Saint Catherine Of Alexandria; The Greek Orthodox Church And Her Saints

Saint Catherine Bernadino Luini
Saint Catherine
Bernadino Luini

Today, 25th November, The Greek Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast Day of Saint Catherine of Alexandria.

Referred to In Greece as;

 The Great Martyr Saint Catherine

 ἡ Ἁγία Αἰκατερίνα ἡ Μεγαλομάρτυς

Patron Saint of Philosophers and preachers.

Katerina is the version of the name used in Greece, or, more officially, Aikaterina.

In The Roman Catholic Church, Saint Catherine was regarded as one of the fourteen Holy Helpers, a group of Saints worshiped for their acts of praying on behalf of others.

In 1969 The Roman Catholic Church removed her feast Day from the church calendar, only to restore it in 2002, as an optional Feast Day.

Saint Catherine  Carlo Crivini
Saint Catherine
Carlo Crivini
Catherine, daughter of Roman Emperor Constus, governor of Alexandria, Egypt, (Early 4th century) converted to Christianity at around the age of fourteen, after experiencing a vision of The Madonna.

Catherine went on to convert hundreds to Christianity, before being martyred at the age of eighteen.

A thousand years after Catherine’s death, she was one of the saints, Joan of Arc claimed to have seen appear before her.

Saint Joan Of Arc Albert Lynch 1851-1912
Saint Joan Of Arc
Albert Lynch 1851-1912

When Emperor Maxentius began the persecution of Christians, Catherine visited him to admonish him for his cruel acts, Maxentius then called fifty pagan philosophers and preachers to debate with Catherine, hoping they would oppose her pro-Christian arguments.

The plan backfired, not only did they end up agreeing with Catherine, many converted to Christianity and were at once put to death!

Roman Emperor Maxentius
Roman Emperor Maxentius

Maxentius had Catherine imprisoned and  while in captivity, many of Catherine’s visitors, over two hundred, Maxentius’s wife Valeria included, converted to Christianity.

Saint Catherine Caravaggio 1561-1610
Saint Catherine
Caravaggio 1561-1610
Pictured here with the spiked wheel, her principle symbol

Maxentius, try as he might, could not get Catherine to renounce her religion, her devotion to Christianity, not even when he had her tied to the wheel, a terrible instrument of torture, and flogged.

This is where the phrase “Catherine wheel” originates from, and why Saint Catherine of Alexandria is also referred to as Catherine of the wheel.

The Terrible wheel of torture
The Terrible wheel of torture

Failing to break Catherine through torture, Maxentius then tried to woo her with a proposal of marriage, only to have Catherine retort;

 “Jesus Christ is my husband”

Maxentius threw in the glove and had Catherine beheaded.

The beheading of Saint Catherine. Icon in Barcelona Cathederal.
The beheading of Saint Catherine.
Icon in Barcelona Cathedral.

Tradition has it that angels carried Catherine’s corpse to Mount Sinai, where, in the sixth century, Emperor Justinian established what is now know as Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt.

Modern academics think the story of Saint Catherine may be based on the life of Hypatia of Alexandria, a Greek mathematician, astronomer, inventor and philosopher, a pagan murdered by the Parabalani, a Christian mob.

Saint Catherine’s monastery is one of the oldest working monasteries in the world, it also contains the oldest working library.

Saint Catherine's Monastery Sinai
Saint Catherine's Monastery
Through the years, and with the increase of pilgrimages to the monastery, a small town has grown up, complete with hotels and swimming pools!

In The Middle Ages Saint Catherine became one of the most important of The Virgin Martyrs.

With the reported discovery of her body, (Around 800AD at Mount Sinai) with her hair still growing and healing oil flowing from her body, shrines dedicated to Saint Catherine began to spring up over Europe.

Canterbury Cathedral England
Canterbury Cathedral

Rouen Monastery in France claims to house her fingers, alters and shrines honouring Saint Catherine are to be found in Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in England.

Westminster Abbey England
Westminster Abbey

A phial of healing oil, is housed in Westminster Abbey, London, brought back from Mount Sinai by King Edward The Confessor, King of England

Edward The Confessor.  King Of England 1042-1066
Edward The Confessor.
 King Of England
Saint Catherine’s College, Cambridge, founded on Saint Catherine’s day, 25th November 1473, was created for a small group of students to exclusively study theology and philosophy.

Saint Catherine’s College.  Cambridge
Saint Catherine’s College.

Devotion to Saint Catherine remains strong; the number of people visiting the Monastery in Sinai is ever increasing.

Visitors are presented with a ring, which has been placed on her relics, as an amulet, believed by the faithful to be blessed and so, keeps them safe from harm.

Ring of St Catherine, given to pilgrims visiting Mount Sinai.
Ring of St Catherine
 Given to pilgrims visiting Mount Sinai.

Meraki: Greek Word of the day; Doing it with love, passion and a lot of soul;

Meraki:  Doing things with love, passion and a lot of soul. Greek ranks as the richest language in the world; Europe’s oldest, with f...

Take a peek at my most popular posts.