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Saint Catherine of Siena | Biography, Facts, Miracles, & Patron Saint Of

Fra Bartolommeo: God the Father with SS. Catherine of Siena and Mary Magdalene

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March 25, 1347
April 29, 1380 (aged 33)
(Anniversary in 4 days)
Subjects Of Study:
Role In:
Avignon papacy

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Top Questions

Who is St. Catherine of Siena?

St. Catherine of Siena was a Dominican tertiary and mystic who lived in Italy in the 1300s. She was known for her holiness, asceticism, and spiritual visions and was said to have received stigmata. She was also a reformer and political activist, and she was influential in religious and political affairs of the church.

Why is St. Catherine of Siena famous?

St. Catherine of Siena is one of only four women who were named doctor of the church, meaning that her writings, including the mystical The Dialogue and her prayers and letters, have special authority in Roman Catholicism. She was an important defender of the papacy and is a patron saint of Europe and of Italy.

Where is St. Catherine of Siena buried?

St. Catherine of Siena died at age 33 in Rome, and most of her body is buried there at Santa Maria sopra Minerva basilica. Her mummified head is in a reliquary near her thumb in the church of St. Dominic in Siena, while her foot and three of her fingers are holy relics in Venice.

St. Catherine of Siena, original name Caterina Benincasa, (born March 25, 1347, Siena, Tuscany [Italy]—died April 29, 1380, Rome; canonized 1461; feast day April 29), Dominican tertiary, mystic, and one of the patron saints of Italy. She was declared a doctor of the church in 1970 and a patron saint of Europe in 1999.

Catherine was the youngest of 25 children born to a lower middle-class family; most of her siblings did not survive childhood. At a young age she is said to have consecrated her virginity to Christ and experienced mystical visions. Catherine became a tertiary (member of a monastic third order who takes simple vows and may remain outside a convent or monastery) of the Dominican order (1363), joining the Sisters of Penitence of St. Dominic in Siena. She rapidly gained a wide reputation for her holiness and her severe asceticism. In her early twenties she experienced a “spiritual espousal” to Christ and was moved to immediately begin serving the poor and sick, gaining disciples in the process.

Her ministry eventually moved beyond her local community, and Catherine began to travel and promote church reform. When the rebellious city of Florence was placed under an interdict by Pope Gregory XI (1376), Catherine determined to take public action for peace within the church and Italy and to encourage a Crusade against the Muslims. She went as an unofficial mediator to Avignon with her confessor and biographer Raymond of Capua. Her mission failed, and she was virtually ignored by the pope, but while at Avignon she promoted her plans for a Crusade.

It became clear to her that the return of Pope Gregory XI to Rome from Avignon—an idea that she did not initiate and had not strongly encouraged—was the only way to bring peace to Italy. Catherine left for Tuscany the day after Gregory set out for Rome (1376). At his request she went to Florence (1378) and was there during the Ciompi Revolt in June. After a short final stay in Siena, during which she completed The Dialogue (begun the previous year), she went to Rome in November, probably at the invitation of Pope Urban VI, whom she helped in reorganizing the church. From Rome she sent out letters and exhortations to gain support for Urban; as one of her last efforts, she tried to win back Queen Joan I of Naples to obedience to Urban, who had excommunicated the queen for supporting the antipope Clement VII.

Catherine’s writings, all of which were dictated, include about 380 letters, 26 prayers, and the 4 treatises of Il libro della divina dottrina, better known as The Dialogue (c. 1475; Eng. trans. by Suzanne Noffke, 1980). The record of her ecstatic experiences in The Dialogue illustrates her doctrine of the “inner cell” of the knowledge of God and of self into which she withdrew. A complete edition of Catherine’s works, together with her biography by Raymond, was published in Siena (1707–21).

The Editors of Encyclopaedia BritannicaThis article was most recently revised and updated by Melissa Petruzzello.

Catherine of Siena | is… What is Catherine of Siena?

Saint Catherine of Siena , Caterina of Siena (Italian Caterina da Siena; born Caterina Benincasa Italian Caterina Benincasa) (March 25, 1347, Siena – April 29 1380, Rome) – Italian religious figure and writer, tertiary of the Dominican order, canonized by the Catholic Church, is one of the most revered holy women in Catholicism, recognized as one of the three female Doctors of the Church.


  • 1 Biography
    • 1.1 Visions
    • 1.2 Political and religious activities
    • 1.3 Death
    • 1.4 Reverence and relics
  • 2 Works
    • 2.1 Characteristics of creativity
    • 2.2 Works
      • 2.2.1 Letters
      • 2.2.2 “Book”
  • 3 Iconography
  • 4 Sources
  • 5 Cultivated
  • 6 Notes
  • 7 See also
  • 8 Links
  • 9 Literature


Daughter of an artisan from Siena, youngest child in a large middle-class family (she was the 25th child) of a dyer [1] Jacopo di Benincasa and Monna Lapa Piagenti, daughter of a plowshare maker (or poet). She had a twin sister who died in infancy. In addition, her parents took into the house a 10-year-old orphan boy, their relative, who later became a Dominican monk and Catherine’s first confessor. She had a cheerful and active personality. At the age of seven, by her own declaration, she decided to dedicate her virginity to Christ. Her family forced the girl into marriage, but she consecrated herself to the Lord, cutting off her hair, “which she had sinned so much and which she hated so much.”

In about 1367 (at the age of sixteen), after a long family resistance, the Third Dominican Order of “Penitent Sisters” (mantellates) entered – that is, she took tonsure without moving to the monastery. She lived in a small room in her father’s house. Catherine led an ascetic life – as they say, “she ate only holy gifts, slept only half an hour every two days, and prayed a lot.” She worked in hospitals and leper colonies. (When the family went bankrupt, Catherine set up her own special community, where she moved to live with her elderly mother).

Catherine lost her brothers and sisters during the plague of 1374, this developed in her a keen sense of human compassion. She devoted herself to the daily care of the sick and the poor, and was engaged in public affairs. They describe how one day a beggar stopped her and asked for clothes. First, she gave him her bottom woolen shirt, then, at his request, the linen linen of her father and brothers, then the sleeves for the received woolen shirt (torn from the maid’s clothes), in the end, when the whole family hid their clothes from her, she took off for a fellow beggar the last shirt off. For this, she was “rewarded with the heavenly robe that Christ brought her,” and she managed all her life with one single dress, both in winter and summer, not considering herself the right to wear outerwear while there are those in need in the world. Then she took up not only nursing, but also missionary work. The story she described herself is known [2] how she helped to come to the Lord on death row, Nicolò di Tuldo of Perugia. After this event, Catherine, carried away by her desire to provide spiritual assistance to those in need, left her cell and took up active work.


According to one biographer of the time, from the age of seven she began to have visions. Her first vision was of a smiling Christ, from whose heart came a ray of light that fell on her and wounded her. Subsequently, Christ appeared to her sometimes accompanied by the Mother of God, the Apostles John and Paul, or Saints Mary Magdalene and Dominic. It is described that the ecstasies that happened to her initially aroused the fears of her relatives. They describe how once, while praying in front of the hearth, she went into a prayerful trance, and tipped over face into the flames; and when they pulled her out of the burning hearth, not a single burn was found on her face (the hearth in her house has survived to this day). Florensky mentions that once Catherine refused to take communion, feeling that the ostium offered to her by the priest, due to his negligence, was not consecrated.

Giovanni di Paolo. Mystical betrothal of Saint Catherine of Siena

Giovanni di Paolo. Saint Catherine of Siena, changing hearts with Jesus Christ

In 1367, she had a vision that made her one of the most famous “brides of Christ”: following the example of St. Catherine of Alexandria, she dreamed that Christ exchanged a wedding ring with her, which, according to her, she wore until the end of her life, but apparently it was only for her (see The Mystical Betrothal of Saint Catherine). This happened during the carnival – to this day, the Sienese carnival no longer walks along Fontebrand Street, where her house stands.

The following vision is also described: once Catherine prayed, saying the words of Psalm (“Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a right spirit within me”) , asking the Lord to take away her heart and her own will. And then she dreamed that Christ had appeared, and hugging, drew her to him, and then took her heart from her chest and carried it away with him. This feeling was so vivid that even after that she did not feel her heart in her chest. Some time later, in the chapel, Christ appeared to her in the midst of a bright light, holding a radiant heart in his hand. He gave it to him instead of the former, more like his own (this vision literally repeated the word from Scripture: “I will give you a new heart” ). As they say, on her chest there was forever a trace of the wound.

Agostino Carracci. Ecstasy of Saint Catherine of Siena

In addition, after one of the mystical visions (about 1370), when she was already lying on her deathbed, (according to her, her heart was torn to pieces by the power of divine love and that she passed through death, seeing the gates of paradise), the Lord appeared to her , who said to her: “Come back, My child, you need to return to save the souls of many: from now on you will not live in a cell, but you will even need to leave your city … I will bring you to the princes and rulers of the Church and the Christian people” [3] . Therefore, she decides to fight for peace between people and for church reforms.

Additionally, the stigmatization of Catherine of Siena (1375) is known – but unlike more typical cases, she did not bleed, these were “invisible stigmata”, she only experienced acute pain at the site of these wounds [1] .

The images seen by her, from the point of view of psychotherapists, are classical symbols of love and fire [4] . In addition, her visions and her mission bring her closer to Joan of Arc. In the life of Catherine, if you wish, you can find a whole “bouquet” of symptoms (hallucinations, voices, fainting, “invisible stigmata”, anorexia), but psychoanalysts, nevertheless, note: “However, the presence of a mystical experience in a person does not always directly indicate that that he is a “psychotic”. We can, with a certain degree of caution, assume that the same mental mechanisms are involved both in mental illness and in the passage of the mystical-ascetic path of self-cognition and God-cognition” [5] .

Political and religious activities

Tiepolo. Saint Catherine of Siena , 1746

Thanks to her asceticism and asceticism, she became famous. Over time, a circle of katerinati formed around her – students from various walks of life who wrote down her words and made life easier for her (their number reached one hundred people). But there were also her opponents, who considered Catherine a charlatan and hysterical. In 1374, he had to appear before the court of the General Chapter of the Dominican Order on suspicion of heresy. Catherine was found not guilty of anything, and after that, the priest Raymond of Capuan was sent to Siena, who became her confessor and mentor – but at the same time a student. (Then he will become her biographer, and then a general of the Dominican order, and after his death he will be beatified).

They tell how Brother Gabriele da Volterra, a provincial of the Franciscan order and the Supreme Inquisitor of Siena, one of the most famous theologians and preachers of that time in Italy, together with another famous theologian, the Augustinian Giovanni Tantucci, decided to test her wisdom. He asked her about complex issues in theology and Scripture. She answered calmly at first, and then “turned to the questioners with tenderness, cutting like a sword, reminding them that science can plunge into pride those who possess it, while the only thing worth knowing is the science of the Cross of Christ. ” Conquered by her preaching, he got rid of all his luxurious possessions, also resigned all his posts and became an acolyte in the monastery of Santa Croce in Florence. [3]

After seeing the Lord on her deathbed, calling her to fight for peace and reform, she began to send out long messages around the world, which she dictated to secretaries. They were addressed to the Pope in Avignon, to the sovereigns of Italy, etc. She took an active part in the political life of her time; the purpose of her activity was to reform the church and the world in Italy. She did a lot to prepare the church reform. Her mission was the reconciliation of free cities with the Church – and an indispensable condition for which was the return of the pontiff to Rome.

Simone de Beauvoir, describing the activities of Catherine, indicates that her success was connected precisely with the religious niche:

Only those women who, by the power of social institutions, were exalted above all sexual differences, committed deeds comparable to men’s. Catherine of Siena and Saint Teresa are holy souls, regardless of any physiological conditions; their worldly and mystical life, their activities and literary works reach few of the men of accessible heights. (…) In the midst of a completely normal life, Catherine manages to gain fame in Siena through active charitable work and visions that testify to an intense inner life; in this way she acquires the authority necessary for success, which women usually do not have; its influence is resorted to to exhort those sentenced to death, to guide the erring on the true path, to peacefully resolve strife between families and cities. She is supported by a community that identifies with her, and this allows her to fulfill her peacekeeping mission: to preach obedience to the pope in cities and towns, to conduct extensive correspondence with bishops and monarchs, and, finally, being elected ambassador of Florence, to follow the pope to Avignon. Queens, by their God-given right, and saints, by their undeniable virtues, provide themselves with the support in society that allows them to become equal with men. Others, on the other hand, are required to be silently modest [6] .

Vasari. Catherine of Siena accompanies Pope Gregory XI to Rome

She constantly traveled to the cities of Italy (Pisa, Lucca, etc.), where she was invited as a speaker and peacemaker. Then, accompanied by his secretary Stephen, Macconi goes to Avignon, wanting to reconcile Florence with the pope (Florence, sending an embassy to France, invited Catherine to the number of ambassadors). This goal failed, but in return, despite the intrigues of the curia, she contributed to the return of the popes to Rome from the Avignon captivity: she convinced the seventh Avignon pope, Gregory XI, to transfer the holy throne back to Rome (left in September 1376, arrived January 17, 1377). She wanted him to return to Rome in order to restore order there and regain the prestige of the papacy as an independent international authority.

She was in Florence during the riot on June 22, 1377, when she miraculously escaped an attempt on her life by a mob. Catherine was upset that she was not allowed to purchase the crown of martyrdom.

In November 1378, Urban VI was elected new pope to replace the deceased Gregory, and in the great schism that broke out after that, Catherine took his side, fighting the antipope Clement VII for the rest of her life – many condemned her in this. She tried in vain, but unsuccessfully, to restrain the irascibility and rudeness of Urban VI, who invited her to Rome for his support. To help him fight the antipope, Catherine did the following:

  • letters and messages to almost all the kings of Europe
  • advice to the pontiff on a complete renewal of the composition of the curiae, (above all, an attempt to rally around the Pope those whom she called the “community of the good”)
  • in a bull of December 13, 1378, Urban VI decided to ask for the spiritual help of all the faithful, and Catherine herself sent a bull with her cover letter to all persons with spiritual authority whom she knew, asking them to come out openly in a united front in defense of Urban VI.

Girolamo di Benvenuto. Death of Catherine of Siena

Catherine actually forced the world to recognize Urban VI.


Her health was undermined by her vigorous activity. On the third Sunday of Great Lent in 1380, when she was praying in front of Giotto’s mosaic depicting the boat of the Church, her strength left her and she fell.

Catherine was transferred to her small cell on Papa Street, where she remained bedridden for about eight weeks of long agony. On Sunday before the Ascension, she died in Rome at the age of 33 – equal to the age of Christ. “Those present heard her repeating for a long time: “God, have mercy on me, don’t take away my memory of You!” and then: “Lord, come to my aid, Lord, hasten to help me!” . And finally, as if answering the accuser, she said: “Vanity? No, but only true glory in Christ” » [3] . She died on April 29, 1380.

Most likely, her death was caused by extreme nervous and physical exhaustion (since Catherine ate extremely poorly for the vast majority of her life, did not eat meat, preferring prosphora, and if she had to dine with other people, then, according to the descriptions of biographers [3] , in order not to offend them, shared a meal, so that later in private she would vomit and get rid of food [7] ).

Pinturicchio. Pope Pius II canonizes Catherine of Siena

Reverence and relics

She was canonized in 1461 by Pope Pius II. She was buried in Rome, in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, her other relics (head and finger) are kept in the Basilica of San Domenico in Siena. A legend is connected with the delivery of her head from Rome, the place of her death, to her homeland in Siena – as if the Sienese, convinced that at least part of her relics must be delivered to their homeland, stole the head of the deceased saint. They put it in a bag, and being stopped for the purpose of inspection by the Roman guards, they begged the saint for help. When the guards opened the bag, it was filled with rose petals, and upon arrival in Siena, the head was again there.

In 1939, the Catholic Church proclaimed her the patroness of all Italy. In 1970, Pope Paul VI introduced her to the number of teachers of the church.


She was illiterate for a long time (it is believed that she miraculously learned to read and write during her stay in Pisa in 1377). She dictated all her compositions to her students.

Characteristics of creativity

Researchers of Italian literature write that her prose “reflects the versatility of her personality and sincere, unshakable faith in her own ideals. Her worldview intertwines mysticism, the desire to move away from the world in order to live in unity with Christ, and practical abilities that help her to perform concrete and rational actions. Both these features are especially evident in the Letters, although they are not always harmoniously combined. However, passionate tonality and mystical fervor are usually balanced by the desire for concrete action and the achievement of a set goal. Catherine’s style can hardly be called literary, it is based on images borrowed from biblical texts or from folk culture” [8]

Her legacy contains the preaching of peace and cooperation between Christian peoples, a call for their unity against the Gentiles, as well as the preaching of a crusade against the infidels. Catherine of Siena was critical of the wealth and worldly interests of the church. She contrasted the formal church rules with personal, inner piety. Her mindset is vividly characterized by an excerpt from a letter addressed to the wife of an acquaintance tailor:

If you can find time to pray, I ask you to do so. Treat all intelligent creatures with love and mercy. I also ask you not to fast except on the days set by the holy church, and only if you can do it. But if you can’t fast at all, leave it… When the hot summer is over, you can also fast on the days dedicated to the Holy Virgin, if only you can keep them, but not more often… Try to cultivate holy aspirations in yourself, but don’t worry about anything else [9] .

Researchers write about her writings that by the end of the 14th century she completed the work of turning Italian into a literary language, begun by Dante at the beginning of the century, proving that the vernacular can also be the language of theology and mysticism.

Scholars write about her type of mysticism: “Catherine of Siena best represents the Latin type of mysticism. She firmly believed that God revealed herself to her in visions, and, apparently, she was just trying to use these visions to achieve practical goals. It was she who fearlessly rejected the sin of the clerics and, in the name of God, was able in 1376 to convince Gregory IX to return to Rome from Avignon. Her courage led her to fight against sin even in the papacy.” [10] .


Il Sassoferrato. Saint Catherine crowned with the Christ child

  • “Letters” (1370-80), 381 letters in total.
  • Book of Divine Doctrine ” – Dialogues on the Providence of God, or Book of Divine Teaching (Dialogi de providentia Dei, Libro della Divina Dottrina) (1378), which is a summary of the conversations that the saint had with God in mystical ecstasy
  • Prayers

Famous are her “Letters” (there are 388 in total), which Catherine sent from 1370 to 1380 to priests, popes, kings and ordinary believers. They are written in passionate elegiac language, replete with vivid biblical images and colorful words of the Sienese crowd. All these letters end with the impassioned formula that has become famous: “Sweetest Jesus, Jesus Love” and often begin with words reminiscent of the words of the biblical authors: “I, Catherine, the handmaid and servant of the servants of Jesus, I write to you in His most precious Blood…” [3]

From letters to Pope Gregory IX:

“I want you to be such a good shepherd that if you had a hundred thousand lives, you would be ready to give them all for the glory of God and for the salvation of creatures … Courageously and as a man of courage following Christ, whose vicar you are … So, bolder, father, and from now on, down with negligence! (77.185).

“I tell you in the name of Christ… that you bring fetid flowers into the garden of the holy Church, full of impurity and greed and swollen with pride, that is, evil shepherds and rulers who poison and corrupt this garden… I say to you, Father in Jesus Christ so that you come quickly like a meek lamb. Answer the call of the Holy Spirit addressed to you. I tell you…come, come and do not wait for time, because time does not wait for you” (P. 206) [3] .

What is striking in her letters is, first of all, the frequent and persistent repetition of the words: “I want.” In addition, she, as if embodying the Church – the Bride and Mother, Catherine persistently asks the High Priest to be for her a “fearless husband.”


Giovanni di Paolo. Catherine of Siena dictating her “Dialogues”

Theological “ Book of Divine Doctrine ” ( Dialogue on Divine Providence , 1378), was dictated to her disciples, believed to be in a state of mystical ecstasy. This work has a mature literary style. As researchers write [1] : in comparison with many later mystics, she is rather restrained, even scholastic, combining energy and paradox with this. She expressed the impulse towards humility common to mystics in words attributed to God: “Catherine, I am He Who Is; you are the one who is not.

She dictated this work to her students. Her student and biographer describes it this way:

“The holy servant of God did a wonderful thing, that is, she wrote a Book the size of a missal, and she wrote it in a state of ecstasy, having lost all senses except the ability to speak. God the Father spoke, and she answered, and she herself repeated the word of God the Father, spoken to her, and what she herself said or asked Him … She spoke, and someone else wrote: when Messer Balduccio, when Donno Stefano said, when Neri di Landuccio. When you hear about it, it seems incredible, but those who recorded and heard it all do not think so, and I am one of them” [3] .

The book consists of 167 chapters, grouped around four requests made by Catherine to Heavenly Father:

  1. The first request – “mercy for Catherine” : and God answers by helping her “know herself and Him”, that is, immersing her in the light that blinds a person who finally realizes his insignificance before “everything” – God, but with an infinite the astonishment of the one who discovers that God is eternally in love with this nonentity.
  2. Second request – “mercy for the world” .
  3. Third request – “mercy for the Holy Church” . Catherine prayed that the Father would “drive out darkness and persecution” and allow her to bear the burden of any injustice.
  4. The fourth request is Providence for All .

God the Father answers every request in detail, unfolding in his answers the entire Christian teaching in its various theological, moral and ascetic aspects.


Andrea Vanni. Catherine of Siena

The only lifetime image of the saint is the work of her compatriot Andrea Vanni, who was friends with her brother Bartolo and was in correspondence with Catherine. This is a fresco in the church of St. Dominic in Siena, however, some scholars consider it a later image.

Of the cycles dedicated to the saint, it should be noted a number of tempera boards by Giovanni di Paolo, created by the time of her canonization in 1461 for the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala, and at the moment are scattered in museums around the world. As well as a series of mannerist paintings by Domenico Beccafumi. These two cycles are the most diverse in plot, covering various episodes of the saint’s life.

Among other works, several works by Tiepolo should be noted. Common image types of a saint are:

  • Mystical betrothal of St. Catherine (sometimes double, together with St. Catherine of Alexandria)
  • Stigmatization of Catherine of Siena
  • Madonna with forthcoming Catherine of Siena (most often Saint Dominic accompanies the saint)


her disciples and associates [11] :
  • Blessed Raymond of Capuan (fra Raimondo delle Vigne) wrote the life of St. Catherine – “Legend” , associate and confessor of the saint (later General of the Order of the Dominicans). The book was completed in 1395.
  • Stephen Macconi (Stefano di Corrado Maconi), secretary of the saint, who left memories of her (later Prior General of the Order of the Carthusians). He met her in 1376.
  • Tomaso Caffarini (fra Tomaso Caffarini), another associate of Catherine, wrote “Appendices” to life, and then “Younger Legend” , which Macconi will translate into Italian.
  • Biography of the saint from various testimonies of contemporaries ( Processus [12] ), collected in Venice in 1411-1413.


  • Modest Ilyich Tchaikovsky, historical mystery “Catherine of Siena”
  • A. M. Allen. Catherine of Siena: a play, 1921
  • Louis De Wohl. Lay Siege to Heaven: A Novel about Saint Catherine of Siena, 1991
  • James Joyce, “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” : “Saint Catherine of Siena, who once saw a demon, writes that she would rather walk on hot coals for the rest of her life than look once more at this terrible monster “.
  • Thomas Harris, “Hannibal” : “He remembered very well how one day he accidentally wandered into the side chapel of one of the churches of Siena and suddenly looked into the face of St. Catherine of Siena, whose mummified head in a flawless white apostle peeked out of a shrine made in the form of a church. Seeing three million American dollars with his own eyes was exactly the same shock for him.


  1. 1 2 3 Yakov Krotov. Dictionary of saints
  2. Extracts from the writings of Catherine of Siena (Russian translation)
  3. 1 2 3 900 66 4 5 7 Antonio Sicari. Saints portraits. Italy, “Russia Cristiana”, 1991. Vol. II, p. 5-21.
  4. Roberto Assagioli. Symbols of Transpersonal Experiences
  5. R.A. Chesnokov. Psychoanalytic Therapy of a Believing Patient: Winding Channel and Pitfalls // Journal of Practical Psychology and Psychoanalysis. #1 March 2004
  6. Simone de Beauvoir. Second floor
  7. Psychopathology – bulimia nervosa
  8. S. Logish. Catherine of Siena
  9. Koenigsberger Helmut. Medieval Europe. 400-1500 years
  10. Earl E. Kearns, “The Ways of Christianity”
  11. Catholic Encyclopedia
  12. Processus contestationum super sanctitate et doctrina beatae Catharinae de Senis, in MARTENE AND DURAND, Veterum Scriptorum et Monumentorum Amplissima Collectio (Paris, 1729), VI

See also

  • St. Brigid of Sweden is another supporter of the return of the popes from Avignon
  • Joan of Arc
  • Abrikosova, Anna Ivanovna – repressed Catholic nun, founder of the community of sisters of Mary Catherine of Siena.


  • Extracts from the writings of Catherine of Siena (Russian translation)
  • Photo of the mummified saint’s head and finger
  • Review of works, eng. lang.
  • Essays at Project Guttenberg, Letters (English), Book (Italian)
  • Letters (English)


  • Gigli, L’opere della serafica Santa Caterina da Siena (Siena and Lucca, 1707-54)
  • Karl Hase, “Caterina von Siena” (Leipzig, 1864)
  • Guerrier, “Catherine of Siena” (“Bulletin of Europe”, 1892)
  • Tommaseo, Le Lettere di S. Caterina da Siena (Florence, 1860)
  • Augusta Theodosia Drane. The History of St. Catherine of Siena and Her Companions . 1899
  • Johannes Jørgensen, Ingeborg Lund. Catherine of Siena. 1938
  • Sigrid Undset. Catherine of Siena. 1954
  • Joseph Marie Perrin. Catherine of Siena. 1965
  • Raimondo Sorgia, Alfredo Brasioli. Catherine of Siena. 1975
  • Igino Giordani, “Saint Catherine of Siena – Doctor of the Church”, trans. Thomas J. Tobin (Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, St. Paul Editions, 1975)
  • Hrsg. L. Gnadinger. Caterina von Siena. Olten und Freiburg, 1980.
  • Anne B. Baldwin. Catherine of Siena: A Biography. 1987
  • Giuliana Cavallini. Catherine of Siena. 2005
  • Mary O’Driscoll. Catherine of Siena: Passion for the Truth Compassion for Humanity . 2005
  • Suzanne Noffke. Catherine of Siena: Vision Through a Distant Eye. 2006
  • Francis Thomas Luongo. The saintly politics of Catherine of Siena . 2006
  • Catherine M. Meade. Catherine of Siena: To Purify the Church . 2006
  • Gerald Parsons. The Cult of Saint Catherine of Siena: A Study in Civil Religion‎. 2008
  • Margaret Roberts. Saint Catherine of Siena and Her Times, 2009
publications of her works in Russian
  • Symbol magazine. Catherine of Siena. Selected Prayers – No. XXIII, Paris, June 1990, p. 303-330.
  • Catherine of Siena. Letters // Italian Renaissance Humanism. Part 2. Saratov, 1988, p. 130-134.
  • Extracts from the writings of Catherine of Siena (Russian translation) – a collection of various quotes from the biographies of the saint

Katharina Siena –

“I want it!” she said to her husband. Well, what was the Almighty to do – he did…

The future great saint was born in the year of the Black Plague, in the year 1347 from the birth of Christ, when half the population of Europe died from the plague. Katarina was the twenty-fourth child of the dyer Jacopo Benincasa. And, I must say, a wonderful child. The girl, almost from birth, differed from her peers in isolation and taciturnity. And the idea to become the bride of Christ came to her mind at about the age of seven, after a stunning vision. A smiling Christ appeared to her, from whose heart a ray of light emanated with such force that it wounded Katharina as soon as it touched her. The matter was not limited to this – the deity bowed to the girl and told her about his love.

For our times, such an early appearance of the bridegroom, even if heavenly, is clearly too much, but not in the Middle Ages! Then, from the age of twelve, girls were allowed to marry, and in noble families, marriages were concluded even earlier. So Katarina was probably thinking about her future family life, and here God himself turned out to be a contender for the hand and heart. And flattered and admired, Katharina took a secret vow of chastity…

She prudently did not tell her parents about her decision, she simply tried to pray more, strictly observe the fasts and go to church more often to please her future husband. This went on until Katharina was fifteen, and more and more diligently her parents began to look for quite earthly suitors for her. But how can mere mortals equal the ideal! Katarina resolutely rejected all proposals, which sincerely irritated her parents, who were concerned about how to arrange their daughter’s future life. Finally, after another family quarrel, she ran to her room and left with her hair cut off. “Get away from me with your worldly problems, I want to God!” – this was how her gesture was interpreted, and now she became for everyone a girl who had taken the tonsure, an initiate.

But her mother, Monna Lapu, was furious at Katarina’s decision to become a nun. And she decided to beat the nonsense out of her daughter’s head – she calculated all the servants, and left the homework on Katharina. In addition, so that she would be under supervision all the time and not completely go crazy from constant prayers, she was moved from a separate room to the sisters.

All these draconian measures did not give any particular effect. It’s just that the girl learned to immerse herself in prayer meditation even more deeply, so that extraneous interference would not distract her. And once, from fatigue, she fell asleep right above the hearth, and the flame licked her face for a long time without burning.

This confrontation lasted for a year until the father intervened.

“Let no one molest my dear girl again,” said Jacopo. “Let her serve her Bridegroom as she pleases. We will never have such a relationship as this, and we should not complain if instead of a mere mortal we accept God and an immortal Man.

After her father’s decision, Katarina was finally able to freely enter the order of the Dominican Tertiaries (a branch of lay sisters), but continued to live at home, to the delight of her mother. True, now, in addition to constant prayers and housework with other sisters, she went to hospitals, and even lepers were her wards.

All this caused bewilderment among the cheerful Italians. What stories they did not invent about her, if only to explain why piety suddenly seized a beautiful girl from a good family. Katarina was in the center of attention of the whole city. And this even brought some benefit – soon she had followers, about a hundred people with whom she prayed together, read spiritual books, and they all called the sixteen-year-old girl mother.

Of course, the movement that formed around Katharina could not get past the Inquisition – in those days the church had too many problems with sectarians. Most recently ended the crusade against the Cathars, who called on fellow believers to mass suicide in order to return to a better world. From time to time, processions of flagellants swept through the streets of cities – scourging, carrying hundreds of people along with them. Rich and poor, men and women. All of them, leaving their homes and families, grabbed the whip and began to rage in public. Often, prayerful zeal ended in group sex in the style of BDSM. That is why one day the high inquisitor of Siena, a provincial of the Franciscan order, brother Gabriele da Volterra, came to her for a conversation – no less. He appeared, it should be said, on his own head, since Katarina shamed him for too luxurious a life and colorfully described the eternal torment threatening him. The frightened inquisitor pulled out the key to his own cell from the pocket of his cassock and suggested that someone go to him and sell everything superfluous, and distribute the money to the poor. His request was respected, and when he returned home, he found only bare walls.

The remorse that seized brother Gabriele turned out to be serious, and, having abandoned all his positions, he turned into a simple monk – an servant in a Florentine monastery …

However, Katarina was not interested in her own popularity. She was looking for more clear evidence of God’s love, because once Christ declared himself her bridegroom, it would be time to get married. “Get married to me in faith!” she demanded to him. And the wedding took place.

It was as if an invisible veil had fallen before Katharina, and she saw a crowd of saints, the Mother of God and Jesus himself. The Virgin Mary put her hand into the hand of Jesus, and he put a wedding ring on her finger. It should be noted that, except for Katarina herself, no one has ever seen this ring.

After the marriage, Katharina began her main mission – the return of the Pope from Avignon, where the papacy had been for almost seventy years, back to Rome. For these purposes, she had to conduct a huge diplomatic correspondence with the pope himself, and with his cardinals, and the sovereigns of Europe. After all, not all of them wanted to see the pope in Rome.

However, Katarina showed a rare stubbornness. “I so want!” she wrote in her letters. Nobody dared to ignore the opinion of the saint – to anger her, perhaps, is the same as to anger God. One of her messages stopped the rebellion against the pope of the Milanese ruler Bernabo Visconti.

To speed things up, she used the same words to address Jesus himself. “God, I want so much!” – as befits a wife, she demanded of him. Finally, after a personal visit to Avignon and a meeting with the pope, her mission was crowned with success – in September 1376, Gregory XI returned to Rome.

However, after the death of Gregory XI, turmoil began again in the church. The same cardinals elected two popes at the same time. The legally elected Urban VI called for Catherine’s help, and his bulls came out with her cover letters addressed to spiritual authorities and rulers.