25 November 2015

The Greek Ordodox Church And Her Saints: 25 November Feast Day Of Saint Catherine Of Alexandria

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.

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.

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.


  1. Very informative, what a lot of research you do.
    I like all the photos and paintings you found especially the Caravaggio

    1. Thank you, I do learn quite a bit when writing a post of this type.
      A very Happy Name Day to your sweet granddaughter Katerina.

  2. Hi Susan! You really invest while posting! I really admire you. How many informations and so beautiful photos you chose!
    Sweet wishes to little Katerina!

    1. Hi Olympia, I enjoy looking for facts and information when writing posts like this, I also discover many things I never knew. A fun way of learning!
      It is sometimes quite challenging to find nice pictures that are relevant to the post.
      Thanks for your comment, I'm glad you enjoyed reading about Saint Catherine.


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