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St. Catherine of Siena

Catherine of Siena, Saint

Saint Catherine of Siena (sēĕn´ə), 1347–80, Italian mystic and diplomat, a member of the third order of the Dominicans, Doctor of the Church. The daughter of Giacomo Benincasa, a Sienese dyer, Catherine from early childhood had mystic visions and practiced austerities; she also showed the devotion to others and the winning manner that characterized her life. At age 16 she entered the Dominican order as a tertiary and lived at home. In 1370, in response to a vision, she began to take part in the public life of her time, sending letters to the great of the day. She went to Avignon and exerted decisive influence in inducing Pope Gregory XI to end the "Babylonian captivity" of the papacy and return to Rome in 1376. She helped bring about peace between the Holy See and Florence, which had revolted against papal authority. In the Great Schism, she supported the Roman claimant, Pope Urban VI, and worked vigorously to advance his cause. She also advocated a crusade against the Muslims. In 1375 she is supposed to have received the five wounds of the stigmata, visible only to herself until after her death. She became the center of a spiritual revival and a formidable family of devoted followers gathered around her. Though she never learned to write, she dictated hundreds of letters and a notable mystic work, commonly called in English The Dialogue of Saint Catherine of Siena or A Treatise on Divine Providence (or both as title and subtitle), which has been much used in devotional literature. She was canonized in 1461 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970. Feast: Apr. 29. The accounts of her life collected by her followers were used in a biography by her confessor, Fra Raimondo da Capua (1398).

See Saint Catherine as Seen in Her Letters (ed. by V. D. Scudder, 1905); biographies by A. Curtayne (1929), S. Undset (tr. 1954), and J. M. Perrin (tr. 1965); F. P. Keyes, Three Ways of Love (1963); S. Noffke, ed., Catherine of Siena: The Dialogue (1980); R. Bell, Holy Anorexia (1985).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

FREE! Saint Catherine of Siena: A Study in the Religion, Literature, and History of the Fourteenth Century in Italy
Edmund G. Gardner.
J.M. Dent, 1907
The Dialogue
Suzanne Noffke; Catherine of Siena.
Paulist Press, 1980
Women's Writing in Middle English
Alexandra Barratt.
Longman, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Catherine of Siena: From The Orchard of Syon"
Dear Sister: Medieval Women and the Epistolary Genre
Karen Cherewatuk; Ulrike Wiethaus.
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993
Librarian’s tip: "Io Catarina: Ecclesiastical Politics And Oral Culture in the Letters of Catherine Of Siena" begins on p. 87
Medieval Women's Visionary Literature
Elizabeth Alvilda Petroff.
Oxford University Press, 1986
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VI "Women and Spirituality in Medieval Italy: St. Clare of Assisi, St. Agnes of Assisi, St. Umilita of Faenza, Blessed Angela of Foligno, and St. Catherine of Siena"
Margery Kempe and Translations of the Flesh
Karma Lochrie.
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "The Text as Body And Mystical Discourse"
Sisters in Arms: Catholic Nuns through Two Millennia
Jo Ann Kay McNamara.
Harvard University Press, 1998
Discernment in Catherine of Siena
Villegas, Diana L.
Theological Studies, Vol. 58, No. 1, March 1997
Extraordinary Women of the Medieval and Renaissance World: A Biographical Dictionary
Carole Levin; Debra Barrett-Graves; Jo Eldridge Carney; W. M. Spellman; Gwynne Kennedy; Stephanie Witham.
Greenwood Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Includes "Catherine of Siena"
Biographical Dictionary of Christian Theologians
Patrick W. Carey; Joseph T. Lienhard.
Greenwood Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "Catherine of Siena" begins on p. 119
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