Catherine of Alexandria
Katherine of Alexandria

SAINT  CATHERINE,  Virgin and Martyr

(St. Catherine, whom the Greeks call Aecatherina, glorified God by an illustrious confeesion of the faith of Christ, at
Alexandria, under Maximinus II.  Her acts are so much adulterated that little use can be made of them.)

    The Emperor Basil, in his Greek Menology, relates with them that this Saint,  
who was of the royal blood, and an excellent scholar, confuted a company of the
ablest heathen philosophers, whom Maximinus had commanded to enter into a
disputation with her, and that being converted by her to the faith they were all
burnt in one fire, for confessing the same.  He adds, that Catherine was at length
beheaded.  She is said first to have been put upon an engine made of four wheels
joined together, and stuck with sharp pointed spikes, that, when the wheels were
moved, her body might be torn to pieces.  The acts add, that at the first stirring of
the terrible engine, the cords with which the martyr was tied were broke asunder
by the invisible power of an angel, and, the engine falling to pieces by the wheels
being separated from one another, she was delivered from that death.  Hence the
name of St. Catherine's wheel.

  The learned Joseph Assemani thinks that all the account we have of the
particulars relating to this saint, upon which we can depend, is what we meet
with in Eusebius, though that historian mentions not her name.  His relation is
as follows (Eus..  Hist. lib.  viii.  c.  14,  p. 400, ed  Cantabr. anno 1720):

     "There was a certain woman,  a Christian, and the richest and most noble
of all the ladies of Alexandria, who, when the rest suffered themselves to be
deflowered by the tyrant (Maximin), resisted and vanquished his unbounded
and worse than beastly lust.   This lady was most illustrious for her high birth
and great wealth; and likewise for her singular learning : I but she preferred  
her virtue and  her chastity to all worldly advantages.  The tyrant, having in
vain made several assaults upon her virtue, would not behead her, seeing her
ready to die, but stripped her of all her estates and goods, and sent her into

    Maximin, not long after, declared war against Licinius, and, after several
engagements, was at length defeated by him in 313.  Having lost his empire
after a reign of five years, he fled to Tarsus, and there died in extreme
misery.   The body of St. Catherine was discovered by the Christians in Egypt
about the  eighth century, when  they groaned under the yoke of the
Saracens.  It was soon after translated to the great monastery on the top of
Mount Sinai in Arabia, built by St. Helen, and sumptuously enlarged  and
beautified  by the Emperor Justinian, as several old inscriptions and pictures
in Mosaic work in that place testify.  

(Monastery of Saint Catherine of Alexandria Mount Sinai
where, according to tradition, the Angels carried the body of Saint Catherine)

(From that time we find more frequent mention made of the festival and relics of Saint Catherine.   St. Paul  
of  Latra  kept her feast with extraordinary solemnity and devotion.   In the eleventh  age, Simeon, a monk of
Sinai, coming  to Rouen to receive an annual alms of Richard,  Duke of Normandy, brought with him some of
her relics, which he left there.  The principal part of the mortal remains of this saint is still kept in a marble
chest in the church of this monastery on Mount Sinai,  described bv Dr. Richard Pocock.

  From this martyr's uncommon erudition, and the extraordinary spirit of piety by which she sanctified her
learning, and the use she made of it, she is chosen in the schools the patroness and model of Christian
philosophers.  Learning is, next to virtue, the most noble ornament, and the highest improvement of the
human mind, by which all its natural faculties obtain an eminent degree of perfection.)


[Jos. Auemimi in Calend. Univ. ad Nov. 24, t. v. p. 375.]

(LIVES OF THE SAINTS; Butler, Alban; Dublin)

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A virgin and martyr whose feast is celebrated in the Latin Church and in the various Oriental churches on 25 November, and who for almost six centuries was the object of a very popular devotion.

Of noble birth and learned in the sciences, when only eighteen years old, Catherine presented herself to the Emperor Maximinus who was violently persecuting the Christians, upbraided him for his cruelty and endeavoured to prove how iniquitous was the worship of false gods. Astounded at the young girl's audacity, but incompetent to vie with her in point of learning the tyrant detained her in his palace and summoned numerous scholars whom he commanded to use all their skill in specious reasoning that thereby Catherine might be led to apostatize. But she emerged from the debate victorious. Several of her adversaries, conquered by her eloquence, declared themselves Christians and were at once put to death. Furious at being baffled, Maximinus had Catherine scourged and then imprisoned. Meanwhile the empress, eager to see so extraordinary a young woman, went with Porphyry, the head of the troops, to visit her in her dungeon, when they in turn yielded to Catherine's exhortations, believed, were baptized, and immediately won the martyr's crown. Soon afterwards the saint, who far from forsaking her Faith, effected so many conversions, was condemned to die on the wheel, but, at her touch, this instrument of torture was miraculously destroyed. The emperor, enraged beyond control, then had her beheaded and angels carried her body to Mount Sinai where later a church and monastery were built in her honour.