The passio of which the saint is the protagonist lacks any historical basis, but it is the basis of the extraordinary spread of her cult. Written in Greek between the 6th and 8th c., it was translated into Latin in the 9th c., and later into the various European languages. The account is set in the 4th c. and, along with the most trite hagiographical commonplaces noble birth, beauty, resistance to the most horrific tortures, miraculous liberation from her torturers, mass conversions, miracles of punishment it contains some unique elements: the victorious debate of the learned girl with 50 wise pagans, whom she converts and for which, in the Middle Ages, she was named patronness of students and philosophers in particular of those at the University of Paris. According to the legend, after her decapitation, her body was transported by angels to Sinai on a height called Gebel Katherin, then, on an unknown date, translated into the monastery dedicated to her at the foot of that mountain. Later hagiographical texts introduce additional elements, e.g., some episodes regarding her childhood and her mystical marriage to Christ. Catherine has been correlated to a historical figure, the pagan philospher Hypatia, also an Alexandrian, but who died at the hands of Christians. In iconography she is represented with one or more cogwheels, recalling the tortures to which she was condemned in the passio, by the emperor Maxentius piercing by large wheels with sharp points, from which she emerged miraculously unharmed; with a sword in reference to her decapitation or with a book, indicating her doctrine. Her feast is 25 November.
CATHERINE of Alexandria Photo Gallery
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