[Miniature of Catherine of Alexandria found in a French book of hours, 15th century]
[Walters Art Museum, source: Wikimedia Commons]
[Dispute and Arrest of Catherine of Alexandria, 13th century, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya]
[Source: Wikimedia Commons]
Beyond this, however, she was also associated with intelligence and scholarship. Many called upon her as an example and bestower of wisdom, especially, though not exclusively to women. Scholars and teachers (particularly female ones) looked to her as the patron saint of learning. It is likely for this and because of her preaching that she was so venerated by groups like the beguines.
The fact that she was known for preaching and converting so many people caused a lot of anxiety among certain churchmen, and unsurprisingly so. Her example threatened the idea that women were not fit to interpret scripture and ran directly counter to St. Paul’s injunction that women should not speak in church and should be subordinate [1 Corinthians 14:34]. Some people, men and women alike, used Catherine’s example to support the idea that some women at least could and should preach. Those who did so usually paired her with Mary Magdalene, another saint known in this time period for her preaching.
(Apologies for my silliness.)
[Miniature of Catherine of Alexandria, the Madonna and Child, and Mary Magdalen]
[Sermons of Innocent III, 13th century, Czech Republic, source: Wikimedia Commons]
*For all that she was most likely fictional. She supposedly died in Rome in the early fourth century. Her remains were lost, only to supposedly be found again 500 years later on Mount Sinai Egypt. Add to that the fact that the very earliest mention we have of her comes from the 9th century, and the probability of her actually having existed becomes very small. She may, however, have been partially based on Hypatia of Alexandria.
**As opposed to more passively converting them by the example of her piety.
***Really basic, probably oversimplified explanation: someone to pray to rather than asking God directly. Help doesn’t technically come from the intercessor themselves. If anyone from a Catholic background wants to go into more detail, please feel free.
****14th century, oh hi there black plague.
Kienzle, Beverly Mayne and Pamela J. Walker, eds. Women Preachers and Prophets Through Two Millennia of Christianity. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1998.
Kleinberg, Aviad. Flesh Made Word: Saints’ Stories and the Western Imagination. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2008.Simons, Walter. Cities of Ladies: Beguine Communities in the Medieval Low Countries, 1200-1565. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.
Jacobus de Voragine, "Life of St. Catherine of Alexandria" in The Golden Legend, translated by William Caxton - Christian Iconography
St. Catherine of Alexandria - Catholic Encyclopedia
Catherine of Alexandria - Wikipedia