Catherine of Alexandria

Article

November 27, 2021

Catherine of Alexandria (Alexandria of Egypt Egypt, 287 - Alexandria of Egypt Egypt, 305) is venerated as a saint, virgin and martyr by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and, in general, by all Christian Churches that admit veneration. of the saints.

Biography

In addition to her uncertain date of birth (probably 287) and the fact that she was subjected to martyrdom in Alexandria in Egypt in 305 (approximately), little is known about her life and it is difficult to distinguish historical reality from legends. popular. There are also written sources, all of which, however, are later than several centuries; the oldest is a Passion in Greek from the 6th-7th century; then there is another passion of the 11th century and the Legenda Aurea, which dates back to the 13th century. According to tradition, Catherine was a beautiful young Egyptian woman and the Golden Legend specifies that she was the daughter of King Costa, who left her orphaned very young, and that she was educated from childhood in the liberal arts. Catherine was asked to marry by many important men, but she had in a dream the vision of the Madonna with her Child who slipped the ring on her finger making her sponsa Christi.

The tradition of martyrdom

In 305 a Roman emperor held great celebrations in his honor in Alexandria. Even if the Golden Legend speaks of Maxentius, many believe that it is a transcription error and that the emperor in question was instead Maximin Daia, who in 305 was proclaimed Caesar for the East in the context of the tetrarchy (Governor of 'Egypt in that year was instead, since 303, the prefect Clodio Culciano, who does not seem to be the protagonist of the story). We also remind you that the date of 305 is not established with certainty. Catherine came to the palace in the midst of the festivities, during which pagan rites were celebrated with animal sacrifices and it also happened that many Christians, for fear of persecution, agreed to worship the gods. Catherine refused the sacrifices and asked the emperor to recognize Jesus Christ as the redeemer of humanity, arguing her invitation with philosophical depth. The emperor, who according to the Golden Legend would have been struck by both the beauty and the culture of the young noble, summoned a group of rhetoricians to persuade her to honor her gods and asked her to marry. The rhetoricians not only failed to convert it, but they themselves, by Catherine's eloquence, were converted to Christianity. The emperor ordered the death sentence of the rhetoricians and after yet another refusal by Caterina, he condemned her to die with the torture of the toothed wheel. However, the instrument of torture broke and Maximin was forced to have the saint beheaded, from which instead of blood flowed milk, a symbol of her purity.

The monastery

According to another legend, Catherine's body was transported by angels to Mount Sinai. In this place, in the sixth century, the Emperor Justinian founded the monastery, originally called the "monastery of the Transfiguration", and later dedicated to the saint (Monastery of Santa Caterina).

Historicity of the character

Little is known about her life, as well as about the lives of many proto-martyrs and martyrs of the early Christian centuries. The fact that: a documentation as a source on the story of Saint Catherine is present only in texts written starting from the sixth century; it is ascertained that only from the ninth century did devotion to the saint become very popular (even at an iconographic level) was part of the practice: in fact, both the Christian apologetics and the cult of the Saints, and the relative hagiography, developed slowly and subsequently. period the development was absolutely preponderant in a dimension essentially handed down orally, in the absence of documentary sources. In the period in which the atheistic or agnostic Enlightenment thought developed, shadows were cast on the historicity of the character since the end of

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