, at Flamske, Westphalia, Emmerich grew up in a peasant family. She became a servant in the household of an organist named Söntgen, and when his daughter Clara entered the convent of Agnetenberg at Dülmen, the sisters there were persuaded to take Catherine Emmerich as well. She was admitted as a postulant November 13, 1802, and professed a year later.

At the end of 1811, however, the government of Jerome Bonaparte, king of Westphalia, suppressed the convent. The church was closed and the community dispersed. Emmerich was destitute and ill, and for a few months stayed in the convent buildings, ministered to by Abbé Jean Martin Lambert (an elderly priest) and a servant girl. The three were later obliged to vacate the premises, and in 1812 the priest and Emmerich were lodged in the house of a widow.

Here she experienced frequent and prolonged ecstatic states. They were discovered accidently by Clara Söntgen, who went to visit her and found her in ecstasy with stigmata, blood falling from her outstretched hands. Clara at first thought she had met with an accident, but when she mentioned it to Emmerich afterward, Emmerich begged her to keep it secret.

On December 31, 1813, Emmerich's confessor, Father Lim-berg, also saw the stigmata when giving her Holy Communion. He discussed it with Father Lambert, and the two priests agreed to keep the matter secret, as they were uncertain what should be done.

Meanwhile Clara reported the matter to her father, and soon everyone in Dülmen was talking about it. The local physician visited Emmerich, determined to end her "hysteria," but came away convinced of the genuineness of the phenomena. He made an official report, and soon the administrator of the diocese of Münster took up the matter. Priests and doctors examined the girl, and as the news spread far and wide, famous visitors also came to see her, including the poet Clemens Brentano.

During her ecstasies, Emmerich experienced and described detailed scenes of Jesus' passion and crucifixion, including the story of the woman Seraphia said to have wiped the face of Jesus with a cloth, which later bore a miraculous picture of Jesus formed from the blood and sweat. Such sacred images came to be called veronicas (from the Greek icon, "image," and the Latin vera, "true"), the most famous being the Turin Shroud. The visions were approved by a number of theologians and priests, and highly regarded by Pope Pius IX, who requested that an Italian translation of them appear with the German original.

Emmerich continued to experience ecstasies and stigmata with severe wounds. She died February 9, 1824, after much agony caused by a wound in her side. She died murmuring the name of Jesus. She was buried on February 13, and six weeks later was exhumed, after a rumor that the body had been stolen. It was found that there was no corruption. The grave was opened again 32 years later, on October 6, 1856, and the body was still intact.


Emmerich, Anne Catherine. The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Springfield, Ill.: Templegate, 1951.

. Leben der Heil, Jungfrau Maria. Munich: Literarischartistische Anstalt, 1852. Translated as The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Michael Paliret. Springfield, Ill.: Templegate, 1954.

Schmöger, Carl E. The Life of Anna Catherine Emmerick. 2 vols. Los Angeles: Maria Regina Guild, 1968.