Catherine of Alexandria, Saint


St. Catherine of Alexandria, detail from "The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine," by Filippino Lippi;
died , c. early 4th century, Alexandria, Egypt; feast day November 25

one of the most popular early Christian martyrs. She is not mentioned before the 9th century, and her historicity is doubtful. According to the legend, she was an extremely learned young girl of noble birth who protested the persecution of Christians under the Roman emperor Maxentius--whose wife and several soldiers she converted--and defeated the most eminent scholars summoned by Maxentius to oppose her. The spiked wheel (whence the term catherine wheel) by which she was sentenced to be killed broke, and she was then beheaded.

After her death angels allegedly took her body to Mt. Sinai, where it was discovered c. 800. In the Middle Ages, when the story of her mystical marriage to Christ was widely circulated, she was one of the most popular saints. She is the patron of philosophers and scholars. St. Joan of Arc claimed that Catherine's was among the heavenly voices that spoke to her. In 1969 her feast day was removed from the church calendar.


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"Catherine Of Alexandria, Saint" Encyclopaedia Britannica Online.

[Accessed May 4 2000].
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