Feast Day : November 25
Patronage: bakers; barbers; hospitals; jurists; libraries; Paris haute couture; philosophers; preachers; pupils; single women; teachers; theologians; universities; virgins; wheelwrights; University of Paris; Valais, Switzerland
Name meaning: Pure one
Catherine of Alexandria is believed to have been born in Alexandria, Egypt, to a noble family. She converted to Christianity through a vision, and denounced Emperor Maxentius (r. 306–312) for persecuting Christians. Catherine was arrested. She debated 50 pagan philosophers, all of whom converted on the strength of her words. They were burned to death by Maxentius. The emperor offered Catherine a royal marriage if she would deny her faith. She refused and was sent to jail. While in prison, and while Maxentius was away, Catherine is said to have converted Maxentius’s wife and 200 of his soldiers. He had them all put to death. Catherine was condemned to death and was strapped onto a spiked wheel. The wheel broke (legend has it that an angel destroyed it). She was then beheaded. According to lore, an angel carried her body to Mount Sinai and buried her there. St. Catherine’s Monastery is still there. Her relics are in Cologne, Rouen, Nuremberg and Grevenrode. Catherine has been venerated in the Eastern church since the 10th century. She is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers whose voices guided St. Joan of Arc. She has been invoked against diseases of the head and tongue; for harvests; and for assistance in drowning. In art she is shown wearing a crown and with a spiked wheel.