Catherine of Bologna

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Saint Catherine of Bologna)
Jump to: navigation, search
Catherine of Bologna
Religious; Virgin
Born (1413-09-08)8 September 1413
Bologna, Italy
Died 9 March 1463(1463-03-09) (aged 49)
Bologna, Italy
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 1524, Old Saint Peter's Basilica, Papal States by Pope Clement VII
Canonized 22 May 1712, Saint Peter's Basilica, Papal States by Pope Clement XI
Feast 9 March
Attributes Religious habit
  • Bologna
  • Against temptations
  • Artists
  • Liberal arts

Saint Catherine of Bologna [Caterina de' Vigri] (8 September 1413 – 9 March 1463) was an Italian nun as well as both an artist and saint.

The patron saint of artists and against temptations, Catherine de' Vigri was venerated for nearly three centuries in her native Bologna before being formally canonized, in 1712. Her feast day is 9 March.


Catherine came from an aristocratic Bolognese family, the daughter of Benvenuta Mammolini of Bologna and Giovanni Vigri, an ambassador to Niccolò III d'Este, Marquis of Ferrara.[1] From the age of nine, she was raised at the court of the Duke of Ferrara as a lady-in-waiting of his daughter Margherita d’Este. During this time, she received an excellent training in reading, writing, music, singing, drawing and illuminating.[2]

In 1426, however, after twelve years at court, she left and entered the convent of Corpus Domini at Ferrara. The convent, which had been established in 1406 as a lay community living a semi-religious life and following the Augustinian rule, was experiencing much tension at the time about whether instead to adhere to the Franciscan rule (something which eventually happened in stages in the early 1430s).[3] This fluid situation, experienced by Catherine in her early years at Corpus Domini, is reflected in her writings.[2] In 1432 together with other young women of Ferrara, she founded a monastery of the Order of Poor Clares.[4]

She returned to Bologna in 1456 when her superiors and the governors of Bologna requested that she should be the founder and Abbess of a monastery of the same Order, which was to be established in association with the Church of Corpus Domini in Bologna. Catherine is the author, among other things, of Treatise on the 7 Spiritual Weapons Necessary for Spiritual Warfare.[4]

When, on 9 March 1463, she died at the age of 49, Catherine was buried. After eighteen days of alleged graveside miracles, her incorrupt body was exhumed and relocated to the chapel of the Poor Clares in Bologna (Cappella della Santa),[4] next to the church of Corpus Domini where it remains on display, dressed in her religious habit, seated upright behind glass.[5]

Some of her art and manuscripts survive, including a depiction of St. Ursula from 1456, now in the Galleria Academmia in Venice. Some historians have called her style naive. That these works of Catherine de' Vigri remain extant might also be due to their status as relics of a saint.


Madonna and Child, a work attributed to Catherine of Bologna

Catherine’s major work is Treatise on the Seven Spiritual Weapons Necessary for Spiritual Warfare (Le Sette Armi Spirituali), which she appears first to have written in 1438, and then rewritten and augmented sometime between 1450 and 1456. She kept the book hidden until she neared death, and then handed it to her confessor with instructions to send a copy to the Poor Clares at Ferrara. Part of this book describes at length her visions both of God and of Satan.

This relatively brief treatise became an important part of the campaign for her canonisation. It was first printed in 1475, and went through 21 later editions in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, including being translated in Latin, French, Portuguese, English, Spanish, and German. It therefore played an important role in the dissemination of late medieval vernacular mysticism in the early modern period.[2]

The other authentic works of Catherine constitute twelve poems (laudi), eleven brief treatises, and two letters. There are two inauthentic works, the Rosarium Metricum and I dodici giardini.[6]

Recent discoveries[edit]

In the last few years of the millennium, new works by Catherine de' Vigri came to light and were published in Italian, in her native Bologna. Here is their description by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi:

The works of Catherine of Bologna, many of which have long remained unknown, are now revealed in their surprising beauty. We can ascertain that she was not undeserving of her renown as a highly cultivated person, nor was it due to a complicated series of historical circumstances. We are now in a position to meditate on a veritable monument of theology which, after the Treatise on the Seven Spiritual Weapons, is made up of distinct and autonomous parts: The Twelve Gardens, a mystical work of her youth, Rosarium, a Latin poem on the life of Jesus, and The Sermons, i.e. Catherine's words to her religious sisters.

–Translated from the Presentation of the first published edition of I Sermoni, Ed. Barghigiani, Bologna 1999

She is also the Patroness of Artists, and is honored for her pure and centered heart which helped her turn away from sin, and was also a virgin.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dunbar, Agnes B.C. (1904). A Dictionary of Saintly Woman. George Bell & Sons. p. 160. 
  2. ^ a b c Bernard McGinn, The Varieties of Vernacular Mysticism, (New York: Herder & Herder, 2012), p296.
  3. ^ Mc Laughlin, Mary Martin (1989). "Creating and Recreating Communities of Women: The Case of Corpus Domini, Ferrara, 1406-1452". Signs. 14 (2): 313. doi:10.1086/494511. JSTOR 3174552. 
  4. ^ a b c Donovan, Stephen. "St. Catherine of Bologna." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 12 Feb. 2014
  5. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ Bernard McGinn, The Varieties of Vernacular Mysticism, (New York: Herder & Herder, 2012), p594.

Further reading[edit]

  • Illuminata Bembo, Specchio di Illuminazione, Vita di S. Caterina a Bologna, 1469
  • Babler OSF, Ernst, Zacherl, Katharina (Vigri) von Bologna (1413-1463), Leben un Schriften, Fachstelle Franzikanishe Forschung, Munster, 2012 ISBN 978-3-8482-1026-8
  • Marco Bartoli, Caterina, la Santa di Bologna, EDB 2003
  • Chadwick, Whitney: Women, Art and Society, Thames and Hudson, London 1994 ISBN 978-0-500-20393-4
  • Silvia Evangelisti: Nuns: a history of convent life, 1450-1700. Oxford University Press, 2007
  • Vera Fortunati; Claudio Leonardi (Hrg.): Pregare con le Immagini, Il breviario di Caterina Vigri, Ed. del Galluzzo, Ed. Compositori, 2004
  • Elizabeth Fries Ellet: Women Artists In All Ages And Countries, New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1859
  • Harris, Anne Sutherland and Linda Nochlin, Women Artists: 1550–1950, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Knopf, New York, 1976 ISBN 978-0-87587-073-1
  • Giulio Morina: Vita della Beata Caterina da Bologna. Descritta in pittura, Ed. Pazzini, 2002
  • Gianna Pomata, "Malpighi and the holy body: medical experts and miraculous evidence in seventeenth-century Italy," Renaissance Studies 21, no. 4 (2007): 568-586.
  • Renzo Ricciardi: Santa Caterina da Bologna, Ed. Tipografia del Commercio, Bologna 1979
  • P. Angel Rodriguez Guerro, Vita di Santa Caterina da Bologna. Bologna, 1996;
  • Paola Rubbi: Una Santa, una Città, Caterina Vigri, co-patrona di Bologna, Ed. del Galluzzo 2004
  • Silvia Serventi, Caterina Vigri, Laudi, Trattati e Lettere, (Florence: SISMEL, 2000).
  • Walter Shaw Sparrow (Hrg.): Women Painters of the World from the Time of Caterina Vigri 1413 - 1463 to Rosa Bonheur and the Present Day, London. Hodder & Stoughton, 1905
  • Serena Spanò Martinelli, Il processo di canonizzazione di Caterina Vigri, 2003
  • Santa Caterina da Bologna. Dalla Corte Estense alla Corte Celeste, Ed. Barghigiani, 2001
  • Caterina Vigri, la Santa e la Città, Atti del Convegno, Bologna, 13-15 novembre 2002, Ed. Galluzzo 2004
  • Jürgen Seidel (1992). "KATHARINA von Bologna (C. Bononsiensis / Caterina Vigri, Nigri, Negri/)". In Bautz, Friedrich Wilhelm. Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). 3. Herzberg: Bautz. cols. 1217–1218. ISBN 3-88309-035-2. 
  • Heiligenlexion 1858

External links[edit]