The only child of Costus, king of Alexandria, and heir to the kingdom at his death, which took place when she was only seventeen, a beautiful maiden, and trained in all the learning of the Gentiles. When sought in marriage by a prince named Maximus, and urged to it by her mother, she refused, declaring she would have no one as a husband who was not her equal in nobility, beauty, wealth, and wisdom. The prince threatened war, and Catherine’s mother prevailed upon her to consult a Christian hermit, hoping, as she herself was a Christian, that her daughter would either be persuaded to marry, or else that she would be converted to Christianity. The hermit presented her with a picture of the Virgin and Christ. The beauty and innocence of the face of Jesus greatly moved her, and that night she dreamed that she encountered a company of angels who led her before the Queen of Heaven, who presented her to the Christ, saying, “Lo I have brought you your servant Catherine, who, for your love, has renounced all earthly things”; but the Lord turned away his head, saying, “She is not beautiful enough for me.” In the morning she repaired to the hermit for advice, and he thereupon taught her the Christian faith and baptised her. That night she dreamed that the Virgin again appeared to her and presented her to the Christ, who smiled upon her and put a ring on her finger, and when she awoke in the morning the ring was still there.
About this time the Emperor Maxentius gathered together all the people of Alexandria to sacrifice to the idols, punishing the Christians who refused to do so. On hearing of these things Catherine went down to the temple to meet the emperor, and pleaded for the Christians, disputing questions of the faith with him. The emperor was not able to reply to her arguments, but he directed that she should be taken to the palace and carefully guarded, for he admired her wisdom and beauty. Returning afterwards to the palace he had further argument with her, and she proved from the poets and philosophers that the gods of the Gentiles were vain. The emperor therefore sent for all the rhetoricians and philosophers of neighbouring countries to come to Alexandria. Fifty of them assembled to confront Catherine. But she prayed to God, and being comforted by an angel, boldly met them and proved that the gods were devils, so that they were reduced to silence by her reasoning. When the emperor taunted them with being beaten by a girl, they replied that the Spirit of God spoke by her, and upon this Maxentius commanded that they should be burned alive in the midst of the city. After this the emperor endeavoured to persuade Catherine to sacrifice, offering her the second place in the kingdom, and veneration as a goddess. She indignantly refused, and was thereupon scourged and kept seven days in prison without food. The queen, touched with pity, bribed her. gaolers, and they found her shining with wondrous radiance, while angels anointed her wounds. She preached to them and converted them, while two hundred of the soldiers believed. Christ also refreshed her with celestial food sent to her by a dove, and appeared to her with a multitude of angels and virgins, exhorting her to be of good courage. The emperor again sent for her, and was surprised to find her well and beautiful. On her repeated refusal to sacrifice, he made ready for her four wheels set with saws and iron knives, devised by a prefect for her death and for the intimidation of the Christians. But she prayed to God to destroy this engine for the conversion of the bystanders, and an angel came and broke it to pieces, slaying 4,000 Gentiles; but a multitude of bystanders were turned to Christ. Then the queen came down and reproved the emperor; but when he found that she also was a Christian, he caused her to be beheaded, as well as the two hundred converted soldiers. The emperor next called Catherine, and once more ordered her to sacrifice, and on her refusal caused her to be beheaded. As she was led to execution she prayed that Christ would hearken to all who should invoke her in distress, and a voice from Heaven answered that her prayer was granted. As her head was severed milk flowed from her veins instead of blood. Angels came and carried away her body to Mount Sinai where she was buried, and oil flows from her tomb, which has virtue to heal the limbs of the sick. 25th November.
- The wheel, usually with spikes or bosses. She wears a crown in sign of her royal blood. Often represented receiving the ring from the infant Christ.
- Allen Banks Hinds, M.A. “Saint Catherine of Alexandria”. , 1900. CatholicSaints.Info. 17 April 2017. Web. 29 April 2017. <>