Saint Catherine of Alexandria Essays and Papers

This essay has a total of 2003 words and 10 pages.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria

 220;Do anything you have a mind to do! You will find me prepared to bear whatever it
is!” she retorted boldly when faced with her death by beheading. During the fourth
century, an inspiring legend was born. Supposedly, a young woman by the name of Catherine
lived eighteen years in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. When challenged according to
matters of her faith, she firmly held her ground. She converted hundreds of people that
served her enemy, Maxentius, to Christianity. Proving that she was, in fact, a holy woman
ordained by God, she summoned the help of her Lord when faced with adversity, and miracles
were witnessed.

In this day and age, we have come to the realization that many of these phenomena probably
never actually occurred. No documentation of any such events exists. Catherine’s
legend consists of angels interfering in daily matters, and milk flowing from veins
instead of blood. Highly unlikely? Perhaps. Whether one chooses to believe the story
told about this young saint, however, is, in effect, irrelevant.

Whether she actually lived the pious life of a saint or not, Catherine nevertheless
serves as a powerful role model for Christian women in a patriarchal religion. She may
never have existed, but her story certainly lives on. For the last sixteen centuries,
Catherine has inspired women to maintain and defend their faiths, even if it has meant
their death. She continues to be a source of motivation for women even today, and it is
doubtful that her memory will soon be forgotten.

While there is no actual proof of Saint Catherine of Alexandria’s life, as a result
of the numerous medieval cults that existed centuries after her death, her legend lives

The legend begins by describing the relationship between Constantine and Maxentius, two
Roman rulers. They originally had an equal amount of power, but when Constantine
renounced his position to govern France for a period, relations between the two grew
hostile. Eventually, their opposition led them to battle, where Maxentius was overtaken
and so fled to Alexandria. There, he established himself as king.

Meanwhile, Catherine, the daughter of late King Costus, was becoming a young woman. Her
mother had also died during her childhood, and the young girl spent her life devoted to
her own education. As a young girl, she too had had visions, one of which was also the
Archangel Michael.

As the story goes, when Catherine was a young girl, the Virgin Mary appeared to a hermit
in the desert, and told him to go to Catherine in Alexandria. While there, Catherine had
a dream, in which Mary also appeared to her, holding the child Jesus. He, however, would
not look at her. When his mother questioned him as to what Catherine could do to please
him, he told her to go and see the hermit. After waking, she told her dream to the
hermit, who instructed her in the Christian faith, and baptized her. Again, she had a
vision, in which the young savior marries her with a ring. Later in her adolescence,
counselors suggested that she marry, she declined, saying that she was already married to
Christ. Catherine’s virginity was very important to her.

When Catherine had reached the age of eighteen, Maxentius demanded that the inhabitants of
his new kingdom come to the palace and make a sacrifice to the pagan gods he worshipped.
In defense of her faith, Catherine insisted upon an audience with Maxentius. In awe of
her beauty, the king permitted her to speak.

Unable to convince her of his beliefs, he sent for the fifty wisest pagan philosophers,
orators, and scholars in Alexandria. Once they were all gathered, the men inquired as to
their necessity. As Maxentius told them his dilemma, they were appalled. Any one of them
could best the young girl, they claimed.

Catherine, however, was not so easily won over. As a result of her determination and
wisdom, the fifty wise men were convinced of her faith. They found themselves unable to
produce any explanation for her ability other than that she had the support of God. She
had converted them all.

Maxentius, as a result, was infuriated. He sentenced them all to death at the stake.
When the monks professed their fear at dying before being baptized, Catherine comforted
them with the idea that the fire would carry out their baptism. While the fire did kill
them, supposedly not a hair on their heads was harmed, and their clothing remained

Amazed by Catherine’s wisdom and beauty, the king offered her a position equal to
that of the queen’s in power and prestige, and promised that a statue of her would
be built. Catherine was adamant, however, and again referred to her marriage to Christ.
Maxentius had her stripped, beaten, and thrown in a dark cell to starve for twelve days
while he entertained business elsewhere.

The queen, sympathetic to Catherine’s position and curious about her faith, ventured
to visit her in her imprisonment. Porphyrius, the captain of the king’s guard,
accompanied her. When they arrived, an overwhelmingly bright light was illuminating the
room, and angels were tending to the girl’s wounds. Before Maxentius returned,
Catherine managed to convert the queen, Porphyrius, and two hundred soldiers to the
Christian faith.

When he returned, the king called to see his prisoner. Looking vibrantly healthy, he was
about to punish her guards for feeding her while he was gone when she informed him that
God had sent a dove to nourish her during his absence. Again, Maxentius made his offer,
and Catherine refused. Finally, he was fed up with her.

One of the king’s counselors proposed a horrible instrument of death, composed of
four wheels with protruding spikes and iron nails. Two of the wheels would be placed on
top of the other two, and would move in one direction. The other pair would turn the other
way, thus tearing the victim’s body to shreds. Maxentius approved of the idea, and
the machine was built.

Once placed in the center of the horrible contraption, the young girl cried to God to show
his power and to prove the king wrong by tearing the machine to pieces. An angel came
down out of heaven and delivered such a blow to the four wheels that they killed four
thousand pagans.

The queen, so enraged by her husband’s behavior, finally stepped forward and
chastised him harshly for his gross conduct. Having proclaimed her own conversion,
Maxentius ordered his soldiers to tear off her breasts with iron spikes before beheading
her. Comforted by Catherine’s words of encouragement describing how she would soon
be with God in paradise, the queen faced her death triumphantly. Maxentius ordered that
his wife’s body be left in the marketplace as an example to the rest of the citizens
of Alexandria. Porphyrius, however, could not bear to see his queen’s body left
unattended. In the dark of night, he crept into the city, stole her body, and buried it.

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