- Catherine of Siena, Saint
- (1347-1380)Italian mystic, daughter of an influential Sienese family, canonized in 1461 and declared to be a doctor of the church in 1970. From childhood she was deeply spiritual, and at age 16 she became a Dominican tertiary, living in self-imposed solitude for three years and then becoming active in ministry to the sick and poor. She experienced a spiritual marriage to Christ and in 1375 received the stigmata, signs of Christ's wounds. Deeply devoted to the church and to the papacy and distressed by the frequent wars among Italian cities, she went to Avignon to visit Pope Gregory XI, and in response to her prophecies he returned to Rome. Her influence extended far beyond Siena. Many people, both men and women, acknowledged her holiness and looked to her for inspiration. She became a trusted adviser to Pope Urban VI. Catherine's great popularity is reflected in the many Renaissance paintings depicting events in her life. She is recognized as the first female author to write in the Tuscan dialect. Her surviving writings include several hundred letters to popes, secular princes, and prisoners; an influential mystical treatise, Il libro della divina dottrina /A Treatise on Divine Providence (1377-1378); and a collection of prayers. Despite her lack of formal schooling, she was familiar with the Bible and the works of such doctors of the church as Saints Augustine, Gregory the Great, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Thomas Aquinas. Her letters, which addressed contemporary religious and political problems, including the need for reform of the church, were published in 1500 by the Venetian humanist and printer Aldus Manutius.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.