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CATHERINE, SAINT

Meanwhile Cathelineau’s troops increased, and he combined with the other Vendean chiefs, such as N. Stofflet and Gigot d’Elbée, taking the towns of Beaupréau, Fontenay and Saumur. The first successes of the Vendeans were due to the fact that the Republicans had not expected an insurrection. When the resistance to the insurgents became more serious, differences arose among their leaders. To avoid these rivalries, it is thought that Cathelineau was named generalissimo of the rebels, though his authority over the undisciplined troops was not increased by the new office. In 1793 all the Royalist forces tried to capture Nantes. Cathelineau entered the town in spite of the resistance of General J.B.C. Canclaux, but he was killed, and the Vendean army broke up. Numerous relatives of Cathelineau also perished in the war of La Vendée. His grandson, Henri de Cathelineau, figured in the war of 1870 between France and Germany (see also Vendée; Chouans).

See C. Port, Vie de J. Cathelineau (1882); “La Légende de Cathelineau” in the review La Révolution française, vol. xxiv.; Les Origines de la Vendée (Paris, 1888, 2 vols.); Dictionnaire historique de Maine-et-Loire; Cretineau-Joly, Histoire de la Vendée militaire; Th. Muret, Vie populaire de Cathelineau (1845).  (R. A.*) 


CATHERINE, SAINT. The Roman hagiology contains the record of six saints of this name. 1. St Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr, whose day of commemoration recurs on the 25th of November, and in some places on the 5th of March. 2. St Catherine of Sweden, a daughter of St Bridget, who died abbess of Watzen in March 1381, and is commemorated on the 22nd of that month. 3. St Catherine of Siena, 1347–1380, whose festal day is observed on the 30th of April. 4. St Catherine of Bologna, 1413–1463, a visionary, abbess of the convent of the Poor Clares in Bologna, canonized by Pope Benedict XIII., and commemorated throughout the Franciscan order on the 9th of March. 5. St Catherine of Genoa,[1] who belonged to the noble family of Fieschi, was born about 1447, spent her life and her means in succouring and attending on the sick, especially in the time of the plague which ravaged Genoa in 1497 and 1501, died in that city in 1510, was beatified by Clement V. in 1675 and canonized by Clement XII. in 1737; her name was placed in the calendar on the 22nd of July by Benedict XIV. 6. St Catherine de’ Ricci, of Florence, daughter of a wealthy merchant prince, was born in 1522, became a nun in the convent of the Dominicans at Prato in 1536, and died in 1589. She was famous during her life-time for the weekly ecstasy of the Passion, during which in a trance she experienced the sufferings of the Holy Virgin contemplating the Passion of her Son. She was canonized in 1746 by Benedict XIV., who fixed her festal day on the 13th of February. In Celtic and English martyrologies (November 25) there is also commemorated St Catherine Audley (c. 1400), a recluse of Ledbury, Hereford, who was reputed for piety and clairvoyance.

Of two of these saints, St Catherine of Alexandria, the St Catherine par excellence, and St Catherine of Siena, something more must be said. Of the former history has little or nothing to tell.St
Catherine,
virgin and
martyr.
The Maronite scholar, Joseph Simon Assemani (1687–1768), first identified her with the royal and wealthy lady of Alexandria (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. viii. 14) who, for refusing the solicitations of the emperor Maximinus, was deprived of her property and banished. But Rufinus (Hist. Eccl. viii. 17) called this lady Dorothea, and the old Catherine legend, as recorded in the Roman martyrology and by Simeon Metaphrastes, has quite other features. According to it Catherine was the daughter of King Konetos, eighteen years old, beautiful and wise. During the persecution under Maximinus she sought an interview with the emperor, upbraided him for his cruelties, and adjured him to give up the worship of false gods. The angry tyrant, unable to refute her arguments himself, sent for pagan scholars to argue with her, but they were discomfited. Catherine was then scourged and cast into prison, and the empress was sent to reason with her; but the dauntless virgin converted not only the empress but the Roman general and his soldiers who had accompanied her. Maximinus now ordered her to be broken on the wheel; but the wheel was shattered by her touch. The headsman’s axe proved more fatal, and the martyr’s body was borne by angels to Mount Sinai, where Justinian I. built the famous monastery in her honour. Another development of the legend is that in which, having rejected many offers of marriage, she was taken to heaven in vision and betrothed to Christ by the Virgin Mary.

Of all these marvellous incidents very little, by the universal admission of Catholic scholars, has survived the test of modern criticism. That St Catherine actually existed there is, indeed, no evidence to disprove; and it is possible that some of the elements in her legend are due to confusion with the story of Hypatia (q.v.), the neo-platonic philosopher of Alexandria, who was done to death by a Christian mob. To the men of the middle ages, in any case, St Catherine was very real; she was ranked with the fourteen most helpful saints in heaven, and was the constant theme of preachers and of poets. Her festival was celebrated in many places with the utmost splendour, and in certain dioceses in France was a holy day of obligation as late as the beginning of the 17th century. Numberless chapels were dedicated to her, and in nearly all churches her statue was set up, the saint being represented with a wheel, her instrument of torture, and sometimes with a crown and a book. The wheel being her symbol she was the patron saint of wheelwrights and mechanics; as the confounder of heathen sophistry she was invoked by theologians, apologists, preachers and philosophers, and was chosen as the patron saint of the university of Paris; as the most holy and illustrious of Christian virgins she became the tutelary saint of nuns and virgins generally. So late as the 16th century, Bossuet delivered a panegyric upon her, and it was the action of Dom Deforis, the Benedictine editor of his works, in criticizing the accuracy of the data on which this was based, that first discredited the legend. The saint’s feast was removed from the Breviary at Paris about this time, and the devotion to St Catherine has since lost its earlier popularity. See Leon Clugnet’s article in the Catholic Encyclopaedia, vol. iii. (London, 1908).

St Catherine of Siena was the youngest of the twenty-five children of Giacomo di Benincasa, a dyer, and was born, with a twin-sister who did not survive her birth, on the 25th of March 1347.St
Catherine
of Siena.
A highly sensitive and imaginative child, she very early began to practise asceticism and see visions, and at the age of seven solemnly dedicated her virginity to Christ. She was attracted by what she had heard of the desert anchorites, and in 1363–1364, after much struggle, persuaded her parents to allow her to take the habit of the Dominican tertiaries. For a while she led at home the life of a recluse, speaking only to her confessor, and spending all her time in devotion and spiritual ecstasy. Her innate humanity and sound sense, however, led her gradually to return to her place in the family circle, and she began also to seek out and help the poor and the sick. In 1368 her father died, and she assumed the care of her mother Lapa. During the following years she became known to an increasingly wide circle, especially as a peacemaker, and entered into correspondence with many friends. Her peculiarities excited suspicion, and charges seem to have been brought against her by some of the Dominicans to answer which she went to Florence in 1374, soon returning to Siena to tend the plague-stricken. Here first she met the Dominican friar, Raimondo of Capua, her confessor and biographer.

The year 1375 found Catherine entering on a wider stage. At the invitation of Piero Gambacorti, the ruler of the republic of Pisa, she visited that city and there endeavoured to arouse enthusiasm for the proposed crusade, urging princes and presidents, commanders and private citizens alike to join in “the holy passage.” To this task was added that of trying to keep Pisa and Lucca from joining the Tuscan League against the pope. It was at Pisa, in the church of Santa Cristina, on the fourth Sunday in Lent (April 1), while rapt in ecstasy after the communion, that Catherine’s greatest traditional glory befell her, viz. the stigmata or impression on her hands, feet and heart, of the wounds corresponding with those received by Christ at his

  1. See the study in Baron Fr. von Hügel’s Mystical Element in Religion (1909).