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From the Engraving by Francesco Vanni. 










OTitfj a translation of fjer treatise on Consummate Perfection 




VOL. I. 

Second JEMtton 



[ The right of translation is reserved\ 


THERE already exist in various languages more than sixty 
Lives of St. Catherine of Siena. In presence of such a 
fact, an apology seems called for on the part of any one who 
should propose to add to their number. It will, however, be 
borne in mind that most of these Lives are little more than trans 
lations or abridgments of the original Legend written by Raymund 
of Capua, the Saint s Confessor : they furnish us with no new 
facts, and do not even attempt to restore that chronological order 
of events which was entirely neglected by St. Catherine s first 
biographer. There are two notable exceptions indeed to which 
this remark does not apply: the Storia di Santa Caterina da 
Siena, e del Papato del suo tempo, by Mgr. Alfonso Capecelatro ; 
and the Histoire de Ste. Catherine de Sienne, by M. Emile 
Chavan de Malan. 1 Of the first-named work it is impossible to 
speak too highly. The author has brought the public life of St. 
Catherine and her relations with the Papacy within the compass 
of a single volume, full of historical research, and has made 
excellent use of some of the Saint s letters. But, as may be 
gathered from the title of the book, he deals almost exclusively 
with her public career, and cannot therefore be said to have 
given us her complete biography. M. Chavan de Malan has 
attempted a restoration of the chronology of St. Catherine s life, 
and has consulted many valuable authorities. He has also 

1 To these we must now add the Life published in 1880 by Madame la 
Comtesse de Flavigny, carefully compiled from original sources. 

viii PREFACE. 

included in his volumes illustrations from Italian history which 
throw more or less light on the state of society in the fourteenth 
century. His interesting work, however, is open to one objec 
tion ; he has not been able to refrain from filling up the historic 
outline of his narrative with materials purely imaginary ; so that 
fact and fiction are often mingled in his pages, which thus, in 
some parts, assume the colouring of a romance. Neither of these 
works has found an English translator, and we, as yet, possess but 
two (Catholic) Lives of St. Catherine in the English language. 
The first is a translation of the Legend, published at Philadelphia 
in the year 1860. It has the disadvantage of being the transla 
tion of a translation ; being made, not from the Latin original, 
nor even from the Italian version of that original, but from M. 
Cartier s French translation of that version. Hence it is not 
surprising that the result has been unsatisfactory, and that in 
many places even the sense of the author has not been conveyed. 
The second work above alluded to is a reprint from the old 
English translation of F. Ambrogio Caterino Politi s abridgment 
of the Legend. This translation was made in 1609 by Father 
John Fen, Confessor to the English nuns at Louvain. It was 
re-edited in 1867 by the Very Rev. Father James Dominic 
Aylward, English Provincial of the Order of Preachers, and is 
now out of print. The translator has contrived to give to his 
version all the charm of an original work. Nothing can surpass 
the pathos and animation of some of the narratives, as related in 
the fine old English of the bel secolo of our language. Several 
such passages, the unction of which could never be equalled by 
a modern pen, have been freely embodied in the following pages. 
Nevertheless, the superior merit of this little book is entirely one 
of style. Father Politi s chronology is quite as confused as that 
of the Legend which he abridges ; and neither from one nor the 
other can we gather any clear notion of the consecutive order of 
the events narrated. 1 

1 To be strictly accurate, we must add to the above the Lyf of St. Katherin 
of Senis, printed by Caxton, a copy of which bibliographical rarity is in the 
Chatsworth Library, having been purchased by the Duke of Devonshire for 


In the present volume the writer has aimed at giving the facts 
of St. Catherine s life as recorded by other biographers, restoring 
their chronological order, and at the same time supplementing 
them with additional matter drawn from original sources hitherto 
either partially or entirely neglected. Very ample use has been 
made of St. Catherine s own letters, those wonderful compositions 
of which we as yet possess no English translation, but a know 
ledge of which is essential to our forming any real acquaintance 
with the saintly writer. Yet the letters themselves cannot be 
understood without some explanation of the history and circum 
stances of those to whom they were addressed ; and this naturally 
introduces the reader to the members of that spiritual " family " 
of which she was the Mother and Head. 

The position occupied by St. Catherine was altogether an ex 
ceptional one. She was never the member of a religious com 
munity, yet neither was she a secular, nor a recluse. She appears 
before us surrounded by a group of disciples bound to her by no 
other ties than those of personal affection, and numbering among 
them men and women of every variety of age, station and char 
acter. Blessed Raymund himself, and her other confessors ; her 
three secretaries Neri, Stephen, and Barduccio ; Master Matthew, 
whom she cured of the plague, and the English hermit, William 
Flete ; her sister-in-law Lisa, and Alexia her chosen friend ; with 
all these we make acquaintance in a passing way in the pages of 
the Legend ; and the wish must have occurred to many readers 
that we could know them better, and interrogate them concerning 
their intercourse with her to whose daily life it was their privilege 
to be thus associated. To respond in some measure to this wish 
the writer has endeavoured to include in the history of St. Cathe 
rine such notices of her companions as can be gathered from 
authentic letters and records still preserved ; and at the same 

the sum of ^231. Another copy is preserved in the Grenville Library in the 
British Museum. Caxton s Life of the Saint was reprinted by Wynkyn de 
Worde. A summary of her doctrine, containing extracts from her Dialogue, 
was also printed in 1519 by Wynkyn de Worde, entitled, " Booke of Dyvyne 
Doctrine," by Richard Sutton, London. 
VOL. I. 


time to gather up in their own words the testimony which they 
have borne to the sanctity of which they were so long the eye 

It remains to enumerate the chief authorities from which the 
following narrative has been compiled, giving at the end of each 
notice the abridged word by which reference is made to the works 
in question. 

1. Vita ddla Serafica Sposa di Gesu Christo, Sta. Caterina da 
Siena. This is the Italian version of the original life, commonly 
called the Legend. It was written in Latin by Raymund of Capua, 
the Saint s confessor, and was first translated into Italian by her 
secretary, Neri di Landoccio dei Paglieresi, and another anony 
mous writer. When in 1707 Girolamo Gigli, Professor of Belles 
Lettns in the University of Siena, undertook the publication of 
St. Catherine s Life and complete Works, he caused a new trans 
lation of the Legend to be made by the Canonico Bernardino 
Pecci ; and this now forms the first volume of the Opere di Santa 
Caterina ; the second and third volumes containing her Letters, 
and the fourth her Dialogue. It was Gigli s intention to have 
published besides these a considerable number of other precious 
manuscripts preserved at Siena; but the troubles in which he 
became involved with the Academy della Crusca and the Tuscan 
Government, which ended in his banishment, prevented the com 
pletion of his design. In the learned Prologues, however, which 
he has prefixed to his published volumes, he has done much to 
facilitate the study of what we may call the literature of St. 
Catherine ; and has left stamped on his writings the marks of 
that tender devotion to the Saint which moved him, whilst engaged 
in these labours, daily to visit her relics, and there to implore 
with tears that she would obtain for him, by her intercession, the 
salvation of his soul. (Leg.) 

2. La Leggenda Minore. This is an abridgment of Raymund s 
work, written in Latin by F. Tommaso d Antonio Nacci Caffarini, 
and translated into Italian by Stephen Maconi. It contains several 
additions that are not to be found in the original Legend. Caffarini 
was well acquainted with St. Catherine many years before she 


became known to Raymund; and the events of her earlier life 
which Raymund gathered from the lips of others, had fallen under 
his own personal observation. The Leggenda Minore finds a place 
in the very rare Santuario of Mombrizio (Milan, 1479), whence 
the Bollandists extracted the additional matter, and printed it as 
an Appendix to the Latin Legend, under the title of Analecta de 
S. Catherina, ex vita Fr. Thoma collecta. In the year 1868 
Stephen Maconi s Italian translation of the work was edited by 
Signor F. Grottanelli, the learned librarian of Siena, who enriched 
it with a number of valuable notes. It forms one of the volumes 
of that " Collection of Rare and inedited Works," which has been 
published by the Royal Commissions pJ Testi di Lingua. (Leg. 

3. Supplimento alia Leggenda di Santa Caterina. The Supple 
ment to Raymund s Legend was written in Latin by Caffarini, and 
contains much additional and interesting information. In 1754 
an Italian translation of the work was published at Lucca by F. 
Ambrogio Ansano Tantucci. This translation has now become 
extremely rare, and M. Cartier, who has made a French transla 
tion from it, calls it presque intronvable. Valuable as it is, 
Tantucci s translation is far from being a perfect or exact version 
of Caffarini s work. He has entirely omitted some treatises, and 
abridged others. Considerable use has been made of the work 
in the following narrative, but in some places references will be 
found given to the Latin Supplement, when the passages referred 
to have been omitted or altered in the Italian translation. Caf 
farini s original work is preserved in the Communal Library of 
Siena, whence authentic copies of some of the missing portions 
have been obtained for the present work. (Sup. or Lat. Sup.) 

4. Lettere di Santa Caterina. Several editions of the Saint s 
Letters have at various times been published : the first being the 
Aldine Edition, printed at Venice in 1500; which was followed 
by another in 1548 by Toresano, and another in 1579 by Farri ; 
both likewise published at Venice. In the present work the 
edition of Girolamo Gigli has generally been quoted, enriched as 
it is by the explanatory notes of F. Federigo Burlamacchi, S. J., 


whose researches into contemporary history may be said to have 
exhausted the subject. They form in fact the chief and best 
authority for reconstructing the History of St. Catherine. A later 
edition of the Letters was published at Florence in 1860, by F. 
Tommaseo, which contains nothing of additional value. A good 
French translation has been made by M. Cartier, who has prefixed 
to his volumes an admirable sketch of the Saint s public career. 
He has also attempted a restoration of the chronology, for the 
satisfactory completion of which, however, he lacked the necessary 
materials. In all references to the letters the numbers given are 
those of Gigli s edition. 1 

* 5. Note originali cPillustrazione alia Leggenda compendiata dal 
Caffarini. These notes to the Leggenda Minore are from the pen 
of Burlamacchi, and are of great value. They have never been 
printed and exist in MS. only in the Library of Siena. They do 
not even seem to have been prepared for publication, for the 
authority for each separate statement is not precisely given ; 
though the materials are all gathered from the Supplimento and 
the Process of Venice. (Notes to Leg. Min.) 

6. Processus contestationum super sanctitate et doctrina B. 
Catherines de Senis. (Martene et Durand. Ampliss. Coll. Vet. 
Script. Tom. vi.) This is the famous Process of Venice, contain 
ing the depositions of certain persons who were cited to appear 
before Francis Bembo, Bishop of Venice, in 1411, to answer the 
charges brought against them of rendering public honours to 
Catherine of Siena before she had yet been canonised by the 
Church. The result of the investigation was a declaration that 
in all that they had done to honour Catherine s memory, the 
Friars of her Order had incurred no blame ; and the depositions 
of the witnesses were afterwards used in the Process of her 
Canonisation. The document, as it appears in the pages of 
Martene and Durand, is exceedingly imperfect, containing the 

1 The authorities marked (*) are all inedited MSS. preserved in the Com 
munal Library of Siena, whence authentic copies have been procured for the 
use of the writer, through the generous kindness of Signor Bernardo Fabbri- 
cotti, of Leghorn. 

PREFACE. xiii 

depositions of seven witnesses only, whereas the original Process, 
of which a copy is preserved at Siena, contains twenty-four. The 
seven depositions above-named are, however, some of the most 
important, and they have been largely drawn from in the compila 
tion of the following narrative. Three of the missing depositions 
have been printed by Baluze, in the fourth volume of his Miscel 
lanea. (Process.) 

7. Deposition of Don Francesco Makvolti. This very impor 
tant memoir, which forms part of the original Process, has never 
been printed, and strange to say, it has rarely even been quoted. 
References to it will often be found in Gigli s Prologues ; but 
these give a most imperfect idea of the contents or value of the 
original. A perfect copy of it is preserved in the Bibliotcca 
Casanatense at Rome ; from which, through the kindness of the 
late Most Rev. Pere A. V. Jandel, Master General of the Order 
of Preachers, an authentic copy was made for the Library of 
St. Dominic s Convent, Stone. This document will be found 
frequently quoted, and at a considerable length ; nor will the 
reader fail to appreciate Malevolti s merit both as a witness and 
a writer. 

* 8. Sommario del Processo di Santa Caterina^ fatto dal Padre 
Angiolo Maria Carapelli. 

* 9. Sommario di cose appartenente a Santa Catenna. 

* 10. Sommario di Notizie ddla Vita di S. Catcrina. These 
three manuscripts contain the sum of the Depositions, including 
those which remain unpublished, and have proved of very great 
value. They are all of them copies of manuscripts preserved at 

* ii. Cor so Cronotastico della Vita di Santa Caterina da Siena. 
Dal R. P. Fra Angiolo Maria Carapclli, O. P. This invaluable 
work, together with many others from the pen of the same learned 
writer, who devoted himself with such ardour to the study and 
illustration of St. Catherine s life, exists only in manuscript, in the 
library of Siena. In compiling his chronology the writer has con 
sulted every authority within his reach, and has thrown great light 
on many difficult points, though his conclusions sometimes appear 


open to question. When, however, we have found ourselves 
obliged to differ from an authority so deserving of respect, the 
reasons for such difference have been carefully assigned in a foot 
note. (Corso Cron.) 

* 12. Sermo in reverentiam Beat a, Katherina de Senis, 1382. 
13. Epistola ad Magm Raimundum da Capita. These two 

curious documents are of great interest to the English reader, as 
being from the pen of F. William Flete, the English Augustinian 
hermit, who was one of St. Catherine s confessors and chosen 
friends. They have never hitherto been quoted at any length, 
though many references to F. William will be found in Gigli s 
Prefaces, and in Burlamacchi s Notes to the letters. Independent 
of the interest which attaches to the author from his connection 
with St. Catherine, he was in his own time a notable English 
worthy, whose words had no little weight with his countrymen, 
and whose authority was respectfully appealed to by the Parlia 
ment of the realm. 

* 14. Notale relative ad alcune Visioni avute da Santa Caterina 
nella terra di Voragine. 

* 15. Relazione del passagio di S. Cath. in Voragine. These 
two MSS. restore to us a lost page in St. Catherine s history, the 
narrative, namely, of that visit to Voragine which finds no record 
in the Legend, though it is alluded to in the Process. 

1 6. Sommario della disputa a difesa della sacre Stimate di Santa 
Caterina da Siena: dal R. P. Fra Gregorio Lombardctti, O. P. 
This is a summary of the great work of Lombardelli on the 
Stigmas of St. Catherine, which is preserved in MS. in the Vatican 
Library. The Sommario alone was printed at Siena in 1601, but 
has now become so rare as to be, practically speaking, unattain 
able. Through the courteous kindness, however, of the Rev. P. 
F. Thomas Bonnet, Librarian of the Biblioteca Casanetense, at 
Rome, a transcription has been made from the copy preserved in 
that library for the present work. 

1 7. Breve Relazione del modo corns fu portata da Roma a Siena 
la sacra testa di Santa Caterina. (Siena, 1683.) The history of 
the removal of St. Catherine s head from Rome to Siena is accu- 


rately given in this narrative, published anonymously, but written, 
as we learn from F. Angiolo Carapelli, by F. Tommaso Angiolini, 
O. P. 

1 8. Alcuni Miracoli di Santa Caterina da Siena, secondo che 
sono narrati da un anonimo, suo contemporaneo. This little memoir 
was well known both to Gigli and F. Burlamacchi, who frequently 
quote from it. It was among the manuscripts which Gigli pro 
mised to publish, but it remained inedited until the year 1862, 
when it was printed from the MS. at Siena by Signor Grottanelli, 
only 250 copies, however, being struck off. The narrative is of 
great interest, though the statements of the writer betray just that 
kind of inaccuracy which is incident to those who attempt to 
write of contemporaneous events. 

19. Memorie di Ser Chris f of ano di Galgano Guidini, da Siena. 
This very curious autobiography of one of the most devoted of 
St. Catherine s disciples has been frequently quoted, both by 
Gigli, and other writers. It remained unpublished, however, until 
1842, when it was printed in the 4th volume of the Archivio 
Storico Italiano, to which valuable collection we are likewise 
indebted for the Chronica Antigua Conventus S. Catherines in 
Pisis, which appears in the 6th volume. 

20. Lettere dei discepoli di Santa Caterina da Siena. This col 
lection of letters long preserved in manuscript in the library of 
Siena, was printed for the first time by Signor Grottanelli in 1868, 
at the end of the Leggenda Minore. The letters furnish us with 
most valuable and interesting information, and admit us into the 
private circle of the Saint s spiritual family. 

21. Lettere di Santi e Beati Fiorentini. (Florence, 1736.) In 
this collection are to be found two letters from Don John of the 
Cells referring to St. Catherine, and one from the Blessed John 

22. De Vita et Moribus Beati Stephani Maconi Senensis, 
An dor e D. Bartholomeo Senensi. Siena, 1626. (Vit. Steph. 

23. Divce Catherine Senensis Vita, per Joannem Pinum, 
Gallum Tolosanum. John Pino s "Life of St. Catherine" was 


published at Bologna in 1505. It contains some additional 
details concerning the Saint s visit to Avignon ; and Gigli, who 
notices the book in the Prologue to the Legend, thinks it possible 
that the author derived his information from authentic sources, 
collected on the spot. Baronius speaks of him as "an exact 
writer." (Pino.) 

24. Vila da S. Cater ina da Siena, da P. Paolo Frigerio. 
(Roma, 1656.) This life by P. Frigerio, of the Oratory, is note 
worthy as one of the very few in which any attempt has been 
made to add to the materials collected by Raymund. It includes 
extracts from the life of Stephen Maconi, and from some manu 
scripts furnished to the writer by Pope Alexander VII., by whose 
command the work was undertaken. 

25. Capitolo in terza rima in laude di Santa Caterina da Siena, 
per Anaslagio da Monte Altino, vivendo ancora lei nella presente 

26. Uno Capitolo in rima fatto per Jacobo di Monte Pulciano 
in reverentia di Santa Caterina. 

27. Uno Capitolo in rima fatto per Ranicro d Paglieresi, da 
Siena. These poetical compositions, made by three of St. 
Catherine s attached disciples, are of great interest and value. 
Anastagio writes of her as one still living, and depicts her as 
she appeared at the moment before his bodily eyes. They 
are printed (complete) at the end of the Venice Editions of her 

28. Storia di Santa Caterina da Siena, e del Papato del siio 
tempo, per Alfonso Capecelatro. (Florence, 1863.) This excellent 
work has been already named, and to the researches of the 
author all subsequent biographers of St. Catherine must express 
their obligation. The value of the book is much increased by 
the full and accurate Elenca, or catalogue of all works, whether 
printed or in MS., relating to the Saint, which is given as an 
appendix in the third and fourth editions. It is from the pen of 
Signer Grottanelli, and an attentive study of it places at our 
command all the treasures of the Roman and Sienese Libraries 
which contribute any additional materials to our stock of know- 

PREFACE. xvii 

ledge in what concerns the history of St. Catherine. (Capece- 

29. Annaks Ecdesiastici ; continuatio Oderici Raynaldi. These 
volumes contain the continuation of the Church Annals of 
Cardinal Baronius by Oderico Rinaldi, and have been the chief 
authority consulted for the historical notice of the Great Schism. 

30. Vita Paparum Avenonensium : Steph. Baluzii. (Paris, 

31. Muratori : Italicarum Rerum Scriptores. The i5th volume 
of this collection contains the Sienese chronicles of Andrea Dei, 
continued by Angelo Tura ; and those by Neri Donato. 

32. The Chronicles of St. Antoninus of Florence. In his third 
volume St. Antoninus gives a life of St. Catherine abridged from 
the Legend, but interspersed with some valuable remarks of his 

33. Diario Sanese (Diar. San.) 

34. Vocabolario Cateriniano (Vocab. Cat.) These two works 
are by Girolamo Gigli. In the first he has collected every 
information regarding the churches, monuments, festivals, and 
customs of Siena which can be of interest to the historian or the 
antiquary. In the second he gives a vocabulary of such words in 
St. Catherine s works as differ from the Tuscan approved by the 
Academies of Florence, and belong rather to the Sienese dialect. 
His preference of the latter, and his witty sarcasms on the 
Florentines, gave offence at the court of the Grand Duke of 
Tuscany, and were the cause of his disgrace and exile. By a 
decree of the Grand Duke, every copy of his book was ordered 
to be given up and publicly burnt. A sufficient number were 
actually destroyed to render the work a choice rarity ; but many 
persons who possessed the prohibited volume relished its contents 
so much that they concealed their copies, and only gave up sham 
imitations to the flames ; while the book was eagerly sought for 
by collectors, especially those of the English nation. 

35. // Dialogo della Serafica Santa Caterina da Siena. (Dia!.) 
This forms the fourth volume of Gigli s edition of St. Catherine s 

xviii PREFACE. 

works, which contains likewise her Treatise on Consummate 
Perfection and her Prayers, together with a few other fragments 
and documents. The Dialogue has more than once been trans 
lated into French, the latest edition being that of M. Cartier ; 
but no English version as yet exists. May we live to see the 
day when the English reader shall possess a complete edition of 
St. Catherine s works, from which alone can be obtained any just 
conception of her illuminated wisdom ! 

In the above list are not included the more generally known 
Italian historians references to whose works will be found in 
the foot-notes, and who have been quoted only so far as was 
strictly necessary to elucidate the course of the narrative. For 
the object aimed at in these pages has been less to present the 
reader with a complete history of the age of St. Catherine than to 
make him better acquainted with the Saint herself. It is her 
character as a woman that most requires to be made known, for 
it has hitherto been partially concealed by the very splendour of 
her historical reputation. Stupendous as is the story of her life, 
it has, nevertheless, a side which brings her within the reach of 
ordinary sympathies. Catherine, the Seraphic Bride of Christ, 
espoused to Him at Siena ; stigmatised at Pisa ; supported on 
the Bread of Life ; the Pacificator of Florence ; the Ambassadress 
of Gregory ; the Councillor of Urban ; the Martyr for the unity 
of the Holy See ; this is indeed a character that overwhelms us 
with its very greatness. But Catherine, the Lover of God and 
man, who gave away her will with her heart to her divine Spouse ; 
the tender mother of a spiritual family ; the friend of the poor ; 
the healer of feuds, the lover of her country ; Catherine, with all 
her natural gifts of prudence and womanly tact ; with her warm 
affections, and her love of the beautiful; with her rare genius 
refined, spiritualised, and perfected by Divine illumination; 
surrounded by men and women like ourselves, with whose in 
firmities she bore, and whom she loved as heartily as they loved 
her in return ; Catherine, with her wise and graceful words, her 
"gracious smile," and her sweet attractive presence, this is a 
being to be loved and imitated; we open our very hearts to 


receive her within them, and to enshrine her there, not as a Saint 
only, but as a mother and a friend. 

In conclusion, it need only be remarked that in the attempt so 
to represent our glorious Saint, the rule has been strictly adhered 
to of excluding all imaginary details, and introducing nothing for 
which there do not exist unimpeachable authorities. Where such 
authorities have failed to fill up the gaps in our Biography, they 
have been left unfilled. 

The Frontispiece to the present volume is a.fac simile of that 
prefixed to the pictured Life of St. Catherine engraved in 1597 
by Francesco Vanni, and reprinted at Antwerp by Cornelius 
Galle, in 1603. 

Appended to the present Edition will be found a translation of 
the Treatise on Consummate Perfection, which it is hoped will 
find a welcome from every lover of St. Catherine. 

A. T. D. 

May 30, 1887. 

fart E 

















XV. THE PLAGUE, 1374, 2 l6 




fart H. 



I. THE CHURCH AND ITALY, 1372-1374, 273 




V. STEPHEN MACONI, 1376, 338 





PORTRAIT OF ST. CATHERINE (from the print by Francesco 

Vanni) .......... Frontispiece. 





HEAD OF ST. CATHERINE (from the painting by Andrea Vanni), 164 

PAPAL PALACE, AVIGNON, ........ 2 ?3 

MAP OF TUSCANY ....... " 2 ? 8 

THE ISLAND OF GORGONA, ........ " 3 J 5 

Part E 


VOL. I. 


3 . Palazzo Pwbbtico 
k. Za/ Jfisericordia^ 
5 . Pcdazzo Saracan/ 

Porta. Camolia 


\Ch.diS. Christoforo 
1. SJErarvcesco 

8 J^fazzcL delMercafo 

9 . 
1O . 

12 . Cottegio Tolomei/ 
. Serrate? 







THE plains which occupy the centre of Tuscany, lying between 
the sources of the Arno, the Tiber, and the Ombrone, 
present few of those distinctive features of beauty which we are 
wont to associate with an Italian landscape. The wide and 
desolate levels are broken only by insignificant sandhills which 
scarcely interrupt our view of the vast horizon. As we approach 
the southern boundary of this district, however, the country 
becomes more hilly and diversified ; villages and cultivated farms 
everywhere appear ; and these, together with the frequent recur 
rence of the familiar foliage of the oak, may possibly carry back 
the thoughts of an English traveller to scenes nearer home. It 
needs but a second glance, however, to remind him that he is 


treading the soil of Italy, as his eye catches the glitter of the 
silvery olive on the hillsides, or, in lieu of the tapering spire of 
an English village church, rests on the tall and graceful campanile. 
Above all, he will recognise in the heavens which shine over these 
Tuscan plains a beauty such as our northern latitudes can never 
boast ; for the sky is as full of light as that of Attica, and its 
brilliancy is reflected in the gay and lively character of the people 
over whom it smiles. 

It is then in this part of Tuscany, as it approaches nearer to 
the mountains, on an eminence 1300 feet above the level of the 
sea, that stands Siena, " the city of the Virgin," lifting her quaint 
towers into that luminous atmosphere, and seeming by her very 
position to command the surrounding plains. So her poets have 
loved to describe her, "towering from the hills, basking in the 
light of those serene and glowing heavens ; full of all that is gay 
and graceful in manners ; all her sons brave and courteous, and 
all her daughters beautiful." l 

There is probably no city in Italy which retains so exclusively 
medieval an aspect. When the storm of the classical Renaissance 
swept over the land, it spared the red brick towers of Siena, and 
left her churches and palaces standing almost as they stood in 
the fourteenth century. Her walls are still unlevelled, and her 
gates retain not only their ancient names, but the very pictures 
of the Blessed Virgin placed there centuries ago by the magi 
strates of the republic in thanksgiving for her signal protection of 
the city. The view from those walls has its resemblances and its 
contrasts with that which would have met the eye five hundred 
years ago. Within their enclosure lies the ancient city, covering 
the space of three hills, each of which is crowned by some dome 
or tapering campanile, while from the very centre of the group 
rises the lofty tower of the Palazzo Pubblico. At the time to 
which our story belongs there would have been seen a fair display 

1 " Siena, dal colle ove torregia e siede." Alfierl 

" Di leggiadria, di bei costumi e plena, 
Di vaghe donne e d uomini cortesi, 
L aere dolce, lucida e serena." Fazio degli Uberti. 


of other towers, which gave to Siena an appearance of splendour 
which is now considerably diminished. Permission was granted 
to the great families to attach such appendages to their palaces, 
in reward of any distinguished service, and no more ignominious 
sentence could be decreed against an offender, were he of noble 
blood, than the destruction of his tower. But in the sixteenth 
century, when Siena had long lost her freedom, they were most 
of them ruthlessly levelled by Diego di Mendoza, the Spanish 
lieutenant of the Emperor Charles V., and the materials used in 
the construction of a fortress. 

If the interior aspect of the city is thus shorn somewhat of its 
ancient dignity, the suburbs and surrounding country have pro- 
portionably gained. We look now over plains covered with cul 
tivation, where the white walls of convents and villas gleam 
through olive woods and vineyards, or the darker foliage of the 
cypress or the stone pine. And hidden away in their recesses 
lies many a pleasant garden, for the Sienese are now, as ever, 
great lovers of flowers. In the fourteenth century the country 
presented a far more desolate appearance, continually ravaged as 
it was by hostile armies or bands of freebooters. But the main 
features are nevertheless the same : there is the torrent of the 
Tressa still flowing fast below the walls; to the north there is 
that immense horizon which has its transparent vastness for its 
solitary beauty ; to the south we behold rising in the distance the 
rugged heights of Radicofani, and Monte Amiata. 

Ot the three hills on which Siena is built, one is surmounted 
by the Duomo, or cathedral, an unfinished fragment consisting of 
what, were the work completed, would form only the transept of 
the edifice. Yet even thus it claims to be the masterpiece of 
Italian Gothic, and on it, century after century, the artists and 
sculptors of Siena have lavished the best efforts of their genius. 
There may be seen the curious pavement inlaid with stories from 
the Old Testament, which is thought by some to have suggested 
to Dante a famous passage in the Purgatorio ; l there in the frieze 
on either side of the nave are the long rows of tiara d heads, the 
1 Purgatorio, Canto xii. 9-33, 56-67. 


portraits of the Popes from St. Peter to Alexander III., so 
wonderful in their expression of majesty; there, fixed against the 
pilasters which support the dome, are the poles of the Florentine 
Carrocdo, or Car of the Standard, captured by the Sienese in 
1260, at their great victory of Monte Aperto; and there is the 
pulpit, the most magnificent work of Nicolo da Pisa, from which 
the great patriarch St. Dominic preached when first he visited this 
city, when, according to the ancient legend, the Blessed Virgin 
was seen standing by his side and inspiring his discourse. 

On the hill to the north of that occupied by the Duomo, stand 
ing apart from other buildings on a kind of cliff with gardens and 
underwood creeping up its sides, there rises another church which, 
if possessing less architectural beauty, nevertheless fails not to 
rivet the eye by its commanding position. It is the Church of 
San Domenico, occupying the site called the Campo Reggio, from 
the circumstance that Henry, king of the Romans, encamped 
his army here when he came to besiege Siena in 1186. It was 
then outside the city walls, and was the property of the Malevolti, 
a family devoted to the Imperial cause, one of whom, Malevolti 
the Strong Arm, as he was called, bestowed it in 1220 on the 
founder of the Friars Preachers. It is, alas ! no longer in the 
possession of the Order to which it is linked by a thousand asso 
ciations, having passed in 1784 into the hands of the Benedictines 
of Monte Cassino. But for the moment we will only remind 
ourselves that it was the third foundation of our Holy Father St. 
Dominic, that within its walls he gave the habit to Tancred Tan- 
credi, that beneath its altars repose the ashes of Blessed Ambrose 
Sansedoni, and that for thirty years its pavement was almost daily 
trodden by the footsteps of St. Catherine of Siena. 

Its dimensions have been added to since her time, the transepts 
not having been opened until 1465. But the lower church or 
crypt where the friars used to assemble for the office of the dead, 
and where was the burial place of her family, is now abandoned, 
and in Gigli s days was used to contain the straw and other stores 
of the neighbouring fortress. Formerly it boasted of a tower of 
extraordinary beauty, built by the Tancredi family, who were 


great benefactors to the Order. Next to the tower of the Palazzo 
Pubblico it was reckoned the most beautiful in Tuscany. Above 
the topmost cornice rose a lofty pinnacle, with other smaller pin 
nacles at the corners ; but these were so frequently struck and 
injured by lightning that at length the friars pulled them down, 
to the intense indignation of the citizens, who denounced them 
as unworthy of possessing so exquisite an edifice if they cared 
not to keep it in repair. 

The depression between the two hills of which we have spoken 
is known as the Valle Piatta, at the bottom of which appears the 
famous fountain of Fontebranda, first erected in 1081 by the 
family of Branda, and enlarged in 1198, which supplies all this 
part of the city with water, and has found a notice in the pages 
of Dante. 1 Turning to the right hand you enter the Strada dell 
Oca leading up a steep ascent, on the left-hand side of which 
stands a house commonly known as the " Fullonica." Over the 
door of this house you may read in golden letters the words, 
" Sponsa Christi Katherina Domus" Five hundred years ago it 
was the residence of Giacomo Benincasa, the dyer, and the father 
of St. Catherine ; it is now one of the holy places of Siena, and 
the devotion of the citizens has preserved with scrupulous care 
every apartment once consecrated by the presence of their glorious 
countrywoman. Enter, and you will see her father s workshop, 
the stairs she so often ascended on her knees, the kitchen where 
she discharged her humble household duties, the chamber she 
was permitted to use as a chapel, and the little cell which for so 
many years was the scene of her prayers, her penances, and the 
marvels of her daily intercourse with God. This is " the house 
of Catherine, the spouse of Christ," the least footprints of whose 
life have been thus jealously preserved and religiously venerated. 

It was a life cast in the midst of days most sorrowful for her 
country and for Christendom. The latter half of the fourteenth 
century was rife with those signs of decay which mark the interval 
between the extinction of an old form of civilisation and the 
establishment of its successor. The age of chivalry, properly so 
1 Inferno, xxx. 


called, was over, and together with the glories of the holy wars 
we miss those grand Pontificates, under which the brute force of 
semi-barbarous nations was subdued to the dominion of the faith. 
The triumph achieved by Philip le Bel over Boniface VIII. had 
resulted in the removal of the Popes to Avignon, an event equally 
disastrous to the interests of the Holy See and the welfare of 
Italy. Rome, abandoned by her legitimate rulers, was left the 
prey of contending factions ; her population dwindled into insig 
nificance ; her palaces and sacred temples were crumbling to 
ruins. The very year which witnessed the birth of St. Catherine 
was rendered memorable by the seven months tribuneship of 
Nicolas Rienzi ; but his brief assumption of power was succeeded 
by fresh revolts, which extended to every part of the Papal 
dominions, and considerably weakened the authority of the 
Roman Pontiffs. 

Nor was the condition of the Italian republics at this time 
much more prosperous. It was in great measure through the 
protection afforded them by the Holy See that so many of the 
cities of Northern Italy had, at an earlier period, obtained their 
municipal freedom. Even those which continued to acknowledge 
the authority of the German Emperors, succeeded in securing for 
themselves privileges so considerable as to place them in a posi 
tion of virtual independence, though, by the time of which we 
are speaking, many of these Ghibeline States had resigned their 
liberties into the hands of certain families such as the Visconti, who, 
as lords of Milan, ruled over the greater part of Lombardy. The 
Guelph cities, on the other hand, retained their republican insti 
tutions, though often at a bloody cost. The freedom of Florence 
and Siena was purchased at the price of revolutions, so numerous 
and so fruitful in social misery that Dante compares his native 
city to a sick man tossing on his couch and vainly seeking for 
ease by a change of posture. The triumph of one faction was 
followed by the proscription of its rival, and hence arose those 
deadly family feuds which gave a yet more acrimonious character 
to party strife. 

It was not merely the old contest between Guelph and 


Ghibeline, kept alive and embittered as the exiles from one city 
took refuge in a neighbouring state, and were ever ready to 
avenge their wrongs by turning their swords against their fellow- 
citizens. A new source of civil contention arose in the thirteenth 
century, when the people, growing jealous of the power of the 
nobles, began to league together to exclude them from all share 
in the government, until at length this jealousy of their rulers, 
whether noble or plebeian, became so preposterous that in most 
of the Tuscan republics no man was allowed to exercise the 
higher offices of state for more than two months at a time. 
This was the case in Siena, where at the period of St. Catherine s 
birth the government was in the hands of i\& popolani, or middle- 
class tradesmen. 

Their supremacy had not been established without a fierce 
struggle. In the twelfth century Siena adopted the consular form 
of government, and the head of the republic enjoyed the title and 
authority of Podesta. This office was generally held by one of 
noble birth, but in 1267 the rivalries of Guelph and Ghibeline 
brought about a revolution, which resulted in the establishment 
of a new constitution, and the exclusion of the nobles (who 
mostly belonged to the Ghibeline faction) from all offices of state. 
The popular party, who represented the Guelphs, now prevailed ; 
nine magistrates were annually chosen from the plebeian class to 
form the Signoria, but the number of electors was extremely 
limited, and the government of the Nine, as it was called, came 
soon to be regarded as an odious oligarchy. In 1355 the arrival 
in Siena of the Emperor Charles IV. brought about a counter 
revolution. The nobles made common cause with the discon 
tented citizens, and encouraged by the Emperor, succeeded in 
overthrowing the Nine, some of whom were put to death in the 
heat of popular commotion. In their place were chosen twelve 
magistrates, two of whom governed conjointly for the space of 
two months, when they were succeeded by other two. Charles, 
dissatisfied with this arrangement, made a strenuous effort to 
obtain the appointment of his natural brother, the Patriarch of 
Aqueleia, as virtual Chief of the Republic ; but the appointment 


though made, lasted only a few weeks ; the jealousy of the citizens 
saw in it a design upon their independence, and in May 1355 
the Patriarch was forced to offer his resignation, and the govern 
ment of the Twelve was re-established. This state of things 
lasted until 1368, when, as we shall see, Siena became the scene 
of a fresh revolution. These various changes increased the bitter 
ness of existing feuds ; the nobles struggled hard to regain some 
share of political power, and were often in arms against the people ; 
and if to these sources of social disorder we add the frequent 
plagues which then ravaged Italy, and the lawless bands of the 
Free Companies, who roamed from state to state, levying contribu 
tions on the un warlike inhabitants, or making them victims to their 
ferocious violence, we may gather some notion of the wounds of 
that society to which St. Catherine was sent as an angel of peace. 
The family of Benincasa, of which she was a member, belonged 
to the class of popolani^ just alluded to, as at that time holding 
the chief rule in Siena. 1 Giacomo Benincasa himself at one time 
filled the office of chief magistrate, and the name of his brother 
Ambrogio, a goldsmith by trade, occurs as one of the " Defenders " 
of the republic in the months of September and October 1371. 
It is affirmed by some writers that the families of Benincasa and 
Borghese had a common origin ; but though the fact seems suffi 
ciently authentic, it is certain that the Benincasa made no claim 
to nobility. They were in the position of substantial tradesmen, 
enjoying a fair share of worldly prosperity, and owning a little 
country estate near Santa Maria a Pili, which came into the pos 
session of Lisa, St. Catherine s sister-in-law, after the death of her 
husband, Bartolo Benincasa. Giacomo was married to Lapa di 
Puccio di Piagenti, whose father, Mucio Piagenti, is said to have 
been a poet of some little reputation. Giacomo had a sister, 
Agnes, married to Chele di Duccio. After she became a widow, 
she entered among the Sisters of Penance of St. Dominic, and 

1 Raymund of Capua, in the Legend, only says that they held a respectable 
position among their fellow-citizens ; but Caffarini, in the Leggenda Minore, 
particularly notices that " they belonged to the class which then ruled and 
governed the city of Siena." 


her portrait is painted in the dormitory of the Convent of San 
Domenico, inscribed with the words, Beata Agnese Benincasa. 
Lapa also had a family connection with the order of Preachers, 
for a document is preserved signed and sealed by F. Erveo, 
Master General of the Order, granting to Mucio Piagenti and his 
wife, Cecca, a participation in all the prayers and good works of 
the brethren in return for their great devotion to the Order. 

The pious, simple, and charitable character of Giacomo made 
him beloved and respected by all his neighbours. He was so 
mild and guarded in his words that, no matter how much he was 
provoked, he never gave way to anger : and if he saw any member 
of his family vexed or disturbed, he would try and calm them, 
saying, " Now do not be angry, that God may bless you." Once 
when a fellow-citizen had greatly wronged and calumniated him, 
Lapa was giving free vent to her indignation, but her husband 
would not hear his enemy ill-spoken of. " Let him alone, wife, 
and God will bless us," he said ; " it is God who will show him 
his error, and be our defence." Another virtue in which he 
excelled was a singular modesty of speech, so that no freedom of 
language was ever tolerated in his family. His daughter, Bona- 
ventura, having married Niccolo Tegliacci, a citizen of Siena, was 
often required to entertain her husband s young friends, whose 
conversation was far from being blameless. Her health broke 
down, and Niccolo observing that she was pining away from some 
secret grief, inquired the cause. " In my father s house," she 
replied, " I was never used to hear such words as those I now 
daily listen to ; be sure that if this goes on you will soon see me 
dead." Struck with wonder and respect, Niccolo lost no time in 
making his companions understand that nothing must be said in 
his wife s presence that could wound her sense of modesty, and 
ere long the good customs of Giacomo s household were estab 
lished also in that of his son-in-law. 

Lapa Benincasa was an honest and industrious woman, though 
possessed of very ordinary mind. She bore her husband twenty- 
five children, the names of thirteen appearing on the family tree. 
Catherine and her twin sister, Jane, were born on the 25th of 


March, 1347. Four of her brothers lived to man s estate, 
Benincasa, Bartolo, Stephen, and Sandro. Of the last named we 
know no more than that at the close of the fifteenth century his 
grandson was still living in Siena. The names of the other three 
often occur in St. Catherine s life and letters. Benincasa was old 
enough in 1346 to take a shop and business of his own ; 1 he 
married, and had several children and grandchildren. Bartolo, 
the second son, was married to Lisa di Golio di Piccio, first 
cousin to St. John Colombini : Stephen appears to have remained 
single, and died in Catherine s lifetime. Of the daughters, Nico- 
luccia was married to Palmiero della Fonte, to which family 
belonged Father Thomas della Fonte, the Saint s first confessor, 
who was brought up in her lather s house. Magdalen married 
Bartolo di Vannini ; of Bonaventura we have already spoken, and 
direct descendants from the two last-named sisters were living at 
Siena in Gigli s time ; a fourth sister, Lisa, remained unmarried, 
and died of the plague in 1374. 

The sons, after their marriage, continued, according to the 
custom of the age, to live with their parents ; and up to the time 
of Giacomo s death in 1368, the large family remained undivided, 
occupying the house of which we have already spoken as " the 
Fullonica." Catherine, as the youngest, 2 was the special object 
of her mother s tenderness. Nor was she the favourite of her 
own parents alone. As soon as she could walk, her winning ways 
attracted the notice of the neighbours, who were so charmed with 
her childish talk that they were always trying to entice her to 
their houses, so that Lapa found it no easy matter to keep her at 
home. They gave her the pet name of Euphrosyne, which in 
Greek signifies joy ; for, says F. Raymund, " as soon as any one 
conversed with her, sadness was dispelled from his heart." As 
she grew in years she grew also in grace and intelligence, and 

1 See the documents printed by Grottanelli. Note 49 to Leggenda Minore, 

2 She is so called by F. Raymund, but on the family tree appears the name 
of "Nanna, ultima nata" who died April 18, 1363. The probability, how 
ever, is, that this date is incorrect, and that Nanna was identical with 
Catherine s twin sister Giovanna, who died immediately after their birth. 


when no more than five years old, having learned the Hail Mary, 
she would recite it on each step of the stairs as she went up and 
down, kneeling on her knees with great reverence. " Whilst yet 
a mere baby," says a contemporary writer, 1 " the child delighted 
in going to churches and places of devotion." One day, when 
she was about six years old, her mother sent her, in company 
with her brother Stephen who was a little older, to the house of 
their married sister Bonaventura. Having discharged their errand 
they returned homewards, and crossing the Valle Piatta were 
about to turn into the street now known as the Cortone which 
leads down to Fontebranda, when raising her head and looking 
towards the Church of San Domenico on the opposite hill, 
Catherine saw in the heavens a majestic throne set, as it were, 
upon the gable-end of the church, on which throne appeared our 
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ crowned with a tiara and wearing 
pontifical robes, while beside Him stood St. Peter, St. Paul, and 
St. John the Evangelist, and several men in white garments. As 
she gazed in wonder at the heavenly vision she beheld how our 
Lord stretched out His right hand towards her, and made over 
her the sign of the cross, as when a bishop gives his blessing, at 
the same time bestowing on her a look full of majesty and tender 
ness. Rapt into a kind of ecstasy, she continued to stand and 
gaze, wholly absorbed, and as it were united spiritually with that 
most glorious Lord whom she there beheld, so that she forgot 
not only whither she was going, but her own self also, and 
remained there motionless, giving no heed either to men or beasts 
that passed that way; and so she would have remained even 
longer had no one called her away. But at length her brother, 
Stephen, who had gone on his way and imagined her to be 
following, turned back, and seeing her thus standing still in the 
midst of the road and gazing into the air, he called her aloud by 
her name, but she gave him no answer, and seemed not so much 
as to hear him. Then he drew nearer, still calling to her ; until 
at last, coming up to the spot where she stood, he took her by the 
hand, saying, " What are you doing, why are you staying here ? " 
1 Miracoli) p. 7. 


At which words, roused as it were out of a deep sleep as she felt 
him pulling her by the hand, she cast down her eyes, and looking 
at him for a moment, " Oh, did you but see the sight I saw," she 
said, " never would you have disturbed me." Then she once 
more raised her eyes, thinking again to have seen the lovely 
vision ; but all had vanished ; and full of grief she began to weep 
bitterly, supposing that she had through her own fault, by turning 
away her looks, deserved to lose that precious favour. " Having 
reached home," says the author of the Miracolt, " she said nothing 
to father or mother of what she had seen; but from that, day 
there grew up in her a certain carefulness of soul, a fear and 
remorse of conscience, and dread of committing sin as far as was 
possible to one at her age. And ever as she grew in years there 
increased in her this anxiety, and she bethought her what means 
she might take to offend God less, and was always seeking to be 
alone, and to steal away somewhere out of her parents sight that 
she might be able to say her prayers in secret." 1 This was the 
event which, young as she was, for ever drew her heart to the 
Supreme Beauty; to Him, whom once beheld, she never forgot, and 
in comparison of whom all earthly things from that hour became as 
nothingness. From that day she seemed no longer a child ; for 
" the heavenly fire of God s love had wrought such an attraction 
in her heart, such a light in her understanding, such a fervour in 
her will, such a pliantness in all her powers both of body and 
soul to follow the instinct of His Holy Spirit, that to those who 
saw her behaviour, and took good heed to her words and deeds, it 
seemed that she was made wholly conformed to Jesus Christ her 
sweet Spouse and Saviour." 2 

In speaking of this time afterwards to her confessor, F. 
Raymund, she acknowledged that it was not by reading, or by 
any human teaching, that the desire arose in her of following a 

1 Miracoli, 8, 9. The exact spot where this vision took place was marked 
by Gigli by a painting and an inscription in the street called the Cortone, 
which leads down to Fontebranda. A few years since the painting having 
faded, it was restored at the public expense. It is now no longer to be seen, 
but the inscription remains. 

2 Fen., p. 6. 


manner of life similar to that of which we read in the lives of the 
Fathers of the desert, and other Saints. It was God Himself 
who inspired it, until she could think of nothing but how she 
might best bring it to pass. She began, therefore, to plan for 
herself a new way of life, giving up all childish sports, diminish 
ing her food, and practising other kinds of penance. She also 
sought out for herself a retired part of the house, where she would 
scourge herself with a little discipline which she had fashioned 
out of some cords. Nor did she rest content until she had 
persuaded some of the neighbours children to follow her example, 
so that gathering themselves together with her, they would do 
the same, saying, meanwhile, a certain number of Paters and 
Aves, so many as she prescribed ; and persevering in these 
exercises of piety, the more she shunned the company of men 
the more did she grow in favour with God, so that often when 
she set herself to go up and down the stairs in her father s house, 
after the manner that has been already described, she was seen 
by many persons to be carried in the air without so much as 
touching any of the steps with her feet, and that with so great 
rapidity that her mother, who more than once beheld her so borne 
to the top, trembled lest she should fall. 

But the great desire which at this time took possession of her 
heart was to seek out some solitary place in the wilderness where 
she might serve God after the manner of the ancient hermits ; 
and following this dream of a childish imagination she determined 
to leave her father s house, and to set forth in search of the 
desert. One morning, therefore, prudently providing herself with 
a loaf of bread, she directed her steps towards the residence of 
her married sister, which was near the Gate of St. Ansano. 1 
Passing through this gate, she found herself for the first time in 
her life outside the city walls, and going on she came at last to 

1 Frigerio, and after him the Bollandists and P. Capecelatro, identify this 
as the present Gate of St. Mark. But Signer Grottanelli has corrected this 
error. The Gate of St. Ansano (which was so called from being close to the 
spot where, according to tradition, the martyr St. Ansano was thrown into a 
vessel of boiling pitch) no longer exists ; and its site is now occupied by the 
Church of St. Sebastian, near the Fosso di St. Ansano. 


where she saw the houses standing one here and another there, 
and not together as she was wont to see them in the city, for 
which reason she was glad, hoping that now she must be near to 
the wilderness. However, she held on her way a little further, 
and came at last to a place where she found a sort of cave under 
a shelving rock, which she entered with great joy, believing that 
she had found at last her much-desired solitude. Without more 
delay, then, she fell on her knees and began to pray, and gave 
thanks to God, who was pleased to give her a sensible token 
that He accepted her good intention, although it was not His 
purpose to call her to that manner of life. For as she prayed 
with great fervour she was lifted up .above the ground as far as 
the height of the cave would suffer her to rise ; and so she con 
tinued until the hour of None. But at that same hour when our 
Lord was taken down from the Cross, she began by little and 
little to descend, and understanding at the same time by a secret 
inspiration that it was not the wish of her Divine Master that she 
should serve Him after this manner, she thought within herself 
how she should return home. But coming out of the cave, and 
finding herself all alone, and a long way from the city gate, she 
began to fear lest she should not be able to get so far, and con 
sidered also the trouble which her father and mother would feel, 
believing her to be lost She therefore again had recourse to 
prayer, and as she herself afterwards acknowledged to her sister- 
in-law, Lisa, God failed not to supply her weakness, for He sent 
a little cloud which lifted her from the ground and carrying her 
in the air set her down very shortly at the gate of the city, whence 
she made her way home with all speed and found that her parents 
were in no anxiety about her, supposing her to have been spend 
ing the day with her sister Bonaventura. 

The failure of this attempt in no way abated Catherine s ardour ; 
and understanding that she was not called to follow the life of the 
ancient hermits, she resolved at least to imitate those holy virgins 
of whom she had heard that they dedicated themselves to God by 
a vow of virginity in their earliest years. Knowing nothing of 
the world and its pleasures, she yet longed to renounce them for 


the love of Him, the vision of Whom " had utterly extinguished 
in her," says F. Raymund, "the love of this life." One day, 
therefore, when she was about seven years oldXafter praying 
much that our Blessed Lady, the Queen of virgins, would inter 
cede for her with her Divine Son, that she might be shown the 
way in which she might best please Him, she retired to a secret 
place where she felt sure of being neither seen nor heard, and 
kneeling down she spoke aloud to the Blessed Virgin in the fol 
lowing words : " O most Blessed Lady, and Sacred Mother of 
God ! who before all other women didst by vow consecrate thy 
virginity to God, I beseech thee to obtain for me such grace and 
favour with thy Son that, from this day forward, I may take Him 
to be the Spouse of my soul. And I here give my faith and pro 
mise to Him and to thee, that I will never take other spouse but 
Him, and so far as in me lies will keep myself pure and unspotted 
for Him alone to the end of my days."/^ 

This done, she set herself to consider what steps she might best 
take to secure her own fidelity to that which she had promised. 
She regarded herself as henceforth bound to a life of perfection. 
"She often assured her confessors," says Caffarini, 1 "that from 
the time she thus consecrated herself to God (which she did when 
little more than six years old), if she entertained so much as an 
idle thought, or fell into any fault which, however trifling, seemed 
enormous in her eyes, she lost no time in humbling herself and 
doing penance." Moreover, by a secret instinct of grace, she 
understood that she had now entered on a warfare with nature 
which demanded the mortification of every sense. She resolved, 
therefore, to add fasting and watching to her other penances, and 
in particular to abstain entirely from meat: so that when any 
was placed before her, she either gave it to her brother Stephen 
who sat beside her, or threw it under the table to the cats, in 
such a manner as to avoid notice. She began also to feel a great 
zeal, not only for her own sanctincation, but also for that of other 
souls whom she longed to gain to God. On this account she 
cherished a singular devotion towards those saints who had 

1 Sup., Part I, Trat. 2, I. 


laboured most for the salvation of souls. And learning that the 
great patriarch, St. Dominic, had founded his Order expressly 
for this end, she conceived a special love for him, and was 
accustomed to hold the brethren of that Order in such reverence 
that when she saw any of them passing her father s house, she 
would go after them and humbly kiss the very steps where they 
had set their feet. In her childish imagination she even longed 
to embrace their rule, and disguising herself as a man to be 
received among them in some distant cloister where she, too, in 
the livery of St. Dominic, might spend her days in winning souls 
to God; a thought which had perhaps been first suggested by 
the history of St. Euphrosyne, by whose name, as has been said, 
she was commonly called, and with whose legend on that account 
she was probably familiar. 

Yet with the lively imagination of a child there mingled, even 
at this early age, in the character of Catherine, a sense and 
maturity far beyond her years. Her parents and their neighbours 
often had occasion to admire the gravity and discretion of her 
words, which inspired them with a feeling of respect. One 
instance of this was often related by Lapa, and has been pre 
served by all her biographers. She was not yet ten years old 
when one day her mother called her, and bade her go to their 
parish church l and ask the priest to say a mass in honour of St. 
Antony, at the same time giving her some money and candles 
which were to be offered at the altar. Catherine gladly obeyed, 
and having discharged her commission, she stayed for her own 
devotion till the end of the mass. But her mother thought that 
she would have returned home after making her oblation to the 
priest ; and on her reappearance addressed her in angry words, 
" Cursed be the tongues ! " she exclaimed, " that said my 
daughter should come no more ; 2 she has come at length, though 
she has tarried long on the way." The child hearing these words 

1 Of St. Antonio in Fontebranda, Diario San., 2. 71. 

a Raymund explains this as a sort of idiom in use among the vulgar when 
expostulating with any one who delays : " Cosi suol dirsi da alcuni del volgo 
a coloro che troppo indugiano." Leg., Part I, cap. 3. 


held herself still for a while and returned no answer. But after 
a little space, when she had, as it were, taken counsel with her 
self, she drew her mother aside, and said with great gravity and 
respect, " My honoured mother, 1 when you see me transgress any 
of your commands, beat me with a rod if you think well, that 
I may be more wary another time, for it is only right that you 
should do so. But one thing I pray, that for my faults you curse 
no man or woman in this world, for it is unseemly for you to do 
so, and a great grief for me to hear." Her mother wondered as 
she listened to the wise words of the child ; but not wishing to 
show what she felt, she asked her why she had stayed so long 
away. " I only stayed," she replied, " to hear the mass which 
you bid me ask for, and that done, I came straight home again, 
and went nowhere else." Lapa was greatly edified at this reply ; 
and as soon as her husband came home she told him all that 
had passed, and both gave thanks to God for the singular tokens 
of grace and prudence which became daily more apparent in 
their little daughter. 

1 Leg., Part I, cap. 3. Madonna Madre ; an expression of unusual respect, 
which Catherine used because she was about to say what implied a reproof of 
her mother ; and she desired therefore to express it in the most humble and 
deferential language. 



WHEN Catherine was about twelve years old, her father 
and mother began to think how they might bestow her 
in marriage, and according to the custom of the country with 
young maidens of that age, she was kept more strictly at home, 
while at the same time her mother began to urge her to give 
more time and attention to her dress and the adornment of her 
hair and person. These exhortations were very unwelcome to 
Catherine, who was far indeed from desiring to make herself 
more attractive to the eyes of men. On the contrary, she avoided 
them with a kind of horror, and as her confessor informs us, if 
she chanced, at this time, to meet any of her father s apprentices 
who lived in the house, she fled from them as if they had been 
serpents. Neither would she even approach the door or window 
to gaze at passers-by, her whole anxiety being to keep herself 
hidden from all notice. It may well be supposed, therefore, that 
she showed small willingness to comply with her mother s wishes ; 
so that after many fruitless contentions, Lapa was forced to call 
in the aid of her married daughter Bonaventura, whom she begged 
to use her influence with her sister and persuade her to adopt the 
dress and ornaments suitable to her age. She well knew the 
special affection which Catherine bore towards her elder sister, 
and trusted that Bonaventura might succeed where she had failed. 
Nor were her hopes disappointed. The example and persuasive 
words of Bonaventura won so far upon her sister, that she was 
induced to give more time to her toilette, and particularly to the 
care of her hair, which was of great beauty. John Pino, in his 


Life of the Saint, describes it as being of a golden brown, 1 an 
expression confirmed by F. Bartholomew Dominici in his deposi 
tion. Hair of this particular hue has always been held in singular 
esteem by the natives of Italy, and Lapa might therefore have 
been well content with the personal advantages which nature had 
bestowed on her daughter. But there existed at that time the 
ridiculous fashion of using certain unguents for the purpose of 
altering the natural colour of the hair, and Lapa could not be 
satisfied until Catherine s beautiful tresses had been subjected to 
this ill-advised treatment. 2 

Her triumph, however, was of short duration. If, in compli 
ance with her sister s persuasion, Catherine had yielded somewhat 
to the besetting folly of her sex, she no sooner had time for re 
flection than she conceived an intense remorse for her weakness, 
believing herself to have been thereby guilty of a grievous offence 
against God. And in this light she ever continued to regard it ; 
weeping over her fault, and again and again seeking to wash away 
the stain which she thought she had contracted by humble self- 
accusation. She used often to make a general confession of her 
whole life, and whenever she came to this point, says F. Raymund, 
" she could make no end of weeping and lamenting." As she 
appeared to consider this fault as one deserving of eternal punish 
ment, he once took occasion to question her whether at that time 
she had any purpose of acting contrary to her vow. To which 
she replied that such a thought had never once entered her heart. 
Then he inquired if she had desired to be liked or admired by 
men ; and she answered by saying that there was nothing that 
grieved her more than when by any necessity she was seen by 
them. " Why, then," said he, " do you take your offence to be 

1 Flavum ilium capillum et aureum, jubet abicere. Pino, Vila, p. 8. 
Capillos flavos quos habebat, abscidit. Proces?, 1314. 

2 We gather this from the expression used by Caffarini in the Leggenda 
Minore, "Era sollecita, che Caterina facci S capegli bionJi" Signer Grot- 
tanelli has drawn attention to this circumstance, hitherto overlooked, but 
which throws considerable light on the whole story, and he quotes a recipe 
for the preparation of this singular cosmetic, which is preserved in the Siena 


so grievous in the sight of God ? " " Because," said she, sobbing 
and sighing from the bottom of her heart, " I think that at that 
time I preferred the love of my sister before the love of God ; 
and while I was afraid of offending a silly creature, I offended 
the Divine Majesty of the everlasting Creator and the sweet 
Spouse of my soul, Jesus Christ." Then her confessor, desiring 
to comfort her, said to her, "Although there was some excess, 
yet considering that it was but little and done for no evil intent, 
but only for a vain pleasure at that time, I take it, it was not 
against the commandment of God." When she heard her con 
fessor say so, she lifted up her eyes to heaven, and cried with a 
loud voice : "O my Lord God, what a ghostly father is this, that 
excuses my sins ? " Then turning to her confessor again, she 
said : " Father, think you that a vile creature who has received 
so many graces and gifts of her Creator, of His mere goodness, 
without any merit on her part, could without sin withdraw any 
time from the service of such a loving and bountiful Lord, and 
bestow it upon this miserable carcass ? " l When he heard these 
words and saw that they proceeded from a heart inflamed with 
the love of God, he said no more. Nevertheless, examining into 
the whole state of her conscience, he takes occasion from this 
passage of her life to notice how great must have been the purity 
of that soul which could charge itself with no more heinous 
offence than the one in question. 

Light, however, as her fault might appear in the judgment of 
the world, it brought with it a certain relaxation of fervour, so 
that Catherine perceived in herself that she was slacker and 
colder in her prayers than she had been before. But her Beloved, 
who would not suffer that his chosen Spouse should, in ever so 
small a degree, become estranged from His Heart, was pleased to 
remove out of the way that too natural affection which seemed 
the only obstacle that could endanger the closeness of her union 
with Himself. Bonaventura died in the flower of her age, in the 
August of 1362, 2 and Catherine, more than ever impressed by 

1 Fen., p. 20. 

2 The date of this event, which fixes the chronology of this part of St. 


her sister s death, with the vanity of all earthly ties, devoted 
herself with renewed fervour to the service of God. Prostrating 
in the presence of God and uniting herself in spirit with the great 
penitent St. Mary Magdalene, she wept anew over her infidelity 
with bitter regret, until at length she deserved to hear those 
comfortable words spoken by our Lord in her heart, " Thy sins 
are forgiven thee." And from that day forward she began to 
bear a special love towards St. Mary Magdalene, and to take her 
as an example of penance. 

The death of Bonaventura was made by her parents the occa 
sion for busying themselves yet more seriously how to bestow 
Catherine in marriage. But as she opposed a resolute resistance 
to all such plans, they addressed themselves to Father Thomas 
della Fonte, a Friar Preacher, and a connection of the family, 
and besought him to procure her consent. Father Thomas was 
well known to Catherine. He had, as we have said, been 
brought up in her father s house, and to him she had confided 
the history of her first vision. When he found how firm was her 
will and purpose to devote herself to God, he was far from seek 
ing to oppose her resolution, and instead of arguing with her, 
offered his advice as to the most prudent manner of acting. 
" My daughter," he said, " since you are fully resolved to serve 
God in the holy state of virginity, being called thereto by God 
Himself, I have no more to say : you have chosen the better part, 
and may our Lord give you grace to follow it. And now if you 
think well to follow my counsel, I would advise you to cut off 
your hair, which will prove to your parents that they must give 
up all hopes of your marriage, and will also save you the time 
that must needs be spent upon its care and adornment." Catherine 
was not slow in following this advice, and that the more willingly 
as she regarded her beautiful hair with a certain displeasure as 
having been the occasion to her of the fault she so profoundly 

Catherine s life, is thus stated in the Necrology of St. Dominic s Convent : 
1362, Domina Bonaventnra filia J acobi tintoris de Fontebranda, uxor Nicolai 
Teggkacci, sepulta est die d(dma Atigusti" This would make Catherine fifteen 
years of age at the time of her sister s death. 


regretted. Taking a pair of scissors, therefore, she cut it all 
away, and to conceal what she had done, she covered her head 
with a coif, contrary to the custom of young maidens of her 
tender age. When Lapa perceived this, she inquired the reason 
of her going thus with her head covered; but Catherine, who dared 
neither to utter a falsehood nor to avow the truth, gave but a 
faltering and indistinct answer. Then Lapa hastily seized the 
coif, and as she removed it, beheld her daughter s head bare, and 
shorn of its golden tresses. On this she raised a cry of anger, 
which quickly summoned to the spot the rest of the family. 
They were all much offended with her, and gave her plainly to 
understand that in spite of her opposition their plans regarding 
her would not in any wise be abandoned. Catherine appealed to 
her brothers, 1 assuring them that she cared not how they might 
deal with her : she desired to be no sort of charge to the family, 
and would be content to live on bread and water, so that they 
would consent to leave her in peace ; but their pride would not 
suffer them to yield the point in dispute. It was agreed that her 
spirit must be conquered, and to effect this, they insisted on a 
thorough change in her manner of life. Henceforward, it was 
agreed that she should no longer have any private chamber of 
her own to which she might resort, but that she should be con 
tinually occupied about the household service, so as to have no 
time left for prayer and meditation. To show how little account 
they made of her, the kitchen-maid was dismissed, and Catherine 
was appointed in her place to do all the menial drudgery. Nor 
was she even left at peace whilst so occupied, but as she went 
about her work, they constantly reproached her in severe and 
cutting language, seeking thus to weary out her constancy and 
force her to yield to their wishes. They even selected a suitable 
person whom they designed for her husband, and left no means 
untried to win Catherine s compliance. " But," says her biogra 
pher, "her heart was so thoroughly possessed with the love of 
Christ, her chosen Spouse, that she would not hear of any other. 
And whereas they had debarred her of a secret place to which 
1 Miracoli, p. U. 


she might withdraw herself for prayer and meditation, our merci 
ful Lord taught her, by the inward instinct of His Holy Spirit, 
how she should build a secret chamber or oratory in her own 
heart, where she might dwell delightfully with her sweet Spouse 
so long as she desired, and never be plucked out, whatever befell. 
And whereas, before, she was forced sometimes to go out of her 
chamber, and so to be distracted with outward affairs, now, con 
trariwise, she shut up herself so closely in this cell, and took such 
passing delight in the presence of her love and joy, Jesus Christ, 
whose delight it is to dwell in pure hearts, that howsoever they 
cried and called about her, reproaching her in words or deeds, 
she passed with all such things so quietly, as if they had never 
been spoken or done to her. 

" And as for their abasing her to the vile services of the house, 
that turned but little to the advantage of the enemy. For when 
she saw that her father and mother had appointed her to do all 
the works of drudgery in the kitchen and other places of the 
house, she never repined at it, but turned it all to her greater 
merit by this holy imagination. She had this conceit with herself 
that her father represented in the house our Saviour Christ ; her 
mother, our Blessed Lady ; her brethren, sisters, and others of 
the family, the apostles and disciples of Christ. The kitchen she 
imagined to be the innermost tabernacle of the temple, called 
sancta sanctorum, where the principal sacrifices were offered up 
to God. And with this hply imagination she went up and down 
the house like a diligent Martha, and in her father, mother, and 
brethren, served Christ with His blessed Mother and Saints so 
cheerfully, and with such a glad heart, that the whole house had 
great wonder of it." l 

However, as she could not be without some chamber in which 
to rest, and she was denied any to her own use, she chose to be 
in her brother Stephen s room, where, when he was away, she 
might sometimes retire by day, and where also she might pray in 
the night-time when he was asleep. The sweetness and constancy 
with which she bore herself under these hard trials began mean- 
1 Fen., 30-32. 


while to open the eyes of her parents, and they humbly confessed 
it to one another, saying, " She has conquered us." Her father 
in particular, having more spiritual discernment than his wife, 
began to see that his daughter s conduct had been inspired by 
something higher than mere stubbornness. This impression was 
confirmed by an accidental circumstance that happened about 
this time. One day when Catherine was in her brother s chamber 
at prayer, leaving the door open (for her father and mother had 
given her charge that she should be nowhere with the door shut 
upon her), her father entering into the chamber by chance and 
seeking something there of his son s that he had need of at that 
time, found her in a corner kneeling devoutly on her knees ; 
and, casting up his eyes, saw a little white dove sitting over her 
head, which dove, so soon as he was entered, to his seeming, 
flew out at the chamber window, at which being somewhat 
amazed, he asked her what dove that was. "Sir," said she, " I 
never saw dove nor other bird in the chamber that I know of." 
When he heard this, he was very much astonished, but kept the 
matter secretly to himself. Nevertheless, reflecting on what he 
had seen, and comparing it with the constancy and patience 
exhibited by his daughter, he was led to conclude that she was 
truly following the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. 

At the same time Catherine was permitted more clearly to 
understand the state of life to which God was pleased to call her. 
From her very childhood, as we have seen, she had entertained 
a special love towards the great patriarch, St. Dominic, and a 
desire to be enrolled among his children. One night as she slept, 
it seemed to her that she beheld all the founders of the different 
religious rules, and among them St. Dominic, whom she recog 
nised by his habit and by the lily which he carried in his hand. 
They appeared to invite her to choose one of their rules in which 
to serve God for the remainder of her life. Casting her eyes on 
St. Dominic, that loving father drew near to her, holding in his 
hand the habit of his Third Order of Penance, 1 and addressed 

1 The Third Order founded by St. Dominic, and called by him the " Militia 
of Jesus Christ," became known after his death as the " Order of Penance of 


her with these consoling words : " Daughter, be of good cheer, 
fear no obstacle, you shall one day wear this habit." 

The comfort she received from this assurance was so great, 
that the next day she assembled her parents and brothers, and 
addressed them with no less grace than courage in the following 
terms : " It is now a long time since you began to treat with me 
that I should marry with some mortal man, which talk, however 
much I abhorred, I never declared plainly but concealed it in 
part, for the reverence that I bear you. But now I may no longer 
hold my peace ; and, therefore, I must open my heart and pur 
pose to you in plain words. I have made a full resolution and 
promise to my Lord and Saviour, and to His most glorious Mother, 
the Blessed Virgin Mary, that I will serve them all the days of 
my life in the pure and holy state of virginity, and I give you to 
understand that this is no new thing, or lately come upon me, 
but a thing that I have desired even from my infancy, being 
moved thereto not by any childish lightness, but after careful 
thought and not without evident tokens of the will of God ; there 
fore I have vowed that I will never incline my heart to accept any 
other husband, but only Him. Now, then, being come, by His 
gracious goodness, to the years of discretion, I thought it my duty 
to tell you in express terms, that thus much I have, by the will of 
God, faithfully promised, and thus much I will, by the grace of 
God, truly observe. This purpose is so deeply imprinted in my 
soul, that it will be more easy to make a hard flint soft than to 
take this resolution out of my heart. Wherefore, I humbly beseech 
you, lose no more time in treating with me about marriage, for 
in this matter I may not condescend to your request, because I 

St. Dominic." It included members of both sexes, and B. Andrea Gallerani, 
the founder of the Casa della Misericordia, is called by some the first Domini 
can Tertiary. The Sisters were not cloistered nuns bound by the three vows 
of religion, though in process of time regular communities were formed among 
them. As originally founded they lived in their own houses, one of their own 
members who bore the title of Prioress governing them according to their 
rule, under the direction of the Friars. The Dominican Sisters of Penance were 
at this time very numerous in Siena ; and in 1352, a hundred of them volun 
tarily bound themselves to wear the habit even until death. 


have plighted my faith and truth to Jesus Christ alone, whose 
love I must prefer before all earthly creatures. If it shall please 
you to keep me in your house, with this condition, as your com 
mon servant, I will serve you willingly and obediently to the 
uttermost of my power. If you think, by putting me out of your 
house, to force me to yield to your command for lack of necessary 
provision, assure yourselves no such fear can alter my mind in 
this matter. For I have chosen Him for my Spouse who giveth 
food to all living creatures, and who will not suffer them that 
repose themselves with confidence in His goodness to be destitute 
of necessary things." 

These words were said with such grace and modesty that those 
who heard her were struck to the heart, and so overcome with 
tears, that for a good space they were unable to give her one 
word for answer. At last Giacomo, who was a good man and 
full of the fear of God, and who moreover called to mind the 
dove which only a day or two before he had seen over her head, 
and the other tokens of heavenly favour which he had observed 
in her behaviour, mastered his emotion so far as to be able to 
reply: "Dearest daughter," he said, "God forbid that we should 
desire anything contrary to the will of God, from whom this deter 
mination of yours proceeds. Your patience and constancy suffi 
ciently declare to us that this your choice comes from no caprice, 
but from a fervent love of God. In His name, therefore, follow 
freely what you have vowed ; from this day forth none in this 
house shall hinder you. Only pray for us to your heavenly 
Spouse that we may be found worthy of the eternal life which He 
has promised." Then turning to his wife and his other children, 
he continued, " From this day forward let none be so bold as to 
molest my daughter s freedom for in truth the alliance she has 
chosen is more honourable for us than that which we sought to 
accomplish. We have no cause to complain of what she has 
done, she has made a fair exchange. She has refused to be 
matched with a mortal man, and has chosen to be espoused to 
the immortal God and man, Christ Jesus." When he had finished 
speaking, Lapa still wept, for she loved her daughter sensibly; 


and it seemed to her that it was hard to renounce the worldly 
hopes regarding her on which she had set her heart ; but Catherine 
rejoiced with unspeakable gladness, and from that hour had no 
other care in her heart than how she might best make profit of 
the liberty that had been granted to her. 



A^TER having obtained from her parents the freedom of serving 
God according to her desire, Catherine set herself to order 
her life after an entirely new manner ; and first she begged to 
have some room to herself, no matter how mean or inconvenient 
it might be. The chamber assigned her, and of which she joyfully 
took possession, was a little cell under her father s house, no more 
than five metres long and three in width. It was lighted by one 
small window to which a few brick steps led up, the remains of 
which may still be seen, and on which it is said she often rested 
her head when sleeping. Here she retired as into the solitude 
of a desert, giving herself up to rigorous penance and uninter 
rupted prayer. Up to this time, as Lapa would often testify, 
Catherine was possessed of unusual physical strength, so that she 
had no difficulty in taking a horse load on her shoulders and 
running with it up two flights of stairs to the attics. But this 
robust temperament soon gave way under the austerities to which 
she now subjected herself. From this time she entirely abstained 
from flesh-meat, as well as from all kinds of sweet or savoury 
things, so that in process of time it became impossible for her 
to swallow them without extreme suffering. Wine also she re 
nounced, drinking nothing but pure water. And she went on 
daily retrenching some new article of food till she came at last 
to take only a little bread and some raw herbs, and even these 
she swallowed with difficulty. A few planks composed her bed, 
with a log of wood for her pillow. She wore a rough haircloth 
which, from a motive of cleanliness, she afterwards exchanged for 


an iron chain ; l she also gradually prolonged her night-watches 
till she so entirely overcame the disposition to sleep, as to allow 
herself no more than half an hour of repose, and that only every 
other day ; but as she afterwards acknowledged to F. Raymund, 
no victory over nature had cost her so dearly as this. 

When her mother became aware of these practices, she was 
greatly concerned ; and set herself to do what she could to soften 
the rigour of Catherine s austerities. In particular she entreated 
her for a time to give up her hard bed and to come and sleep 
with her. Catherine would not vex her mother by a refusal, and 
accompanied her therefore to her chamber, but with no intention 
of giving herself any extra indulgence. When her mother was 
laid in one side of the bed, she went and laid herself down in the 
other side, where she continued watching in prayer and meditation, 
until at length perceiving her mother to be fast asleep, she rose 
up softly, without making any noise, and applied herself to her 
wonted exercises. But Lapa, whose mother s heart was ever 
wakeful, soon discovered her daughter s stratagems and took them 
in very ill part. Whereupon Catherine, who had always a great 
care to do nothing that might grieve her mother, hit on a new 
device, by which she thought she might both satisfy her mother s 
mind and exercise in some degree her accustomed discipline. 
She took two pieces of wood and put them secretly into the bed, 
under the sheet, on the side where she should lie, and laid herself 
down upon the same. But it was not so privately done but that 
the mother, who had a great jealousy of all her doings, within a 
short time found it out. So when she saw that, however diligent 
and careful she was to qualify the rigour of her daughter s life, 
she would, on the other side, be as inventive to find means of 
continuing the same ; as one overcome, she gave it up, and said 
to her : " Daughter, I see well it boots not to strive with you any 

1 Portions of her hair-shirt are preserved in the chapel of the Fullonica, 
and elsewhere. The iron chain is kept in the Sacristy of San Domenico. It 
originally possessed twenty-four links, but several have been given away to 
various Dominican convents. Three were sent in 1714 to the Church of St. 
Catherine at Leghorn. The discipline, also made of iron chains armed with 
points, is kept in the Sacristy of San Domenico. 


longer, I do but lose my labour. Wherefore, in God s name, go 
your way and take your rest in your own chamber at what time 
and in what manner you may think best." l And she resolved to 
make no further attempt to control her. But from this resolution 
she was soon moved by a fresh discovery. Catherine had a great 
desire to imitate her holy father, St. Dominic, in his triple disci 
plines, and following his example she was wont to chastise her 
body three times every day with a discipline made of iron chains 
garnished with sharp points, offering this penance the first time 
for her own sins ; the second time for the souls of others, and 
the third for the dead. These disciplines lasted for an hour and 
a half at a time, and were so severe, that the blood flowed abun 
dantly. One day when Lapa chanced to be near the chamber 
she heard the sound of blows, and entering suddenly, beheld the 
piteous sight ; on which, losing all command over herself, she 
raised such a cry that the neighbours came running in to see what 
ailed her, and so were witnesses with her of the rigorous penances 
of her daughter. 

All this time Catherine had not forgotten the promise given 
her in her dream, that she should one day receive the habit of 
Penance of the Blessed Dominic. Day and night she prayed 
that the happy day might soon appear which should bring the 
accomplishment of her wishes. And fearing that until she had 
taken this step she should never be quite safe from molestation 
on the part of her family, she herself begged her mother to inter 
cede for her with the Mantellate (as the Sisters of the Third 
Order were then commonly called), that they would admit her 
to their number. This petition was very unwelcome to Lapa, 
and to divert her thoughts into another channel, she proposed 
that Catherine should accompany her to some hot baths in the 
neighbourhood of Siena, hoping that by forcing her thus to take 
some recreation she might win her over to give up her present 
severe manner of life, as well as her plans for the future. Catherine 
made no difficulty in agreeing to her mother s request, and they 
set out for the baths, which are supposed to have been those of 
1 Fen., p. 44. 


Vignone, on the right bank of the Orcia. 1 But she had no 
thought of giving herself any bodily indulgence. On the con 
trary, she took occasion of this visit to the baths to practise a 
new kind of penance. She begged her mother that they might 
enter the bath alone ; and Lapa willingly consenting, having no 
suspicion of her daughter s intention, she went and placed her 
self under the spout where the sulphureous water came scalding 
hot into the bath, and there suffered patiently greater pains from 
the heat of the water, than she was wont to do at home when 
she beat herself with the iron chain. When her mother perceived 
this, and saw that whatever she devised for the comfort of her 
daughter was, by her contrivance, turned to a contrary end, she 
determined to return home, but failed not on the road to make 
Catherine understand how much she was displeased with these 
excessive penances. Catherine never argued the point with her 
mother ; she listened to all she had to say with modesty and in 
silence, but it did not still the voice of God which sounded in her 
heart, and drew her by a powerful attraction to a life of heroic 
sacrifice, of which Lapa little understood the secret. Caffarini 
tells us that as they returned from the baths, it was observed 
that she walked with her eyes shut, her mind abstracted from 
the bodily senses and wholly absorbed in God. "As I, who 
write," he continues, " have many times seen her walk, and if I 
had not seen it, I never could have believed it." 2 

The suffering which Catherine had endured at the baths proved 
the immediate occasion of her long-cherished desire being granted. 
On her return home she pressed her mother to undertake her 
suit with the Sisters of Penance, and overcome with her impor 
tunity, poor Lapa at last complied; and going to the Sisters, 
presented her daughter s request. It met at first with no success. 
They answered that it was not their custom to receive young 

1 There was a chapel here in St. Catherine s time, dedicated to St. 
Catherine the Martyr, as we learn from a survey of Siena made in 1334 by 
Simon da Fondi. This chapel was rebuilt in 1660, and dedicated to St. 
Catherine of Siena. 

2 Caff., Leg. Min., cap. 7. 

VOL. I. C 


maidens among them, but only widows of mature years, who 
might be expected to behave with becoming gravity ; because 
not living in community or keeping enclosure, it was necessary to 
exercise great prudence in the admission of members. Lapa 
returned with this answer to her daughter, who was not dis 
couraged, but entreated her mother to try again, which she did, 
but with no better result than before. Meanwhile Catherine fell 
sick, her malady being partly caused, as it would seem, by her 
adventure at the baths. Lapa, who tenderly loved her child, was 
overcome with "sorrow, and watched by her sick-bed with unre 
mitting care. Catherine profited of the occasion to win from her 
mother the promise that she would make a third appeal to the 
Sisters of Penance. " If you wish me to recover health," she 
said, " obtain for me this favour ; otherwise, be well assured that 
God and St Dominic will take me from you altogether." 

At such a moment Lapa could refuse her nothing, and once 
more returning to the Sisters she pressed her request with such 
importunity, that they were in a manner forced to yield consent. 
" If your daughter," said they, " be not over fair we are content 
to receive her. If she be, the malice of the world is such that 
you would hazard the good name, both of your daughter and all 
of us, and, therefore, we could in no wise receive her." On which 
the mother answered, saying, " Come, yourselves, and judge 
whether she be fair or no." They sent therefore two discreet 
matrons, chosen from among themselves, to examine both her 
personal appearance and her dispositions of mind. On coming 
to the house they found Catherine lying on her bed, and so altered 
by sickness that they were satisfied her beauty was at any rate 
not excessive. By her words, however, they judged that she had 
a most fervent desire to serve God, and were greatly astonished 
at the wisdom which appeared in one of such tender years. And 
so, taking their leave, they went home to the rest of their company, 
and declared to them what they had heard and seen. Upon this 
report, the Sisters communicated the matter to the Brethren of 
the Order, and that done, resolved with full consent to receive 
her to the habit, sending word to Lapa, that so soon as her 


daughter was recovered, she should bring her to them without 
longer delay. 1 At these tidings Catherine wept for very joy, and 
gave thanks to God and St. Dominic ; praying that her recovery 
might be hastened, so that she might speedily be fit to receive 
the holy habit. In fact, the joy of her heart seemed to give back 
health to her body, so that the malady from which she had been 
suffering rapidly disappeared. But the enemy was allowed to 
assail her constancy by one more trial, which is thus related by 
Caffarini in his Supplement : " One day towards the close of 
evening, not long before the holy virgin obtained the habit of St. 
Dominic, as she was shut up in the chamber which her father 
had given her, praying after her custom before the crucifix, the 
evil spirit appeared to her in a form rather pleasing than terrifying, 
bringing with him a quantity of rich dresses and stuff of the finest 
silk which he displayed before her, whilst he tried with flattering 
words to induce her to accept them. Catherine repulsed him 
with scorn and drove him away ; but as he disappeared she felt 
herself for the first time assaulted by a strange temptation. There 
arose within her a violent desire to go forth and show herself 
abroad, dressed not only in the gay attire commonly worn by 
girls at her age, but in the more luxurious costume which at that 
time was adopted by newly-married women. Tormented by the 
presence of so odious a temptation, she turned to the crucifix, 
saying, " My sweetest Lord, you know I have never desired a 
mortal spouse ; help me in this trial, I ask not to be delivered 
from it, but to have strength to overcome." As she prayed, there 
appeared to her our Blessed Lady, who showed her a garment of 
dazzling richness, which she had drawn out of that casket of all 
treasures, the wounded side of her Divine Son. And as she 
clothed Catherine with this inestimable robe, she said to her, 
" My daughter, know this, that the garments drawn from the side 
of my Son surpass in beauty all that can be fashioned by the 
hand of man." 2 

Her reception of the holy habit of St. Dominic took place on a 
Sunday, in the chapel assigned to the use of the Sisters in the 
1 Fen., p. 54. 2 Sun., Part I, Trat. I, 4. 


Church of St. Dominic, commonly called Delle Volte. The date 
of this event is not given by Raymund, and we have no means 
by which to fix it precisely, but it was probably about the year 
I364. 1 He merely tells us that the ceremony took place accord 
ing to the accustomed form, in the presence of the Brethren and 
the Sisters. Catherine s name is twice inscribed in their register, 
once as " Katerina Jacobi Benincasa," and a second time as 
" Catherina di Lapa." From that day, according to the custom 
of the Sisters, she constantly wore the white veil and habit and 
the black mantle of the Order, from which they received the 
vulgar name of the " Mantellate." This " black mantle of 
humility " was specially dear to Catherine. Her secretary, Neri 
di Landoccio, writing to Caffarini, told him that she always 
regarded the mantle in which she was first dedicated to her 
Spouse as a most precious thing, and was accustomed to say : 
"It shall never be taken from me." If it was ever torn, she 
would patch and mend it with her own hands, for she would say, 
" I wish it to last after I am gone." Yet dearly as she loved her 
mantle, she once parted with it at the call of charity. "One 
day," says Stephen Maconi in his letter to Caffarini, which is 
inserted in the Process, "as she was setting out with her com 
panions she met a poor person who begged an alms with much 
importunity. She said to him : I assure you, my dear brother, 
that I have no money. But, said he, you could give me that 
mantle. That is true, said Catherine, giving it to him. Those 
who accompanied her had much difficulty in redeeming the 
mantle, because the poor man made them pay very dear for it ; 
and when they asked her how she could resolve to walk out 
without the mantle of her Order, she replied in these noble 
words : / would rather be without my mantle than without 
charity: " 

1 P. Capecelatro, who is followed by M. Cartier, supposes her to have 
received the habit of Penance so early as 1362. But this is manifestly impos 
sible, as Bonaventura s death did not take place until the August of that year, 
so that under this supposition all the subsequent events narrated above would 
have occupied no more than four months. 


On her deathbed the saint left this mantle as a legacy to her 
first confessor, F. Thomas Delia Fonte, from whose hands she 
had probably received it. He left it when dying to his niece, 
Catherine Cothi, also one of the Mantellate, and she gave it as a 
sacred relic to F. Thomas Caffarini. By him it was carried to 
Venice in 1398, where many persons out of devotion chose to be 
invested with it when received into the Third Order. It was long 
kept by the Sisters of Penance of that city in a chest of gilt wood, 
and was the means of working many cures both corporal and 



ay that Catherine received the holy habit of 
Penance," says Caffarini, 1 " she entered her little chamber 
and began to meditate on the strange and sorrowful problem how 
men could love and follow after the perishable things of this world, 
whilst the voice of God was ever inviting them to taste of His 
consolations. As she so pondered, there appeared before the eyes 
of her soul a magnificent tree loaded with the richest fruit, but 
hedged about with prickly thorns that made it difficult to approach. 
Not far from the tree was a fair hill covered with ears of golden 
corn, but the ears though beautiful to look upon, were black and 
foul within, and withered at the touch. Some persons came and 
gazed at the tree, admiring its beauty, but when they saw the hedge 
of sharp thorns they feared to approach, and turned aside to satisfy 
themselves with the empty ears of corn that poisoned those who 
ate them. Others more courageous pierced the hedge and reached 
the foot of the tree, but perceiving how high its branches were 
from the ground, they too lost courage, and made choice of the 
withered ears. Only a few were found who feared neither the 
sharp thorns nor the fatigue of climbing, and these, mounting the 
lofty branches, ate the delicious fruit, which after once tasting 
they lost all relish for earthly food." 

Catherine understood the vision well, and long ago she had 
made her choice. The blasted ears of worldly pleasure with all 

1 Sup., Part i, Trat. I, 5. 


their gilded show had no charms for her, neither did the sharp 
thorns of penance or the labour of perseverance present any 
terrors to her heroic soul. For one brief moment in her early 
childhood Heaven had been open to her gaze, and her election 
had been irrevocably made. Now, therefore, that she found her 
self clothed with the holy garb of religion, her only thought was, 
how most completely to die to the world and give herself to God. 
Though it was not the custom for Tertiaries to bind themselves 
by the three vows of religion, yet she fully purposed in her heart 
to live thenceforward according to their spirit. Her vow of per 
petual chastity had long since been pronounced"; and so precise 
was her observance of the obedience due to her superiors, that 
when she came to die she was able to say that she had never 
knowingly transgressed it ; as to poverty, she neither possessed 
nor desired to possess anything superfluous. The prosperity 
enjoyed by her father and brothers, whose affairs were at this time 
in a flourishing condition, was far from pleasing to her. " Thou 
knowest, Lord," she would say, " that these are not the goods I 
desire for my family." She even besought Almighty God that if 
it were for their greater spiritual profit, this abundance of earthly 
things might be taken from them ; and it seemed that her prayer 
was granted, for in the end, through no fault of theirs, they were 
reduced to great penury. Although not bound then by the obli 
gation of religious vows, Catherine practised with the greatest 
exactitude the virtues which they prescribe ; whilst the rule of life 
which she now embraced probably surpassed in strictness that of 
the most austere cloister. She began by imposing on herself a 
rigorous law of silence. F. THomas Delia Fonte left it written in 
his notes of her life, that for three years after her entrance into 
the Third Order she never spoke save in confession, and never left 
the house except to go to the church. Probably this rule admitted 
of certain relaxations, for it was during this period of retirement 
that she made the acquaintance of F. Thomas CarTarini and F. 
Bartholomew of St. Dominic, who visited her from time to time 
in the company of her Confessor, "without whose leave, however," 
says F. Bartholomew, " she never spoke to any man except her 


father and her brothers." 1 And thus, in the words of her old 
biographer, "she contrived to find out a wilderness in the midst 
of the city, and to make for herself a solitary place where there 
was great resort of people." Her^ prayer was all but continual, 
and she loved to unite it in spirit with the choral offices of the 
Orderto which she belonged. The Church of St. Dominic was 
close to the Fullonica, and Catherine from her chamber could 
catch the sound of its bell calling the brethren to choir at the 
appointed hours. She so arranged her time as to watch while 
the friars were sleeping; and when she heard the second toll 
for midnight matins she would address her Divine Spouse, saying, 
"Lord, until now my brethren have. slept and I have watched 
for them in Thy presence, praying Thee to guard them from the 
wiles of the enemy ; now that they are rising to offer Thee their 
praises, suffer me to take a little repose." And then she would 
lie down to her scanty rest. 

Her Divine Spouse was not willing to leave her without 
necessary direction in the arduous course she had embraced ; 
but He chose neither man nor angel for the purpose : He 
deigned Himself to be her teacher ; so that from this time began 
that wonderful intercourse between Catherine and her Beloved, 
the closeness of which, says F. Raymund, can be compared to 
nothing but the familiar intimacy of two friends. She herself so 
described it : " Father," she said, " take this for a certain truth, 
that I was never taught the rule of spiritual life by any man or 
woman, but only by my Lord and Master Jesus Christ, who 
made it known to me either by secret inspiration or else appear 
ing openly to me and speaking to me as I now speak to you." 
She declared also, that in the beginning, her visions were for the 
most part only wrought in the imagination, but they were after 
wards sensible, so that she saw with her eyes the Form that 
appeared to her, and heard with her ears the sound of the Voice 
that spoke. At first she feared, doubting the illusions of the 

1 Process, fol. 139, 140. The seeming contradiction is clearly enough 
explained by Raymund when he says that our Lord "gradually introduced 
Catherine to the active life." Leg., Part 2, cap. I. 


enemy, but our Lord, whilst commending her prudence, gave 
her certain notes and tokens by which she might always discern 
between the true visions of God and the deceits of Satan. 
" Daughter," He said, " it were an easy matter for Me to inform 
thy soul inwardly with the secret instinct of My Spirit, so that 
thou shouldest at all times discern perfectly and without error 
between true visions and counterfeit illusions ; but because My 
will is to profit others as well as thee, therefore I will teach thee 
a general rule and lesson, which is this : My vision beginneth 
evermore with fear and dread, but in process of time setteth a 
soul in great joy, quietness, and security. It beginneth with some 
kind of bitterness, but in continuance it waxeth more delightful 
and sweet. The visions of the enemy are contrary, for in the 
beginning they show a kind of security and gladness, but in 
process they turn to fear and bitterness, which increase afterwards 
and wax greater and greater. And it standeth with good reason, 
because My ways and the ways of the enemy have this 
special difference : My ways are the keeping of the command 
ments in perfection of a virtuous and godly life. These seem at 
the beginning to be full of difficulty ; but in time they become 
easy and pleasant. But the ways of the enemy are the transgress 
ing of My commandments in the liberty of the flesh and licen 
tiousness of life, which seem at the beginning to be delightful 
and pleasant ; but in continuance of time they prove, in very deed, 
dangerous and painful. Take this also for a most certain and 
infallible rule to discern between true and false visions ; because 
I am Truth, it cannot be otherwise than that the soul of man 
must needs, by My visions, receive a greater knowledge of truth ; 
by which he cometh to understand both his own baseness and 
the worthiness of God, and so consequently to do due honour 
and reverence to God, and to make little account of himself, 
which is the proper condition of humility. The contrary hap- 
peneth in the visions of the enemy ; for he, being the father of 
lies and king over all the children of pride, can give none other 
thing but only what he hath ; and therefore in his visions there must 
needs ensue in a soul ignorance and error, whereby it conceiveth 


a false esteem of itself, which is the proper condition of pride. 
Therefore by this thou mayest know if thy visions be from Me 
or from the enemy ; of Truth or of falsehood : if they come of 
Truth they will make thy soul humble, if they come of falsehood 
they will make thee proud." l 

Dating then from this period, Catherine s union with her Divine 
Spouse became uninterrupted; never was she separated from His 
presence ; but whether she prayed or read, whether she watched 
or slept, He was ever with her. There was not a part of the 
church which she frequented which was not marked by some 
gracious manifestation of His watchful tenderness ; her little 
chamber and the garden 2 attached to her father s house were all 
filled with memories of this unspeakable intercourse. Truly it 
might be said of her that "she_walked with God." "On her 
lips and in her heart," says CarTarini, " she had nothing but Jesus : 
in the streets she walked with Jesus ; her eyes were set to look 
on Jesus only ; never were they open out of curiosity to behold 
any other objects unless they were such as might lead her to Jesus, 
and thus it was that she was so often rapt in wonderful ecstacies 
and abstractions of mind." 3 

Nor was this union weakened or obscured in after years by her 
converse with the world ; but when outwardly speaking with men, 
her heart was always inwardly engaged with God, and in this lay 
the secret of that marvellous power which she exercised over all 
who approached her. Flesh and blood, however, could not long 
sustain such closeness with Divine things without a suspension 
of the faculties and a wasting of bodily strength, and these super 
natural graces were the origin of that state of bodily suffering and 
incapacity for food which made the remainder of her life a daily 

Among the precious lessons which she received at this time 
there was one which must be regarded as the foundation-stone 

1 Fen., Part I, cap. 17. 

2 This garden now forms the site of the Church of the Confraternity of Sta. 
Catherina in Fontebranda. 

3 Sup., Part I, Trat. 2, II. 


of her whole spiritual edifice, and which is thus narrated and 
expanded by her biographer. One day as she was praying, our 
Lord appeared to her and said : " Daughter, knowest thou what 
thou art, and what I am ? If thou perfectly know this truth thou 
art blessed. Give heed then to My words, that thou mayest be 
able to understand it. Thou art she that is not, and I am He 
who am. Art thou not she that was made out of nothing ? for 
asmuch as every creature is made out of nothing, and has no 
being save in My Almighty power, and evermore of itself tends 
to nothing. Now if a man were thoroughly persuaded of this, 
that in truth he were nothing, how could he be proud, or how 
could he glory in himself or in any of his works, if he knew that he 
had nothing of his own but defects and sin ? But because if he 
considered this truth alone he would fall away into despair, there 
fore is it needful also that he know that I am He that am. God 
only is, of Himself. He alone is unchangeable and incorruptible. 
The creature, therefore, that sees this, and knows that he can 
have no being in himself, or find any good or blessedness in him 
self or any other creature, turns himself to God and beholds Him, 
the Creator and Preserver of all things, Who maintains all things 
in their being and blessedness, the everlasting spring and fountain 
of all goodness, Who alone is able to slake the thirst of his natural 
desires and longings. And so beholding Him, the creature 
begins to sigh towards Him and to be inflamed with the love of 
Him. And he conceives a certain holy fear, which is the guardian 
of the soul, so that he will not suffer the least motion in his heart 
which could offend so sweet and bountiful a Master. And he 
rests so firmly on the provident goodness of God that no adversity 
disturbs him, because he knows that Almighty God permits it 
for his salvation ; and he understands that there is no labour 
or sorrow in this world, however grievous, that can be compared 
to the glorious reward which he looks for from the hands of God." 
This steadfast trust in the providence of God was also taught 
her by another of these Divine words. " Think of Me," He said, 
" and I will think of thee ! " which words she understood as 
though He had said : " Have no thought or care of thyself either 


for soul or body, because I who know better what is good for thee 
will think and provide for all thy necessities. Be careful only to 
think on Me, for in that is thy perfection and beatitude." It 
cannot be expressed with what joy and confidence Catherine 
henceforth dwelt on those words, " I will think of thee." She 
never wearied of speaking of them, and they formed the text and 
chief subject-matter of the treatise which she afterwards composed 
on Divine Providence. If at any time she saw any of her com 
panions troubled or pre-occupied by some vexation, " Leave all 
to God," she would say ; " what have you to do of yourselves ? 
For you to bestow care about these things is to take from God 
His care and providence, as though He could not or would not 

She would often speak with her Confessor on the state of a 
soul that is united to God in perfect charity. "A soul that loves 
God perfectly," she would say, "ends by forgetting herself and 
all other creatures. Such a soul, seeing that of herself she is 
nothing, and that all her being depends on God, in Whom alone, 
and in no creature, she finds by experience that her happiness 
must rest, forsakes both herself and all things to plunge herself 
as it were into the love of Him, directing to Him all her works, 
and thoughts, and powers. Without Him she cares not to be, 
because in Him she finds all that can delight the heart, all beauty, 
all sweetness, all quietness, and all peace. And so, the bond of 
love between her and God drawing closer, she comes as it were to 
be wholly transformed in Him. And at length it comes to pass 
that she can love, delight, think, and remember no other thing 
than Him only. All other creatures she loves and considers in 
Him, even as a man who dives and swims under the water sees 
and feels nothing which is not either the water or what is con 
tained in the water ; and even if he sees anything that is out of the 
water, he sees it not properly as it is in itself, but as the likeness 
of it appears in the water. A soul thus plunged in the love of 
God hates herself as much as she loves Him. She sees that her 
own sensuality is the root and origin of all sin, and the cause of 
her separation from God, her Supreme End. Therefore on that 


account she conceives a certain holy hatred of her own inclina 
tions and a desire to kill the root of them, which is self-love. 
And because the root of this self-love lies so deep that it cannot 
utterly be removed, but something will still remain which from 
time to time will molest her, therefore there daily grows in her 
this holy hatred and contempt of self, which increases her desire 
to advance nearer to God ; and for His love she is ready to endure 
the sharpest discipline that may subdue that proneness to sin 
which keeps her back from her desired joy." All her disciples 
notice how frequently she dwelt on this lesson of " holy hatred," 
and how often she would quote the saying of St. Bernard, 
" Destroy self-love, and there will be no more hell." It was a 
lesson that lay at the root of her whole interior life, and will be 
found embodied in that abridgment of her Spiritual Doctrine 
which was taken down from her lips at a later period by her 
English Confessor, F. William Flete. 1 

As in her words, so also in her writings, the same truth returns 
again and again. She saw in the disorder of self-love the great 
antagonist of the love of God, " the root of all vices, which has 
poisoned the entire world and stricken the mystical Body of 
Christ as with a pestilence." 2 And she understood that it was 
the business of a loving soul to make war on this great rebel and 
deliver it to death by the relentless practice of mortification. She 
would not tolerate the idea that there is any state of the soul, 
however exalted, in which the warfare with our own passions can 
ever be relaxed, and regarded it as a deadly delusion to suppose 
that this is only a practice for beginners. Hence in her Dialogue, 
after describing various sublime stages of the spiritual life, she 
concludes with the emphatic warning, that " there is no condition 
of the soul in which it ceases to be necessary for a man to put his 
own self-love to death." 3 

Following the course of our history we shall presently have to 
relate some of those wonderful favours granted to Catherine in 
her solitary cell, which have been recorded by Raymund and her 

1 For a translation of this precious document see Appendix A. 

2 Dialogo, qap. 7. . 3 Ibid., cap. 56. 


other confessors. But lest any should gather from such narratives 
the notion that St. Catherine s ecstatic life rested on a different 
basis, and was subject to wholly different conditions from the 
spiritual life, as we understand the term, it will be profitable, in 
addition to what has been said above, to gather from the writings 
of those who knew her longest and best a few most significant 
facts as to her ordinary manner of prayer. First, then, we learn 
from the evidence of F. Thomas Caffarini, whose acquaintance 
with her began as early as the year 1366, that it was her habitual 
practice to meditate on the life of our Lord. " I witnessed," he 
says, " how she prolonged her vigils till matins, meditating, ac 
cording to her custom, principally on the life of Christ and the 
truths of the Gospel." l And in his Supplement he relates, how 
"going one day into the church of the Friars Preachers to medi 
tate there at her leisure on the mysteries of our Lord s Incarnation, 
she was suddenly illuminated by a Divine revelation." 2 And 
again, "she was sweetly and powerfully drawn to an affectionate 
love and compassion for the sufferings of Christ, meditating on 
which she found comfort and refreshment for her soul whenever 
it was afflicted. This was the real secret of her victories over the 
enemy, and she was never weary of recommending to others the 
practice of continual prayer. In truth, her own prayer may be 
said to have been continual, for there never was a moment that 
she was not thinking of God." These meditations were fed by 
spiritual reading; her most constant study, after she learnt to 
read, being the Holy Gospels, on which she composed a devout 
treatise, now unhappily lost. 3 

Next, it may be observed, that much as she valued meditation, 
she did not despise vocal prayer. Besides her recital of the 
Divine office, of which we shall speak hereafter, she was accus 
tomed to the frequent use of ejaculations, one of those most 
familiar to her being the words, "Peccavi, Domine, miserere met." 
These words, says Caffarini, " she always used at the end of her 

1 Process, fol. 18. 2 Sup., Part I, Trat. I, 9. 

1 Quoted by Gigli from the deposition ^ F. Thomas Caflariui. I have 
been unable, however, to verify the passage in the Process. 


prayers, folding her hands and bowing her head," and the habit 
of a lifetime showed itself upon her deathbed, when we are told 
she used this same ejaculation "more than sixty times." "She 
did not care," says F. Bartholomew of St. Dominic, "to pray 
much at a time, but in praying or reading she would, as it were, 
ruminate each word, dwelling upon it, and finding in it something 
to feed her soul with spiritual savour ; and in this manner she 
came at last to be unable to say one Our Father without being 
rapt in ecstacy." l 

Moreover,her prayer, if sublime, was also simple and practical. 
"Catherine never ceased to pray for the virtues," says"~Caffarini, 2 
"and specially for true and perfect charity." At one time, before 
a season of temptation, we find her inspired by God to pray for 
fortitude, and at another for purity of heart. During her whole 
life she constantly made use of the prayer of petition, asking 
particular graces for herself, or for others, and persevering in her 
requests a long time together. She would address our Lord with 
sighs and tears, saying with filial confidence, " Lord, I will not 
stir from your feet till your goodness has granted me what I 
desire." But she often said that she dared not so pray, unless 
she knew by manifest tokens that what she asked was in confor 
mity with the will of God." 3 

The third point to be noticed, as full of encouragement, is that 
St. Catherine s growth in prayer and in the spiritual life was 
gradual and progressive. Prevented by grace, as she manifestly 
was, even from her infancy, she was yet, not all at once and with 
out labour, raised to the heights of contemplation. "In her 
heart she disposed to ascend by steps ; " and she passed " from 
virtue to virtue." 4 This is apparent from many expressions of 
Raymund, as well as from the spiritual instruction she dictated 
to F. William Flete. But it may suffice to quote here a passage 
from the Supplement of CafTarini, as being less generally known : 

" On a certain feast of the Holy Cross, as she was meditating 
on the immense love of Jesus Christ displayed in His Passion, 

1 Process, 140. 2 Sup., Part i, Trat. i, 12. 

Sup., Part 2, Trat. 3, 14. 4 Ps. Ixxxiii, 6, 7. 


she felt herself washed from head to foot in that Precious Blood 
shed by Him for our redemption. Then our Lord appeared to 
her carrying a cross of gold, and said to her, Daughter, take 
this Cross and follow Me. She obeyed promptly, but when she 
had taken a few steps she met another cross, higher and larger, 
on which our Lord mounted, saying Approach thy lips to the 
wound of My side. And when she had done so with ineffable 
consolation, He took her by the hand and drew her higher, till 
her face rested upon the Face of her Beloved. Then He gave her 
to understand that by these three steps were signified three states 
of the soul, concluding with these words : When thou shalt 
have reached the third, or last degree, thou shalt enjoy My Divine 
embrace with quiet and tranquillity, for so I render My chosen 
ones blessed even before I call them to My kingdom. And 
Catherine having been guided, while yet a young girl, through the 
first and second degrees, found herself at last at the third, or 
supreme degree of union with God which is described in Holy 
Writ under the figure of an embrace, or the Kiss of His Mouth. 
Thence she obtained the grace, even whilst living in this world, 
of an unalterable peace and tranquillity; never feeling her heart 
disturbed, though struck down by many sicknesses, attacked by 
cruel calumnies, and worn out with fatigues and responsibilities 
far beyond her age and sex. She desired nothing save to be 
released from the bondage of the flesh that she might be united 
to her spouse. But He, designing to employ her in affairs of 
importance for the service of Holy Church, deferred for a time 
the fulfilment of her desires. She mitigated the sadness which 
from time to time made itself felt, by resignation to the Divine 
decrees, knowing that one day, at any rate, she should die and 
pass to His presence : and therefore it was that she so willingly 
employed herself in burying the dead, showing great signs of joy 
whenever she learnt the happy departure out of this world of some 
soul who had lived a holy life." 1 

But when all has been said that can be said to exhibit this 
great Saint as using the same methods of prayer and exercises of 
1 Sup., Part 2, Trat. 2, 3. , . ... .; k 


perfection as are common to the faithful, and as raised to her 
exalted sanctity only by progressive steps, there yet remains the 
fact, declared in the Bull of her Canonisation, that her doctrine 
was " not acquired but infused." CarTarini says she had attained 
that highest degree of contemplation, of which St. Thomas affirms 
that its fruits are " light in the intellect and love in the heart." 
When she came out of her ecstacies, he says, she spoke with so 
wonderful an intelligence of Divine things that she seemed to 
know more than the wisest doctors ; but all her illumination was 
from God. 

Of this sublime light she has written admirably in her Dialogue, 
describing it as a ray proceeding from the fire of charity. " Proud 
ignorance remains blind to this light because its eye is clouded 
by self-love. Such souls can never penetrate beyond the letter 
of the Scriptures : they may read much and turn over many books, 
but the pith and marrow they never taste. They wonder to see 
the simple and illiterate possessed of a clearer knowledge than 
they of spiritual things, but there is nothing to wonder at in it, 
because these humble souls are illuminated by grace, which is 
the true source of knowledge." 1 "What Catherine taught," says 
Raymund, "she had learnt by experience, like the disciple of 
whom St. Denys, the Areopagite, speaks." He is referring to a 
passage in the works of St. Denys, which runs as follows : 
" Hierotheus learned these things, instructed by some special 
inspiration, having not only learned, but also experienced, Divine 
things, and being fashioned by such teaching of the heart (if I may 
so express it) to that faith and mystic union which can never be 
acquired by any human lessons." 2 

Let us now take a glance at that little cell where Catherine, 
alone with her Divine Spouse, was "being fashioned by this 
teaching of the heart ; " and to do so we shall but gather up the 
words of those who shared her confidence, and who themselves 
were witnesses of the marvels they described. It was a life of 

1 Dialogo, cap. 85. 

2 De Div. Norn., cap. 2. The exact sense of the original is, that "Divine 
things came upon him without his action." 

VOL. I. D 


mingled penance and ecstacy. " Every evening, for many years, 
when it began to grow dusk," says Caffarini, "she felt herself 
drawn by an irresistible force to God, passing into a rapture which 
generally lasted six hours, during which time she conversed with 
the Eternal Wisdom, her bodily senses remaining suspended." 1 
Another time, we read, how standing one night at the window 
and gazing up into heaven, she thought of the Divine Beauty 
which she saw reflected in the heavenly orbs ; when suddenly 
from the blue vault above her there came a sound of exquisite 
melody, such as mortal ear had never heard, which rapt her in 
ecstacy, filling her with the joys of Paradise. 2 Once as she prayed 
for the virtue of charity, and understood that her prayer was 
granted, she was so overwhelmed with the sweetness of the Divine 
Presence that for ten days she could neither eat nor drink, nor 
engage in her ordinary occupations. 3 Anothertime. when in 
like manner she had continued praying a long time for purity of 
heart, an angel appeared bearing a garland of spotless lilies which 
he placed as a crown upon her head. The beauty and fragrance 
of these lilies was so unearthly that she declared the mere thought 
of that precious garland sufficed to cause her a kind of rapture. 
Occasionally we catch sight of that same love of the Office of the 
Church which was so remarkable in St. Gertrude. On the first 
Vespers of a certain feast of St. Lucy she seemed to see all Para 
dise preparing to celebrate the festival, and full of joy, she ran 
to the church, desiring to have the bells rung that the Church on 
earth might take part with the Church in Heaven. Our Lord 
was pleased that her wish should be accomplished without causing 
the people any astonishment, for suddenly the sky clouded over 
and announced the approach of a tempest, and, according to the 
custom of the times, the church bells were rung to exorcise the 
powers of the air. When they ceased Catherine seemed to hear 
solemn vespers sung in heaven by a choir of virgins, led by one 
of surpassing beauty, to whom all paid homage. The privilege 
of listening to the chants of Paradise was often granted to her. 4 

1 Sup., Part 2, Trat. 3, 8. 2 Ibid., Part I, Trat. 2, 6. 

3 Ibid., Part I, Trat. 2, 12. 4 Ibid.. Part i, Trat. 2, 20. 


On the nth of January one year she was permitted to hear the 
heavenly canticles of the Saints and Angels, and speaking of this 
to her Confessor, she told him that these blessed spirits did not 
all sing in unison, but those sang in the highest key and the most 
sonorous voices who on earth had most ardently loved the Supreme 
Goodness. She specially distinguished the voices of St. John the 
Evangelist and St. Mary Magdalen, though she confessed herself 
unable to understand the meaning of what she heard. As she 
was still speaking, she stopped to listen ; " Father," she said, 
"do you not hear with what a high sweet voice the blessed 
Magdalen sings in the choir of the Saints ? " And she remained 
listening intently as if she heard the heavenly music even with 
her bodily ears. 1 

The memory of this favour was probably in her mind when she 
wrote the following passage in her Dialogue: "All the affections 
and powers unite in perfect souls to produce one harmonious 
sound, like the chords of a musical instrument. The powers of 
the soul are the great chords, the senses and sentiments of the 
body the smaller ones. And when all these are used to the praise 
of God and in the service of our neighbour, they produce one 
sound like that of a harmonious organ. All the Saints have 
touched this organ and drawn forth musical tones. The first 
who sounded it was the sweet and loving Word, whose Humanity 
united to His Divinity made sweet music on the wood of the 
cross. And all His servants have learnt of Him as of their 
Master to give forth the same music, some in one way and some 
in another, Divine Providence giving all the instruments on which 

to play." 2 

Very often she received from God whilst in her ecstacies the 
understanding of different passages in Holy Scripture, as for 
example the 99th Psalm (Jubilate Domino), which she explained, 
showing the connection between serving God with joy and coming 
before Him with confidence ; or, again, the history of the young 
man in the Gospels whom our Lord desired to sell all and follow 
Him. Her Divine Master gave her to understand that this did 
1 Sup., Part I, Trat. 2, 19. 2 Dialogo, cap. 147. 


not refer merely to temporal goods, but implied a yet larger sacri 
fice, even that of the thoughts and affections of the heart, which 
if they are given to God, so that a man no longer belongs to him 
self, he will receive the hundredfold in the abundance of grace 
which will be poured out upon him. 1 

Not once, but as it would seem many times, Catherine received 
the favour of being mystically washed in the Precious Blood of 
our redemption. The first time was soon after she had taken the 
habit of Penance, and often from that time when she beheld the 
colour of red, it reminded her so powerfully of the Blood of our 
Lord that she could not refrain from tears. 2 In fact, Catherine s 
devotion of predilection was undoubtedly that which she bore to 
the inestimable Price of our Redemption. Hence many of the 
favours she received had reference to this great gift. In her super 
natural sicknesses, which were caused by nothing else than the 
excess of divine love, she was sometimes bathed in a sweat of 
blood. Often when in ecstasy she was seen to change colour, 
appearing now white as snow, now red as fire. Those who beheld 
her thus were filled with wonder and devotion, and her Confessor 
on one occasion questioned her as to the cause of these changes 
in her aspect. She endeavoured to answer him, but the power 
failing her, she could only weep, and he perceived that the very 
tears she shed were not of the ordinary kind, but tinged with 

1 Sup., Part 2, Trat. 5, 13. 2 Ibid., Part 2, Trat. 2, 4. 

3 Ibid., Part 2, Trat. 3, 16. 

( 53 ) 



" \ T T HEN thou comest to the service of God," says the wise 
V V man, " prepare thy soul for temptation. Take all that 
shall be brought upon thee, and in thy sorrow endure, and in thy 
humiliation keep patience. For gold and silver are tried in the 
fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation." l These 
inspired words are for all times and for all souls ; and the more 
exalted the height to which any soul attains, so much the more 
profoundly must it make experience of their truth. Catherine was 
not to be exempted from this universal law, but He who designed 
to perfect her under trial, was pleased to prepare her for it, by 
inspiring her to pray in a special manner for the gift of fortitude. 
She persevered in this prayer for many days, at the end of which 
time our Lord, to recompense her prayer, gave her the following 
instruction : " Daughter, if thou wilt have the virtue of fortitude, 
thou must follow Me. True it is that I was able to overcome 
the power of the enemy in many ways. But, for your example, I 
chose rather to vanquish him by dying upon the Cross, that you 
that are only men might learn, if you have a mind to encounter 
with the enemy, to take the Cross as I did, and so, by the virtue 
of the same, to overcome all his wiles and strength. And be 
well assured that this Cross shall be a refreshment to you in your 
temptations, if you think of the pains that I suffered on it for 
your sake. If you suffer with Me for My love, you shall also be 
rewarded with Me. And the more like you are to Me in this life 
by persecutions and pains, the more like shall you be to Me in 
1 Ecclesias. ii. I. 


the life to come in joy and rest. Therefore, my dear daughter, 
embrace the Cross ; regard for My sake all sweet things as bitter 
and all bitter things as sweet, and so be certain that you will 
always be strong. Accept all adversities with a willing and 
cheerful heart, and dread no power, neither of man nor of the 
devil. For in whatever manner they shall assault you, by this 
means you will easily withstand and drive them back." 1 

When our Lord had thus armed and prepared her for the 
combat, He permitted the evil spirits to assail her with their most 
cruel temptations. Waking or sleeping she was beset by frightful 
and humiliating phantoms which sought to defile her eyes and 
ears, and to torment her in a thousand ways. These attacks 
Catherine met courageously, chastising her flesh with her iron 
chain, and prolonging her vigils so as almost to deprive herself of 
sleep. But her enemies would not retire ; they whispered in her 
ear words of pity and counsel ; " Alas, poor little one," they said, 
" why thus torture thyself in vain ? Thinkest thou to be able to 
endure thus to the end ? What gain shall it be to thee to kill 
thyself by excessive penance ? Thou wilt suffer all thy life in 
this world only to suffer afterwards in hell. Far better to pause 
ere life be utterly spent, whilst youth is left and the pleasures of 
the world may yet be tasted and enjoyed." But while these 
words resounded in the ears of her soul, Catherine admitted 
them not into her heart, nor did she enter into any argument 
with the tempter, save only that in reply to his suggestions of 
despair, she answered humbly, " I trust in my Lord Jesus Christ, 
and not in myself." Then Satan laying aside his arguments 
returned to his former method of attack, so that she was pursued 
everywhere, in her cell, and even in the church, with horrible 
spectres ; and to complete her affliction, her Divine Spouse, who 
had been wont to visit and console her with His presence, seemed 
now to forsake her, and thus her soul was plunged in a profound 
sadness. But not on that account did she interrupt her prayers 
or her penances. " O miserable creature ! " she exclaimed, turn 
ing her indignation against herself, and exciting within her heart 
1 Fen., Part I, cap. 20. Legend, Part I, cap. 10. 


a sentiment of holy self-hatred, " who art thou to look for com 
fort from God s hands ? Thinkest thou that it is comfort that thy 
sins have deserved ? It is much for thee that thou art not now 
in hell, and if thou escape those endless pains, cannot thy Spouse 
and Creator give thee joy and consolation in an endless eternity ? 
Arise, then, and be of good heart, now is the time to fight man 
fully : for thee be labours and sufferings, and to His holy Name 
alone be honour and glory." 

One day on her return from the church these terrific assaults 
were renewed with such violence, that casting herself on her face 
upon the ground, she remained there for a long space in prayer 
beseeching God of His mercy to come to her assistance. Then 
there came to her mind a remembrance of the lesson which she 
had learned but a short time before, when she had been praying 
for fortitude ; and understanding that all which she now endured 
proceeded only from the malice of the enemy, she took courage, 
and resolved from that day to endure all temptations gladly for 
the love of her Divine Spouse. It was not long before the foul 
fiends again presented themselves, and sought to drive her to 
despair, saying, " Miserable wretch, think not to resist us ; never 
will we give thee an hour s peace till thou yield to our will, but 
during thy whole life we will pain and vex thee continually." But 
Catherine, full of confidence in God, gave them this heroic 
answer : " I have chosen pain to be my comfort, and therefore 
it will not be difficult, but rather pleasant and delightful, for me to 
endure these and all other afflictions for the love of my Lord and 
Saviour Jesus Christ, and as long as it shall please His Majesty." 
Immediately all the company of unclean spirits fled away in 
confusion, and a marvellous and beautiful light shone from heaven, 
illuminating her room with its brightness, in the midst of which 
appeared our Saviour Christ in the same form as He bore when 
He hung upon the Cross, and there shed His most precious blood 
for the redemption of the world ; Who called her unto Him, and 
said these words : " Mine own daughter, Catherine, seest thou 
not what I have suffered for thy sake ? Think it not much, there 
fore, to suffer for Me." After that He approached nearer to her 


in another form, to comfort her, speaking to her many sweet and 
loving words. Then she said, using the words of St. Anthony, 
" O Lord, where wert Thou when my heart was so vexed with 
foul and horrible temptations ? " " Daughter," said He, " I was 
in thine heart." Then said she again: "O Lord, saving always 
Thy truth and my dutiful reverence to Thy Divine Majesty, how 
is it possible that Thou shouldst dwell in a heart filled with so 
many shameful thoughts ? " " Tell Me, daughter," He replied, 
"did those thoughts cause in thy heart grief or delight?" 
" Surely," said she, " they caused very great grief and sorrow." 
" Who, then," said our Lord, " was He that caused that grief and 
horror in thine heart ? Who was it but .only I, who abode secretly 
in the centre of thy soul ? Assure thyself of this : if I had not 
been there present, those foul thoughts that stood round thine 
heart vainly seeking means to enter had without all doubt prevailed, 
and made their entry into thy soul with full consent of thy will ; 
but it was My presence that caused in thee that horror, and 
moved thy heart to resist those temptations as much as it was 
able ; and because it could not do so much as it would, it con 
ceived a great displeasure both against them and also against 
itself. It was My gracious presence that wrought all these effects 
in thine heart ; wherein I took great delight to see My love, My 
holy fear, and the zeal of My faith planted in thy soul, My dear 
daughter and spouse. And so when I saw My time (which was 
when thou hadst, through My grace and assistance, thoroughly 
vanquished the pride and insolence of thine enemy), I sent out 
certain external beams of My light that put these dark fiends to 
flight. For, by course of nature, darkness may not abide where 
light is. Last of all, by My light I gave thee to understand that 
those pains were thy great merit and increase of the virtue of 
fortitude. And because thou offeredst thyself willingly to suffer 
for My love, taking such pains with a cheerful heart, and esteem 
ing them as welcome, according as I had taught thee ; therefore, 
My will and pleasure was that they should endure no longer. And 
so I showed myself, whereupon they vanished quite away. My 
daughter, I delight not in the pains of My servants, but in their 


good-will and readiness to suffer patiently and gladly for My sake. 
And because such patience and willingness is shown in pains and 
adversity, therefore do I surfer them to endure the same. In 
this time of battle I was in thy heart, fortifying thee with My grace 
against the enemy, but secretly, to exercise thy patience and 
increase thy merit. Now, that by My help thou hast manfully 
fought out thy battle, know that I am, and will be ever, in thy 
heart more openly, and that I will visit thee yet oftener and more 
lovingly than before." The vision disappeared, and Catherine 
was left full of overabundance of joy and sweetness, such as no 
words may express. And specially she took comfort in dwelling on 
those words by which our Lord had addressed her, saying, "Mine 
own daughter, Catherine. " And she entreated her confessor to use 
the same words when he spoke to her, and to call her "My 
daughter, Catherine," that by hearing them repeated, the sweetness 
of that happy moment might often be renewed." 1 

From that time our Lord was pleased to bestow on her a greater 
abundance of favours than she had ever before enjoyed; He visited 
her, says her biographer, " even as one friend is wont to visit 
another," sometimes alone and sometimes in company with his 
Blessed Mother and other Saints. More often, however, He came 
alone and conversed with her "as a friend with a friend." 

It was at this time that Catherine, by the Divine help, acquired 
the art of reading. She had never learned to read in childhood ; 
but she very early felt a great desire to recite the Office of the 
Church. She therefore begged one of her sisters to get her an 
alphabet and teach her the letters, which being done, she spent 
many weeks in the fruitless endeavour to learn ; but at length, 
finding her efforts of no avail, she resolved to give up the attempt, 
and rather to seek what she desired from God. One day, there 
fore, she prostrated upon the ground in prayer, and thus made 
her petition : " Lord, if it be agreeable to Thee that I may know 
how to read, in order that I may recite the Divine Office and sing 
Thy praises, vouchsafe to teach me what I cannot learn of myself. 
If not, I am well content to remain in ignorance, or spend my 
1 Fen., Part I, chap. xxi. 


time in such simple meditation as it shall please Thee to grant." 
God heard her prayer, and gave her the faculty she asked for, and 
that so perfectly that she was able to read any kind of writing as 
quickly and easily as the most experienced person. She at once 
procured the necessary books, and began to say her office daily 
with great devotion. She specially delighted in the versicle with 
which the hours begin: " Deus in adjutorium meum intende!" 
which she translated and used as an habitual ejaculation. Another 
of her favourite verses was the following: " Illumina oculos meos 
ne unquam obdormiam in morte? and these words she wrote on 
a little tablet and hung at the head of her bed. 

St. Catherine s recitation of the Divine Office is inseparably con 
nected with the memory of one favour which she received at this 
time. Very often when her heavenly Spouse deigned to visit her 
with His sensible presence, He would walk with her in her room 
and recite the Psalms with her "as though they had been two 
religious saying their office together." And coming to the Gloria 
at the conclusion of a Psalm, it was her wont to change the words, 
and instead of " Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sando" to say, 
" Gloria Patri et Tibi et Spiritui Sancto" thus addressing Him 
Who condescended to bear her company. 1 

As soon as St. Catherine had learnt to read, she began to give 
considerable time to this occupation. It is evident that she did 
not merely recite the words of the office, but pondered their sense 
in her heart. Caffarini remarks in his Supplement, that whenever 
her first confessor, F. Thomas della Fonte, went to see her, he 
always found her praying or reading, sometimes bathed in tears, 
sometimes recreating herself with singing, but never idle. She 
soon acquired a wonderful knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, 
especially o/f the New Testament ; and took such a passing delight 
in speaking and meditating on the life of Jesus Christ as set forth 
in the Holy Gospels, that if she could find any one to converse 
with her on that subject she would forget the necessity of food or 

The memory of this favour is preserved by an inscription in the chapel 
Delia Volte, where it had been often granted to her. It also forms the subject 
of a painting by Gamberelli, which adorns the same chapel. 


sleep. But if in her hours of solitude she knew how to nourish 
her soul with study and meditation, no less was she sensible of 
the charms of other pursuits which bear witness to her possession 
of a graceful and artistic taste. She had a singular love of flowers. 
" Often, before her appearance in public," says Caffarini, " divine 
love would cause her to fall into a holy languor, at which time 
she solaced herself by singing hymns, surrounded by earthly 
flowers, which reminded her of those of her heavenly Spouse. 
She twined them into garlands, or arranged them with admir 
able skill into the form of crosses ; and these she afterwards dis 
tributed in order to excite other souls to the love of God." The 
same is testified by other witnesses, who speak of her great love 
for roses, lilies, and violets, and tell us how after she had finished 
her accustomed penances, she would arrange them into exquisite 
bouquets, singing over her work. 1 

But the time was fast approaching, when this life of silence and 
retirement was to be exchanged for one of active labour; not 
indeed, all at once, but gradually and, as it would seem, in obedi 
ence to two distinct notifications of the divine will, each preceded 
by a special increase of heavenly grace, and accompanied by 
mysterious, sensible signs, as their outward pledge and assurance. 
It was a change, which, on the part of Catherine, entailed a costly 
sacrifice. God, Who would prepare her for it, and Who designed 
to make her the pliant instrument of His all holy purposes, inspired 
her at this time to seek, by means of earnest and continual prayer, 
no less a gift than the perfection of faith, so that henceforth nothing 
might separate her from Him. In answer to this prayer, in which 
she persevered for a long time, He caused her to hear in her 
heart these words, " I will espouse thee to Me in faith." And 
still as she renewed her request with ever-increasing earnestness, 
the same answer was repeated, and in the same words. At length 

1 F. Raymund says in the Legend (Part 2, chap, xi.), that " God was pleased 
to work many miracles by His spouse on inanimate things, and specially on 
flowers, in which the holy virgin greatly delighted." Of these miracles, how 
ever, he gives no examples. In consequence of Catherine s singular love of 
flowers the custom arose of celebrating her feast (even before her canonisation) 
by extraordinary floral decorations. 


as Lent drew near, on the last day of the Carnival, when, accord 
ing to custom, the city was given up to the riotous festivities 
usual at that season, Catherine shut herself up in her cell, and 
sought by prayer and fasting to make reparation for the offences 
committed by the thoughtless crowds who passed her door. And 
she besought our Lord that He would vouchsafe at this time to 
perform His promise, and bestow on her that perfection of faith 
she had so long desired. Then He appeared to her, and answered 
her in these words : " Because thou hast forsaken all the vanities 
of the world, and set thy love upon Me, and because thou hast, 
for My sake, rather chosen to afflict thy body with fasting than to 
eat flesh with others, especially at this time, when all others that 
dwell round about thee, yea, and those also that dwell in the 
same house with thee, are banqueting and making good cheer, 
therefore I am determined, this day, to keep a solemn feast with 
thee, and with great joy and pomp to espouse thy soul to Me in 
faith." As He was yet speaking, there appeared in the same 
place the most glorious Virgin Mary, Mother of God, the beloved 
disciple St. John the Evangelist, St. Paul the Apostle, and the 
great patriarch and founder of her order, St. Dominic ; and after 
these came the kingly prophet and poet David, with a musical 
psalter in his hand, on which he played a heavenly song of in 
estimable sweetness. Then our Blessed Lady came to her and 
took her by the hand, which she held towards her Divine Son, 
and besought Him that He would vouchsafe to espouse her to 
Him in faith. To which He consented with a very sweet and 
lovely countenance, and taking out a ring that was set about with 
four precious pearls and had in the other part a marvellous rich 
diamond, He put the same on the finger of her right hand r saying 
thus : " Behold, I here espouse thee to Me, thy Maker and 
Saviour, in faith, which shall continue in thee from this time 
forward, evermore unchanged, until the time shall come of a 
blissful consummation in the joys of heaven. Now then, act 
courageously : thou art armed with faith, and shalt triumph over 
all thine enemies." 1 The vision disappeared, but the ring, 
1 Fen., Part I, ch. xxiii. Caffarini in the Leggenda Minors specifies the 


invisible indeed to other eyes than Catherine s, remained upon 
her finger ; mysterious token of a favour no less mysterious, yet 
one the signification of which is not obscure to the student of 
Holy Scripture. If every faithful soul is knit to its Creator by 
the tie of a spiritual espousal, 1 what must not have been the 
closeness of that union which Catherine contracted when she 
received as her dowry " the perfection of faith ? " That precious 
ring was to her the token of her Divine Vocation ; the pledge of 
an indissoluble union with her Beloved. "She was destined," 
says Raymund, " to save innumerable souls from the stormy ocean 
of this world, without dreading for herself shipwreck or tempest." 
God therefore prepared her as a fit instrument for the Divine 
work He was about to entrust to her, and when the instrument 
was perfected, the word was spoken which called her to a new 
manner of life. 

last day of the Carnival as that on which this favour was granted. This, in 
Siena, was the Tuesday before Quinquagesima. Following the more general 
custom, however, the movable feast, formerly kept as the Espousals of St. 
Catherine (now merged in that of her Translation), is kept on the Thursday 
before Quinquagesima Sunday. In 1705 the High Consistory of Siena 
published a decree to be observed for ever in the Contrada di Fontebranda, 
forbidding masks, dances, and other Carnival festivities to be held "on the 
last day of the Carnival, dedicated to the sacred Espousals of their seraphic 
fellow-citizen, Catherine Benincasa." It is somewhat remarkable that 
Catherine appears from this time to have worn a real material ring. One 
such is preserved at Citta di Castello, said to have been hers. 

1 " I have espoused you as a chaste virgin to Jesus Christ." 2 Cor. xi. 2. 



THE cell in which Catherine had now spent three years hidden 
Trom the world had become to her the gate of heaven, and 
had she followed her own attraction she would never more have 
quitted it. But God had other designs over her, and after the 
celebration of her mystic Espousals, He began little by little to 
call on her to return once more to her place in the family, and to 
hold converse with men. Not that He withdrew from her any of 
His former favours, or ceased those heavenly visitations which she 
had hitherto enjoyed ; but from time to time He would make 
known to her His will, saying, " Behold the hour of dinner is at 
hand, go up l therefore and take thy place at table with thy family, 
and then return to Me." When first this intimation of the Divine 
will was given to her, Catherine was overwhelmed with sorrow, 
and entreated with many tears that she might not be required to 
forego her solitude, or to return to such intercourse with the 
world as would separate her from the blessed presence of her 
Spouse. " O my good Lord ! " she said, " wherefore wilt Thou 
have me to go and eat with them? Doth man live by bread 
only, and not by every word that cometh from Thy mouth? 
Hast Thou not caused me to forsake the conversation of men 
that I might the better converse with Thee ; and now that I have 
found Thee must I again lose so precious a treasure, and return 
to the world which shall dim the purity and clearness of my 

1 In the Legend it stands, "Go quickly;" in the English version, "Go 
down ; " Caffarini in the Leggenda Minore has it, more correctly, " Go /," 
i.e., from her cell under her father s house. 


faith?" But in reply our Lord opened to her gaze the sublime 
path in treading which she was " to fulfil all justice." Souls 
that would do this must be profitable not only to themselves but 
also to others. Nor need they on that account be separated from 
God, but rather united to Him more firmly. For the perfection 
which He requires of them is the love of God and of their neigh 
bour, in which twofold love stand all the law and the prophets. 
That zeal which made itself felt in the heart of Catherine whilst 
yet a child, and which had first moved her to enrol herself as a 
daughter of St. Dominic, was now to find its proper scope, and 
wearing the habit of an apostolic Order she was to be called to 
the apostolic life. In vain did she in her humility and simplicity 
represent her unworthiness for such a function, whether by the 
weakness of her sex or other infirmities. " How can I, a poor 
and miserable woman, be able to do any good in Thy Church?" 
she would say ; " how shall I instruct wise and learned men, or 
how will it be even seemly for me to live and converse with 
them ? " But He made her to understand that in the counsels of 
His wisdom He had chosen her, a weak woman, to confound the 
pride of the strong. Her mission was to exhibit to a world " lying 
in wickedness " the power of the Divine Word, made known to 
them by the feeblest of human instruments. "Daughter," He 
said, " I will impart to thee My secret in this matter. Know thou 
that nowadays pride so abounds in the world, and specially 
among those who hold themselves for wise and learned, that My 
justice may no longer bear it. Now the proper punishment as 
well as the sovereign medicine for pride is to be confounded and 
put to shame. Therefore I have determined that those men who 
are wise in their own conceits should be made ashamed by seeing 
weak and frail women, whom they account as things vile and 
abject, to understand the mysteries of God, not by human study, 
but only by infused grace; confirming such doctrine by many 
marvellous signs above the course of nature. I will do now as I 
did when I was conversing in this world, and sent simple and 
unlearned men, and poor fishermen replenished with the strength 
of My Spirit, to confound the wisdom of the world. So will I now, 


in like manner, send thee and other ignorant persons, both men 
and women, to humble the pride of those who are wise in their 
own eyes. If they will embrace My doctrine spread throughout 
the world by such weak vessels, I will regard them with mercy, 
but if they refuse to do so they shall be brought to shame. 
Wherefore, daughter, set thyself in readiness to go forth into the 
world ; for I will be with thee at all times, and in all places, and 
will direct thee in all things that I shall send thee to do." 

When once the will of her Divine Spouse had thus been mani 
fested, Catherine had no thought save to bow her head and to 
obey. Yet she owned to her confessor that each time our Lord 
ordered her to quit her cell and mix with the world outside, it cost 
her so lively a sorrow, that it seemed to her as if her heart must 
break. From that time her love and desire for Holy Communion 
greatly increased, because by the more frequent reception of the 
Body of her Divine Spouse, she trusted to persevere, and as it 
were to rivet the closeness of those bonds which she feared a 
renewed intercourse with the world might sever. It is quite 
certain that Catherine did not interpret the command she had 
received as requiring her at once to undertake extraordinary work 
for souls of her own choosing. On the contrary, she waited until 
it should be made manifest what our Lord demanded of her, and 
the rule she had made for herself was still enforced, according to 
which she spoke to no man beyond the limits of her family with 
out the permission of her confessor. As regarded the injunction 
to mix with the household, however, she set herself to accom 
plish it with all possible fervour, and made her return to the 
family circle the occasion for taking on herself fresh practices of 
penance and humility. She chose to perform every menial office 
in the house, such as sweeping, washing the dishes, and serving 
in the kitchen. Not content with this she would rise at night 
when the others were asleep, and wash all the dirty clothes which 
she found ; and when the servant fell sick, she not only supplied 
her place, but nursed and attended to her wants during her 
sickness. Yet none of these exterior actions disturbed the 
interior recollection of her soul, or withdrew her in the least 


degree from the Divine presence, and her ecstasies became even 
more frequent. 

Such was her manner of life when, in 1366, Father Thomas 
Antonio Caffarini first made her acquaintance. He belonged to 
the convent of St. Dominic, and was still very young when he 
was admitted into the family on terms of intimate friendship. 
His recollections of Catherine in those early days are touching 
from their very simplicity. He often sat with her at her father s 
table, and saw that she ate next to nothing, but during the meal 
she would talk to them of God, and was always to be seen with 
a gay and smiling countenance. 1 Wonderfully circumspect in 
her words, never idle or in any way reprehensible, never disturbed 
save when God was offended, she was always affable, kind, and 
full of joy, specially in time of sickness or affliction. The robust 
frame which she possessed as a young girl was fast wasting under 
the fire of Divine love, joined to her continual austerities. Eating 
was a daily torture to her, for her digestion had become so weak 
that she was incapable of retaining any solid food. Nevertheless, 
to please and satisfy her parents, she would force herself to swal 
low something, and would call the summons to the family meal 
<; going to execution," so terrible was the suffering it cost her. 
" Nevertheless," he continues, " I always saw her cheerful. I 
remember once, when she was covered with wounds, she called 
themjier flowers, saying, These are "my flowers and roses. Only 
in time of worldly prosperity was she ever sad, for she would say, 
I desire not such gifts for my family, but rather the eternal joys 
of heaven. " She often bestowed on him some of the nosegays 
she was in the habit of making and distributing to her friends ; 
and her confessor, F. Thomas del la Fonte, more than once gave 
him some bread which she had made with her own hands. " Nor 
did I think it a little thing to have eaten it," he observes. " And 
whatever she did, whether she made the bread or busied herself 
in any other household work, she was always on fire with the love 

1 The same was observed by all those who were familiar with her. It is 
one of the features which Anastagio di Monte Altino introduces in his poetical 
portraiture of her : " Ella e sempremai lieta e ridente." 

VOL. I. E 


of God." The same Father Thomas della Fonte showed him 
one of her disciplines, composed of cords with iron points, 
" which looked as if it had been steeped for a long time in a 
vessel of blood, and then dried." He was an eye-witness of her 
vigils and her ecstasies ; and on one occasion, when she was rapt 
in God, he listened to the burning words which fell from her 
lips, and was conscious of an exquisite perfume which seemed 
to escape from her, and which caused him for many days after 
wards a sense of unspeakable consolation. The same fact was 
testified by other witnesses, who affirmed that this heavenly 
fragrance was perceptible on merely approaching her cell, and 
had been the means of inspiring many with sentiments of pro 
found compunction. 

The home-circle, in which Catherine now resumed her place, 
deserves a few words of notice. Giacomo was still living, a pros 
perous tradesman, beholding with honest pride the numerous 
children and grandchildren who gathered round his hearth and 
assisted him in his business. From the street that rises above 
the Fullonica we can still look down on the meadows where he 
and his workmen were accustomed to wash their wool and lay 
it out for bleaching. Within the house all things were well regu 
lated by Lapa, the most industrious of housewives, unchanged 
in all respects from the old Lapa with whom we have already 
made acquaintance, and who was ever oscillating between an 
indulgent tenderness towards her favourite daughter and the 
despair excited by her practices of charity or penance. Of the 
brothers we know but little ; besides those whose names have 
been already given, there was one, a wild and heedless youth, 
who, growing weary of trade, resolved to try his fortune as a 
soldier, and, to the sorrow of his parents, set out for the wars. 
In the first encounter he was severely wounded, and left for dead 
on the field of battle. At the moment when he fell Catherine 
was supernaturally warned of what had happened, and shed bitter 
tears, fearing lest her brother s soul might be in no less grievous 
clanger than his body. With characteristic prudence, however, 
she said nothing of the matter to her mother, but had recourse 


to prayer. The wounded youth found means of returning home, 
where the tender care of his mother and sister restored him to 
health ; and becoming a wiser man by his experience, he made 
no further trial of the military career. Perhaps it was this same 
brother of whom we read that, having cause to be uneasy regard 
ing the state of his soul, Catherine, being one day in the church, 
set herself to pray for his conversion, and addressing our Lord 
with her accustomed confidence, she said, " O Lord, I will not 
rise from my knees until Thou grant me this favour." Then, 
feeling in her heart a certain assurance that her prayer had been 
heard, she returned home, and found her brother in his room, 
weeping over his sins. She sweetly consoled him, and found 
no difficulty in inducing him at once to go to confession. But 
there was one member of the family who was bound to Catherine 
by even closer ties than those of blood. It was her sister-in-law 
Lisa, the confidante of her childhood, the friend and companion 
of her maturer years. Her numerous children were the objects 
of Catherine s tenderest affection : she had a singular love for 
children, and had she followed her inclination, would have had 
them always with her. " Were it becoming," she would say, " I 
should never weary of caressing them." 1 The greater number 
of these little ones were taken away in early youth, for Lisa was 
destined to be drawn closer to God by the stroke of domestic 
affliction. Two of her daughters, however, lived to take the 
religious habit in the convent of St. Agnes of Montepulciano, and 
a letter is preserved addressed by St. Catherine to one of them, 
named Eugenia. The strong mutual affection existing between 
Catherine and Lisa is apparent from many passages both in the 
Legend and in the letters of the Saint. In one of the last she 
addresses her friend as " Mia cognata secondo la carne, mia sordid 
secondo Cristo" In fact, after the death of her husband, Lisa put 

1 Sup., Part I, Trat. 2, 12. Lisa was often in danger of death when 
giving birth to her children, and on two occasions both mother and child owed 
their safety to the prayers of the Saint. This seems to have been the origin 
of the very special love she bore to these little ones the children of her 


on the habit of Penance, and became Catherine s inseparable 
companion even until her death. Their close intimacy gave her 
opportunities of becoming acquainted with many circumstances 
of Catherine s life, which were unknown to others, and from her 
F. Raymund collected some of the most interesting facts which 
he has introduced into the Legend. She had personal experience 
within their own family of that wonderful knowledge of hearts 
which God had communicated to the holy virgin a supernatural 
gift which often brought anguish to its possessor. It was not 
easy to escape the glance of her gentle but penetrating eye. 
One day, having opened her breviary to say Vespers, Catherine 
was rapt in ecstasy, and remained in that state for four hours. 
Coming to herself, she was conscious of an insupportable odour 
which often indicated to her the presence of a soul stained by 
mortal sin. At the same moment it was made known to her that 
one of her brothers had grievously offended God. Pierced with 
sorrow, she interceded for the unfortunate youth ; then, hearing 
his footstep at the door, she rose to meet him. As he listened 
to her words of sad reproof, he stood abashed and conscience- 
stricken, and found, to his surprise, that before those grave and 
weeping eyes the secrets of his heart lay open. 1 Another of these 
domestic incidents was of a less sorrowful character. Lisa had 
determined on making a general confession, but, wishing to keep 
the matter private, she said nothing to any of the family, and 
chose the remote corner of an unfrequented church, where, having 
made her confession to one who was not her ordinary confessor, 
she returned home, as she imagined, unperceived. But Catherine 
met her, and embracing her with tenderness, exclaimed a little 
archly, " Oh ! now you are really my good little sister ! " Lisa 
inquired the meaning of her unusual salutation, and was some 
what disconcerted on finding that her whole proceedings were 
perfectly known. Seeing her confusion, Catherine sweetly con 
soled her, saying, " I shall always love you the better, my Lisa, 
for this morning s work." 2 

Mention has been made of F. Thomas Caffarini as at this time 
1 Sup., Part 2, Trat. 5, 7. 2 Sup., Part 2, Trat. 5, 8. 


a frequent visitor at the Fullonica; and a little later another 
of the Friars was introduced to Catherine by his old friend and 
fellow novice, F. Thomas della Fonte. This was F. Bartholomew 
Dominic, who seems first to have made her acquaintance early 
in 1368, and who for the remaining twelve years of her life con 
tinued to enjoy her most intimate friendship. When first he was 
admitted into the little chamber to which she retired when her 
presence with the rest of the family was no longer required, it 
bore the same aspect of austerity and recollection which has been 
already described. The door and window 1 were always kept 
closed, and a lamp burnt day and night before the crucifix and 
the image of the Blessed Virgin and other Saints. There was the 
bed of boards, which in the day-time she used as a bench on 
which to sit ; there were the brick steps, which may still be seen, 
and which often served as her only pillow ; and, above all, there 
was the wasted form of one whose very beauty was so unlike the 
beauty of earth that it told its own tale of a nature purified and 
sublimated by penance. " When first I began to visit her," he 
says, "she was young, and her countenance was always serene 
and joyful. I was also young ; yet, far from experiencing in her 
presence the embarrassment which I might have felt in the com 
pany of other women of her age, the longer I conversed with her, 
the more utterly were all earthly passions extinguished in my 
breast. I have known many both laymen and religious who 
experienced the same thing ; there was a something in her whole 
appearance so redolent of purity as to be far more angelic than 
human." 2 

Besides these friends and the members of her own immediate 
family, Catherine admitted into her privacy some of the other 
Mantellate, and with them Bartholomew often found her, after 
the labours of the day were over, singing hymns and making 
garlands. Then she would converse with them on the things of 
God, but would break off, saying with a sigh, " It were better to 

1 Out of this window, according to local tradition, Catherine was wont to 
distribute alms to the poor. 

2 Process, 1314. 


be silent than to speak of such things in such a way. It is like 
dipping pearls in mud to attempt to relate them with a tongue 
of flesh." "As to my repetition of her words," he adds, " it is as 
insipid as a dish of meat without salt." Gradually others of the 
Friars came to visit her, and listened with wonder to her words. 
" How often," says Caffarini, " have I heard her exhort them to 
be true sons of their Holy Father, to abide in the cell of self- 
knowledge, to feed on souls, and to weep over sinners ! Some 
times she would exclaim, Let us live in our cell ! or again, Let 
us weep, let us weep over all these dead souls ! And I know by 
experience that by her prayers and exhortations, and her own holy 
example, devotion and penance revived in our convent at Siena ; 
the use of fasts, disciplines, and haircloths increased among us, 
and primitive observance began to be restored." 

The unbroken union with God which Catherine enjoyed, and 
which was never interrupted by her active employments, often 
caused her to be rapt in ecstasy even when engaged in the home 
liest household duties. It could not be otherwise, says Raymund, 
"for her heart ever tended heavenward, and drew the body with 
it. At such times her limbs became stiff, her eyes closed, and her 
body, raised in the air, often diffused a perfume of exquisite sweet 
ness." He declares in the Legend that she had been thus seen 
by him and his brethren a thousand times, and her other disciples 
all speak to the same effect. In consequence, she was exposed to 
exactly the same kind of annoyance, on the part whether of the 
curious or the devout, which in all times falls to the lot of an 
Ecstatica. People were always trying to see her, asking her con 
fessor to admit them to her chamber when the Saint was in ecstasy, 
or plotting with her companions to bring her to some place on a 
mission of charity, where they might have a chance of beholding 
the prodigy. And the embarrassment was the greater from the 
impossibility she was under of restraining that suspension of her 
bodily faculties which the very thought of God would suffice to 
occasion. If this took place in the presence of others it caused 
her the utmost confusion. "You see, father," she would say, 
addressing her confessor, "I am not fit to converse with others; 


I entreat you, let me go elsewhere." l But if he refused her the 
permission to do so, she never disobeyed, but, bowing her head, 
submitted meekly to the hard command. 2 One instance of these 
unwelcome visits of pious intruders may suffice as a sample. Fra 
Niccolo of Cascina had come to Siena from Pisa, as he said, upon 
business ; but says Caffarini, more probably out of nothing else 
than his desire to behold the Ecstatica, of whom he had heard 
through his brethren, for he too was a Friar Preacher. Persuading 
F. Thomas to take him to her father s house, they entered her 
chamber, and found her in abstraction, unable to hear or speak 
with them. " She appeared like a statue which retains nothing 
but the human form." 3 Suddenly they beheld her raised gently 
into the air, and sustained there as by some invisible hand ; after 
which there began to fall from her lips the following broken 
exclamations : " O inestimable Charity ! O eternal Truth ! when 
shall I have the happiness of suffering something for Thy glory ? 
Yet if in this desire Thou seest aught of vanity or self-love, I con 
jure Thee annihilate it, destroy it, tear it out of my heart ! " Fra 
Niccolo listened with awe and tender devotion, and with humble 
reverence extending his hand, he touched her lightly with one of 
his fingers. And that slight touch communicated to his hand so 
wondrous a fragrance, that for the entire day it seemed to infuse 
a strength and consolation as well to his corporal as to his 
spiritual senses. 4 

It very often happened that persons, out of mere curiosity, 
would obtain permission from F. Thomas to secrete themselves 
somewhere in order to behold Catherine in this state of abstrac 
tion. But again and again it happened that when such persons 
beheld her absorbed in prayer, the mere spectacle so moved them 
to compunction as to effect an entire change of heart. Then, 
after they were gone away, the Saint, returning to herself, would 
say to her confessor, " Who were those persons you brought here 
just now?" "And how do you know I had any person with 

1 Sup., Part I, Trat. 2, 14. 2 Ibid., Part 2, Trat. 3, 4. 

3 " Quasi statua che ritenesse la solafigiira di donna." 

4 Sup., Part 2, Trat. 3, 3. 


me?" he would reply. Then, with an air of gravity, she would 
say, "Father, such and such persons were here, and they came 
in your company, being curious to see me thus ; " and he soon 
found that it was impossible to deceive her. 

These prodigies were not equally well understood by all who 
witnessed them, and it sometimes happened that Lapa, who had 
no great experience in the phenomena of ecstasies, 1 would find 
her daughter in this condition, and try to bend her rigid limbs, 
not always in the gentlest manner. On one of these occasions 
she used so much force as nearly to break her daughter s neck, 
and Catherine, on returning to herself, suffered great pain in 
consequence. Another day, being engaged in the kitchen accord 
ing to her custom, she sat down by the fire and began to turn 
the spit ; as she did so she was rapt in ecstasy, and became wholly 
insensible to exterior things. Her sister-in-law, Lisa, observing 
this, and being better acquainted than Lapa with the nature of 
these heavenly raptures, quietly took her place at the spit, leaving 
her to enjoy undisturbed the Divine communications. When the 
meat was roasted, supper was served to the family, Lisa still 
discharging all those services which were generally rendered by 
her sister ; and when supper was ended, having attended to the 
wants of her husband and put her children to bed, she returned 
to Catherine, intending to watch by her till she should recover 
consciousness. On re-entering the kitchen, however, she was 
terrified to find that Catherine had fallen forwards, and was lying 
with her body on the burning coals. The fire was large and 
fierce, for an unusual quantity of wood was always kept burning 
in the house for the sake of preparing the dyes. " Alas ! " cried 
Lisa, " Catherine is all burnt ; " and so saying, she ran and drew 
her out of the smoking embers, but found, to her wonder, that she 
had received no injury either in her person or even her clothes, 
on which the "smell of fire had not passed." "And yet," says 
her old English biographer, " it was a great fire, and she a long 
time in it. But the fire of God s love that burnt within her 
heart was of such force and virtue that it would not suffer that 
1 " Non consapevole di quest fs/asi," says Raymund. 


outward fire to prevail over her." This was not the only occasion 
when fire seemed to have no power of injuring her. One day, 
when praying in the Church of San Domenico, and leaning, 
according to her custom, against the pilaster that supports the 
roof of the chapel Delle Volte, it chanced that, some candles 
having been set up before the image of some saint that stood in 
that place, one of them fell upon her head, she being at the time 
in ecstasy, and continued burning there, without, however, doing 
her any kind of harm, or so much as singeing her veil. 

Other anecdotes which seem to belong to this time are of a 
less homely character. Her companions tried sometimes to 
induce her to accompany them on little expeditions, whether of 
charity or otherwise, beyond the city gates. One of the places 
which they visited was the Monastery of St. Abondio, the 
favourite resort of St. John Columbini, who was buried there, 
and whose only daughter was a nun within its walls. Possibly 
this circumstance may explain their visit, as Lisa, who, no doubt, 
accompanied her sister-in-law, was the saint s near relative. 
Catherine, when they set out, was suffering from an affection of 
the chest, which made any exertion painful to her; nevertheless, 
with her usual sweet charity, she complied with the wishes of 
her Sisters, and set out in their company. She had not gone far 
when, overwhelmed, as it seemed, by some glorious vision, she 
exchanged her feeble steps for a pace so rapid that none of 
her companions could keep up with her. They followed as 
best they might, and beheld her carried forward with wonderful 
impetuosity, her eyes being all the while closed. Reaching 
the convent, she at once entered the church, and prostrated 
before the altar. When the others came in they found her in 
ecstasy, and in that state she began to utter such sweet and 
wonderful things that they were stupefied with astonishment ; 
and the rumour of what was passing spreading through the 
house, the community gathered in the upper choir and other 
parts overlooking the church, whence they could behold and 
listen to her. 

Another time they took her to a neighbouring village, and, as 


usual, she became so absorbed in meditation, that, though indeed 
she walked with the others, her senses were quite abstracted, nor 
could they rouse her by pushing or shaking her. At last, how 
ever, they were surprised to hear her begin to sing, and were 
very soon sensible of a new kind of marvel ; for, as they listened 
to her sweet voice, they were themselves made sharers in the 
holy jubilee which filled her breast, and felt as though transformed 
into different persons. They returned to the city singing the 
Divine praises, and heedless of the rain which fell in torrents ; 
and such was the supernatural grace infused into them, that for 
three entire days they remained recreated by it, nor so much as 
thought of taking their ordinary food. 

( 75 ) 



/^"^ATHERINE had not been drawn from the privacy of her 
v_/ little chamber merely to take part in household duties, or 
even to diffuse among her family and those who from time to 
time visited her in her home the good odour of her virtues. In 
abandoning her solitude she had feared at first to lose that con 
tinual presence of her Beloved which was dearer to her than 
life itself. But He is pleased to abide in other sanctuaries than 
the solitary cell, and Catherine learnt to seek Him and find Him 
in His two chosen dwelling-places the Sacrament of His love 
and the person of His poor. And indeed it would have been 
impossible for a love like hers to have rested content with devout 
affections without seeking for relief in action. It is her own 
maxim that "the love we conceive towards God we must bring 
forth in acts of charity towards our neighbour. God Himself is 
beyond" our reach ; therefore the services we cannot render directly 
to Him, He wills we should render to our neighbour." 1 In con 
formity with this principle, she very soon began to exercise her 
self in charitable labours for the sick and needy; but having 
nothing of her own to bestow, and considering herself bound by 
her religious character to the practice of poverty, she besought 
her father to allow her to deduct the share of the poor from the 
abundance of temporal things which were enjoyed by the family. 
Giacomo willingly consented : his reverence for his daughter had 
increased with years, and he made known to the whole house- 

1 Dialogo, ch. vii. 


hold the permission he had granted her. " Let no one hinder 
my dear daughter from giving alms," he said; "if she give all 
there is in the house, I am well content." Catherine carried out 
his permission almost to the letter; but her liberality, however 
large, was always discreet. She sought out certain poor families 
whom she knew to be in great distress, yet ashamed to beg, and 
gave them relief as secret as it was timely. For, rising very 
early in the morning, she would load herself with corn, wine, oil, 
and other necessaries, and stealing to their houses, she would 
gently place her store of provisions within the door, and return 
home without being perceived. One day, when she w 

in_bed j _suffering great pain in every part of her body^jhe learnt 
that a poor widow of the neighbourhood was in a state of great 
distress, not having even a loaf of bread to give to her children. 
Catherine spent the night praying to our Lord that He would 
give her strength enough to go and help the poor woman ; and 
rising before it was day, she procured a large sack, and went about 
the house gathering together meal, wine, oil, and any other food 
that she could find. Whe she had carried all these things to her 
cell, she began to fear lest it would be impossible for her to carry 
such a burthen. Nevertheless, lifting up her heart to God, she 
made the attempt; and as soon as the morning bell had rung 
(before which no person was suffered to leave their house), she 
went forth into the street, feeling her load " no more than if it 
had been a wisp of straw." By the providence of God she found 
the widow s door half open, and thrusting in her sack of provisions, 
she would have hurried away, when her strength forsook her, and 
she was nearly sinking to the ground. But, turning to her Spouse, 
between game and earnest, she began to say, " O Lord, why hast 
Thou deceived me ? Is it Thy pleasure that all the neighbours 
should see my folly and laugh me to scorn ? Behold, the day is 
coming on, and I shall be discovered by all men. Give me so 
much strength that I may be able to return home to my chamber, 
and then lay on me as much weakness as Thou pleasest." Then 
our Lord heard her, and, pitying her case, gave her strength enough 
to make her way home again, where, as soon as she had arrived, 


the grievous sickness from which she had been suffering returned 
upon her as before. 

Two other incidents must be related in the beautiful language 
of the old Legend : 

" While Catherine was one day in St. Dominic s church, there 
came to her a poor man, who besought her, for God s love, that 
she would give him somewhat ; to whom, because she had nothing 
there to give (for it was not her manner to carry either gold or 
silver about her), she spake very gently, and prayed him that he 
would have so much patience as to wait there till she might go 
home and come again. The poor man made answer that he could 
not tarry so long, but if she had anything there to give, she should 
give it, for otherwise he must needs go his way. She was loth 
that he should go away from her without something, and there 
fore bethought herself carefully what thing she might have about 
her to serve that poor man s need ; and it came to her mind that 
she had a little cross of silver that hung by her beads, which she 
broke off with all speed, and gave gladly to the poor man, who 
likewise, when he had received this alms at her hand, went his 
way, and was seen no more to beg that day, as though his coming 
had been for that cross only. The night following, as she was 
occupied in prayer, after her accustomed manner, our Saviour 
Christ appeared unto her, having that same cross in His hand, 
set with divers and sundry precious stones, and said unto her, 
Daughter, knowest thou this cross? Yes, Lord, said she, I 
know it right well ; but it was not so richly decked when I had it. 
Then said our Lord to her again, Yesterday thou gavest Me this 
cross with a cheerful heart and great charity, which love and charity 
are signified by these precious stones. And, therefore, I promise 
thee that at the day of judgment I will show the same, in the pre 
sence of men and angels, to the increase of thine everlasting joy 
and glory ; for I will not suffer to be hidden such deeds of charity 
as are done by thee. With that, this apparition ceased, and left her 
replenished with unspeakable joy and gladness. And from that 
time forward her desire of relieving the poor greatly increased." 
One day, when the office was finished in the church of the Friars, 


she remained behind alone with one of her sisters to pray ; and 
as she was coming down from the chapel belonging to the Sisters 
of Penance, our Lord appeared to her in the likeness of a poor 
pilgrim, of the age, as it seemed, of three and thirty years, half 
naked, and besought her that she would give him clothes for 
the love of God. "Tarry here a little while," said she, "until 
I go to yonder chapel and come again ; and then, God willing, 
I will help thee with clothes." With that she went up again to 
the chapel, and undid her kirtle, under which she wore a sleeve 
less petticoat, which she took off, and came down again and 
gave it to the poor man very sweetly. When the poor man had 
received the coat, he besought her furthermore that, seeing she 
had given him a woollen garment to wear outwardly, she would 
also be so good as to give him some shirt of linen to wear next 
his body. "Willingly," said she; "come home with me, and 
I will seek out one for thee." And so she went on before, 
and the poor man came after. When she was come home she 
went to the chests and presses where the linen clothes of her 
father and brothers were laid up, and took out a shirt and certain 
other linen clothes, and gave the same gladly to the poor man. 
When the poor pilgrim had received all these things at her hand, 
he did not depart, but prayed her yet more that she would give 
him sleeves to his coat to cover his arms. " With a goodwill," 
said she ; " for otherwise, I grant, this coat were to no great 
purpose." And with that she went and sought all about for 
sleeves, and at last found a new coat of a maid-servant that was 
in the house, which had never been worn, and took off the sleeves 
from the same and gave them cheerfully to the poor pilgrim, who 
received those sleeves also thankfully at her hand, as he had done 
all the rest, and said unto her, " Mistress, ye have now clothed me 
thoroughly : He for whose love ye have done it thanks you for it : 
but yet one demand more I have to make unto you. I have a 
companion lying in an hospital here by, who standeth in great 
need of clothes ; if it shall please you to send him any, I will 
carry them unto him in your behalf with a very good will." This 
new request troubled her somewhat, and caused her to have a 


certain conflict within herself. On the one side, she was much 
moved with compassion for that poor man, and had a great desire 
to supply his necessity. On the other side, she considered the 
murmuring and grudging of as many as were in the house, who 
waxed so weary of her dealing out their things, that, to keep 
them from her hands, they began, every one, to keep their apparel 
and other goods under lock and key. Again, she thought she had 
done enough to take away the sleeves of the servant s new coat 
that was never worn, and that she could not with discretion take 
any more from her, being herself also needy and poor. Then 
she began to reason with herself whether she might conveniently 
part from her own garment or no. She was much inclined to do 
it, because she knew it was a great work of charity, and saw also 
that she was better able to bear that lack of clothes than the poor 
man was. But, on the other hand, she considered that if she 
should spoil herself of her clothes, she should in so doing transgress 
the rules of prudence, which might cause great offence in the minds 
of men. All which things thus considered and discreetly weighed, 
she resolved in herself that in this case it was far better to abstain 
from giving her alms than, by giving the same, to cause offence 
to her neighbour. She spake, therefore, to the poor man after 
a very gentle and sweet manner, and said, " Truly, good man, 
if I might do it with modesty, I would spoil myself even of this 
coat that I wear, with all my heart, and bestow it upon thy com 
panion ; but because I have no more garments to put on but 
only this, I must needs pray thee to hold me excused, for in 
truth there lacketh no goodwill in me, but only ability." With 
that the poor man smiled upon her, and said, " Mistress, I see 
right well that if ye had ought to give, you would gladly give it. 
I thank you for your goodwill : God reward and keep you ! " 
And so he took his leave of her, and went his way in such sort 
that she gathered, by certain signs, that this poor pilgrim was 
indeed He that was wont to appear unto her. But such jyras 
her lowliness and base esteem of herself, that she thought herself 
unworthy to receive such honour at God s hand ; and therefore, 
with an humble mind, she returned to her wonted services in the 


house, where, notwithstanding, she kept her heart evermore fixed 
upon her dear Spouse, Jesus Christ, who the next night following 
appeared unto her again (as she was praying) in the likeness 
of the poor man, holding in His hand l that coat which she had 
given Him, all set and decked with goodly pearls and precious 
stones that shone all over the chamber, and said unto her, " Dear 
daughter, knowest thou this coat ? " " Yes, Lord," said she, 
" I know it very well ; but it was not so richly decked when it 
was with me." Then said our Lord to her again, "Yesterday 
thou gavest Me this coat very freely and charitably to cover the 
nakedness of My body, and to keep it from cold and shame. 
This day, for recompense of thy great chanty towards Me, I give 
thee a coat that shall be invisible to other men, but to thee alone 
visible and also sensible, by virtue whereof thou shalt be de 
fended both in body and soul from all hurtful cold ; and with 
this garment thou shalt be clad until the time come that in the 
presence of angels and saints I shall put on upon thee the blissful 
and glorious garment of immortality." When He had said these 
words, He drew out of the wound of His side a robe of sanguine 
colour, shining all about and yielding a marvellous, beautiful 
light ; and putting the same upon her with His own hands, said, 
" This garment I give thee for all the time that thou shalt live 
here upon the earth, in token and pledge of that immortal garment 
that thou shalt receive at My hands in heaven." And with these 
words that vision ceased, and left her endowed with /such a 
strange grace and quality, not only in soul, but also in body, that 
from that very instant she never felt alteration in her body, but 
continued evermore in one temperature, whether it were winter 
or summer, hot or cold, wind or rain ; and whatsoever weather 
came, she never wore more clothes under her habit than one 
single garment." 2 

1 In the Leggenda Minore we read that our Lord appeared wearing her 
garment, and the following marginal note is written on the original MS. pre 
served at Siena : " Questo atto 2 dipinto a Roma assai adornatamente" Thus 
showing that St. Catherine was venerated as a Saint almost immediately after 
her death. 

2 Fen., Part 2, chaps, vi., vil 


Sometimes these acts of charity were accompanied by other 
miraculous tokens, as when, hastening to the relief of a poor man 
whcTwas dying of hunger, she took a bag of eggs under her 
mantle. But on her way, stepping into a church, the door of 
which was open, and intending only to make a passing visit, she 
was seized with an ecstasy, and fell down on the eggs so heavily 
as to crush a metal thimble which happened to be in the bag, the 
eggs themselves suffering no injury. One more story was attested 
by more than twenty persons, witnesses of the fact. At the time 
when she had her father s leave to give out to the poor whatever 
she chose, it happened that the vessel of wine which was being 
used by the family had run low, and what remained in it seemed 
to her not good enough to give to the poor; for it was her custom 
in giving alms always to give the best, for God s sake.- She went 
therefore to the next vessel which had not been touched, and 
drew out of it largely, without its coming to the knowledge of any 
of the household. When the first butt had been quite exhausted, 
the person who had charge of the wine-cellar came to this vessel 
and began to draw out of it for the use of the family, whilst 
Catherine likewise continued to. draw from it as before. Accord 
ing to the size of the butt, it would have sufficed the household 
for fifteen or twenty days, but instead of this a whole month 
passed, and the wine decreased neither in quantity nor quality. 
Everybody wondered that the vessel should hold out so long, and 
declared that in their lifetime they had never tasted better wine ; 
but Catherine felt no wonder about it, understanding that it was 
the work of God, whose wont it is to bless and multiply the 
substance of those who are ready to help the poor, for His love. 
One month had expired and another was begun, and still the 
wine continued as fresh and abundant as ever. At last, when 
the time came when the grapes were ripe and ready for the press, 
all the wine-butts being required to receive the new wine, he who 
had the charge of the vintage desired that this vessel should 
be emptied of its contents, that it might be filled afresh. They 
imagined little or nothing could be left in it, but to their surprise 
found that the tap ran as copiously as ever. At last they resolved 

VOL. i. F 


to gauge the vessel and see what was in it, when lo ! they found 
it perfectly dry, as if it had stood without liquor for many months, 
which caused them no less wonder than they had felt before at 
the abundance and excellence of the wine. 

F. Bartholomew in his deposition relates either the same story 
with different circumstances, or, which is very possible, an entirely 
different incident. He says that Giacomo had forbidden a 
certain vessel of wine to be used for the family, on account of 
its being of superior quality. Catherine, hearing this, considered 
that the better the quality, the fitter it was to be dispensed to the 
poor, and drew from it till it was empty. One day, he continues, 
her father desired the maid to go and draw wine out of that cask ; 
but she returned, saying there was nothing in it. Every one was 
dismayed, and some began to reproach the servant, as though 
it were she who had secretly taken it, whilst Giacomo angrily 
insisted on knowing who had disobeyed his orders. Catherine 
was in her own chamber, but hearing the tumult, and guessing 
the cause, she went to the assembled family, and said sweetly, 
"Dear father, why are you troubled? Be not disturbed; I will 
go and draw the wine." Going therefore to the spot, she knelt 
down by the wine cask, and full of confidence prayed, saying, " O 
/ Lord, Thou knowest that the wine has been consumed for Thy 
I glory and the necessities of the poor, therefore permit not that it 
J should be a cause of scandal to my father and the family." Then 
I rising, she made the sign of the Cross over the cask, and the wine 
I began to flow abundantly. And giving thanks, she carried it to 
them, but said nothing of the miracle. 1 Bartholomew was not 
himself a witness of what he relates, which happened, he says, 
" before he knew her." The event, in fact, is placed by Carapelli, 
in his Corso Cronotastico, as far back as the year previous to her 
reception of the Dominican habit, but the expressions used by F. 
Raymund in the Legend oblige us to assign it to this period of 
her life, when she had her father s permission to dispense the 
goods of his household. He adds that "the thing was known 
throughout all Siena, and caused great wonder," and the citizens 
1 Process, 1317. 


stiil speak of "the cask of St. Catherine," when they wish to 
describe something which never comes to an end. 

But Catherine s charity was not confined to the easy exercise 
of almsgiving. How often, as she passed through the streets of 
Siena, seeking out fresh objects who needed relief, must she not 
have meditated over the words in the Gospel, " I was sick, and 
ye visited Me." They sounded in her heart as the Voice of her 
Beloved, and she may have responded in those other words, " I 
will rise and will go about the city : in the streets and the broad 
ways, I will seek Him whom my soul loveth." If some things 
that are related of her service of the sick seem to pass the limit 
of what is possible to flesh and blood, let it never be forgotten 
that Catherine, possessed of that magnificent gift, " the perfection 
of faith," beheld in each poor sufferer to whom she ministered 
nothing less than the person of her Lord. She sought Him then 
in the streets and broad ways of her native city, and she found 
Him in the hospitals of the lepers, and wherever sickness had 
assumed its most terrible and repulsive forms. 

There was at that time in Siena a poor woman named Cecca, 
who, falling sick and being entirely destitute, was received into 
one of the city hospitals, which, being very poor, was barely able 
to supply her with necessaries. At last, her malady increasing, 
she became covered with leprosy; and no one in the hospital 
choosing to have the care of such a case, it was agreed to send 
her to the leper-house, which in Siena was outside the Porta 
Romana, on the spot now called St. Lazzaro, about a mile out 
of the city. But before she was removed thither, Catherine, 
hearing of the matter, went to the hospital, and first visiting the 
poor sufferer and reverently kissing her, she offered to serve her 
daily with her own hands, and to supply her with all she might 
need, if they would allow her to remain where she was. Her 
offer was accepted, and from that day she came to visit the poor 
woman morning and evening, dressing her wounds and doing all 
that was requisite for her " with as much care and reverence as 
if she had been her own mother." 

At first Cecca took her charitable services in very good part, 


but as time went on, and she grew accustomed to see the holy 
virgin bestowing on her a care and attention such as no hired 
servant would have rendered, there arose in her a sentiment of 
pride, so that, far from rendering any thanks to her benefactress, 
she took all that she did as a matter of duty, and as no more 
than she had a right to expect. If anything was done otherwise 
than pleased her, she would reproach and revile her with such 
unseemly words as might be addressed to a bond slave. If 
Catherine came to the hospital a little later than usual, having 
been detained by her devotions in church, Cecca would greet her 
in mocking and bitter terms : " Good morning, my lady-queen 
of Fontebranda," she would say ; " where has my lady been so 
long ? At the Church of the Friars, I ll be bound ; it seems that 
my lady-queen can never have enough of those Friars ! " Then 
Catherine, without replying, would go about her work ; and when 
she saw her time, would speak to her in her accustomed lowly 
and gentle manner, saying, " Good mother, have patience ; I am 
a little late, it is true, but all your wants shall be seen to presently." 
Then lighting the fire and putting on water, she would prepare 
the food, and serve it with such sweet words that Cecca herself 
could only wonder at her forbearance. This went on for some 
time, to the admiration of all who knew it, with one notable 
exception. Lapa was much aggrieved both at the service her 
daughter had undertaken, and the ungrateful return she met 
with ; and she remonstrated in no gentle terms, saying, " Daughter, 
if this goes on, you will in your turn become a leper, a thing I 
will never put up with, wherefore, I charge you, give over this 
business." " Have no fear about that, dear mother," she replied ; 
" what I do for this poor woman I do for God, and He will not 
let me suffer for it." At length, however, as though to test her 
to the uttermost, He permitted that the leprosy should indeed 
attack the hands with which she daily dressed the infected sores 
of her patient; and those who before had praised her charity, 
now blamed her imprudence. More than this, they avoided her 
company as one contaminated, and spoke of her with disgust 
and contempt. All this in no way moved or disturbed her : she 


counted her body as dust, and cared not what became of it, so 
long as she might employ it in God s service. " Cecca s sickness 
continued many days," says the old legend, "but Catherine thought 
them very few, by reason of the great love she had to our Lord, 
whom she thought she served in that sick woman." At last 
Cecca died, assisted by Catherine s prayers and exhortations up 
to her last moment. And as soon as she was dead Catherine 
washed the body and prepared it for burial ; she caused the dirge 
and other prayers to be said for the departed soul, and then 
carried the body herself to the grave, and covered it with earth 
with her own hands. When that last act of charity had been 
accomplished, it pleased God that the leprosy which until then 
had disfigured her hands, should suddenly and completely dis 
appear ; they even remained whiter and fairer than the rest of her 
person, as was attested by the evidence of many eyewitnesses. 

About the same time there was among the Sisters of Penance 
in Siena one named Palmerina, who had given herself and all her 
wealth, which was considerable, to the service of God; but her 
many good works were poisoned by a secret pride : and the praise 
which she heard bestowed upon Catherine excited in her such an 
envy that at length she could not bear to see her, or to hear her 
name spoken. Unable to repress her malice, she even broke 
forth in public, cursing and calumniating the servant of God, if 
ever she was named in her presence. Catherine, when she under 
stood this, did what she could to win her over by sweet and 
humble words, but finding it of no avail, she contented herself 
with recommending the poor Sister to God. Not long after, 
Palmerina was seized with a grievous sickness, which when 
Catherine heard she hastened to her, and left nothing undone 
to touch her heart, fearing that if she departed this life in such a 
state of malice her soul would be lost eternally. But the hatred 
which Palmerina had conceived in her heart was so deep and 
bitter, that she rejected all her courtesy, returning it with re 
proaches and execrations, and bidding her depart out of her 
chamber. And so, growing worse, without showing any change 
of disposition, or having been able to receive the last sacraments, 


she approached her end Penetrated to the heart with pity for 
her sister s unhappy state, Catherine returned home, and casting 
herself prostrate on the ground, she poured out her soul before 
God in prayer. " O Lord," she said, " suffer it not to be that I, 
who ought to be to my sister an instrument of salvation, should 
become the cause of her everlasting woe ! Are these the promises 
Thou didst make me when Thou didst say that I should win 
many souls to Thee ! Doubtless my sin is the cause of this, and 
yet I am well assured that Thy mercies are not diminished, nor 
Thy hand shortened to save." But no comforting answer came 
to her prayer. On the contrary, she did but understand more 
clearly the danger of that soul which was, as it were, hanging on 
the very brink of destruction. The thought that she should in 
any way cause the loss of a soul pierced her with anguish, and 
she continued her prayers with many tears and groans, beseeching 
God, if need be, to lay on her the sins of the dying woman, and 
to chastise her, if only Palmerina might be spared ; and raising 
her heart to God with the boldness of a loving confidence, she 
exclaimed, " Never, O Lord, will I rise from this place till Thou 
show mercy to my sister ! " Such a prayer, as the event proved, 
had power to pierce the clouds. For three days and nights the 
sick woman lay, as it seemed, at the point of death, and yet un 
able to depart, all which time was spent by Catherine in unwearied 
and earnest intercession for her. At last, as it were, she wrested 
the sword of God s justice out of His hand, and obtained for the 
dying woman grace to see the enormity of her sin, and truly to 
repent of it. When next Catherine visited her chamber, she was 
received with love and reverence ; and, as well as she could, 
Palmerina signified her deep contrition for her uncharitable conduct, 
and besought the Saint to pardon her after which, receiving the 
sacraments of Holy Church, she gave up her soul to her Maker. 

After her departure out of this life it pleased God to make 
known to Catherine that the soul of her sister had indeed, through 
her means, been saved. He showed her also how beautiful that 
soul had become in its state of grace, decked with a loveliness 
that no tongue of man is able to express Then He said to her, 


" How sayest thou, daughter, is not this a fair and beautiful soul 
which through thy care has been recovered from the hands of 
the enemy ? What man or woman would refuse to suffer some 
what for the winning of so noble a creature ? If I, the Sovereign 
Beauty, was nevertheless so overcome by the love and beauty of 
man s soul that I refused not to come down from heaven and to 
suffer labour and reproaches for many years, and in the end to 
shed My blood for his redemption, how much more ought you to 
labour one for another, and do what in you lieth for the recovery 
of a soul ? And for this cause have I shown it to you that here 
after you might be more earnest about the winning of souls, and 
induce others also to do the same." Catherine thanked our Lord 
with all humility, and besought Him to vouchsafe her the grace of 
seeing the state of such souls as she might hereafter converse with, 
in order that she might be the more moved to seek their salvation ; 
a grace which she received, and that in so abundant a measure 
that, as her biographer says, "she saw more distinctly the souls 
than the bodies of those who appoached her." Many years later 
F. Raymund, being then her confessor, took occasion to rebuke 
her for not preventing those who came to see her from kneeling 
in her presence, a custom which gave great offence to some who 
observed it. " God knows," she replied, " I do not often notice 
the outward gestures of those who come to see me; I am so 
engaged beholding their souls, that I pay little attention to their 
bodies." "How, mother," he said, "do you see their souls?" 
" Yes," she replied, " our Lord deigned to grant me that grace, 
when in answer to my prayer He withdrew from eternal flames a 
soul that was perishing. He clearly made me see the beauty of that 
soul, and since that time I seldom see any one without becoming 
conscious of their interior state. O father," she continued, " could 
you but know the beauty of one immortal soul, you would think 
it little to give your life a hundred times over for its salvation." 

Meanwhile a great and sorrowful change was preparing for the 
household of the Fullonica. Giacomo, the tender father and the 
brave and honest citizen, was drawing to his end. Between him 
and his saintly daughter there had existed a mutual sympathy 


which added a deeper character to the tie of blood by which they 
were united. Catherine daily prayed for her father s salvation, 
whilst he beheld her sanctity with a love mingled with reverence, 
and trusted by her intercession to find favour with God when his 
last hour should come. And now at length it seemed close at 
hand ; he was attacked by his last illness, and night and day 
Catherine knelt by his bedside assisting him with her loving words 
and pious exhortations. At first she prayed earnestly for his 
recovery, but understanding from our Lord that his time was 
come, and that it was not expedient for him to live longer, she 
bowed to the will of God, and went forthwith to her father to visit 
him and announce to him his approaching departure. Giacomo 
was resigned and ready to leave the world ; and Catherine gave 
thanks to God when she saw his holy dispositions. Yet her deep 
filial love could not rest satisfied, without seeking an assurance 
from God, not only that her father s soul should depart in good 
hope of a blessed eternity, but also that it might be granted to 
him to pass at once out of this sorrowful life to the joys of heaven, 
without tasting the pains of purgatory. This, however, she under 
stood from our Lord could not be granted ; because though her 
father had led a virtuous life and done many good works, among 
which one was his maintenance of her in the holy state she had 
chosen, yet his soul had contracted some rust of earthly conversa 
tion which in justice must be purified in the fires of purgatory. 
" O most loving Lord ! " rejoined Catherine, " how may I abide 
the thought that the soul of my dear father who nourished and 
brought me up, and from whom I have received so many proofs 
of loving goodness, should now go forth to suffer in the flames 
of purgatory ? I entreat Thee permit not that he depart hence 
until, by some means or other, his soul shall have been so per 
fectly cleansed of its stains as to need no other purgation." Our 
Lord in His amazing pity condescended to grant her request. 
Though Giacomo s strength seemed utterly spent, yet whilst 
Catherine continued as it were to wrestle with Almighty God in 
prayer, it was plainly seen that his soul could not depart, but 
was in some way held within his body. At last when she saw 


that the justice of God must needs be satisfied, she spoke as 
follows: "O most merciful Lord! if Thy justice must indeed 
have its course, I beseech Thee turn it on me, and whatever pains 
are appointed for my father, lay the same on me and I will will 
ingly bear them." " Daughter," He replied, " I am content that 
it should be so ; therefore the pains due to thy father I lay on 
thee, to bear in thy body even to thy life s end." Catherine 
joyfully gave thanks to God for this grant of her request, and 
hastening to her father s dying bed, she filled his heart with 
comfort and hope, and did not quit him till he had drawn his 
last sigh. And at the very instant that his soul had departed out 
of the body she was attacked by a grievous pain in the side, 
which from that day never left her. She made little of the suffer 
ing, however, rejoicing in her inmost heart to think of the blessed 
ness of the departed soul ; and when others in the house were 
weeping and lamenting the loss of so good a father, she who 
loved him better than them all was seen to smile sweetly as she 
arranged the body on the bier with her own hands, saying to 
herself with a joyful countenance, " Dear father, would God I 
were as you are now ! Our Lord be blessed ! " l 

Giacomo s death took place on the 22d of August, I368. 2 
On the evening of the same day Catherine went to the neighbour 
ing church to pay her devotions, while Lapa retired to an inner 
chamber, and there gave free vent to her sorrow. It happened 
that a poor man knocked at the door of the house to ask an alms, 
but no one heard him, for the servants were all gone out, and 
Lapa was too much absorbed in her grief to attend to anything 
else. Catherine, however, had a full knowledge of what was 
passing, and returning home she made her mother promise never 
again to permit that any person should leave their door without 
relief. Lapa, astonished at her daughter s knowledge of the cir 
cumstance, gave the promise and kept it. 3 Caffarini in his deposi- 

1 Leg., Part 2, ch. vi. ; Sup., Part I, Trat. 2, 7. 

2 It is so registered in the Necrology of St. Dominic s Church, and the date 
fixes the chronology of this part of St. Catherine s life. 

3 Sup., Part 2, Trat. 5, i. 


tion speaks of the pain which from that day caused Catherine 
continued suffering. Yet she bore it not only patiently but gladly, 
and if any one asked what ailed her, would answer gaily, " Sentio 
un pici dolce fianco" For to her, indeed, it brought a sweet con 
fidence that the father she had loved so tenderly was now beyond 
the reach of suffering. 

As Catherine had procured that her father s soul should not 
pass through the fires of purgatory, so she also delivered her 
mother from a yet more grievous danger. Lapa, though a good 
woman in her way, was inordinately attached to the things of this 
life and had a great horror of death. After the loss of her hus 
band she fell ill, and Catherine praying for her recovery, under 
stood from our Lord that it would be for her happiness if she 
were to die then, inasmuch as she would thereby escape many 
grievous trials. Catherine, therefore, endeavoured to bring her 
mother to accept the holy will of God, but entirely without suc 
cess. Lapa would not hear the name of death so much as men 
tioned in her presence, and implored her daughter to obtain her 
recovery. The answer she received to her prayer was to this 
effect, "Tell thy mother who is unwilling to die now, that the day 
will come when she will sigh for death and not obtain it." Some 
days later Lapa died without having received the sacraments, or, 
as it seemed, resigned herself to God s will. Catherine was in 
great anguish, and those who were present, among whom were 
Lisa and two of the Sisters of Penance, heard her sobbing and 
repeating aloud, " Ah, Lord God ! are these the promises that 
Thou gavest me that none of mine should perish ? I will not 
leave Thy presence till Thou hast restored my mother to me 
alive." Her prayer was granted : Lapa did indeed arise from the 
bed of death, and lived to a great age ; but she had so much to 
endure in the course of her long life, from the loss of worldly 
prosperity and the death of her children and grandchildren and 
all whom she held most dear, that, as our Lord had foretold, she 
often complained that " He had riveted her soul in her body, so 
that it could not escape." This event is assigned by Raymund 
to the month of October, 1370. 




N the very heart 
of Siena is a 
spot to which every 
street converges as 
and which in the 
days of the Re 
public was known 
as the Piazza del 
Campo. It bears 
another name now, 
but we shall retain 
the title which was 
familiar to St. Ca- 
i therine s ears, and 
which has found a 
place in the poetry 
of Dante. 1 The 
shape of this fam 
ous Piazza is semi 
circular, like that 
of an amphitheatre, 
and its whole ap 
pearance seems to suggest the idea of a republican forum. It 

1 " Quando vivea piu glorioso, disse 
Liberamente nel Campo di Siena 
Ogni vergogna deposta, s afflisse." Purg. xi. 

This name has been exchanged in our day for that of the Piazza Vittorio 

r ::"j*^l^ 



is surrounded by public offices, the most remarkable of which is 
the Palazzo Pubblico, a noble building, finished about fifty years 
before the time of which we write, and assigned to the use of the 
Executive Government. It may be taken as a fair monument 
of the ideas which prevailed at the time of its erection. The 
frescoes which decorate the great hall called the Sala delta Pace 
represent, in a series of allegories, the republic of Siena maintain 
ing peace, yet ready for war; the beloved city being personified 
by a majestic figure, seated and clad in baronial robes. All 
around her appear the symbols of those virtues which alone can 
form the sure foundations of a state, Concord, Wisdom, and 
Magnanimity ; while the three theological and four cardinal 
virtues remind us that it is a Christian and not a pagan republic 
which is here represented. On another wall appears a painting 
of the city itself, girt about with moat and battlement, but, as it 
would seem in the mind of the painter, only strong in her military 
defences that she may more surely preserve to her people the 
blessings of peace; for peasants stream through the open gates 
bringing into the town the produce of their farms. The streets 
are full of busy citizens; we see the craftsmen at their trade, 
merchants leading mules laden with bales of goods, a hawking 
party setting out for their sport, and the plain outside the walls 
scattered over with huntsmen, while in the open squares within, 
there are young girls dancing, and little children at play. Nay, 
we even have a school of the fourteenth century presented to our 
eyes, and the schoolmaster is there watching his scholars, while 
the sculptured figures of Geometry, Astronomy, and Philosophy 
remind us that in a free and well governed state, science and the 
arts will be sure to flourish. And as though to complete the 
moral of his pictured epic, the artist gives in his last fresco a 
hideous representation of the reverse of the medal. He shows 
us Tyranny, with all its attendant monsters of cruelty, injustice, 
and fraud. The same city again appears, but no longer the 
scene of peace and plenty ; the streets are now filled with crime 
and bloodshed, and are as revolting to look upon as before they 
were beautiful and attractive. Ambrogio Lorenzetti, himself one 


of the magistrates of the republic, was the painter of these grand 
political allegories, which read many a wholesome lesson to those 
before whose eyes they were daily displayed. Nor was he con 
tent with conveying his instructions by means of his pencil only, 
for under each painting he added a versified explanation, in 
which, as in the frescoes themselves, are conveyed the doctrines 
of Aristotle, whose teaching was at that time held in such great 

The palace has its chapel, too, erected as a votive offering after 
the great plague of 1348, in which mass was said very early for 
the convenience of the market people. And attached to the 
chapel is the beautiful bell-tower, the Torre del Mangia, as it is 
called, a thing of such grace that Leonardo da Vinci is said to 
have travelled to Siena for the sole purpose of beholding it. The 
great bell that hangs there bears inscribed on it the Ave Maria ; 
and in olden times the figure of a man stood by the bell, which 
was made by mechanism to strike the hours with a hammer. The 
citizens bestowed on this figure the appellation of // Mangia, 
which was possibly that of the bell-founder, and hence the tower 
derives its name. 

No one who has once stood in the Campo of Siena will easily 
forget the scene ; that forum which we re-people with the stalwart 
citizens who struggled here five centuries ago to preserve their 
republican institutions ; that quaint old palace, so rich in its his 
toric memories, lifting to the clouds its graceful campanile, whence, 
still as ever, thrice a day comes the call to prayer. We like to 
think that Catherine s eyes must often have rested on it, and that 
her ear must have caught those sounds falling shrill and clear 
through the morning air, announcing that the hour was come for 
the citizens of Siena to go forth to work. At the summons she, 
too, went forth to her work and to her labour until the evening ; 
sometimes even she anticipated the signal when the work was 
pressing, as when the hours of some poor criminal, to whose 
scaffold she was hastening, were already numbered. 1 And many 
times she must have passed the Fonte Gaja in the midst of the 
1 " Poi la mattina, innanzi la Campana, audai a lui." Lelter 97. 


Piazza, destined one day to bestow its name on the sculptor who 
was to decorate it with his bas-reliefs ; and whose chisel was also 
to reproduce the very act of charity in which Catherine had on 
one such morning been engaged. 1 Truly, these are but fancies, 
yet localities are solemn things. We perish, and they endure : 
they stand now as they stood centuries ago, with a thousand 
memories hanging about their walls ; memories of things that 
perish not when all that is mortal of us has fallen into dust : the 
fire of genius, the self-devotion of the patriot, the heroism of the 

To the Piazza del Campo, then, I must now conduct my readers, 
interrupting the narrative of Catherine s personal history for a 
brief moment, in order to notice some important changes which 
in the year 1368 were taking place in the government of her 
native city. Within a month after the death of Giacomo Benin- 
casa a fresh revolution broke out in Siena. The "Twelve," who 
had held the chief rule since 1355, had by this time lost favour 
with the fickle populace. Assisted by the nobles and particularly 
by the powerful, though rival, families of the Tolomei and the 
Salimbeni, the malcontents rose against the magistrates, and 
assembling in the Campo, soon made themselves masters of the 
Palazzo Pubblico. They met with but a feeble resistance, and 
almost without a struggle the power of the Twelve was abolished. 
But the two parties who had united to bring about this revolution 
found themselves at variance one with another, when it became 
a question what form of government was to replace that which 
had been overthrown. The nobles being for the moment masters 
of the situation proclaimed the restoration of the old Sienese 
consulate; and ten consuls were appointed, two from each of 
the great families of the Malevolti, the Salimbeni, the Tolamei, 
the Saraceni, and the Piccolomini, with every one of which, 
Catherine, as we shall see, had close relations. But the popular 
leaders resolved not to be excluded from power ; and unable to 

1 Jacopo della Quercia, called " Delia Fonte " in memory of his works at 
this fountain, is also the author of a beautiful bas-relief representing Catherine 
bestowing her garment on Jesus Christ in the person of a poor pilgrim. 


come to terms, the two parties once more appealed to the 
Emperor Charles IV., and invited him to act as moderator be 
tween them. The first step taken by Charles was to send Mala- 
testa Unghero to Siena as his Imperial Vicar with a body of 800 
German soldiers, with whose aid he trusted to secure possession 
of the city ; but the haughty Sienese nobles resented the humilia 
tion, and sounded the call to arms. A bloody street fight ensued, 
in which, after disputing every inch of ground with fruitless 
valour, the nobles were driven out of the city and forced once 
more to retire to their mountain fastnesses. A new government 
was now installed, which was a coalition of various parties. Jt 
consisted of fifteen persons, eight chosen from the most plebeian 
ranks, out of a class of citizens who had not hitherto been ad 
mitted to any power in the state; four from the party of the 
" Twelve," and the remaining three from that of the " Nine." 
This government was known by the name of the "Reformers" 
(Riformatori), and the fifteen magistrates received the title of 
"Defenders of the Republic." 

They did not keep the ascendancy they had gained without a 
struggle. Though a few of the adherents of the " Twelve " were 
admitted among the Riformatori, their party as a whole had been 
crushed ; and to regain their old footing in the state they leagued 
with some of the defeated nobles, and agreed once more to call 
in the aid of the emperor. In the January, then, of 1369, Charles 
entered Siena at the head of his troops. He could reckon on the 
firm support of the Salimbeni, who were suspected at aiming at 
the sovereign power. 

Charles was just then sorely in want of money, and it was 
commonly whispered that his plan was to make himself master of 
the city and then sell it to the Pope. His first act excited the 
suspicion of the citizens. It was a proposal that they should 
deliver up into his keeping four strong fortresses, together with 
the stronghold of Talamon on the sea-coast, which was the key 
of the republic. These haughty demands being rejected, Charles 
thought to carry the day by a coup- de-main, and together with his 
adherents in the city, concerted plans for a joint attack on the 


Palazzo Pubblico. But the spirit of the old Roman tribunes 
seemed to awaken in the hearts both of the people and their 
rulers. In defence of their liberties they showed themselves fear 
less alike of emperor or nobles, and their brave captain, Menzano, 
undauntedly attacked the well-armed Imperial troops, and put 
them to flight. The emperor found himself in a position of the 
greatest peril : for seven hours he watched the struggle from the 
windows of the Tolomei Palace, and saw the streets piled up with 
dead and dying as the struggle was ten times renewed. He 
listened to the sound of the combat as it swept on towards the 
city gates, telling him of the ignominious rout of his followers. 
Then fearing for his personal safety, he escaped to the stronger 
palace of the Salimbeni, and there awaited in anguish the end of 
that terrible day. It resulted in the complete triumph of the 
popular cause. "The emperor," says the republican chronicler, 
Neri di Donato, " was alone in the Salimbeni Palace, a prey to 
abject fear. He wept, he prayed, he embraced everybody, apologis 
ing for his mistake, and at the same time offering his forgiveness. 
Every one, he said, had betrayed him, the Twelve, the Salimbeni, 
and his own vicar Malatesta. Nothing that had been done was 
his doing, he was only anxious at once to depart from the city." 
This was not so easy, for he had neither horses nor money. 
Menzano, however, at that moment could afford to be generous, 
and restored to him some of the property which had been seized 
by the mob. Charles provided himself with the means of depar 
ture, but before taking his leave had the meanness to demand a 
compensation in money for the affronts he had endured, and the 
favours (!) he had granted. He was asked to name his price ; 
twenty thousand gold florins, he modestly replied, payable in four 
years. It was an answer fitter for a shopkeeper than an emperor ; 
but the citizens threw him the first year s contribution with well- 
merited contempt, acquiring as their sole condition that he would 
at once rid them of his presence. 

After the signal triumph of the popular party, the nobles, once 
more expelled from the city, continued to carry on a desultory 
warfare for the purpose of recovering their civil rights ; nor was it 


until the June of 1369 that peace was re-established through the 
friendly intervention of the Florentines. The nobles were re 
called, and allowed to hold some offices in the Government, 
though still excluded from the chief power, and thus a certain 
amount of harmony was restored. But the seeds of bitter dissen 
sion had been sown among the rival parties ; and far from seeking 
to heal these, it was rather the secret object of the republican 
leaders to foment them. They dreaded nothing so much as a 
solid and lasting alliance between the various noble families 
whom they regarded as their common enemy. The Salimbeni, 
in particular, had shown themselves during the late events the 
firm adherents of the emperor, and were naturally therefore the 
object of special distrust, a fact not to be lost sight of as explain 
ing the jealousy afterwards excited by Catherine s close friendship 
with this family. No efforts were therefore spared to keep up 
the hereditary feuds between the Tolomei and the Salimbeni, 
who, as respective heads of the Guelph and Ghibeline factions, 
were the Capulets and Montagues of Siena ; so that the internal 
harmony enjoyed by the republic was of a doubtful sort; and 
Larenzetti s frescoed ideal of a state made strong by concord 
presented a sorrowful contrast to the reality. 

In all these sad scenes the Benincasa family had borne their 
part ; they belonged to the party of the Twelve, and shared its 
ruin. Giacomo indeed did not live to see the outbreak of the 
revolution, but Catherine s brothers were exposed to imminent 
danger, and on one occasion owed their lives to the respect with 
which the populace regarded their saintly sister. The story is 
thus told by the author of the Miracoli : " It happened at that 
time that there was a revolt in Siena, and the brothers of Catherine 
being opposed to the victorious party, and their enemies seeking 
either to kill them or do them some hurt, as they had done 
to others, there came to the house in great haste one of their 
intimate friends, saying, The whole band of your enemies is 
coming here to seize you ; come along with me at once, and I 
will place you safe in the Church of St. Anthony (which was near 
the house), where some of your friends have already taken refuge. 

VOL. i. G 


At these words, Catherine, who was present, rose from her seat, 
and said to her friend, They shall certainly not go to St. Anthony s, 
and I am heartily sorry for those who are already there, and 
then she bid him depart in God s name. As soon as he was 
gone, she took her mantle and putting it on, said to her brothers, 
Now, come with me and fear nothing ; and so she went be 
tween them and led them straight through the Contrada, which 
was occupied by their enemies. Meeting and passing through 
the midst of them, they inclined to her with reverence, and so 
all passed through safe and sound. Then she conducted her 
brothers to the Hospital of St. Mary, 1 and recommended them 
to the care of the master of the hospital, and said to them, Re 
main concealed here for three days ; at the end of that time you 
can come home in safety. And so they did. When the three 
days were passed, the city was quiet again, but all who had taken 
refuge at St. Anthony s were either killed or cast into prison. 
Soon afterwards, Catherine s brothers were fined one hundred 
gold florins, which they paid, and so were left in peace." Never 
theless the family never recovered its former prosperity. Bartolo, 
indeed, appears to have held office in the republic under the 
Riformatori, and his name appears as one of the " Defenders " 
for the May and June of 1370. But in that same year he and 
his two brothers, Benincasa and Stephen, removed to Florence, 
where they were inscribed as Florentine citizens. Even there 
their bad fortune followed them, and we find from one of 
Catherine s letters to F. Bartholomew Dominic, that her great 
friend, Nicolas Soderini, had come to their help and lent them 
money. Their children meanwhile remained at Siena under the 
care of Lapa, and the business at the Fullonica seems to have 
been carried on by some other member of the family, for it con 
tinued to be Catherine s home for many years later. All these 
troubles, and the loss of worldly prosperity which they entailed, 
brought sad distress to the poor mother, and what was worse, 
she did not always meet from her sons the return which her 

1 The Hospital of St. Mary, that is, of Santa Maria clella Scala, of which 
we shall speak in a subsequent chapter. 


maternal devotion to their interests justly deserved. Among 
Catherine s letters three are preserved addressed to Benincasa, 
her eldest brother, besides one which is a joint letter to them all. 
To Benincasa she writes, consoling him in his misfortunes, but 
at the same time gravely reproving him for his ingratitude to 
their mother. " Try and bear your trials with patience, my dear 
brother," she writes, " and do not forget what you owe to our 
mother, for you are bound to show her gratitude by the com 
mandments of God. We will admit the fact that you had it not 
in your power to assist her ; but even if you had possessed the 
power, I do not feel sure you would have used it, for you have 
not given her so much as one good word. You will pardon me 
in saying this ; you know I could not have said it if I did not 
love you." l In the other letter, addressed to all three, she urges 
them to mutual charity. " You, Benincasa," she says, " as the 
eldest, must make yourself the last of all ; and you, Bartolo, must 
be less than the least ; and you, Stephen, I beg of you to be 
subject to your brothers, that so you may all live together in the 
sweetness of charity." 2 

Lisa accompanied her husband to Florence, and her separa 
tion from Catherine was keenly felt by both. From childhood 
her sister-in-law s sympathy and affection had been Catherine s 
best earthly solace. No souls are so capable of solid and lasting 
friendship as those whose hearts are truly detached, for they, 
and they alone, can love in God ; and to them belongs the happy 
privilege of giving free course to a tenderness, which, binding 
them only the closer to His sacred Heart, is exempt from all 
peril of selfishness. Such a soul was that of Catherine of Siena, 
whose heart was keenly alive to all that is most holy in human 
affection, and among whose characteristics this one is to be noted, 
that she loved and was beloved beyond what is ordinarily granted 
to mortals. And it is precisely at this period of her life that we 
begin to hear of some whose names will ever be associated with 
her own, and who are dear and venerable to us, for this one 
reason that they were the chosen friends of Catherine. As the 
1 Letter 250. 2 Letter 252. 


world began to make larger demands on her, she was careful, 
with her accustomed prudence, to have one or other of her 
religious sisters constantly in her company. One of these, who 
is very early named in the Legend as her habitual companion, 
was Catherine Ghetti, or Enghecti, 1 whom we learn from the 
" Processus " to have been one of her nieces. But among all the 
Mantellate none was admitted to such close familiarity with her 
as a young widow named Alexia, of the noble family of the 
Saraceni. After her husband s death, she devoted all her wealth 
to pious objects, and took the habit of Penance. She seems to 
have been well deserving of Catherine s affection, and was, says 
F. Raymund, " the first of her disciples, not in order of time 
but in that of perfection." After her first acquaintance with the 
Saint, she became so attached to her that she could not separate 
from her, and by her advice distributed all she possessed to the 
poor, and embraced a life of great devotion and penance. " To 
wards the end of her life," he continues, " Catherine made her 
the depository of all her secrets," and as we shall see, they were 
very seldom parted, Alexia sometimes entertaining her friend as a 
guest in her own house for days and weeks together. 

It is evident from what has been already said, that at the time 
of the revolution of 1368, Catherine was gradually becoming 
known to her fellow-citizens. During the time of her strictest 
retirement she had been almost forgotten. A few years before, 
indeed, there had been a momentary stir and gossip when it was 
rumoured about that the Mantellate had received into their 
society the dyer Benincasa s youngest daughter. But the life of 
shop and market went on as before in the busy streets, political 
feuds and bloody revolutions broke in many a disastrous storm, 
and still the citizens for the most part remained unconscious of 
the presence among them of her whose fame should one day 

1 In a copy of the register of the Sisters of Penance, which is in the posses 
sion of the writer, carefully annotated in the margin by the hand of Signor 
Grottanelli, Catherine Ghetti s name has this little note scribbled against it : 
" nipote di S. Cat. Proc. MS. fol, 28, redo" We do not know which of St. 
Catherine s numerous brothers or sisters was her parent, but, like most of the 
Mantellate, she was probably a widow. 


be their proudest boast. Little by little, however, it became 
whispered about that the young maiden, who day after day was 
to be seen going to and fro on her errands of charity, was a great 
servant of God. One had beheld her in ecstasy in the Friars 
church ; another had sat with her at her father s table, and seen 
how, amid the abundance of good cheer around her, she con 
tented herself with a mouthful of bread and a raw lettuce. The 
story of the wonderful butt of wine had been in every one s 
mouth, and readily appealed to the wonder of the multitude ; and 
hence they began to think of her as a saint, and to regard her 
with no little reverence. We have seen her presence respected 
by the mob at the very moment they were thirsting for the blood 
of their enemies. Those ferocious men in pursuit of their prey 
had stopped short at the sight of one in whose form they recog 
nised her who had stood by the sick-beds of their wives and 
daughters ; who had found her way into their hovels when they 
were dying of hunger, and fed them, as it were, by stealth; of 
one, moreover, whose life, they knew, was not supported by meat 
and drink, like the lives of those around them, and of whom it 
might almost literally be said, that " she had a meat to eat that 
the world knew not of." 

Nevertheless, as is often the case, the very enthusiasm of her 
admirers excited in the minds of some who did not know her a 
totally contrary sentiment ; and there were not wanting those who 
found matter of blame precisely in those very things which were 
quoted as proofs of her sanctity. Bartholomew Dominic says 
that at first he used to be publicly derided for his folly in going 
to see such a person, and that the examples of her charity were 
so far beyond the comprehension of worldly minds, that what 
they could not understand they did not fear to judge as pre 
sumptuous. Among those who were loudest in their condem 
nation was a certain Franciscan professor of philosophy, named 
Father Lazzarino of Pisa, who had been sent to the convent of 
his Order in Siena, where he was at that time lecturing with great 
success. He was a man of no ordinary learning, and although a 
Franciscan, closely followed the theology of St. Thomas. " It was 


at the period," say F. Bartholomew Dominic, " when Catherine 
was still abiding in her secret cell, before she appeared much in 
public. She never at that time spoke to or saw any man, except 
her own family, without leave of her confessor, and yet the odour 
of her sanctity had filled the whole city. Those who were simple 
and right of heart praised her ; but the proud and envious blamed 
and detracted, and among these was Lazzarino. One day, on 
the Vigil of St. Catherine the Martyr, he came to my room at 
about vesper time and proposed that we should go together and 
see Catherine. I consented, believing him touched with com 
punction, though in reality he only wished to find matter for 
speech against her ; I therefore obtained the permission of her 
confessor, F. Thomas della Fonte, and we set out together. We 
entered her chamber, where Lazzarino seated himself on a chest 
that was in the room; Catherine sat on the floor, as was her 
custom; whilst I remained standing. There was silence for a 
few minutes, which was at length broken by Lazzarino : I have 
heard many persons speak of your sanctity, he said, and of the 
great understanding which God has given you of the Holy Scrip 
tures ; I wished, therefore, to come and see you, hoping to hear 
something that would be of edification to my soul. Catherine 
replied with her usual humility, And I, too, rejoice to see you, 
for I think our Lord must have intended to give me an oppor 
tunity of profiting by that learning with which you daily instruct 
your disciples. I hoped that you might be led out of charity to 
help my poor soul, and I beg you to do so for the love of God. 
The conversation continued in this strain for some time, till as 
the evening drew on, Lazzarino rose to depart, saying that it was 
late, and he could not stay, but hoped to come again another 
day at a more suitable hour. Catherine knelt, and asked his 
blessing, which Lazzarino gave. Then she begged him to pray 
for her, and more out of politeness than sincerity he asked her 
to do the same for him, which she readily promised. He went 
away, thinking that Catherine was a good woman no doubt, but 
far from deserving any extraordinary reputation. 

" The night following when he rose and set himself to prepare 


the lecture which he was next day to deliver to his pupils, Laz- 
zarino began, he knew not why, to weep abundantly. He dashed 
aside his tears, and tried to set to his work, but in spite of him 
self they continued to flow, and he could not divine their cause. 
He asked himself in perplexity : * What is the reason of all this ? 
Did I drink anything before I went to rest, or have I slept with 
my head uncovered ? In the morning they came to summon 
him to the lecture-room, but it was impossible for him to speak 
to his class. At the first attempt he broke down, and continued 
weeping like a child. He went back to his cell ashamed of his 
own weakness. What ails me, I wonder, he said to himself, 
can my mother have died suddenly, or has my brother fallen in 
battle ? So the whole day passed, till when evening came he 
fell asleep, weary and exhausted, but soon awoke, and then his 
tears began to flow afresh, and he could not restrain them. Then 
he set himself to reflect if perchance he might not have committed 
some grave fault, and begged of God, if so, to make it known to 
his conscience; and as he was thus examining himself, a little 
voice seemed to whisper in his heart, Have you so quickly for 
gotten how yesterday you judged My servant Catherine in a spirit 
of pride, and asked her to pray for you out of formal politeness ? 
"As soon as Lazzarino saw the truth, and owned his fault, his 
tears ceased, and now his heart became full of the most eager 
desire to return to Catherine and once more to converse with her. 
At the first break of day he came and knocked at the door of her 
chamber. Catherine was no stranger to what had passed, and 
opening her door, Lazzarino at once prostrated at her feet. 
Catherine also prostrated out of humility : then they sat down 
side by side, and Lazzarino, whose pride had all melted away, 
conjured her to direct him in the way of salvation. Catherine at 
last moved by his entreaties answered in these words : The way 
of salvation for you is to despise the vanities and applause of the 
world, and to become poor, humble, and despised after the pattern 
of Jesus Christ and your holy father, St. Francis. At these 
words the professor saw that Catherine had read his inmost soul ; 
that she was conscious of the pride and ambition which nestled 


there like a serpent ; and with renewed tears he promised at once 
to do whatsoever she might command him. And he was as good 
as his word, for at her bidding he distributed his money and the 
useless furniture of his cell, and even his very books. He only 
kept a few notes to help him in preaching, and embracing the 
poverty of his rule led thenceforth a holy life. He continued 
one of Catherine s most faithful disciples, and his devotion to 
her was so great that his worldly friends used to call him * be- 
Catherine^ (Caterinato\ an epithet very commonly bestowed on 
those who were known to frequent her company." l 

1 This story does not occur in the Legend ; it is related by F. Bartholomew 
Dominic in his deposition, and, as we see by his express words, belongs to 
the early period of the Saint s life, though no precise date is given. Probably, 
however, it happened in the year 1369. See Process., 1374. 



E departure from Siena of Catherine s brothers, which 
J_ took place some time in the year 1370, caused many 
changes in the household of the Fullonica. It was no longer 
the bustling scene of trade that it had formerly been, and 
Catherine s domestic life was naturally more free from restraint. 
Lapa and the rest of the family had long ceased to offer any 
opposition to the manner of life which she had embraced ; her 
example seems even to have drawn her elder sister Lisa 1 to 
imitate it, for we find her numbered among the " Sisters of the 
Hospital," a title bestowed on those who served the hospital of 
Campo Reggio, which was formerly attached to the convent of 
San Domenico, but was afterwards made over to the Tertiary 

The year 1370 was a memorable one to Catherine; and at no 
period of her history are the records of her supernatural graces 
more abundant, or more precisely recorded. It is no easy matter 
to speak of such things ; she herself shrank from doing so, and 
would often say that to put into human words the secret inter 
course of a soul with its Creator was like offering clay instead 
of gold, or dipping a rare jewel in the mire. Entering on this 
chapter in her life, therefore, we are prompted to exclaim with 

i Not her sister-in-law Lisa, who accompanied her husband to Florence, 
but her own sister of the same name, who died in the plague of 1374. 

Another of these Hospital Tertiaries was Catherine " della Spedaluccio, t 
whom two of the Saint s letters are addressed, one of her most intimate 
disciples. Catherine herself is sometimes spoken of as one of the Sisters of 
the Hospital, which she doubtless served. 


the prophet, " Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips ! " l 
and to desire that the Seraph might touch our mouth also with 
the coal from off the altar, as reverently drawing aside the veil, 
we dare to contemplate the communications between the Beloved 
and His chosen spouse. 

From the moment when Catherine had received from our 
Divine Redeemer the mysterious favour of her spiritual Espousals, 
the prodigies of her supernatural life were constantly increasing. 
" Grace became so abundant in her soul," says Raymund, " that 
she might be said to live in ecstasy. . . . God began from that 
time to manifest Himself to her not only when she was alone as 
formerly, but even when she was in public." But whatever might 
have been the mysterious sweetness which Catherine was thus 
privileged to enjoy, she was ever seeking for something better 
than the purest and most Divine consolations. As she had 
formerly desired the perfection of Faith, so now she longed after 
the perfection of Charity^ and the light of the Holy Spirit which 
illuminated her intellect gave her fully and thoroughly to com 
prehend in what that consisted. She understood perfection in 
no other sense than the substitution of the holy will of God in 
the place of our own perverse and disordered will. Hence she 
desired to have no other will, no other heart, than His; and 
a connected series of wonderful and beautiful revelations are 
related by Raymund from the MS. notes left by her confessor, 
F. Thomas della Fonte, which show in what manner her prayer 
was granted. On the eve of the feast of St. Alexis, 1370, desiring 
greatly to receive Holy Communion, yet dreading lest she might 
not be worthy, a rain of blood mingled with fire seemed to 
descend on her soul, "not merely washing away the stains of sin, 
but banishing the very first principles of evil." 2 The next day, 
though so ill she could scarcely rise from her bed, she went to 
the church, but remembering that she had been forbidden by her 
superiors to receive Communion, except from the hand of her 
confessor, she felt a great wish that he might come to say mass 

1 Isaias vi. 5, 6. 

2 Corruzione fomitale ; see Leg. Min., 74, and note 44. 


in the chapel where she was praying. F. Thomas has left 
recorded the circumstances that followed. He had not intended 
that morning to celebrate, and knew not that Catherine was in 
the church. But suddenly he felt his heart touched by an 
unusual fervour and desire for the holy mysteries, so that pre 
paring himself at once he went to the very altar before which 
Catherine was kneeling, though it was never his habit to say 
mass there. 

When he came and found her there awaiting his coming and 
desiring to communicate, he understood that it was our Lord who 
had moved him to say mass that day, and to choose that altar, 
contrary to his usual custom. He offered the Holy Sacrifice, 
therefore, and gave her Communion, and beheld how, as she was 
receiving, her face appeared all red and shining, and bedewed 
with an abundance of tears. After that she remained lost in 
God, and so unspeakable was the sweetness with which she was 
drawn to Him, that even after she came to herself she was unable 
for the rest of that day to utter one word to any creature. On 
the morrow her confessor asked her what had been the cause of 
such unusual devotion, and why at the moment when she received 
the Blessed Sacrament her face had been of that shining red. 
" Father," she replied, " of what colour my lace may have been 
at that time I know not; but this I know very well: when I, 
unworthy wretch that I am, received the Blessed Sacrament at 
your hand, It drew me into Itself after such a sort, that all other 
things save It alone waxed loathsome to me, not only temporal 
things and delights of the world, but also all other comforts and 
pleasures, were they never so spiritual. I made my humble 
prayer then to our Lord, that He would take all such comforts and 
delights from me, that / might take pleasure in none other thing but 
only in Him. I besought Him also that He would vouchsafe to 
take away my will, and to give me His will; which petition He 
granted me, saying : * Behold, dear daughter, now I GIVE THEE 
MY WILL, by the virtue whereof thou shalt be so strong, that 
whatever shall happen to thee from this time forward, thou shalt 
never be altered or moved, but shalt continue evermore in one 


state. " And this promise God fulfilled ; for all who knew her 
were able to testify that from that moment Catherine appeared 
content in all events and circumstances, so that no contradiction, 
however vexatious, seemed to possess the least power to disturb 
her. Then she continued, speaking to her confessor : " Father, 
do you know what our Lord did to-day in my soul ? He acted 
as a tender mother does towards a beloved infant. She extends 
her arms from a little distance so as to excite his desire, and 
.when the child has wept for a few moments she smiles and 
catches him, clasping him closely to her heart, and there she 
satisfies his craving thirst. Our blessed Lord did the same with 
me : He showed me in the distance the Wound in His Side ; 
the desire I felt to press my lips to it excited me to burning tears. 
He seemed at first to smile at my grief, and then after a few 
moments He came to me and took my soul in His arms, and 
placed my lips upon His Sacred Wound, and my soul was able 
to satisfy its desires, to hide itself in His Sacred Breast, and there 
find heavenly consolations. Oh ! did you but know, you would 
be amazed that my heart is not utterly consumed with love, and 
that I still live after experiencing such a burning fire of charity ! " 
The same day l Catherine was meditating on those words of 
the Psalmist, " Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew 
a right spirit within me ; " and again the thought and desire with 
which her soul was at that time filled found utterance in the 
earnest petition that our Lord would condescend utterly to take 
from her her own heart and will. Her heavenly Spouse was 
pleased not merely to grant her request, but moreover to make 

1 That is, July 1 8th. In the Legend (Part 2, ch. v.), the Communion on 
St. Alexis Day is spoken of after the exchange of hearts and the appearance 
of St. Mary Magdalen. But it is expressly said that all these events, and 
others that followed, took place in the same year, 1370. If so, by observing 
the date of the several feasts, it is easy to restore them to their proper chrono 
logical order ; namely, July I7th, July 2Oth, and July 22d. Some days 
elapsed between the loss and restoration of Catherine s heart, and as the date 
of the latter event is fixed to the 2Oth of July, it is evident that this first 
appearance of our Lord could only have been on the 1 8th, i.e., the day after 
St. Alexis. 


the same known to her by a sensible sign. For it seemed to 
her that He appeared in His own person, and opening her side, 
took out her heart, and carried it away. 

Two days later, being in the chapel Delle Volte in the Domini 
can Church, together with the other Sisters to whose use that 
chapel was assigned, she remained, when her companions had 
gone away, and continued her prayers ; until at last, as she arose 
and prepared to return home, a great light surrounded her, and 
in the midst of the light our Lord again appeared, bearing in 
His hand a Heart of vermilion hue, and casting forth bright 
rays as of fire. Then He approached her, and once more open 
ing her side He placed there this Heart, and said, " Daughter, 
the other day I took thy heart ; to-day I give thee Mine, which 
shall henceforward serve thee in its place." And from that day it 
was her custom when she prayed, no longer to say as she had done 
before, " My God, I give Thee my heart," but instead, " My God, 
I give Thee Thy heart," because she knew and understood that 
in very deed there had been given to her in the place of her 
own human will and affections the will and affections of her 
eternal Spouse. 

F. Thomas della Fonte, in speaking of this favour granted to 
the Saint, says that it seemed to her as if her heart had entered 
into the side of our Lord to be united and blended with His. 
Dissolved in the flames of His love, she exclaimed repeatedly, 
" My God, Thou hast wounded my heart ! My God, Thou hast 
wounded my heart ! " And he says that the event took place on 
the feast of St. Margaret (July 2oth), 1370. 

St. Catherine, then, was one of the first of those to whom our 
Lord thought fit to reveal "THE SECRET OF His SACRED HEART." 
They are her own words repeated again and again in her Dialogue 
and her letters. Contemplating the Body of Christ crucified on 
the Cross as the mystical bridge whereby the soul is to be united 
to its Creator, she says, " His nailed Feet are a step whereby 
thou mayest reach the Side which shall reveal to thee the secret of 
His Heart" 1 . . . . "In His wounded Side you will discover the 
1 Dialogo, ch. xxvi. 


love of His Heart, for all that Christ did for us, He did out of 
the love of His Heart. ... Let us go to the great refuge of His 
charity which we shall find in the Wound of His Side, where He 
will unveil to us the secret of His Heart, showing us that the 
sufferings of His Passion, having a limit, were insufficient to 
manifest His infinite love, as He desired to manifest it, and to 
give us all that He desired to give." And in one of her letters, 
glancing back to the memory of these supernatural favours, she 
exclaims, " Place your lips to the wounded Side of the Son of 
God : from that opening comes forth the fire of charity, and the 
Blood which washes away all our sins. The soul that hides itself 
there and gazes on that Heart opened by love, becomes like to 
Him, because seeing itself so loved, it cannot refrain from loving." 

Nor was this first vision the only one in which the Sacred 
Heart of Jesus was revealed to Catherine as the sanctuary of 
His love. Another day, when she was praying in the same 
church, she suddenly saw Jesus Christ by her side, with so 
wonderful a light streaming forth from His Breast that the whole 
of that vast building was illuminated by it. 1 This seems to have 
been about the same time as, or very shortly after, the events 
already narrated. 

That there should appear from this time a change, and an 
extraordinary increase of Divine grace in the soul of Catherine, 
can be no cause for wonder. If there were those who, measuring 
her by their appreciation of her exterior actions, already regarded 
her as a saint, it is not rash to suppose that between Catherine 
as she was before, and after, her change of heart, there was as 
much difference as between a saint and an ordinary Christian. 
She herself testified to the fact. " Father," she said to her con 
fessor in broken sentences, which he gathered up and preserved 
with reverent fidelity, " I am no longer the same. Did you but 
know what I experienced, surely, if it could once be known, 
there is no pride that would resist it. . . . The fire of love which 
burns in my soul is so great, no earthly fire could compare with 
it, and it seems to renew in me the purity and simplicity of a 
1 Sup., Part I, Trat. 2, 5. 


little child, so that I feel as though I were no more than four 
years of age. This love of God, too, how it increases the love 
of our neighbour ! Surely it would be the greatest earthly 
happiness to die for another soul ! " 

It was very shortly after this 1 that our Lord one day again 
appeared to her, in company with His Blessed Mother and St. 
Mary Magdalen, and asked her this question, "Daughter," He 
said, " what dost thou desire ? My will, or thine ? " Catherine 
wept when she heard the words which seemed to question the 
reality of the surrender she had already made ; and she replied, 
like St. Peter, "Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knovvest 
that now I have no will and no heart but Thine." As she said 
this, she felt within her soul the same sweetness as St. Mary 
Magdalen felt when she wept at our Lord s feet ; whereupon she 
fixed her eyes upon her. Our Lord, seeing that, and knowing 
the inward desire of her soul, said these words to her, " Behold, 
dear daughter, from this time forward I give thee Mary Magdalen 
to be thy mother, to whom as to a loving mother thou mayest at 
all times flee for special comfort ; for unto her specially have I 
committed the care of thee." When she heard that, she gave 
our Lord most humble thanks, and turning herself to the Saint 
with great humility and reverence, she besought her to take her 
under her motherly protection. And from that time she began 
to cherish a tender devotion to that blessed Saint, and always 
called her her mother. 

The question seems naturally to suggest itself what was the 
significance of this gift to Catherine of the patronage of St. Mary 
Magdalen at this particular moment. The incident comes in, 
interrupting, as one may say, the regular course of a chain, each 
previous link of which is clearly connected. When we remember, 
however, that the entire series of these wonderful favours was 
manifestly intended (as the sequel will show) to be the introduc- 

1 Probably two days later, which would bring it to the feast of St. Mary 
Magdalen. In the Legend, the visit of that Saint seems to break the series of 
revelations in an unaccountable manner, which is, however, explained by a 
little attention to the respective dates. 


tion to her public career, the appearance of her on whom the 
Breviary Office bestows the quite exceptional epithet of the 
" Apostolorum Apostola" will be seen to have an exquisite 

For the rest, the separate visions we have related above, which 
in reality make up but one narrative, when compared and fitted 
one into the other, give us a clearer comprehension of the spiri 
tual sense of that great and signal favour, the gift, namely, to 
our seraphic mother, St. Catherine, of the Heart of her Divine 
Spouse. Not that we would presume to explain, far less to 
explain away, the mysterious exterior sign which was the pledge 
and token of that surpassing favour. To students of Holy 
Scripture there will readily occur more than one parallel in the 
prophetic writings, where spiritual graces are both represented 
and communicated by the means of such outward symbols. But 
the exterior sign itself was not the favour, it was not the grace 
which Catherine had asked from God. What she asked and 
what she obtained, sealed to her by the outward sign of that 
magnificent gift, was that thenceforth she might love only what 
her Lord loved, and will only what He willed. In this, and in 
this alone, she was to find THE PERFECTION OF CHARITY. In this 
one page of her life, therefore, the page which presents her to us 
as the bride and client of the Sacred Heart, we find a summary 
of her whole spiritual doctrine. 

But we have not yet come to the end of the mystic favours 
of this eventful year. She seemed to pass the whole month of 
August in a continued ecstasy, 1 during which time she received 
many wonderful revelations. The narrative of these exhibits to 
us at one and the same time her unbroken union with God, 
and the exquisite tenderness of her conscience. On the 3d of 
August, being the eve of the feast of St. Dominic, she was praying 
in the church and meditating on the glory of the great patriarch 
of her order. About the hour of compline, F. Bartholomew 
Dominic chanced to enter the church, and Catherine, to whom 
he acted as confessor in the absence of F. Thomas, begged him 
1 Latin Sup., Part 2, Trat. I, 10. 


to hear her, as she had something to communicate. " Perceiving 
her countenance all radiant with joy," he says, 1 " I accosted her, 
saying, * We have certainly some good news to-day ; I see you 
are quite joyous. Then Catherine began to speak to me of our 
holy father, St. Dominic. Do you not see him, our blessed 
father ? she said ; * I see him as distinctly as I see you. How 
like he is to our Lord ! His face is oval, grave, and sweet, and 
his hair and beard are the same colour ! " 2 Then she declared 
to him how in a vision she had beheld the Eternal Father pro 
ducing from His mouth His Beloved Son ; and as she contem 
plated Him, she beheld St. Dominic coming forth, as it were, 
from His breast. And a Voice declared to her, saying, " Behold, 
daughter, I have begotten these two sons; one by nature, the 
other by adoption ; " amazing words, which He presently deigned 
to explain as follows : " As this My natural Son in His human 
nature was ever most perfectly obedient to Me even to death, 
even so was this My son by adoption obedient to Me in all points 
even from his childhood to his dying day, and directed all his 
works according to My commandments, and kept that purity both 
of body and soul which he received of Me in baptism, clean and 
unspotted until the end of his life. And as this My natural Son 
spake openly to the world, and gave a most clear testimony to 
the truth that I put in His mouth, even so did this My son by 
adoption preach the truth of My Gospel, as well to heretics and 
schismatics as also among my faithful people. And as this My 
natural Son sent out His disciples to publish the Gospel to all 
creatures, so doth this My son by adoption now at this present, 
and shall hereafter from time to time send out his children and 
brethren under the yoke of his obedience and discipline. And 
so for this cause is it granted to him and his, by special privilege, 
that they shall have the true understanding of My words and shall 

1 Process., 1330. 

2 St. Dominic had auburn hair, as we know from the description given of him 
by B. Cecilia. His likeness to the person of our Lord has always been a 
tradition in the Order, and is corroborated by an examination of his only 
known portrait, that preserved at Sta. Sabina, and a comparison of its features 
with those which tradition assigns to our Divine Saviour. 

VOL. I. H 


never swerve from the same. And as this My natural Son ordained 
the state of His holy life in deeds and words, to the salvation of 
souls, even so did this My son by adoption employ himself wholly, 
both in his doctrine and in example of life, to deliver souls from 
the snares of the devil, which are error and sin. For it was his 
principal intent when he first founded his order, to win souls out 
of the bondage of error and sin, and to bring them to the know 
ledge of truth, and to the exercise of a godly and Christian life, 
for which cause I liken him to My natural Son." l 

As Catherine was declaring these things to her confessor, it 
chanced that her own brother, Bartolo, who was in the church, 
passed by, and his shadow, or the noise he made in passing, 
attracted Catherine s attention, so that for a moment she glanced 
aside to look at him. Instantly recovering herself, she broke off 
her words, and began to weep in silence. F. Bartholomew waited 
for a time till she should speak again, but rinding that she re 
mained silent, he bade her continue. " Ah, wretch that I am ! " 
she said, " who will punish me for my fault ? " " What fault ? " 
he asked. "How!" she replied, "did you not see, that even 
while our Lord was showing me His great mysteries, I turned my 
eyes to behold a creature ? " " Nevertheless," said the confessor, 
" I assure you the glance of your eye, of which you speak, endured 
so short a time I did not perceive it." " Ah, father," she said, 
" if you knew how sharply our Blessed Lady rebuked me for my 
fault, you would surely weep and lament with me." And so say 
ing she would speak no more of her revelations that day, but she 
retired to her chamber sorrowing and doing penance for her sin ; 
and she declared afterwards that St. Paul had also appeared to 
her, and reproved her so roughly for that little loss of time, that 
she would rather suffer all the shame of the world than abide such 
another rebuke at the apostle s hand. "And think," she added, 
" what a confusion and shame that will be which all wicked and 
unhappy sinners shall suffer at the last day, when they shall stand 
before the majesty of God, seeing that the presence of only one 
apostle is so dreadful and intolerable. I assure you, father, that 
1 Fen., Part 2, ch. xxv. ; Leg., Part 2, ch. v. 


his words and countenance were so terrible to me, that if I had 
not had the comfort of a beautiful Lamb l shining with light that 
stood by when he spoke to me, I think my heart would not have 
been able to abide the same, but would have died for very 

F. Bartholomew, who on this occasion received the saint s con 
fidence, related the whole matter afterwards to Raymund, and 
has besides given the narrative with every particular in his de 
position. He says that Catherine wept over her offence for three 
hours, until at length St. Paul appeared to her again, saying, 
"Daughter, God has accepted thy tears, be more careful in 
future." And thus it pleased our Lord from time to time to put 
her in mind of her own frailty, specially after receiving such 
great revelations which might otherwise have moved her to 

When the feast of the Assumption came, it found Catherine 
so prostrate with sickness that she was unable to leave her bed. 
She was not then in her own home, but staying in the house of 
one of her companions, probably Alexia. Unable to go to the 
church as she desired, she took comfort in being able to see from 
the window of her chamber the distant walls of the Cathedral 
(which is dedicated to the Mother of God) ; and uniting in spirit 
with the Divine offices which were being celebrated there with 
great pomp on that high festival, she was permitted to hear the 
melody of the sacred chant as though she were present in the 
church ; so that at the moment when the celebrant entoned in 
the Preface the words " Et Te in Assumptione Beata Maria" &c., 
she beheld the Sacred Virgin herself, and entered into a sweet 
colloquy with her. 2 

As she lay on her couch her companions from time to time 

1 Fen., Part 2, ch. xxiv. A curious typographical error has here crept into 
Fen s English version of this passage, where the shining Lamb stands as " a 
goodly bright lamp." 

2 Sup., Part 2, Trat. 6, 6. This is the solitary occasion when the Duomo 
of Siena appears mentioned in the life of St. Catherine, to whom, however, 
it must have been dear and familiar, and whose gilded bust is now to be seen 
over one of the three doors of the great entrance. 


caught the sound of the words she was murmuring to herself. 
They were simple enough. " O sweetest Jesus ! " she repeated 
again and again; "Son of God," and then after a little pause, 
"and of the Blessed Virgin Mary!" "This ejaculation," says 
Father Fen, "was her matins and her evensong." Sometimes she 
prayed to her Spouse that He would deliver her from the bondage 
of the body and take her to Himself. " Not so, My daughter," 
was the reply ; " I desired indeed to eat the last pasch with My 
disciples, yet I awaited the moment fixed by My eternal Father." 
Then she requested that if she must still live in this wretched 
world He would deign to make her participate in His suffer 
ings. " If I cannot be with Thee now in heaven," she said, 
" suffer at least that on earth I may be united to Thee in Thy 

Her petition was indeed granted. At this time she began to 
surfer both in her soul and body something of those pains which our 
Lord had endured both in His life and death. She often declared 
that the interior cross which He endured out of His desire for 
the salvation of souls, surpassed all His other sufferings : and this 
torment of desire she shared to her life s end. Many things also 
she at this time declared to Father Thomas concerning the Passion 
of our Lord, which he carefully committed to writing, and after 
wards delivered to F. Raymund. Thus she interpreted those 
words of our Lord in the garden of Olives, " Father, let this 
chalice pass from Me," as signifying His will to be delivered from 
that same torment of desire by the hastening of His Sacred Passion, 
rather than as a prayer that He might rxot suffer. She also 
declared that the pains which our Lord endured for our redemp 
tion were so great, that it would have been impossible for any 
man to endure the same without dying a thousand times. "What 
man," said she, " would have believed that those thorns of His 
crown should have pierced through His skull into His brain? 
Yet so it was. Again, who would have thought that the bones 
of a man should have been drawn asunder and disjointed ? And 
yet so the Prophet David saith : * They numbered all my bones. " 
And the dislocation of His bones, especially those of the Breast, 


she understood to have been the most grievous of all His bodily 
pains. These and other meditations on the Sacred Passion appear 
to have occupied her during the three days succeeding the feast 
of the Assumption. On the i8th of the same month, being once 
more able to go to the church, she approached the altar in order 
to communicate : and as the priest, holding the sacred Host, 
repeated the words, " Domine non sum dignus" &c., she heard a 
Voice that answered, saying, "But I am worthy to enter into 
thee." When she had received, her soul was so overwhelmed by 
what it experienced that she scarcely found strength to return to 
her cell, and there lying down on the planks that formed her bed 
she remained for a long time motionless. Then her body was 
raised in the air, in the presence of three persons who beheld it, 
remaining so without support. After which, being again lowered 
on her couch, she began in a low voice to say such sweet and 
admirable things that her companions as they listened could not 
refrain from tears. She prayed for many persons by name, among 
others for her confessor who was in the Friars Church, thinking 
of nothing just then calculated to move him to special fervour. 
But suddenly, as she prayed unknown to him, he felt his heart 
touched by a devotion to which he had until then been a stranger. 
Shortly after, it happened by chance that one of Catherine s com 
panions came to speak with him, and said, "Father, Catherine 
was praying much for you at such an hour." Then he under 
stood why at that hour he had felt so unusual a devotion. He 
proceeded to inquire more closely what it was she had said, and 
found she had asked of God for him and for others the promise 
of their eternal salvation. She had been seen also to stretch forth 
her hand as she prayed, saying, " Promise me that you will grant 
it." Then it seemed as if she had felt some sharp pain, which 
forced her to sigh, exclaiming, "Praised be our Lord Jesus 
Christ ! " as she was used to do when she felt any bodily suffering. 
F. Thomas soon after went to see her, and desired her to relate 
to him the whole matter. She obeyed, and when she came to 
that point where she prayed for certain special persons, she said 
to him : " Father, when I prayed for you and for others, that our 


Lord would vouchsafe to grant you everlasting life, it pleased His 
goodness to give me an assured comfort in my heart that indeed 
it should be so. With that I besought Him that He would grant 
me some token of the certainty thereof; not that I doubted any 
thing of His promise, but because I was desirous to have some 
memorial of the same. Then He bade me stretch out my hand ; 
and I did so, and He put into my hand a nail, and closed the 
same so fast within my hand that I felt a great pain as if there 
had been a nail stricken into it with a hammer. And so (Our 
Lord be blessed for it !) I have now in my right hand one of the 
marks of my sweet Spouse and Saviour, sensible to myself, though 
invisible to others." 1 

This beginning of her stigmatisation, which was to receive its 
completion five years later, caused her excruciating pain ; whilst 
at the same time the abundance of supernatural communications 
which were vouchsafed to her, utterly broke down her natural 
powers and reduced her to a state of extreme weakness. At 
length, towards the close of the year, these sufferings reached 
their crisis. Not to speak of that terrible torture which resembled 
the dislocation of the bones of the breast, and which Raymund 
assures us never left her, she was enduring another kind of anguish, 
which they who have even partially experienced it, can in some 
degree comprehend. The revelation was being made to her in a 
sensible manner how deeply the Divine Spouse of her soul loved 
her, and not her alone, but all mankind. She understood, and 
that so clearly that it seemed to her she had never known it before, 
the truth expressed in those words, " God so loved the world as 
to give us His only-begotten Son, that the world by Him might 
be saved ; " 2 and again those other words which tell us that " He 

1 This prayer of Catherine for her confessor is very commonly related, as if 
the confessor in question were F. Raymund. A reference to the original 
Legend, however, will show that this was not the case, and that the whole 
narrative belongs to a date much earlier than his acquaintance with her. He 
relates it throughout as of a third person, and says distinctly that he (the 
confessor) left this account in writing, from which it is evident that the father 
referred to was F. Thomas della Fonte. 

2 John iii. 16. 


died for all." l A God to love us ! A God to die ! Truly might 
the Apostle say, " the charity of Christ presseth us." After all it 
was no new truth or revelation ; 2 only what she had learnt from 
infancy in her Creed : but who does not know that there are times 
when old truths assume such a life and reality that they seem to 
be new ; so that we contemplate them with amazement as though 
until that moment we had never understood their sense. So it 
was with Catherine at this moment. She doubtless exclaimed 
with her favourite Apostle in rapturous wonder, " He hath loved 
me arid hath given Himself for me ! " 3 And unable to bear that 
great excess of love, the heart of the Saint was literally broken, 
and the links that bound her to life snapped in twain. 

It was a Sunday about the hour of tierce, and F. Bartholomew 
Dominic was preaching, as he tells us, in the Friars Church, 
when the news was brought that Catherine was in her agony. 
Many of the brethren, and a great number of other persons, at 
once hastened to her house, and Father Thomas della Fonte, who 
had been summoned to assist her, went accompanied by F. 
Thomas Caffarini. They found her, apparently in extremity, 
attended by Alexia, Catherine Ghetti, and some others of the 
Sisters of Penance. They began with tears to recite the prayers 
for the dying, and as the news spread from mouth to mouth, they 
were soon joined by F. Bartholomew Montucci, the director of 
the Sisters, who brought with him a certain lay brother named 
John, and, as soon as the sermon was over, by Bartholomew 
Dominic himself. He says so great was the multitude that 
flocked to see her, that her chamber was full, and the street 
leading to her house crowded by persons going thither, so that 
he found no small difficulty in effecting his entrance. But before 
he came she had, as it seemed, expired. " Those who had been 
with her from the first assured me," he says, "that she drew her 
last breath a considerable time before I arrived." At the sad 
spectacle all broke forth into vehement weeping ; and the sorrow 
of brother John in particular was so great that he ruptured a vein 
in his breast, thereby increasing the general consternation. But 
1 2 Cor. v. 15. 2 Ibid. v. 14. 3 Gal. ii. 20. 


F. Thomas, full of faith in the sanctity of Catherine, made him 
take her hand and apply it to the place, and he was at once com 
pletely cured. Then the neighbours flocking to the house began 
to condole with the distracted mother, and to prepare all things 
for the burial. 

For four hours she had lain to all appearance dead, when, with 
a sigh, Catherine once more opened her eyes and looked around 
her. She was living indeed, but what had passed in that mys 
terious interval? Those who were with her, and who scarce 
ventured to believe their eyes for joy, beheld how, for three days 
and nights, she wept without ceasing, as though plunged in bitter 
sorrow, and they gathered from her words that she had been 
admitted into a blissful state, whence she had returned once 
more to recommence a life of labour and suffering. F. Bar 
tholomew examined her as to the reality of her death, reminding 
her, however, that there could be no certainty on a point touch 
ing which the great Apostle professed himself ignorant. At a 
later period Raymund of Capua interrogated her on the same 
subject, pressing her to explain the facts as commonly reported. 
She could only answer him with her tears, but at last she ex 
claimed, " Oh, lamentable case, that a soul that had once been 
delivered out of this darksome prison and had tasted the fruition 
of that joyous light, should ever have been constrained to leave 
it and return to earth ! Father," she continued, " you ask the 
truth from me, and it is this : The desire I felt at that time to be 
united to my sweet Spouse was so great that it could not be 
resisted, and seeing as I did by my own experience how great 
was the love our Saviour bore me, and what intolerable pains He 
suffered for my sake, I was wholly overcome with the force of 
such inestimable kindness, and my heart, not being able to 
endure the strength of so much love, brake in sunder ; for which 
cause, my soul was delivered out of this mortal body, and had 
the fruition of His Divine Majesty, howbeit, alas, but for a little 
time. ... I saw the pains of hell and of purgatory so great that 
no tongue of man is able to declare them. I saw also the bliss 
of heaven and the glory of my Divine Spouse, which only to think 


of fills my soul with a loathing for all things that are in the world. 
And when I had conceived a certain hope that now I was past 
all pains and cares, and had come to a state of everlasting glad 
ness, our Lord said to me, Daughter, seest thou these unhappy 
sinners and transgressors of My laws : on the one side, what joys 
they have lost, and on the other side, what pains they have found ? 
For this cause have I showed these things to thee, because I will 
have thee return to the world to declare to My people their sins 
and iniquities and the great peril that hangeth over them if they 
will not amend. When I heard that I should return to the world 
again, I was struck with a marvellous great fear and horror. 
W hereupon our Lord, to comfort me again, spoke thus sweetly 
unto me : Daughter, there are a great number of souls in the 
world which I will have to be saved through thy means; and 
that is the cause why I send thee thither again. Wherefore go 
thy way with a good will, and be of good comfort. From this 
time forward My will is that thou shalt change the order of thy 
life. Thou shalt no more keep within thy cell, but shalt go 
abroad into the world to win souls. Thou shalt travel, thou shalt 
go from city to city as I shall bid thee ; thou shalt live with the 
multitude and speak in public ; I will send some to thee, and I 
will send thee to others, according to My good pleasure ; only be 
thou ready to do My will. While our Lord spoke these words 
to me, of a sudden my soul was restored to the body; which 
when I perceived, I wept for very sorrow for three days and three 
nights, and never ceased. And yet to this day I cannot possibly 
refrain from weeping when it comes to my mind how I was 
deprived of that passing great joy and felicity, and sent back to 
this dark prison. Therefore, Father, when you and others under 
stand what a blissful state of life I have foregone for a time 
(God knows how long !) and that I have resigned it by God s 
ordinance for the good of souls, you must not wonder if here 
after you see that I bear a passing great love to them that have 
cost me so dear, and that to win them to God, I alter the manner 
of my life, and converse more familiarly with them than I have 
done hitherto." 


This was Catherine s own statement of what had passed in her 
soul during that mysterious suspension of the faculties of life. 
Caffarini, in the Leggenda Minore (Part 2, chap, vi.), examines it 
very precisely, and sums up his conclusions under twelve heads. 
i. That Catherine s mystic death was caused by the pain she felt 
in contemplating the Passion of Christ and by her ardent love, 
and that it lasted four hours. 2. That during that space of time 
she beheld the joys of the blessed, and the sufferings of purgatory 
and hell. 3. That believing herself in the possession of eternal 
bliss, our Lord bade her look on the punishment due to sinners. 
4. That He commanded her to return to earth for salvation of 
many souls. 5. That after this she felt her soul, as it were, 
restored to the body. 6. That for sorrow she wept three days. 
7. That remembering these things she could not refrain from 
weeping still. 8. That these high and secret things of God can 
not fitly be declared in our imperfect language. 9. That after 
this glimpse of eternal bliss, she longed to suffer more, knowing 
that it would increase her crown. 10. That she bade her con 
fessors not marvel if henceforth she bore a great love to souls. 
ii. That the souls of her neighbours became her glory and her 
joy. 12. That from that time she ceased not to labour for their 
salvation. Here then was the last degree, not indeed of her 
spiritual life, but of her preparation for that providential mission 
which she was to exercise in the world for ten brief years. She 
had seen, " whether in the body, or out of the body, we know 
not, God knoweth," 1 the bliss of heaven and the woe of hell. 
As in her childhood she had "beheld the King in His beauty 
and had seen the land afar off," z so now she had gazed on Him 
nearer, and, as it were, face to face ; and almost touching the goal 
of her longing desires, she had turned back at His bidding, and 
once more opened her weary eyes on a world lying in wickedness, 
that by this sacrifice she might advance His kingdom on earth, 
and be an instrument of sanctification to countless thousands. 
No wonder, then, that henceforth the love of souls became her 
glorious passion, that their salvation stood to her in the place of 

1 2 Cor. xii. 2. 2 Isa. xxxiii. 17. 


meat and drink, that no one thing could render tolerable to her 
her prolonged separation from " Him whom her soul loved," save 
the labour of winning them to love Him also : no wonder that 
Catherine, to use her own words, " bore henceforth so passing 
great a love for them that had cost her so dear;" a love so 
rapturous that in its holy excess she was wont to pray, " that God 
would place her in the mouth of hell that she might prevent 
sinners from going thither." 

The memory of all these marvellous graces is still religiously 
preserved in the church within whose walls so many of them were 
bestowed. A tablet affixed to the great pilaster that supports the 
Chapel Ddh Volte, marks the spot where took place the mysterious 
exchange of hearts ; another is pointed out against which she is 
said to have been accustomed to lean when in prayer ; the very 
pavement of the chapel has been protected by a flooring, through 
an opening in which, however, you may still see the bricks so 
often trodden by the spouse of Christ, though of these many 
have been given away as precious relics to various monasteries, 
specially to that of St. Caterina in Magnanapoli at Rome ; while 
all around are pictures and frescoes, on which the first artists of 
Siena have vied one with another in depicting the mysterious 
scenes which we have described. We leave to others the task 
of enumerating the master-pieces left here by the pencils of 
Salimbeni and Sodoma. But over the door of the chapel appears 
one sacred work of art which we cannot pass without a word of 
notice. It is the painted crucifix attributed to Giotto, and which, 
if indeed as ancient as tradition affirms, must have stood there 
in Catherine s time. 1 On it, day after day, her eyes must have 
rested in loving veneration as she passed through the door to her 
accustomed place of prayer. The pilgrim who comes here full of 

1 Carapelli, in his Corso Cronotastico, assigns Catherine s mystic death to 
the beginning of the year 1371. But a little attention to the narrative as it 
stands in the Legend shows that it cannot be separated from the events of the 
July and August of 1370. Moreover, we know for certain that in the December 
of that same year and the February of the year following, she was engaged in 
matters which properly belong to her active mission ; so that it seems scarcely 
possible to fix a later date for the above event than the autumn of 1370. 


her beloved memory, as he gazes on that sacred image whereon 
the artist has left the solemn expression of antique piety, can 
hardly fail to hear within his heart the echo of her oft-repeated 
words: " Bathe yourself in the Blood of Jesus crucified. Hide 
yourself in the open wound of His Side, and you will behold the 
secret of His Heart. There the sweet Truth will make known to 
you that all that He did for us He did out of love. Return Him 
love for love ! " 


THE year 1370 which had proved so important an era in 
Catherine s spiritual life, was destined not to close before 
bringing her the first-fruits of those magnificent promises which 
had been made to her in the hour of her mysterious agony. The 
narrative we are about to relate is given by three different writers, 
by all of whom the extraordinary facts were carefully examined, 
while to two of them the person to whom they refer had been well 
known from a child, and they were present in the city when the 
events narrated took place. 

There lived at that time in Siena a young man named Andrea 
di Naddino de Bellanti, belonging to a good family, who, at the 
age of twenty, had already rendered himself infamous by his crimes. 
He was devoured by a passion for drink and gambling, and had 
quite given up all religious practices, being accustomed publicly 
to mock at those who frequented the Sacraments. He was such 
a notorious swearer that it was said of him that he uttered a blas 
phemy at every step he took ; and to crown the catalogue of his 
misdeeds, having on one occasion lost a large sum at play, he 
entered a church, and seeing a picture of our Lord on the Cross, 
in his mad rage he deliberately and many times over stabbed it 
with a poniard. He is also said to have trampled on the Crucifix, 
and to have thrown an image of our Lady into the fire, as though 
to revenge himself for his ill-luck. In the month of September 
of this same year he fell ill, and his sickness being soon pro 
nounced mortal, he was visited by his parish priest, who exhorted 
him to prepare for death by repentance and a good confession. 


But Andrea, according to his usual custom, drove the good man 
out of the room with horrible curses. His family, distressed at 
his unhappy state, applied to several other pious persons, who 
conjured him to have pity on his soul and be reconciled to God 
even at the eleventh hour. But it was all in vain. He took the 
exhortations of his neighbours in very evil part, and would not 
suffer the subject of confession to be named in his presence. 
At last, on the i$th of December, the feast of St. Lucy, his 
parents bethought them of calling in Father Thomas della Fonte, 
the confessor of Catherine, "who," says Caffarini, "was then 
just beginning to appear in public." But Father Thomas suc 
ceeded no better than his predecessors in softening the heart of 
the miserable youth, who seemed dying in a state of utter impeni 
tence. For three days and nights the good father never left him, 
and devoted himself unweariedly to the thankless task, but still 
with no result. At last, seeing the case was hopeless, he was 
returning the third evening to his convent, when passing by 
Catherine s house he entered, and knocking at her chamber door, 
found her praying and in ecstasy, as was usual with her at that 
time of day. Not wishing to disturb her, he told some of her 
companions to watch until she should return to consciousness, 
and then to tell her of the great danger of this poor soul on the 
verge, as it seemed, of a miserable eternity, and to desire her, in 
his name, to pray for Andrea s conversion. 

It was the fifth hour of the night when Catherine returned from 
her ecstasy, and the Sister who was with her at once gave the 
message left by her confessor. No sooner had she heard the sad 
case and the obedience given her, than she set herself to pray 
with great earnestness, continuing even until the dawn of day to 
beseech our Lord that He would not suffer that soul to be lost 
which He had redeemed with His most precious Blood. But 
our Lord made answer, and said that the iniquity of that wicked 
man was so heinous in His sight, that the cry thereof pierced the 
heavens and called for justice, for he had not only in words most 
horribly blasphemed the holy name of God and of His saints, but 
also thrown a picture into the fire on which was painted the death 


and passion of our Saviour Christ, together with the images of our 
Blessed Lady and other saints : by which and other like impieties 
he had deserved everlasting damnation. When Catherine heard 
that, she fell down prostrate before our Lord, and said, " O Lord, 
if Thou look narrowly to our iniquities, who shall be able to 
stand ? Wherefore earnest Thou down from heaven into the 
world ? Wherefore tookest Thou flesh of the most pure and un 
spotted Virgin Mary ? Wherefore didst Thou suffer a most bitter 
and reproachful death? Hast Thou done all these things, O 
Lord, to this end that Thou mightest call men to a strict and 
rigorous account for their sins, and not rather that Thou mightest 
utterly cancel their debts and take them to mercy ? Why dost 
Thou, O merciful Lord, tell rne of the sins of one lost man, seeing 
Thou hast borne upon Thine own shoulders the sins of the whole 
world that none should be lost ? Do I lie here prostrate at Thy 
feet to demand justice, and not rather to crave mercy? Do I 
present myself here before Thy Divine Majesty to plead the 
innocency of this wretched creature, and not rather to confess 
that he is worthy of everlasting death and damnation, and that the 
only refuge is to appeal to Thine endless mercy. Remember, 
O dear Lord, what Thou saidst to me when Thou didst first will 
me to go abroad, and to procure the salvation of many souls. 
Thou knowest right well that I have none other joy or comfort 
in this life but only to see the conversion of sinners unto Thee. 
And for this cause only I am content to lack the joyful fruition 
of Thy blessed presence. Wherefore, if Thou take this joy from 
me, what other thing shall I find in this vale of misery wherein to 
take pleasure or comfort ? O most merciful Father and God of 
all comfort, reject not the humble petition of Thine handmaid ; 
put me not away from Thee at this time; but graciously grant me 
that this my brother s hard heart may be softened and made to 
yield to the workings of Thy Holy Spirit." Thus did she continue 
in prayer and disputation with our Lord from the beginning of 
the night until the morning dawned : all which time she neither 
slept nor took any rest, but wept and wailed continually, out of 
the great compassion she had to see that soul perish ; our Lord 


ever more alleging His justice, and she craving for mercy. At 
last, our Lord being as it were overcome by her importunity and 
prayers, gave her this gracious answer, "Dear daughter, I can no 
longer resist thee in this matter. Thy tears and prayers have 
prevailed and wrested out of My hands the sword of justice. This 
sinful man shall for thy sake find such grace and favour as thou 
requirest for him." l 

Meanwhile a strange scene had been passing in the chamber 
of the dying man. Through the long hours of that terrible night 
he had been unable to sleep, but as the grey light of morning 
dawned at the very moment when Catherine s prayer received 
a favourable answer his wife, who was watching by his side, was 
amazed to hear him cry aloud, saying, " Send quickly for a priest, 
for I will indeed confess." "How now," said his wife, "what is 
it you ask for ? " "I ask for a priest," he said. " Look in that 
corner," and he pointed with his hand, "do you not see our Lord 
Christ who commands me to confess, and near him that Mantel- 
lata whom they call Catherine ? " And in truth at that moment 
our Lord had appeared to him, saying, "Dear child; why wilt 
thou not repent of thine offences against Me ? Repent and con 
fess, for behold I am ready to pardon." Which words so pierced 
the heart of the dying sinner that he could hold out no longer, 
but sending for a priest, confessed all his sins with great senti 
ments of contrition, made his will, and so passed out of this world 
with every token of God s mercy. 

On the morning of the i6th of December the news ran through 
the city that Andrea de Bellanti had died penitent and fortified 
with the last Sacraments. Men could not believe their ears, for 
he was known to every one in Siena for his riches and his vices. 
They knew that all through his illness he had been vainly urged 
by his friends both to confess and to make disposition of his 
worldly goods, which last matter he could not bear so much as 
to hear mentioned ; but now they heard of the wise and excellent 
way in which he had drawn up his will and distributed his wealth, 
a thing no less astonishing to them than the fact that he had died 
1 Fen., Part 3, ch. xi. 


as a good Christian. It was not long before the good news was 
carried to Father Thomas, who was stupefied with astonishment. 
No one knew better than he what had been Andrea s disposition 
the evening previous to his death ; what then could have brought 
about so wondrous a change in the course of a few hours? As 
soon as he had said Mass, he determined to lose no time in 
ascertaining if Catherine had received his message, and hastened 
at once to the Fullonica. In reply to his inquiries, Catherine 
informed him that she had done his bidding, and had prayed 
for the poor sinner, who, she assured him, had obtained the 
Divine mercy, and having confessed his sins with true contri 
tion, had escaped eternal perdition. " And how do you know 
with such certainty the particulars of his death and conversion?" 
asked F. Thomas. Constrained by obedience, yet not without 
reluctance, she related to him how the matter had come about. 
Amazed at what he heard, and not yet satisfied that she might 
not be -the sport of some illusion, he questioned her more 
closely, "Had Andrea, then, been guilty of such atrocious mis 
deeds?" he asked. "Yes," replied the saint, "he was an 
habitual and most sacrilegious blasphemer ; and over and above 
his other crimes he had, out of pure malice, dared to stab and 
trample upon the Crucifix." " And do you know at all what 
he was like?" continued the confessor; "if you can, describe 
him to me;" for he well knew that Catherine had never been 
to Andrea s house, nor so much as once seen or spoken to 
him. Then she began to describe to him the countenance 
and person of the dead man, the size of the room in which 
he died, and its rich furniture; nay, the very colour of the 
drapery which covered his bed, and that as exactly as if she 
were looking at it all with her bodily eye. "For," she said, 
" Our Lord deigned to show me the form and countenance of 
that poor man, whom before that time I had never once 
beheld." 1 

1 All the additional circumstances of the narrative are given in the 
Processus by F. Bartholomew of Siena, and by F. Thomas Caffarim, and also 
by the latter in his Supplement (Part 2, Trat. 2, 8). It must be remembered 

VOL. I. 


This wonderful conversion became noised throughout Siena, 
where Andrea was universally known. It created a great sensa 
tion, and impressed on those who heard it unbounded confidence 
in Catherine s power with God, and her special readiness to 
exert it on behalf of souls. And this impression was confirmed 
by another extraordinary incident which happened a few weeks 
later. One day in the February of 1371, when Catherine was 
again staying in the house of Alexia, it chanced that two 
famous criminals condemned to death were carried in a cart 
through the street towards the place of execution. 1 "Their 
sentence was, that by the way as they were carried, they should 
be pinched, now in one part of the body and now in another, 
with hot irons or pincers, and so in the end put to death. 
Which pain was so intolerable that they (who were before 
in a desperate state, and might by no persuasions be brought to 
repent them of their manifold offences) blasphemed God and all 
His saints, insomuch that it seemed that the temporal torments 
that they were now enduring were but a beginning and way to 
everlasting torments. But our merciful Lord, whose provident 
goodness disposeth all things sweetly, had otherwise determined 

that both these witnesses were in Siena at the time, and Caffarini, as he says, 
"had known Andrea from his cradle." F. Raymund, on the other hand, 
wrote from hearsay, not having been acquainted with Catherine till some 
years later. In the Supplement, however, Caffarini gives the date 1367 ; and 
we should have accepted it in preference to that of 1370, assigned by Raymund, 
but for the irrefragable authority of the Necrology of San Domenico, in which 
occurs the following entry : 1370, Andreas Naddini morlnus esf die deci- 
masesta Decembris et sepultus ad pedes scalarum claustri in Sepulcro suoruin. 
In the MS. of the Processus preserved at Siena occurs a marginal note in 
contemporary writing, which runs as follows : Andrea di Naddino Bellanti, 
tin singolare ribaldo. A I padre stio gli fit tagliato il capo. (An extraordinary 
rascal, his father had his head cut off.) 

1 In the Chronicle of Agnolo di Tura (Rer. Ital. Script., torn. xv. p. 220), 
we find the following entry : 

" 1371. Una trattata fu scoperto in Siena a di 26 di Gennajo e fttnne pre- 
miati quattro eke lo sciipersero, e fu lo data farine. E poi a di 8 di Ferraio, 
furono attanagliati due in sur uno carro, per lo Senators di Siena" There 
can be little doubt that these were the two criminals on whose piteous suffer 
ings Catherine that day gazed. 


for them. When they were come near to the house, Alexia, hear 
ing a great concourse and noise of people in the street, went to 
the window to see what it might be, and seeing the horrible 
manner of the execution, she ran in again and said to the holy 
maid : " O mother ! if ever you will see a pitiful sight, come 
now." At these words, Catherine went to the window and 
looked out, but as soon as she had seen the manner of the execu 
tion, she returned forthwith to her prayers again ; for, as she 
declared afterwards to her confessor, she saw a great multitude 
of wicked spirits about those felons, who burnt their souls more 
cruelly within than the tormentors did their bodies without, 
which lamentable sight moved her to double compassion. She 
felt great pity to see their bodies, but much more to see their 
souls ; so that, turning herself to our Lord, with great fervour of 
spirit, she made her prayer to Him after this manner : " Ah ! 
dear Lord, wherefore dost Thou suffer these Thy creatures, made 
to Thine own image and likeness, and redeemed with the price 
of Thy most precious Blood, to be thus led away in triumph by 
the cruel enemy ? I know, O Lord, and confess that these men 
are justly punished according to the measure of their offences. 
So was the thief also that hung by Thee on the Cross, whom, 
notwithstanding, Thou tookest to mercy, saying that he should 
be with Thee that very day in Paradise. Thou didst not refuse 
Peter, but gavest him a friendly and comfortable look, though he 
like an unkind man had thrice refused and denied thee. Thou 
drewest Mary Magdalen to Thee with the cords of love when she 
had estranged herself from Thee by her manifold sins. Thou 
tookest Matthew the publican from a sinful trade of life in the 
world, to be an apostle and evangelist. Thou didst not refuse the 
woman of Canaan, nor Zaccheus the prince of publicans, but didst 
most sweetly accept the one and invite the other. Wherefore I most 
humbly beseech Thee, for all Thy mercies hitherto showed unto 
man, and also for all those also that Thine infinite goodness hath 
determined to show hereafter, that Thou wilt vouchsafe to look 
down upon these wretched creatures, and soften their hearts with 
the fire of Thy Holy Spirit, that they may be delivered from the 


second death." Our Lord heard the prayer of His spouse, and 
granted her such a grace, that she went in spirit with those two 
thieves towards the place of execution, weeping and lamenting 
for their sins, and moving them to repentance. Which thing the 
wicked spirits perceived well enough, and therefore they cried 
out upon her, and said : " Catherine, leave off to trouble us. If 
thou wilt not, we will surely enter into thee and vex thee." To 
whom the holy maid made answer : " As God wills, so will I. And 
therefore I will not cease to do what lieth in me for the relief of 
these poor wretches, because I know it is the will of God that I 
should so do." And so continuing, her prayer, she procured 
them a singular grace and favour, as the effect declared, for when 
those thieves were come to the gate of the city, our Saviour Christ 
appeared to them, showing to them His precious wounds all 
streaming down with blood, and inviting them to repent of their 
former life, which if they did, He assured them that all was quite 
forgiven. At this strange sight their hearts were suddenly so 
altered, to the great wonder of as many as were present, that they 
turned their blasphemy into thanksgiving ; and showing themselves 
to be heartily sorry and contrite for their sins, desired earnestly 
that they might have a priest to hear their confessions. That 
done, they went forward cheerfully towards the place of execution, 
where they showed likewise great tokens of joy and comfort, for 
that they had to pass by a reproachful death to a glorious life. 
All the people saw this strange alteration, and were much aston 
ished at it, because they understood not then the cause thereof, 
which afterwards came to light in this way : The priest that 
heard the felons confession went soon afterwards to visit F. 
Thomas, and in talk declared unto him how wonderfully God 
had wrought with them. F. Thomas began forthwith to suspect 
the truth, and asked Alexia what Catherine was doing at that 
time when the thieves were led through their street towards 
the place of execution. She declared the whole process of the 
matter, as she had seen and heard it in her own house, whereby 
F. Thomas saw a very great likelihood that the thing had 
been wrought, as he had supposed, by the prayer and interces- 


sion of the saint. However, for more assurance he took an 
occasion afterwards to ask the holy maid herself. And she, to 
the honour of God and for the satisfaction of her confessor, 
declared unto him particularly how everything had passed. 
Within a few days after this was done, certain of the Sisters that 
were present while Catherine was praying, heard her say these 
words in her prayer : " O Lord Jesu, I most heartily thank Thee 
that Thou hast delivered them out of the second prison." And 
being afterwards asked the meaning of these words, she answered 
that the souls of those culprits were then delivered out of purga 
tory, and taken to paradise. For, having by her charity delivered 
them from the everlasting torments of hell, she never ceased 
to pray for them until she saw that they were also passed 
the temporal pains of purgatory and received into everlasting 
bliss." l 

We have now to speak of one of Catherine s supernatural gifts 
of a kind differing from any yet referred to. Her power over 
evil spirits formed one of her special prerogatives, and is singled 
out for notice in the collect of her Office. Between her and the 
great enemy of souls there was an unintermitting war. She was 
ever robbing him of his victims, and in revenge he ceased not his 
efforts to vex and torment her. Though never permitted after her 
one sublime victory, in which she had mastered his assaults, again 
to disturb her soul, yet he was continually directing his attacks 
against her body. Sometimes she was raised in the air and cast 
into the fire, at other times when travelling on some errand of 
mercy she would be hurled from her horse with great violence. 

1 In their version of the above narrative, F. Ambrogio and his English 
translator have fallen into the error of supposing Catherine s confessor herein 
alluded to, to be none other than Raymund of Capua. A reference to the 
story, however, as he himself relates it in his Legend, will show the mistake. 
He says expressly, " The priest who accompanied these criminals gave these 
details to Father Thomas, Catherine s confessor. Later, I also received from 
Catherine, in confidence, the particulars of what took place, and found them 
in every circumstance conformable to what Father Thomas had written" - 
Leg., Part 2, ch. vi. And in fact if, as we suppose, the incident took place in 
1371 , this was before the coming of Raymund to Siena. 


On one such occasion when Raymund and others of the brethren 
were present, both she and her horse, without any seeming cause, 
were cast down a steep precipice. But she arose unhurt and 
smiling, and dispelled their alarm, saying, " Take no heed, it is 
only the work of Malatasca," the name she commonly applied to 
the evil one. 

The mastery which she wielded over the unclean spirits becom 
ing known, Catherine was constantly receiving applications from 
the friends of possessed persons to come to their relief; but how 
ever disposed to help her neighbours in other kinds of suffering, 
her humility shrank from being required to exercise this power ; 
she evaded such requests whenever she could, and it needed no 
little adroitness to obtain her assistance. 

One story of a deliverance wrought through her means we will 
quote from the English Legend. There was in Siena a certain 
notary, named Ser Michel di Monaldi ; he was a pious worthy 
man, and had resolved to dedicate his two daughters to the 
service of God in the Convent of St. John the Baptist. The nuns 
of this convent were Augustinians, and occupied themselves in 
the education of young girls. Monaldi was a benefactor to their 
community, to whom he acted as a sort of temporal father, and 
the two children were therefore gladly received by the nuns, to 
be educated by them until such time as they might be old enough 
to take the religious habit " But they had not been long in the 
convent when one of them, whose name was Laurentia (a child 
of eight years old), was, by the secret judgment of God, possessed 
with a wicked spirit. The whole monastery was much disquieted, 
and by common consent they sent for her father, and bade him 
take back his daughter. After the child was thus taken out of 
the monastery the wicked spirit uttered many wonderful things 
by her mouth, and answered to many dark and hard questions. 
And (which was most strange) he spoke commonly in the Latin 
tongue. He disclosed also many secret vices of divers and 
sundry persons, to their great reproach and slander. The father 
and mother, and others of their kindred, being much afflicted, 
left no means unsought for the relief of the child. Among other 


things wherein they hoped to find help and comfort, was the 
relics of saints kept in many places in the city, to which they 
resorted daily with all diligence, and among others to the tomb 
of B. Ambrose of Siena, who had been in his lifetime a Friar 
Preacher, and to whom Almighty God had granted a singular 
grace in casting out devils, so that his mantle or scapular being 
laid upon those that were vexed with unclean spirits very com 
monly chased them away. They brought the child, therefore, 
and laid her down upon the tomb, and placed these relics over 
her; the father and mother in the meantime earnestly praying 
our Lord by the intercession of that holy saint to take mercy 
on their child. But their prayer was not then heard, which 
happened not for any sin that they had committed, but because 
it was otherwise disposed by the provident wisdom of God, 
who put in the hearts of certain of their friends to counsel 
that they should repair to the holy maid for the release of 
their child. Sending to her, therefore, they prayed her in 
most earnest manner that she would do her best to help their 
daughter ; to which she made answer that she had enough to do 
with the wicked spirits that from time to time molested herself, 
and therefore prayed them that they would hold her excused. 
The parents, whose hearts were very heavy for their innocent 
child, would not take that excuse, but took their daughter, and 
went with her to Catherine s lodging, and came to the house so 
suddenly that she could not possibly escape by the door without 
their getting a sight of her. Which when she saw, she found 
means to convey herself out by a window, and so hid herself for 
that time that they could not find her. At last, when they had 
tried all ways, and saw that they could by no means come to her 
speech (for she had given charge to as many as were about her 
that none should move her in that matter), they resolved to go to 
Father Thomas, her confessor, and to entreat him that he would 
command her in virtue of her obedience to keep the child with 
her for a time. Father Thomas was much moved with their 
pitiful suit, and therefore assured them that he would do his best. 
But because he knew well that if he spoke to her himself she 


would of humility make one excuse or other, so that he should 
not be able to move her any further, he devised this stratagem. 
He waited a time late in the evening when he knew that she was 
abroad, and then took the child that was possessed and put her 
into Catherine s chamber, whither he knew she would come that 
night, leaving word with the rest of the Sisters that they should 
tell her when she came home that he commanded her, in virtue 
of obedience, to suffer that child to remain with her all that night 
until the next morning. And so he went his way, and left the 
child with them. When she came home and found the child in 
her chamber, she asked the Sisters who had brought her thither. 
They said that Father Thomas, her confessor, had left the child 
there ; and declared, moreover, that he desired her, in virtue of 
obedience, to take charge of the child till the next day. When 
she heard that she made no more resistance, but set herself at 
once to prayer, and caused the child to kneel down and pray with 
her. And so they continued together all that night, fighting 
against the wicked spirit, until at length, a little before day, he 
was constrained by the force of her faithful prayer to depart, and 
to leave the innocent child without doing any harm to her body. 
Which, when one of her Sisters, called Alexia, perceived, she ran 
to Father Thomas and told him that the child was delivered. 
He, likewise, being very glad of the joyful news, went to the 
father and mother, and brought them with him to Catherine s 
chamber, where, when they saw the child delivered indeed, they 
wept for joy, and glorified Almighty God that had given such 
power to His humble spouse. But the holy maid knew that the 
wicked spirit had not quite forsaken the child, and therefore 
entreated the father and mother that she might remain there 
with her a little time, which they willingly granted. She then 
began to instruct the child, and exhorted her to give herself to 
continual prayer. And she charged her that she should in nowise 
depart out of the house until her father and mother came thither 
again to fetch her home, which points the child carefully observed. 
Meantime, as the holy maid had occasion to go home to her own 
house about some necessary business (for all this was done not in 


her own house, but in the house of Alexia), she left the child 
with a servant, and gave her charge to have a care of her. When 
she had passed the whole day in her own house about necessary 
business, and night was come, she desired Alexia to give her her 
mantle, for she would return with her to her house. To that 
Alexia answered that it was very late, and that it would be evil 
thought of if women (especially religious persons) should be seen 
abroad at that time of night. O Alexia, said she, we must 
needs go, for that wicked wolf is about to take my little lamb 
away from me again. And with that they went both together, 
and found the child indeed strangely altered, her face all red and 
her wits utterly distracted. When the holy maid saw that, she 
exclaimed in holy indignation : Ah ! thou foul fiend of hell, 
how durst thou thus to enter again this poor innocent? I trust 
in the goodness of my dear Lord and Saviour that thou shalt now 
be cast out in such sort that thou shalt never dare to enter any 
more. And with that she took the child into her chamber, 
where she continued for a certain time in prayer. But the wicked 
spirit was so obstinate that she was fain to persevere even until 
the fourth hour of the night before she could expel him. At last, 
constrained by the force of her prayer and by virtue of the charge 
that she gave him in God s behalf, he said these words to her : 
* If I must needs depart out of the child, I will enter into thee. 
Whereunto she made answer and said, * If it be God s pleasure 
(without Whose licence I am well assured thou canst do nothing), 
our Lord forbid that I should be against His holy will in anything. 
Which words, proceeding from a humble and resigned spirit, so 
struck the proud fiend that he lost all the strength that he had 
before against the innocent child. Howbeit, in passing out 
he rested awhile in the child s throat, which was perceived by a 
great swelling that he made in that place, which the holy maid 
seeing, she made the sign of the cross over the child s throat, by 
virtue whereof the wicked spirit was thoroughly dispossessed in 
such sort that he might never return to disquiet the child again. 
And the next day she sent for the father and mother, to whom 
she said, Take your child home with you, in God s name, for 


from this day forward she shall never be troubled more with that 
wicked spirit. They took their child with glad hearts, and led 
her to the monastery whence she came, where she lived a very 
blessed life under that rule and discipline, and was never molested 
more to her dying day. Which thing was so joyous to Ser Michel, 
her father, that he could never tell it afterwards but that he wept 
for joy. And he honoured the holy maid in his heart as if she 
had been an angel of God." 

It may easily be understood that facts of this kind, when 
once known, could not fail to bring Catherine s name before 
the notice of her fellow-citizens. "People began to resort to 
her," says F. Bartholomew Dominic,, " more than they had done 
before, coming even from distant parts of the country to see 
and speak with her." In short her public life may be said to 
have fairly begun. She came to be regarded as one to whom 
recourse might be had in desperate cases, and whose prayers 
were never known to be left unanswered. One of the first who 
was moved by these reports to seek her out and ask her counsel, 
was Donna Onorabile Tolomei, wife to Francesco Tolomei, the 
head of the noblest family of Siena, one which boasts of having 
given a long line of illustrious citizens to the republic, and no 
fewer than fourteen saints to the Order of St. Dominic. Onor 
abile, or Rabes, as she was commonly called, was a virtuous and 
religious matron, though not without plenty of family pride and 
a certain infirmity of temper. Her tale of sorrow was soon told. 
She was the mother of several sons and of two daughters, all 
of them given up to the vanities of the world. Giacomo, or 
James, the eldest son, led a life of ferocious crime. Whilst yet 
a child he had killed two men with his own hand, and such was 
his pride and cruelty, that though still a mere youth he was 
feared by all men. He had two sisters, one named Ghinoccia, 
and the other Francesca; Ghinoccia in particular was passion 
ately addicted to the world and its pleasures, and carried her love 
of dress to an extremity of folly, filling the house with her 
perfumes and cosmetics. Rabes feared for the souls of her 
children, and specially of her daughters, whose giddiness and 


levity seemed even to threaten the loss of their good name. And 
inasmuch as she herself feared God, and desired nothing so 
much as the conversion of her children to a better life, she 
conjured the Saint to come with her to her house and see these 
young girls and give them some pious exhortation. It was 
probably the first time that Catherine had ever set her foot 
within one of the great houses of Siena. The Tolomei Palace 
still stands, a venerable building, ancient even in Catherine s 
time, and bearing in every part the tokens of belonging to the 
proudest family of the republic. Rabes introduced her to her 
two daughters, and then left them together. One little phrase 
which occurs in the narrative, as it is told by Caffarini in the 
Leggenda Minore, suggests a fact which possibly moved the 
heart of the Saint as she gazed on those young faces to a deep 
and singular interest. Does the reader remember that com 
pliance with a foolish fashion in her early childhood (the dyeing 
of her hair to a fictitious appearance of fairness), which all 
through Catherine s innocent life weighed upon her conscience, 
and which she even regarded as a deadly sin ? As she looked 
on the two maidens now before her, she beheld the revival of 
that same fashion. Dressed in the extravagant modes of the 
fourteenth century (and few centuries could boast of extrava 
gances more preposterous), the raven hair of the two Italian 
girls was pomaded and powdered in the vain attempt to make 
them appear like English blondes. Catherine, as she looked at 
them, silently raised her heart to God, and that done, addressed 
them a few words of gentle remonstrance. It did not take many 
minutes for her to win their hearts and touch their consciences ; 
her words, but far more her presence and the sweet odour of that 
perfect charity, tore away the veil from before their eyes, and 
wrought in them a change which was in truth " a change of the 
right hand of the Most High." Detesting the vanities which 
until then they had clung to, they cast all their cosmetics into the 
gutter, says Caffarini, and cutting off their (artificially) fair hair 
(tagliati J loro biondi capegli), they placed themselves at the 
.disposal of Catherine, and declared themselves ready to begin an 


entirely new life. It was .one of those conversions in which 
souls cannot stop half way; and before many days were over, 
Ghinoccia and Francesca had asked and received the habit ot 
the Sisters of Penance. Ghinoccia, in particular, who had 
formerly been the most given to worldly excess, was now the one 
most disposed to the practice of penance, and both embraced a 
rule of life as austere as it was edifying. 

While all this had been going on, James, their eldest brother, 
had been away from Siena. When he learnt the change that had 
come over his sisters, he raged like a madman, and cursed all 
those who had had any part in it : the friars, the sisters, and 
Catherine above all, and ended by swearing he would tear from 
their backs the religious habit which they had had the folly to 
assume. Rabes, who knew her son s violence, and dreaded what 
he might be capable of doing, sent a private message to Catherine, 
to warn her of the gathering storm. The Saint contented herself 
with requesting F. Thomas to go and talk to the youth, saying, 
" You may say such and such things to him from me, and I on 
my part will pray for him to God." 

There was a younger member of the family, named Matthew, 
who at this juncture was the only one who had the courage to 
face his ferocious brother. "Brother James," he said, "you do 
not know this Sister Catherine. She is a wonderful woman. If 
once she sees you, she will turn you also and make you go to 
confession." "To confession!" he exclaimed, "I defy her and 
all of them ; you may be sure of this, I will cut the throats of all 
those priests and friars before they bring me to confession." 
"Well, brother," replied the boy, "you will see my words will 
come true ; and that holy Sister will bring you to the grace of 
God." James replied only by fresh curses, and on reaching Siena, 
went at once to his father s house, where he threatened all manner 
of horrible revenge, if his sisters, and Ghinoccia in particular, were 
not made to lay aside the religious habit. Rabes, who knew his 
violent nature, did what she could to calm him, and succeeded 
so far as to get him to harm no one that night. The next morn 
ing she sent for F. Thomas, who came in company with F. 


Bartholomew of Siena ; and both spent several hours endeavour 
ing to make him hear reason, but in vain. All this time Catherine 
was in prayer, and as the event showed, her prayers prevailed 
where the eloquence of the good fathers was of no effect. For 
when they had done their utmost and saw that they gained 
nothing, they were about to take their leave, when suddenly, and 
contrary to all expectation, the young man, as if touched by the 
hand of God, began saying of his own accord that he was well 
content to leave his sisters to serve God in the holy rule which 
they had chosen. The friars could not believe their ears, but 
their astonishment increased when James went on to say that he 
desired to be confessed and absolved from his sins, that he might 
serve God with them. In fact, he made his confession that same 
day, and the raging wolf was now as gentle as a lamb. Rabes and all 
her family rejoiced at the unaccountable change, whilst F. Thomas 
and his companion hastened to Catherine s house that they might 
bring her the good news. They found that she was in an upper 
chamber absorbed in prayer, and so were obliged to remain until 
she was able to see them. But one of her Sisters coming in to 
entertain them meanwhile, F. Thomas began to relate what had 
taken place. " It is no news to us," replied the Sister. " Catherine, 
from whom I have just come, has told me the whole matter." 
Then they all went up together to the Saint s chamber, who re 
ceived them very courteously, and before they had had time to 
speak, expressed her joy at the conversion of Master James. " We 
are indeed bound to thank God," she said, "the wicked enemy 
thought to have got a little lamb of which he had some hope, but 
through the unspeakable mercy of God he lost a great prey of 
which he had full possession. He laid a snare "for Ghinoccia, 
but he has lost James. May our Lord be blessed who turns all 
things to the comfort of His servants." Ghinoccia and Francesca 
persevered in the holy life they had embraced, and died a few 
years later in great repute of sanctity. James married, and 
became another man, showing so good and exemplary an example 
as to be the admiration of his neighbours. Towards the end of 
his life he put on the habit of a Dominican Tertiary and died in 


1406. Matthew, as we shall see, became in time a Friar Preacher 
and one of the faithful disciples of our Saint. 

It is not to be doubted that the connection thus formed between 
Catherine and the members of the Tolomei family must have 
brought her into relation with many other noble houses, and that 
by this means she became more fully cognisant of the troubles 
which infested not Siena only but all Italy. Her circle of friends 
was, moreover, becoming enlarged in another way. In a former 
chapter we have spoken of the heroic services she was in the habit 
of rendering to the sick, and of her visits to the Leper Hospital. 
There were other hospitals in Siena which she was wont to fre 
quent; one was the Casa della Misericordia^ whose rector was 
one Master Matthew di Cenni di Fazio ; the other was the great 
hospital of La Scala. Matthew was a man of noble birth, who 
in his youth had led a dissolute life, but who, together with his 
friend Francis Lando, was won over to better things through the 
means of a certain Father William Flete, an English Augustinian 
hermit. At the time of which we speak, Master Matthew was one 
of the notabilities of Siena, known to everybody, and everybody s 
friend ; for his genial sympathetic nature won him the confidence 
of young and old. Between him and Catherine an intimate 
friendship soon sprang up, and lasted till her death. At La Scala 
also she came in contact with a group of excellent men who may 
be said to have made up the pious society of Siena. This noble 
hospital, which still exists, boasts of being one of the most ancient 
charitable institutions in Europe. It was founded in 832 by a 
poor shoemaker, and takes its name from three marble steps 
which were discovered when digging out the foundation, and 
which are supposed to have belonged to an old temple of Diana. 
Hence it was called " The Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala." 
Here Catherine often came, and a little room was assigned to her 
use. A stone is still shown on which she is said to have lain down 
to rest, and above it is the inscription : " Here lay the spouse of 

1 The Misericordia was founded in 1250 by B. Andrew Gnllerani, called 
the first Tertiary of St. Dominic. A descendant of his, Louis Gallerani, was 
one of St. Catherine s disciples. 


Jesus Christ, the Seraphic Mother, St. Catherine of Siena. Laus 
Deo ! " whilst among the relics of the Fullonica is the lanthorn 
she carried with her when called forth on some errand of charity 
during the night. Caffarini in his Supplement speaks of her habit 
of attending the sick in the hospitals, and specially notes the fact 
of her serving them at night, which explains why she may have 
required the use of a little room in which to rest. " Whenever 
there was question of serving God or performing any works of 
charity," he says, " she readily quitted her cell to employ herself 
for the good of her neighbours, as our Lord commanded her after 
her three years of retirement. She was not afraid of serving the 
sick in the hospitals, even at the most fatiguing hours of the night ; 
nor did she shrink from those miserable creatures who were suffer 
ing from the most repulsive maladies. She once bestowed her 
whole care on an unhappy woman who for years had lived an 
abandoned life, and who now lay dying on a wretched bed, where 
she complained that she could find no one to assist her, or give 
her the kind of food she liked. Catherine resolved to take care 
first of the body and then of the soul of this poor creature. She 
prepared her the necessary food, and waited on her day and night, 
while at the same time she encouraged her to repent and have 
confidence in God s mercy." 1 But La Scala, besides being an 
hospital, was the rendezvous of a certain Confraternity which 
assembled in some subterranean vaults or catacombs, and was 
known by the name of " The Company of the Discipline of the 
Virgin Mary, under the Hospital." This company was far more 
ancient than the hospital itself, and traced its origin to those first 
Christians of Siena who, converted to the faith by the martyr St. 
Ansano, assembled in these catacombs for the secret exercise of 
their religion. When the great hospital was built at a later period, 
the vaults were not destroyed, but included in the fabric and still 
assigned to the use of the company. Here the brethren had 
their own chapel and rooms in which they assembled and took 
the discipline. 

They met on all festivals, and on every Friday in the year made 
1 Sup., Part 2, Trat. 3, 6. 


a long meditation, heard Mass, and approached the sacraments. 
Besides this they carried on a great number of good works, 
attending the hospitals both in and out of the city, and assist 
ing the poor, the sick, orphans, and pilgrims, from their large 
revenues. This Confraternity was the very life and centre of 
the piety of Siena. It numbered among its associates a noble 
army of saints and saintly personages, and in St. Catherine s time 
we find in the Catalogue of the Brethren, the names of F. Ray- 
mund of Capua, F. Thomas della Fonte, F. Thomas Caffarini, 
F. Bartholomew of Siena, F. Bartholomew Montucci, Gabriel 
Piccolomini, Stephen Maconi, and the two Augustinians, F. John 
Tantucci, and F. William Flete, to which must be added that 
of Don John of the Cells of Vallombrosa; all in due time to 
be numbered among Catherine s friends and disciples. By all 
the members of this holy company Catherine was regarded with 
affectionate reverence, and accepted rather as a mother than as 
an associate ; and when they assembled on festival days to sing 
the divine office in their chapel, Catherine would assist and share 
their devotions in the privacy of her little chamber. A fresco 
may still be seen at Siena, which represents St. Catherine with her 
mantle extended, whilst under its folds kneel four of her disciples, 
clad in the penitential garb of the Company of Mary. 

Here, then, we probably see the first beginnings of that Spiritual 
Family which gradually gathered round the Saint, and which 
little by little drew into itself all those souls of predilection, who 
in a sad and evil day preserved in Siena and the other cities of 
Tuscany "the sweet savour of Christ." Whether seculars or 
religious, men or women, Dominicans or members of other 
religious orders, they all called her mother, and stood to her in 
the relation of spiritual children. It mattered little that she who 
was looked up to as their head was at this time but twenty-four 
years of age ; of her, if of any one, it might be truly said, that, 
" Venerable age is not that of long time nor counted by the 
number of years, but the understanding is grey hairs, and a 
spotless life old age." l Her very confessors regarded themselves 
1 Wisd. iv. 8, 9. 


in no other light than her " sons," and whilst she rendered them 
the most implicit obedience in the discharge of their sacred office, 
it is impossible not to see that they were no less her disciples 
than the others. " People often said," writes F. Raymund, " that 
it was from the friars she learnt her wonderful doctrine, but the 
contrary was the case ; it was they who learnt from her." And 
as the circle widened and extended, it came about necessarily 
and naturally that Catherine often had to communicate with 
those who sought her advice and direction at a distance. Hence 
the origin of that marvellous correspondence of which we possess 
but very imperfect fragments, but which, incomplete as it is, 
furnishes us with by far the most precious materials for forming 
a knowledge of her real character. As she herself did not as yet 
possess the art of writing, she was dependent on the assistance 
of others, to whom she dictated her letters with wonderful ease 
and fluency. Nor is it possible to doubt the originality of these 
compositions ; on every page, in every word there is impressed 
the mind and heart of Catherine, wonderful in variety, adapting 
itself to the rank, the circumstances, the spiritual needs of each 
one whom she addresses; now burning with zeal, now melting 
with tenderness, supplying a body of spiritual direction of which 
the distinguishing feature is practical good sense, and a course 
of meditations, in which she is content to build up the faith of 
her disciples on the Eternal Truths. 

Before going further in the course of our history, therefore, it 
will best answer the purpose we have in view if we pause for a 
brief space, and introduce to the reader a little more particularly 
the Spiritual Family of St. Catherine, confining ourselves, for 
the sake of brevity, to those most closely associated with her, 
and whose names will most frequently recur in the following 

VOL. I. 




AND first, we will say a few words of those who may most 
Jr\. properly be called St. Catherine s companions, the mem 
bers, namely, of that religious body to which she belonged, the 
Mantellate, or Dominican Sisters of Penance. From the time 
she quitted the solitude of her cell, it had been her custom always 
to have one or other of them in her company. Of Alexia we 
have already said something, and she will often reappear in the 
course of our narrative. Catherine, as has been seen, loved her 
dearly, and on that account she did not spare her. From various 
little words that are dropped in her letters, it would seem that 
at the period of their first acquaintance, the Saint considered her 
friend a little open to that feminine weakness, an unguarded 
tongue. " Make a tabernacle in your cell," she says, " so as not 
to be going about everywhere gossiping ; only go out when called 
by necessity, or charity, or obedience to our Prioress. . . . Watch 
the movements of your tongue, and do not let it always follow 
those of your thoughts ; regulate your time well, watch at night, 
after you have slept as much as you require, and in the morning 
go to church before occupying yourself in frivolous things. Do 
not change your rule of life too often ; after dinner take a little 
time for recollection, and then occupy yourself in some manual 
work. At vesper time go where the Holy Spirit may call you, 
but be sure you return and take care of your old mother, and 
see she has all she requires, for that is your plain duty. From 
this time until I return, try to do as I say." Alexia often suc 
ceeded in getting Catherine to take up her abode for some time 


together in her house, 1 and on one occasion the Saint spent an 
entire winter with her. The way it came about was this. Alexia s 
father-in-law, Francesco, an old man above eighty, was still living, 
and made his home under her roof. For years he had neglected 
his religious duties, and resisted every effort which his daughter- 
in-law made to put the affairs of his soul in better order. At 
last she bethought her that if she could secure that Catherine 
should come and stay with her for some months, her conversation 
during the long winter evenings might produce the desired result. 
The Saint consented, but owned that the task was a difficult one. 
At last, however, the hard heart was touched, and he said : " I 
am determined to confess, but first of all I must tell you, that 
I entertain such a hatred against the prior of a certain church 
that I daily seek means of killing him." But Catherine said 
such moving things to him on the subject that he finished by 
exclaiming, " I am ready to do whatever you order me ; you 
need only speak." So she said to him, " I wish that for the love 
of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in order that He may pardon you, 
you should forgive the prior and be reconciled with him." He 
promised, and on the morrow, at dawn of day, he took a falcon 
of which he was very fond, and went alone to the church where 
the prior lived. The latter immediately fled ; but the old man 
charged a canon to go and tell him that he did not come to 
injure him, but on the contrary, to bring him good news. The 
prior learning that he was alone and unarmed, first caused several 
persons to come into his apartment and then permitted his visitor 
to be introduced ; who bowed to him and said, " The grace of 
God has touched my heart, and I am come to offer to be recon 
ciled with you ; and to prove that I am sincere, I entreat you to 
accept this falcon, of which I am extremely fond." Peace was 
soon concluded, and the old man returned to Catherine. " I 

1 Where was this house ? Some writers suppose Alexia to have occupied 
a portion of the Saraceni Palace during the lifetime of her father-in-law. It 
stands in the Via del Casato di Sotto, not far from the Piazza del Campo. It 
was possibly from the windows of this palace that Catherine beheld the 
criminals on their way to execution. 


have obeyed your orders," said he, " and I will obey you again." 
The Saint told him to go and confess to Father Bartholomew. 
His general confession occupied three days, and when he had 
received absolution, his confessor was at a loss what penance to 
assign him, because he was very aged, and although noble was 
poor. So he gave him a trifling penance, and said, " Return to 
her who sent you, and what she gives you, I give also." Catherine 
bade him rise every morning at dawn for a certain period, and 
go in silence to the cathedral, reciting each time a hundred Paters 
and Aves, and gave him a cord with a hundred knots on which 
to reckon them. He accomplished the whole with fidelity, and 
after a few years spent in the exercise of religion and charity, 
made a peaceful end. 

This story must not be confounded with that of the conversion 
of another of Alexia s relations, Nicolas Saraceni. This old 
knight resisting all his wife s exhortations that he would attend 
to the affairs of his soul, she came as a last resource to Catherine 
and asked her prayers. Catherine promised not to forget him ; 
and soon after appeared to Nicolas in his sleep, and desired 
him to give heed to his wife s counsel. Awaking in terror, he 
told the latter what had happened, and promised to go and talk 
with the holy virgin, who had no difficulty in sending him to 
confession. When he came from the church, she inquired if he 
had confessed all his sins. "Yes," he replied, "all that I could 
remember." On which she reminded him of one thing that had 
happened many years before in Apulia, which was known to no 
living man and which he himself had forgotten. Filled with 
wonder he owned it to be true, and having finished his confession 
according to her direction, he was accustomed to tell the story 
to her honour, and say in the words of the Gospel, "Come and 
see one who told me all things that I have done : is not this a 
prophetess?" 1 

Another of the Sisters was Cecca, or Francesca, the widow of 

1 On the margin of the MS. of the Leggenda Minore (translated by Stephen 
Maconi) is written this note: "I, brother Stephen, was not only familiarly 
acquainted with this Master Nicolas, but his wife was my near relation." 


Clement Gori, of whom Raymund often speaks in the Legend, 
calling her Francesca of Gori. Her husband was of noble birth, 
and her three sons were Dominican Friars. They all died holy 
deaths before her, and as it would seem in the service of the 
plague-stricken. Her daughter Justina was a nun at Montepul- 
ciano. Alexia and Cecca frequently acted as Catherine s secre 
taries, and when they had finished writing what she dictated, they 
generally added some little message of their own, by which we 
are able to identify the writers. They were on specially familiar 
terms with F. Bartholomew Dominic of Siena, who held among 
them the place of a brother. So in the letters addressed to him 
on occasion of his frequent absences, there is often a playful and 
affectionate word from Alexia grassotta, or Cecca pazza. In one 
letter we read, "Alexia recommends herself to you a thousand 
times; she is astonished at not hearing from you. May God 
bring us where we shall all meet face to face ! " And Alexia, 
who is acting as the scribe, adds from herself, " Alexia the negli 
gent would very much like to put herself into this letter, that she 
might be able to pay you a visit." Of Lisa Colombini, Catherine s 
sister-in-law, we have elsewhere spoken. Through her, no doubt, 
it was that Catherine became so well known, both to other members 
of the Colombini family, and to those numerous Gesuati whom 
we learn from the Processus were to be found among her disciples. 
St. John Colombini, Lisa, Matthew, and the blessed Catherine 
Colombini were all four first-cousins, being children of four 
brothers. B. Catherine, who had been first converted to a holy 
life by the exhortation of St. John, her cousin, had a great love 
and devotion to our Saint, with whom she was on terms of 
intimate friendship. As she lay on her deathbed, we read that 
there appeared to her St. John Colombini, and St. Catherine of 
Siena, and recognising them with immense joy, she exclaimed, 
" O Blessed Catherine : O John, father of my soul, my sweetest 
patrons, I am coming to you !" and so expired. 1 Lisa had also 
a brother, who seems also to have been one of the Saint s disciples. 
In the same letter quoted above she says, " I send you this letter 
1 Fasti Senensi. 


by the brother of her who is my sister-in-law l according to the 
flesh, but my sister in Christ." Of the other Mantellate, it will 
suffice to mention Giovanna Pazzi, a member of a branch of the 
noble Florentine family of that name, Jane di Capo, and a 
certain Catherine of the Hospital. It may illustrate the familiar 
and pleasant terms which existed among all these good Sisters, 
when we say that they not only gave each other nicknames, a 
habit from which no Italian could perhaps abstain, but at times 
were guilty of something very like a pun, so that Giovanna s family 
name is occasionally transformed from Giovanna Pazzi to Gio 
vanna pazza, that is, mad or foolish Jane. 

From the sisters let us now turn to the brethren of this happy 
society, three of whom have already been frequently mentioned. 
And first we must glance at the holy, though unlearned F. 
Thomas della Fonte, who acted as Catherine s chief confidant and 
director from her childhood until the year 1374, when in his 
simple humility he resigned his charge into the hands of Raymund 
of Capua, making over to his keeping all the notes which during 
fifteen years he had kept regarding his holy penitent. They 
filled four closely-written quires, and are among the chief 
materials from which Raymund afterwards composed the Legend; 
but with the exception of a few pages which have been embodied 
in the Leggenda Minore, no fragment of the original work has 
been preserved. 2 F. Thomas Antonio de Nacci Caffarini was, 
next to him, the oldest of Catherine s Dominican friends. Unlike 
his namesake he was a man of considerable learning, and seems 
to have assisted the Saint in her studies of the Sacred Scriptures. 
So we gather from one of his letters addressed to Catherine 
which has been preserved, and in which he replies to her 
inquiries as to the right reading of the i3oth Psalm. 3 For ten 

1 Mia cognata secondo la carne, mia sorella secondo Christo, Letter 209. 
M. Cartier has a mistranslation of this passage, rendering cognata as cousine ; 
but Lisa was not cousin, but sister-in-law to Catherine, as the word really 

2 According to Echard and Quetif (Script. Ord. Pried., torn. I. 696), this 
work bore the title of Singularia et mira Sancta Catherines Senemis. 

3 Letter e dei discepoli di S. Cath., No. I. 


continuous years he enjoyed her society and confidence, and 
during that time often acted as her confessor. Hence he became 
acquainted with many secrets of her interior life, which he has 
preserved in the Supplement to the Legend, so often quoted in 
the foregoing pages. But the one who has left us the most life 
like portrait of the holy virgin is undoubtedly Father Bartholomew 
Dominic, or, as he is commonly called, Bartholomew of Siena. 
He also frequently acted as her confessor, and seems to have lost 
no opportunity of searching and examining her spirit. Sometimes 
when she bitterly reproached herself with faults which none but 
her own eyes could detect, or charged herself with being the 
cause of all the evils that happened in the world, he either was, 
or feigned himself to be, incredulous of her sincerity. "How 
can you say such things sincerely," he asked, " when it is plain 
you have a great horror of sin?" "Ah, father," she would 
sorrowfully reply, " I see you do not know my misery. The most 
contemptible wretch on earth that had received the graces I have 
received would be on fire with the love of God. She would 
spread such fervour abroad by her words and example that men 
would everywhere leave off sinning. But I who have received 
so much, I am only a cause of ruin to those whom I ought 
to save, and so I am doubtless most guilty before God." He 
testifies to her wonderful love of suffering, and describes her as 
fastened to the Cross by three distinct kinds of torture, in her 
head, breast, and side. Yet never could he detect a shade of 
melancholy on her placid and smiling countenance, and if others 
pitied her she would not merely be cheerful, but gay. He also 
testifies to her wonderful prophetic spirit. Father Thomas della 
Fonte and he determined one day they would put her to the 
test on this point. Going together to her chamber, therefore, 
they desired her to tell them what they had been doing at two 
and three o clock that morning. She replied evasively, "Who 
knows better than yourself?" Her confessor said, " I command 
you to tell, if you know, what we were doing at that time." She 
was obliged to obey, and humbly bowing her head, she replied, 
" You were four together in the cell of the sub-prior, and there 


you conversed together a long time." She named all who were 
present and the subject on which they had spoken. Father 
Bartholomew was amazed, but he thought she might know from 
some of the persons present, so he determined to try her again. 
On the morrow he went to her, and said, Then you know, 
Mother, what we do?" She answered, "My son, know that my 
Divine Saviour, having given me a spiritual family, leaves me in 
ignorance of nothing that concerns them." "You know, then, 
what I was doing yesterday evening at such an hour ? " " With 
out doubt," she answered, "you were writing on a certain subject. 
My son, I watch and pray for you continually until I hear the 
matin bell of your convent. I see all that you do, and if you had 
good eyes, you would behold me as I do you." 1 He experienced 
also on another occasion this power which Catherine had of 
knowing what was passing at a distance. Being sent at one time 
to Florence to discharge the office of Lector he was attacked by 
scruples on the subject of a supposed irregularity in his ordina 
tion, which gave him such trouble that he left off saying Mass. 
One day being in the church of Santa Maria Novella, he was 
revolving these things in his mind in bitter grief, and thinking 
how Catherine would surely comfort and give him light could he 
but see and speak with her, he called on her to help him in his 
anguish as though she could actually hear him. At that very 
moment Catherine, who was praying in the church at Siena, was 
observed by her Sisters to give signs of extraordinary emotion. 
When they came away her companions asked for an explanation. 
"My son Bartholomew, at Florence," she said, "was at that 
moment being tormented by the enemy." She had prayed 
earnestly for him, and at the same time Bartholomew was 
unexpectedly summoned to the presence of the Bishop, who, 
inquiring the cause of his trouble, was able to dissipate it in a 
few words. Another incident somewhat similar in its character 
to the one just narrated is related by Raymund of Capua. It 

1 Caffarini in his Supplement tells this story a little differently, and adds 
that the matter on which the two religious were engaged was the registering 
of her own miraculous favours. 


happened during his residence at Montepulciano, " where," 
he says, " as there was no convent of Friars, and I had with me 
but one companion, I was often glad to receive visits from the 
religious of neighbouring places. It happened once that Father 
Thomas della Fonte, Catherine s confessor, and Father George 
Naddi, professor of theology, proposed coming to see me from 
the convent of Siena, in order to converse and consult with me. 
In order to travel more quickly they took some horses which 
were lent them by their friends. Arrived within about six miles 
of Montepulciano, which is situated among the mountains, they 
imprudently halted to rest themselves, when some of the people 
of the place, perceiving the two travellers alone and unarmed, 
resolved on waylaying and robbing them. Going on before, 
therefore, to the number of ten or twelve, they awaited the arrival 
of the luckless friars in a solitary place. As they approached, 
the robbers rushed out of their ambush, dragged them from their 
horses, stripped them of their clothes and everything which they 
carried, and then led them into the depth of the forest, where 
they held council whether it would not be best to kill them and 
conceal their bodies, so as to leave no trace of their crime. 

" F. Thomas seeing his danger, was lavish of his entreaties and 
promises to observe silence, but without effect ; and when he saw 
that the robbers were leading them further and further into the 
entangled forest, he comprehended that God alone could succour 
them, and began to pray. Knowing how agreeable his spiritual 
daughter was to God, he said interiorly : " O Catherine, servant 
of God, help us in this peril." Scarcely had he uttered these 
words in his heart, than the robber nearest him, who appeared to 
be charged to kill him, said : " Why should we kill these poor 
friars who never did us any injury? it would be indeed an 
enormous crime ! let us suffer them to go ; they are good-hearted 
men, who will never betray us." All accepted this opinion so sud 
denly advanced with such unanimity, that not only they allowed 
the religious their lives, but even restored to them their garments, 
horses, and all that they had stolen, except a little money, and 
suffered them to go at liberty : they arrived at my house on the 


same day, and related all these circumstances. When Friar 
Thomas returned to Siena he certified, as he wrote to me, that at the 
same moment in which he had invoked her assistance, Catherine 
said to one of her nearest companions : " Father Thomas is calling 
me, he is in great danger," and rising immediately she went to 
pray in her oratory. It cannot be doubted that it was at that 
moment by the efficacy of her prayers that a change so wonder 
ful was produced in the dispositions of the robbers, which she 
could only have known in the spirit of prophecy, being then at a 
distance of four and twenty miles. 1 

It often happened that Bartholomew was called away from 
Siena either to fill the office of Lector, as at Florence, or to 
preach in the surrounding towns and country districts. Five of 
Catherine s letters to him were written whilst he was giving what 
we should now call a mission at Asciano, near Siena, in which 
she took a peculiar interest, sending some of her other spiritual 
sons to help him in his work. He was also Lector at Pisa for 
some time, and during his stay in these places helped to spread 
abroad her fame. 

Good Master Matthew, the rector of the Misericordia, has 
already been made known to the reader, but a few particulars 
must be added touching the manner of his first introduction to 
Catherine. He and his friend, Francis Lando, went once to see 
her in ecstasy, as others were accustomed to do when they could 
obtain permission from her confessor. It was a visit of pure curio 
sity, and as she was quite abstracted during the whole time, they 
did not hear her speak a single word. But the spectacle so power 
fully impressed them, and such a devotion filled their hearts, that 
they felt like new men. Coming away, they said one to another : 
" What is this ? If only to see her once, without her saying one 
word, thus moves us to compunction, what might we not hope for 
if she admitted us to the number of her spiritual children ! " They 
therefore returned with a far more serious purpose; and when 
they had once listened to her prudent words, and saw the sweet 
courtesy of her manners, yielding to the charm which none could 
1 Legend, Part 2, ch. ix. 


resist, they gave themselves to her as to their mistress and 

Next on our list of Catherine s disciples comes one different in 
character and position from any yet named, Neri di Landoccio 
dei Paglieresi, a man of good family, well skilled in letters, and a 
writer of graceful verses, which have earned for him no mean 
repute. We know neither the time nor the occasion of his first 
introduction to Catherine, but it seems to have been about the 
year 1370. When once she had accepted him as her disciple, he 
never separated from her, but accompanied her on all her journeys, 
and was the first of the three noble youths who acted as her 
secretaries. He had the true poetic temperament, a gift of 
doubtful value to its possessor, and which in his case was linked 
with much sorrow. "The lover, the poet, and the madman," 
says Shakespeare, " are of imagination all compact ; " and Neri 
during one brief period in his life knew what it was for a tortured 
imagination to overmaster reason. Sensitive in the extreme, and 
ever trembling on the verge of religious despondency, Catherine 
had to be always lifting him out of his natural tendency to sadness 
and discouragement, and infusing into him her own strong and 
high-hearted hope. We have her first letter to him, written on 
one of the occasions when F. Bartholomew Dominic was preach 
ing at Asciano, whither Neri had accompanied him and was 
assisting him in his work. It was in the early days of his friend 
ship with Catherine, and in reply to his request to be received 
among her disciples, she wrote as follows : " You ask me to 
receive you as my son ; I am unworthy to do so, for I am only a 
poor sinner ; yet I both have received you, and will do so with 
all affection. I promise to answer for you before God for any 
faults you may have committed, only, I conjure you, satisfy my 
desires ; conform yourself to Christ crucified, and separate your 
self utterly from the world." l 

In another letter, written a little later, she tries to calm the 
troubles of his conscience. Neri s habitual mental trial was this ; 
that he could not realise that God had forgiven him his sins. 
1 Sup., Part 2, Trat. I, 3. 


" Let the trouble of your soul (she says) be destroyed in the hope 
of the Blood. True self-knowledge by humbling you will increase 
light Is not God more ready to pardon than we to offend ? Is 
He not our Physician, and are not we His sick children ? Has 
He not borne our iniquities, and is not sadness the worst of all 
our faults ? Yes, it assuredly is so, my dear son. Open your 
eyes then to the light of faith. See how much you are beloved 
of God, and beholding His love, do not be troubled because you 
likewise see the ignorance and coldness of your own heart, but 
let self-knowledge only increase your humility and kindle your 
love. The more you see how badly you correspond to the great 
graces bestowed on you by your Creator, the more you will 
humble yourself, saying, with holy resolution, That which 
hitherto I have failed to do, I will do now. Remember that 
discouragement will make you entirely forget the teaching that 
has been given you; it is a leprosy which dries up alike both 
soul and body. It chains the arms of holy desire, and prevents 
our doing what we would ; it renders the soul insupportable 
to itself and agitates it with a thousand phantoms. It takes 
away all light, natural and supernatural, and so the soul falls 
into a thousand infidelities, not knowing the end for which 
God created her ; that He created her, namely, to give her life 
eternal ! Courage, then, and let a lively faith and firm hope in 
the precious Blood triumph over the demon who would trouble 
you" (Letter 274). 

This beautiful letter contains the sum of all Catherine s in 
structions to this holy, but much tried soul. He proved himself 
worthy to be her son ; yet, as we shall see, even to the end the 
same dark shadow dogged his footsteps and caused him a life 
long martyrdom. Neri had a great talent for friendship, and 
succeeded in bringing not a few of his friends to join the number 
of Catherine s disciples. Among these was Gabriel di Davino 
Piccolomini, a married man, whose son Giovanni at the instance 
of the Saint took the Dominican habit. Gabriel belonged to 
that noble family of Siena whose boast it is to have given to the 
Church four cardinals, fourteen archbishops, twenty-one bishops, 


and two popes, of whom one was destined to pronounce the 
canonisation of St. Catherine. No less illustrious in the career 
of arms, the family records are full of the great deeds of those 
warlike Piccolomini who headed the armies of the republic as 
well as those of foreign states. Gabriel shared this military 
spirit, and his chivalrous character longed for the proclamation 
of another crusade that he might take the Cross and strike a blow 
for Christendom. Herein was his great bond of sympathy with 
Catherine, whose heart responded to any note of true generous 
enthusiasm, and who would gladly have armed all her spiritual 
sons and sent them to fight against the infidels. When she wrote 
to Gabriel, therefore, she clothed her spiritual exhortations in 
military language, and spoke to him of arms and the battlefield, 
of courage and the love of glory. She told him to strike hard at 
his spiritual enemies with the sword of patience, to put on the 
cuirass of true charity, blazoned with the vermilion coat of arms 
of Jesus crucified. "I speak to you of these arms," she says, 
"that you may be the better ready when the standard of the 
Holy Cross is raised. I want to make you understand which 
are the best weapons ; begin to make use of them now when you 
are still among Christians, that they may not be rusty when you 
march against the infidels." 

Gabriel s brave honest nature made him embrace the cause 
of Catherine as a true champion : he opposed himself with loyal 
fidelity to all calumnies raised against her, and to use the language 
of the Process, " could not abide any who were wont to speak 
against the holy virgin." He led a most holy life, and was 
present on many occasions when the extraordinary powers of the 
Saint over the bodies and souls of men were most strikingly 
manifested. He was buried in the church of San Domenico 
" sub picturis B. Katerincz de Senis" as though to mark his fidelity 
to her, even until death. 

Another of Neri s friends has left the history of his first ac 
quaintance with Catherine written by his own hand, and his 
testimony regarding her is perhaps one of the most valuable of 
any that has been preserved. This was Don Francesco Malevolti, 


who, like Gabriel, belonged to one of the noblest stocks of Siena. 
He describes himself at the age of twenty-five as being "hot- 
tempered and audacious on account of his family and nation," 
ind was living a worldly life, intolerant of any kind of restraint. 
" Among the companions whom I loved the best," he says, 
u there was one noble youth of Siena, named Neri Landoccio dei 
Paglieresi, with whom I spent the greater part of my time, both 
Because he was virtuous and agreeable, and also because he was 
i composer of most beautiful verses, in which kind of thing I 
then greatly delighted. After we had been intimate for some 
time, Neri having heard of the fame of the glorious virgin 
Catherine, went to see her without my knowing it, and so had 
become greatly changed, and, as it were, a new man. And 
pitying me on account of the dissolute life I was leading, for he 
loved my soul more than my body, he often begged me to go 
with him and speak to her. I gave little heed to his words, 
however, only laughing at them, and so some time passed without 
my granting his request. At last, not wishing to vex him, because 
of the singular friendship that united us, I told him one day that 
I was willing to gratify him ; though in my secret soul I went 
out of no kind of devotion, but rather in derision, resolved, if 
she spoke to me on the subject of religion, and particularly of 
confession, to give her such an answer that she would not venture 
to speak to me again. But when we came into her gracious 
presence, I had no sooner beheld her face than there came upon 
me such an awful fear and trembling that I almost fainted ; and 
though, as I have said, I had not the least thought or intention 
of confession, yet at the first words she spoke, God so marvel 
lously changed my heart that I went at once to confession and 
became the very opposite of what I had been before. After that 
I visited her several times, and left off all my miserable habits, 
and instead of frequenting as formerly places where there was 
singing and dancing, I now fled from them, and found my 
delight in visiting churches, and conversing with the servants of 
God. However, though I often went to her house and took 
great pleasure in her admirable doctrine, and speedily corrected 


my vicious habits, yet being still weak, and not fully established 
in the right way, it chanced once that I fell into a grievous fault, 
which none but God however could possibly have known. The 
next time I went to her house, before I had even come into her 
presence, she sent for me, and dismissing all those who were 
present, she made me sit down beside her and said, Tell me, 
when were you last at confession ? I replied, * Last Saturday, 
which was true, that being the custom with all of us who con 
versed with her. Then she said, Go to confession directly! 
I replied, Sweet Mother, to-morrow is Saturday, I will go then. 
But she only replied by saying, Go, and do as I bid you. I 
still pleaded for some delay and refused to go, when with her 
face all bright and kindling, she said to me, How, my son, do 
you think I have not my eyes always open upon my children ? 
You can neither do nor say anything of which I am ignorant. 
And how can you suppose that to be hidden from me which you 
have just been doing ? Go then at once and wash yourself from 
this misery. Confused and full of shame I obeyed her com 
mands at once; and this was not the only occasion when she 
manifested to me not only my secret acts, but also my thoughts 
both good and bad, and that always in very modest and humble 

" Another time much later than this, after her return from Avig 
non, I had fallen back into something of my old way of life ; and 
going to see her, she received me like a kind and sweet mother 
with a joyful countenance, which greatly encouraged my weakness. 
But one of her companions who was with her complained some 
what of me, saying that I had very little stability. She only 
smiled, however, and said, Never mind, my Sisters, for he cannot 
escape out of my hands whatever way he may choose to take ; 
for when he will think that I am far enough away, I shall put such 
a yoke on his neck that he will never be able to get out of it 
again. What this prophecy meant and the manner of its accom 
plishment will be seen in a future chapter. 

Two of Francesco s worldly companions, Neri Urgughieri and 


Nicholas Ughelli determined to present themselves to the Saint, 
and show themselves proof against her influence. But no sooner 
had they entered her presence than all their boldness vanished, 
and they found themselves unable to speak so much as a word. 
Catherine sweetly reproached them for the injurious language 
they had used against her. "Madam," they stammered, "you 
have but to command us, and we will do your bidding." At her 
desire they presented themselves to F. Thomas, aud made a 
confession of their whole lives. 

Very different from these brave and accomplished gentlemen 
is the next of the little company for whom we must solicit the 
reader s indulgent patience. Ser Christofano di Galgano Guidini, 
or, as he is more commonly called, Christofano di Gano, has 
contrived to make himself better known to posterity than many 
men of more genius than he. In fact, genius he had none, and 
what happy fatality put the thought into his head of becoming an 
author can never now be known. He was a man of low birth, a 
plain notary and man of business, who lived in the world of 
matter of fact, and was equally insensible to the poetic as to the 
humorous. He had the fidelity and the plodding perseverance 
of a terrier dog ; nothing ever turned him from his purpose. So 
the thought having once suggested itself to him of writing his 
memoirs, he carried it into effect as a grave and solemn duty. 
Never surely did a man sit down to such a task who had less to 
say about himself, and never has it chanced that memoirs so 
barren of interest on all points save one should have enjoyed the 
fame accorded to his. It is thus he introduces his work to his 

"In this book shall be written certain memoirs of me, Ser 
Christofano di Gano, notary of Siena, who live at Uvile, 1 in the 
Popolo di San Pietro ; of my doings. And because it is only 
lately that I began to write my memoirs, they will not be very 
long. To which memoirs, written by my hand, entire faith may 
be given, by reason that they are true, as is everything contained 
1 The Porta Ovile, on the north-west extremity of Siena. 


in this book ; and to make them of greater faith, I have set to them 
by sign 



Jesu, Urf the aforesaid 

sign. 4> notary. 

In the name of God, Amen. 

" Memoirs of certain of my doings, done by me, Ser Christo 
fano di Gano di Guidini, notary of Siena, who am now living at 
Uvile, in the house which belonged to Abra di Cione Barocci, 
who bought it of Chimento di Niccolo. This book and these 
memoirs I have written with my own hand in memory of my 
doings. However, as I have said above, it is only a short time 
ago that I began to write and keep memoirs of rny doings, and I 
have not written them all, as many do, but only a part. And 
first, it will be manifest to any one who sees this writing that I, 
Ser Christofano di Gano aforesaid, am of low extraction." He 
then proceeds to relate his early history : how his father married 
his mother, who had a hundred florins for her dowry, which was 
never paid; how his father died of the plague in 1348, after 
getting into debt and leaving nothing behind him ; and Christo 
fano at the age of two was left to his mother s care and in great 
poverty. They went to live at Rugomagno with her father, 
Manno Piccolomini, who did his best for the boy, had him taught 
" Donatus," that is his Latin grammar, and got him placed as 
"repeater" 1 to the children of Ristoro Gallerani. In this 
employment he got six florins a year and his expenses, and was 
able meanwhile to learn the notary s business. So he plodded 
on, scraping together an education as well as he could, and 
getting various small employments, till at last he came to live in 
Sisna and to have business at the Palazzo, and in short to get 
on in the world, as a steady painstaking man of his calibre was 

1 That is, he helped the children to repeat their school lessons. 
VOL. I. L 


pretty sure of doing. We will now let him continue his own 

" At the time when I began to live in Siena God put forth a new 
star in the world. This was the venerable Catherine, daughter to 
Monna Lapa of Fontebranda, a tertiary to whom I was introduced 
by Neri di Landoccio and Nigi di Doccio, two of her spiritual 
sons. 1 Both then and afterwards I heard things from her which 
it is not possible for a man to utter, and such as none who had 
not heard them would believe possible from a woman. Where 
fore, listening to her holy teaching, I became pretty intimate with 
her, and so God touched my heart to despise the things of the 
world, and I had a mind rather to leave the world than to defile 
myself with it. But my mother, fearing I should choose some 
other state of life, began to beg me and to get others to beg me 
to marry. For her sake, then, I began to consent to take a wife, 
and among others that I thought of, there were three, the 
daughter of Francesco Ventura, and the one I now have, and 
another, whose name I do not at this moment remember. 

"Catherine was not then at Siena, with whom I could have 
taken counsel, and though things had gone some way, yet I would 
do nothing till I had written to her. She was then at Pisa ; so I 
wrote to her, telling her how I had a conscience of leaving my 
mother, that my word was given too far to go back, and asking 
her to advise me which of the three I should take ; how one had 
been married before, though her husband had not lived long, and 
other things I do not now remember. Catherine having received 
my letter replied to it, and out of reverence to her, and also 
because her reply contains some remarkable things, I will here 
give it. Outside was written, Given to Ser Christofano di Gano, 
notary of Siena/ and inside as follows." 

He then gives the letter, which is printed at length in Gigli s 
Edition (No. 240). Catherine had believed him called to another 

1 With all his matter of fact, Christofano makes a rule of omitting all dates 
which would be of the least value. We do not therefore know in what year 
he made Catherine s acquaintance ; it might have been at any time between 
1368 and 1375. 


state of life, but seeing the line matters had taken, with her usual 
prudence she does not seek to argue with him, but only to confirm 
him in his good resolution, whatever state he might be led to 
enter. "Since it is so," she says, "I pray the Sovereign Truth to 
extend His holy hand over you, and to direct you in the state 
which may best please Him. In all states and in all your works 
fix your eye on Him, and seek His honour, and the salvation of 
His creatures. As to the choice of a wife, it is painful for me to 
have to occupy myself in this matter, which is more suitable to 
seculars. However, I cannot oppose your desire, and examining 
the conditions of the three you name, I find them all good. If 
you do not object to take the one who has been married before, 
do so, otherwise take the daughter of Francesco Ventura. I pray 
the Supreme Charity to shed on you both the plentitude of His 

" And now," continues Christofano, " before we say more of the 
holy spouse of Christ, Catherine, let us make here three taber 
nacles." We shall follow his example, and for the present quote 
no further from this singular biography, though we shall frequently 
be indebted to its notices of Catherine s disciples and friends ; 
we will only here observe that he does not seem to have taken 
either of the two ladies above spoken of, and after asking 
Catherine to choose his wife for him, he ended, quite naturally, 
by pleasing himself. We have presented our readers with a poet 
among St. Catherine s disciples ; the little society could likewise 
reckon in its ranks a painter. The Vanni of Siena were a family 
of artists. Andrea Vanni was not perhaps the most illustrious of 
their number, nor was he so entirely devoted to his art as to 
neglect the career of a statesman. In fact, Catherine s acquaint 
ance with him came about through his political connection with 
her brothers. In 1368 he was one of the leaders of the popular 
party, and took part in the revolution which resulted in the 
overthrow of the "Twelve." After that time he held office in 
the " Mount of the Riformatori" and attained the first post in the 
Government, being one of the " Defenders" in 1370, conjointly 
with the Saint s brother Bartolo. In 1373 he was Gonfalonier of 


Justice, and in the same year went as ambassador to Pope 
Gregory XI. at Avignon, in company with two other Sienese of 
noble birth, to solicit the Pope s return to Rome. In 1376 he 
was Rector of what was called the " Opera del Duomo," a sort of 
standing committee for finishing the Cathedral of Siena ; for 
which office his knowledge of art rendered him much better 
fitted than for political life. At last in 1379 we find him Captain 
of the people, holding that dignity for the two months of 
September and October. This was a post of much dignity and 
importance and could not be held by a foreigner. The Capitano 
was in fact at the head of the magistrates in time of peace, while 
in time of war it was his duty to guard the Carroctio, or great car 
on which the standard of the republic was borne to battle ; and 
in his red toga, red cap, red shoes, and red stockings, with golden 
cords and other ornaments, he made no little display before the 
eyes of the people. 

Some of Andrea Vanni s despatches have been preserved, which 
do not impress us with much idea of his powers as a man of the 
pen. One of them is written under the pressure of money diffi 
culties, which he complains of bitterly, inasmuch as he affirms he 
has made sacrifices for his country and neglected his shop and 
his business to attend to the affairs of the Commune. He was 
a great friend of Christofano di Gano, for whom he is believed 
to have painted a portrait of Catherine which has not been pre 
served. One of her letters is addressed to him when Captain of 
the people. Another is written to him whilst holding some other 
office during the season of Advent, probably the months of 
November and December. Neither of the letters have anything 
very special in them, and they are chiefly directed to reminding 
Vanni to go to his duties like a good Christian at least once a 
year. She also exhorts him to be a just magistrate, and in her 
Advent letter asks him to make it a sweet Advent by keeping 
the coming feast of Christmas close to the crib of the humble 
Lamb. " There you will find Mary, the poor traveller, adoring 
her Son : she has no riches, nothing suitable in which to wrap 
Him, no fire by which to warm Him, the Divine Fire ; only the 

From the Painting by Andrea. Vanni. 

\Toface page 


beasts who bend over His little Body and warm Him with their 
breath." Is it fanciful to suppose that Catherine, as she wrote 
these words, did not forget that she was addressing a painter 
(indeed, she addresses her letter "To Master Andrea Vanni, 
painter"}, and that she drew her picture of the crib of Bethlehem 
as it would commend itself to his artist s eye ? 

Some of Vanni s pictures are yet to be seen at St. Francesco 
fuori deW Ovi!e, and elsewhere. His fame, however, chiefly rests 
(at any rate to the lovers of St. Catherine) on that portrait of the 
Saint, attributed to his pencil, which is still to be seen in the 
Church of San Domenico. It was painted as far back as 1367, 
as appears from the inscription on the spot. In 1667 it was 
taken from the wall it originally occupied, and transferred to its 
present position. It was before this picture that the Blessed John 
Dominic received a favour, the account of which he gives in his 
letter to his mother, Paola. Having asked to be received into 
the Order of Preachers when seventeen years of age, he was on 
the point of being rejected in consequence of an impediment in 
his speech which seemed to make him useless to their community. 
However, he overcame them by his prayers, and being at Siena 
and feeling a great wish to preach, he suffered much on account 
of his incapacity, to remedy which he twice had an operation 
performed on his tongue, but without success. One day, however, 
being in the church, he prayed earnestly before this portrait of 
the Saint that she would obtain from her Divine Spouse that his 
tongue might be loosed, that so he might announce the Word of 
God. His prayer was granted, and he lived to become one of 
the greatest preachers of his Order. 

Many copies, good and bad, have been made of this picture, 
and it is the original from which almost all the engravings have 
been taken which profess to be the portraits of St. Catherine. It 
is much injured by time, and has evidently been retouched, for 
on the extended hand of the Saint there now appears the sacred 
stigma. This could not certainly have been represented by 
Vanni in 1367, nine years before that mysterious favour was 
granted to the Saint. However, the outline and general character 


of the figure and features are undoubtedly genuine. She is 
represented in abstraction of mind, in which unconscious state 
a devout disciple kneels and reverently kisses her hand, a circum 
stance which often actually took place, and gave rise to many 

We will pass briefly over the names of some other of Catherine s 
devoted followers, such as Anastagio di Monte Altino, who wrote 
her life in verse, Jacomo del Pecora, the knight of Montepulciano, 
who wrote two poems on her; and after becoming acquainted 
with her gave up all he possessed, and followed her as a disciple ; 
and Peter Ventura Dei Borgognoni, who was brought to Catherine 
by his sister, that she might say something to the profit of his 
soul, and who was thoroughly gained at his first interview. For 
Catherine asking him how long it was since he had been to con 
fession, he replied, " A few days ago." " Not so," she said, " it 
is seven years since you have been." Then she reminded him 
of all the chief sins of his life, and sent him at once to wash them 
away in the Sacrament of Penance. A somewhat more particular 
notice is claimed by the good hermit, Fra Santi, a native of 
Teramo in the Abruzzi, and a friend of many saints, among others 
of St. John Colombini, and B. Peter Petroni. " He was holy by 
name and by life," says F. Raymund, " and having quitted his 
parents and country for God s sake, had settled in Siena, where 
for more than thirty years he led a solitary life, never speaking of 
himself, and following the direction of holy and pious religious. 
In his old age he found the precious pearl of the Gospel, our 
blessed Catherine. For her sake he gave up the quiet of his cell 
and the manner of life he had been so long used to in order to 
labour for others ; and he constantly affirmed that he found more 
peace and profit to his soul in following and listening to her than 
he had ever found in solitude. He suffered from a disease in 
the heart, and the Saint taught him to bear his continual suffer 
ings not only with resignation, but even with joy." It is not to 
be supposed by this account that Fra Santi abandoned his her 
mitage, though he often quitted it to accompany Catherine on 
her journeys. On the contrary, his cell had more than once the 


privilege of affording her a place of quiet retreat. In company 
with some of her religious Sisters she would often visit the holy 
old man in his hermitage, finding in his little oratory a welcome 
change from the noise and bustle of the city. It is remarkable 
that Catherine had a great love for hermits, and numbered several 
among her disciples. There were an extraordinary number of 
hermits in the Sienese territory, all of them, as Father Thomas 
Angiolini tells us, supported at the expense of the Republic. 
And as by far the most distinguished of these was a countryman 
of our own, whom we desire to make well known to English 
readers, we will not omit mention of him in this place, but in 
consideration of the interest which attaches to his name will give 
him and his companions a chapter to themselves. 



ABOUT three miles from Siena are still to be seen the remains 
of the monastery of Lecceto, a venerable sanctuary which 
derives its origin from a few hermits who fled from persecution 
in the fourth century, and being found here by St. Augustine as 
he passed through these parts, received their rule from him about 
the year 391. Landucci, the Augustinian chronicler, claims them 
therefore as the true founders of the " Hermits of St. Augustine." 
Their retreat was a thick wood of oaks (Sylva lliritana), whence 
the name of Lecceto is derived. It was called by many titles, all 
indicative of its sylvan solitude, as " The Shady Hermitage," 
"The Hermitage of the Wood; " while attached to it, at a little 
distance, was another retreat known as " The Hermitage of the 
Lake." It was in old time a woody wilderness, so overgrown 
with bushes that they were only cleared with immense labour. 
In St. Catherine s days the great oak forest still offered the charms 
of solitary retreat to the good hermits, among whom she counted 
not a few of her most devoted disciples. One of these was the 
prior, Master John Tantucci, a member of the noble family of that 
name settled in Siena. He was commonly called John III., as 
being the third prior of that name who had governed the convent. 
He was a man of genius and learning and had finished his theo 
logical course at the University of Cambridge, 1 where he graduated 

1 Father Ambrose Ansano Tantucci, O.P., of the same family, who, in 1754, 
edited the Supplimento of Caffarini, has gone sadly astray in his English 
names, and tells us that John III. was Doctor in the "then famous university 
of Cantonberi" (!) Burlamacchi, a little happier, but not entirely accurate, 
and possibly victimised by a printer s error, calls it " Cambndge" From 
other authorities, however, we know that he graduated at Cambridge. 


as Doctor. The manner in which this " great learned Doctor " 
(as Father Fen calls him) first became known to Catherine is re 
markable ; and as this story has been admirably told by Francesco 
Malevolti, it shall here be quoted at some length. The precise 
date at which the events he relates took place is not given ; but 
they must belong either to 1373, or the year following. "There 
were," he says, "at that time in the city of Siena two religious, 
very influential and of great renown. One was called Brother 
Gabriel of Volterra, of the Order of Friars Minors, Master of 
Sacred Theology, of whom it was said that there was no man in 
the whole Order so mighty for learning and preaching as he was ; 
and who was at that time Minister Provincial. The other was 
called John III., also a Master of Sacred Theology; he was of 
Siena, of the order of Augustinian Hermits. These two powerful 
masters used sometimes, when speaking together, to murmur 
against the blessed Catherine, saying, This ignorant woman goes 
about seducing persons with her false expositions of Holy Scrip 
ture, and is leading other souls along with her own to hell ; but 
we shall take such order in the matter that she shall see her error. 
So after many conversations of this sort they resolved to go both 
together on a certain day, and with difficult theological questions 
to shut up her mouth and put her to shame. But the Holy Spirit 
who spoke by that holy virgin took care to dispose things other 
wise. When the appointed day came, they went with their com 
panions to Catherine s house. Now it so happened that when 
they arrived, our Lord so disposing it, many persons of both sexes 
were at the moment with her, having come together to listen to 
her holy words. There was Brother Thomas della Fonte, and a 
certain Brother Matthew Tolomei of the same Order, and Nicholas 
Mimi, a great servant of God, and Thomas Guelfaccio, a Gesuat, 
all men of good report : and Neri Landoccio, already named, and 
Gabriel Piccolomini, and many others whom I cannot remember. 
Likewise Donna Alexia, Donna Lisa, and Donna Cecca of Clement, 
and others, all Sisters of Penance ; I also, though unworthy, was 
among the rest. And as we stood there listening to the admirable 
words of that holy virgin, she suddenly broke off her discourse, 


and becoming as it were all on fire, with her face quite resplendent, 
she lifted her eyes to heaven, and said, Blessed be Thou, O 
sweet and Eternal Spouse, who findest out so many new ways 
by which Thou leadest souls unto Thyself! We all stood 
amazed and attentive, observing her words and gestures, and 
Father Thomas, her confessor, said to her, < Tell me. daughter, 
what does all this mean that you have just said? Let us under 
stand something about it. Then like an obedient daughter she 
replied, < Father, you will presently see two great fishes caught 
in the nets. She said no more, and we were standing in great 
surprise awaiting what would come next, when lo ! one of the 
companions of the virgin who lived in the house with her came 
in, and said to her: Mother, Master Gabriel of Volterra of the 
Friars Minors, with a companion, and Master John III., of the 
brethren of St. Augustine, with a companion, are below, and wish 
to see you. She went at once to meet them, and behold, they 
themselves came up and entered the room where we were. When 
therefore Catherine had shown them great respect and made them 
;it down, and the rest of us stood near (as they said they did not 
wish to speak to her in private) these two masters, like raging 
lions, full of the purpose they had conceived, began to put forth 
the most difficult theological questions to that meek and tender 
virgin, thinking to find her defenceless and forsaken by her most 
sweet Spouse. So when Master Gabriel had said what he thought 
good, the same was repeated by Master John, who added another 
most difficult question, both intentionally perplexing the matter, 
believing that she would remain quite vanquished, so that they 
might afterwards have occasion of giving vent to their malice and 
11-will. But the Holy Spirit, who forsaketh not those who put 
their trust in Him, gave his handmaid such wisdom and strength 
that she would have been able to have overthrown, not these two 
only, but ten thousand such as they, had they been there. And 
so when these masters had proposed their questions, she stood 
for awhile with her eyes lifted up to heaven, they meantime 
awaiting her reply. At last with her countenance all beaming 
with Divine zeal she turned to them ; and though she bore her- 


self towards them with great reverence, yet she broke out in words 
to this effect: Oh! confounded, confounded, be this inflated 
science of yours, which does yourselves so much harm and to 
others so little good whilst you use it as you do ! What does 
such a saint say in such a place, and such a one, and such a 
one ? And thus she continued bringing forth many examples to 
them. At last she concluded, saying, How can you understand 
these things? you who only seek after the husk of truth that you 
may please creatures and win praise from them? and on this 
only have you set your hearts ; but, my Fathers, do so no more 
for the love of Jesus crucified. Wonderful to relate, these two 
great pillars were forthwith cast to the earth ; these two wolves 
became tender lambs, so immediately were they changed to the 
contrary of what they had been before. The first-named, Master 
Gabriel, had previously lived in such pomp that in his convent 
out of three cells he had made for himself one ; and furnished it 
in such sumptuous style as would have been superfluous for a 
Cardinal. There was a fine bed with a canopy and curtains 
round about it, all of silk ; and so many other precious things 
that reckoning with them the books, they were worth not less 
than a hundred ducats. But this man, touched by the Spirit of 
God at the words spoken to him by His handmaid, was suddenly 
stricken with such fear, that taking the keys from his girdle in 
the presence of us all, he cried out : Is there any one here who 
for the love of God will go and give away all that I have in my 
cell? At once there rose up Nicolas Mimi and Thomas Guel- 
faccio, and taking the keys they asked him, What do you wish 
us to do ? And he answered, Go to my cell, and whatever you 
find there give away for the love of God, so that nothing may 
remain except my Breviary. So they went, and perfectly fulfilled 
all he had charged them with; for they distributed the books 
among the other brethren who were students in the convent, and 
all the rest they gave to the poor, leaving nothing in the cell save 
what might suffice for one poor observant Brother. Master 
Gabriel himself, though he was Minister Provincial of the Order, 
went afterwards to the monastery of Santa Croce at Florence, 


where he lived in great fervour, and appointed himself to serve 
the brethren in their refectory at meal time, and exercised many 
other acts of humility. Master John III. did as much, and even 
more ; for though he had not so much to distribute, yet he also only 
reserved to himself his Breviary ; and at once forsaking all the things 
of this world, and his hermitage also, he followed the holy virgin 
Catherine wherever she went, even as far as Avignon, and from 
thence to Rome and many other places even to the time of her de 
parture. And he was one of the three confessors deputed by the 
See Apostolic to hear the confessions of those who by the means 
of the said holy virgin should be brought to salutary penance." 

Thus much for the conversion of John III., but he was not 
the only or the most illustrious disciple whom Catherine possessed 
in the hermitage of Lecceto. Among the holy solitaries of that 
oak forest was Father William Flete, the English " Bachelor," as 
he was commonly called by the Saint and her companions. 
" This excellent religious," says Caffarini, in the third part of his 
Supplement, "chancing to pass through Tuscany, had become 
enamoured of that beautiful desert ; and having obtained leave 
from his superiors, he determined there to abide with the sole 
thought of giving himself to the things of God, and not caring to 
pursue after the honour of the Doctorate or the advantages he 
might thereby attain." In fact, he was as unlike to Master John 
in his natural tastes as could well be supposed, though they were 
probably fellow students at Cambridge. The author of the 
Miracoli informs us that his devotion to Catherine began even 
before he had seen her, and that their acquaintance had in it 
something of a supernatural character. " There is," he says, "in 
the Wood of the Lake, a hermitage of St. Augustine, about four 
miles from Siena, in which is an English brother, called The 
Bachelor. They call him The Bachelor of the Wood of the 
Lake, and he has been there more than twelve years. He is a 
man of great learning, and venerable for his holiness and love of 
solitude. He often lives in the caves which he has himself made 
in the most obscure and savage parts of the forest : and there he 
takes his books, flying from the conversation of men. He goes 


as he likes from the church to the forest, and from the forest to 
the church. He is a man of wise counsel, the friend of God and 
of a most holy life, speaking little, and only when necessity 
requires. He has never seen Catherine, nor she him ; but they 
know each other through the instinct of the Holy Spirit, so that 
they speak of each other with great reverence and respect." This 
account agrees with that of Christofano di Gano, who says that 
" he was a man of great penance, held in reverence by many 
people ; that most of his time he abode in the forest, only return 
ing to his convent in the evening, and that he never drank any 
thing but vinegar and water." 

Though F. William may not have known Catherine personally 
at this time, yet they probably corresponded. His determination 
not to leave his solitude without necessity prevented his going 
often to Siena, but in spite of his recluse habits he was a member 
of the Company of La Scala, and had had something to do with 
the conversion of Master Matthew, so that he could not have 
kept so absolutely in his caves as the above anonymous writer 
(whose accuracy is not always to be trusted) seems to have 
imagined. But if he could not come to visit Catherine, she was 
not prevented from visiting him. Lecceto, it must be remem 
bered, was one of the holy places of Siena, visited as a sanctuary 
by Popes and Princes, and by many saints, among others by the 
holy Father, St. Dominic. Catherine, as we know from the 
Legend, was fond of making such pious pilgrimages, and on a 
certain feast of St. Paul, F. Thomas della Fonte, and F. Donato 
of Florence, who were going to Lecceto, came to her house and 
proposed that she should accompany them. Catherine who was 
just recovering from a prolonged ecstacy, which had lasted three 
days and three nights, was still so absorbed in the thought of 
the wonderful revelations she had received, that when the two 
friars tried to rouse her, saying, " We are going to visit the hermit 
who lives out in the country, 1 will you go with us ? " she, hardly 

1 Leg., Part 2, ch. v. We know that the hermitage of Lecceto is here 
meant, for Raymund speaks of " a venerable religious of the Order of Hermits, 
who resided in the country." 


conscious of what they said, answered "Yes." But no sooner 
had she uttered the word than the exquisite tenderness of her 
conscience reproached her with it as with a falsehood. Her 
grief restored her to perfect consciousness, and she mourned 
over the fault for as many days and nights as she had been in 

Though Catherine did not accompany the brethren on this 
occasion, yet it is certain that she did visit Lecceto later, and 
that more than once. The wild beauty of the spot and the 
shadow of its mighty oaks had no less charms for her than for 
the English hermit, for Catherine had a true sense of natural 
beauty, as is apparent from a thousand passages in her writings. 
She therefore often came to the Wood of the Lake ; and when 
she did so she occupied a little room near the church, used as 
a chapel, where may still be seen her portrait, and over the door 
the following inscription: " Stste hie, viator, et has cedes (erectas 
a B. Joanne Incontrio?- Anno 1330) ubi Seraphica Catherina 
Senensis Sponsum receptavit Christum, venerare memento 

From the time of their first meeting, F. William became one 
of Catherine s most attached disciples ; she contrived to interest 
him in all her affairs, and he often acted as her confessor. It 
was in the January of 1376 that he wrote down from her dictation, 
and probably in the above-named chapel, that spiritual " Docu 
ment " before alluded to, which throws much light on her interior 
life. There is no doubt, however, that if F. William had a fault, 
it was his excessive love of solitude, and Catherine did not fail 
to tell him of it. His continual absence from the convent and 
habit of abiding in the woods with his books gave trouble to 
his Prior. " I must tell you on the part of Our Lord," writes 
Catherine to him, "that you ought to say mass in the convent 2 
more than once a week if the Prior wishes it : I would even say 
that you should celebrate there every day if that is his desire. 
You will not lose grace by sacrificing your consolations, you will 

1 A saint of Lecceto. 

2 He generally said mass in one of the grotto chapels, of which there were 


rather gain more in proportion as you give up your own will. 
If we would show our hunger for souls and our love of our 
neighbour, we must not be attached to consolations, we must 
listen to other people s troubles, and have compassion on those 
who are bound to us by the bonds of charity ; it is a great fault 
if you do not do this. For example, I would have you show 
compassion for the troubles and difficulties of Brother Anthony, 
and not refuse to listen to him ; and Anthony in like manner 
should listen to you. I beg of you to do this for Christ s sake, 
and mine ; it is the way to keep up true charity between you : 
otherwise, you will give the enemy occasion to sow discord." 
Then she concludes with one of those touches so characteristic 
of her style ; " I pray that you may be united to the Divine Tree, 
and transformed in Christ crucified." (Letter 128.) She did 
not forget that she was writing to one who would probably read 
her letter under the shadow of those mighty ilex trees he loved 
so well. Father William, however, stood in need of having the 
salutary lesson repeated more than once. In another letter 
(124) she reads him a very profitable lecture on the indiscretions 
into which even the most perfect souls may fall, such as half- 
killing themselves by excessive austerities, judging others who do 
not follow the same way as themselves, and liking to choose their 
own times, places, and modes of consolation. Such persons 
always say that they want consolation, not for their own sake, 
but to please God better, but she exposes the delusion and holds 
up before him another rule of perfection. "In truly perfect 
souls," she says, " self-will is dead, and in nothing do they see 
the will of man, but only that of God. Such souls have a fore 
taste of life eternal. . . . But I do not see this perfection in you, 
and it makes me sad. God has given you great lights ; He has 
called you first to abandon the world, secondly, to have a great 
love of penance, and thirdly, a desire for His honour. Do not 
hinder your perfection by spiritual self-will" F. William took all 
her exhortations in good part, for he reverenced her as truly a 
saint. Christofano says that he held her in such respect that he 
would touch her very garments as though they were holy relics. 


" He used often to say to us," says the same writer, " You none 
of you know her, the Pope himself might think it an honour to 
be one of her sons. Truly the Holy Ghost dwelleth in her ! " 

The testimony of one who had so many opportunities of 
knowing Catherine, and who enjoyed her most intimate confi 
dence, is doubtless of the greatest value, and fortunately this 
testimony has been carefully preserved. F. Tantucci, in his 
translation of the third part of Caffarini s Supplimento, observes 
that "after Catherine s death, F. William Flete drew up a com 
pendious legend of the prodigious virtues of the Saint in the 
form of a sermon, or panegyric. Our author (Caffarini) declares 
that both whilst living in Siena and also at Venice he had often 
seen this sermon, but not being now to be found, we must suppose 
that from the scarcity of copies it has been lost" This supposition 
is happily incorrect, for the Senno in revercntiam Beattz Katherince. 
de Senis is one of the great treasures of the Communal Library of 
Siena, and an authentic copy of this precious manuscript is in the 
possession of the writer. The original is in the handwriting of 
the fifteenth century, and is adorned with a miniature. The 
panegyric was composed in the year 1382, as is stated on the 
title-page, 1 thus disproving the statement of Tantucci and others, 
that F. Flete died in the same year with St. Catherine. Had the 
good father ever seen the sermon he would have corrected his 
account of it in another point also, and would certainly not have 
called it a compendious legend. Brevity was not the soul of F. 
William s wit; but we pardon his prolixity and disposition to 
illustrate the life and character of his beloved mother by copious 
quotations from every one of the books of Holy Scripture, for 
the sake of the genuine and original evidence which he renders 
to her sanctity ; the more valuable as it was given many years 
before Raymund s Legend had seen the light. 

In the first place, then, we discover from his own words the 

1 Sermo in reverentiam Beatce Kathcrina de Senis, composilus in Anno 
Domini MCCCLXXXII, per. magni. Servum Dei Anglicum qui vocatus est 
Jrater Guglielmns de Anglia de Ord. Heremit. S. Aiigustini.Co&. T. ii. 7, 
a. c, 17. 


precise meaning of what Christofano di Gano tells us concerning 
his reverence for her clothes. " Not only the person, but the very 
garments of this holy virgin," he says, "gave out a most exquisite 
perfume ; and so did the things that she merely touched ; and we 
who were intimate with her were sensible of this fragrance which 
came forth from her clothes, like the sweet odour of a field which 
the Lord hath blessed. . . . How often have I seen her praying, 
prostrate with her face on the earth, for sinners, for the Church 
of God, for the sovereign Pontiff and all prelates, and for the 
reform of all the evils which afflicted the spouse of Christ ; and 
when she thus prayed she suffered incredible pains, a very agony 
in every part of her body. It was the same when she prayed in 
ecstasy, raised above the ground in the air, as we have many 
times beheld her. At such times she underwent a mysterious 
passion ; her bones seemed to crack and to be disjointed, and 
her heart to be torn and rent by the fervour of her supplications ; 
she would be bathed in so profuse a sweat that her Sisters were 
sometimes forced to change her clothes even more than once, 
whilst blood would flow from her mouth in the extremity of her 
suffering. If on coming to herself she perceived this, she would 
cover it with her foot, lest it should be observed by any one. 
These raptures were chiefly after Holy Communion, when often 
as we looked fixedly on her we beheld her face changed, now 
into the likeness of our Lord, now into that of an angel or seraph, 
which caused us no small terror. . . . And from these ecstasies 
Alexia and Lisa were forced generally to rouse her. Her life was 
doubtless a miracle, one long-continued martyrdom for the 
Church of God. What she suffered when she attempted to eat 
is known only to God ; and all this she endured for sinners, for 
whose salvation she would gladly have died, had it been needed, 
a hundred times a-day. Her thoughts were always intent on 
heaven, seeking how to draw other souls thither. Her . heart, 
inflamed with the love of her Spouse, became transformed into 
the very likeness of the Object beloved. Some one once said to 
her, * Mother, have you a home of your own ? To which she 
answered sweetly, Yes, I have a home; it is in the wounded 
VOL. i. M 


Side of Christ crucified, my Spouse. Another time I said to 
her, Mother, how can you live in such continued sufferings? 
She glanced upwards, saying, I live, yet not I, but Jesus Christ 
liveth in me. Wonderful were her labours for the Church and 
for souls. How many blasphemers, obstinate sinners grown old 
in vice, and those who had never named the name of God, or 
obeyed His Church, were by her means converted and brought 
to penance ! She despised no one, she rejected no one, not even 
the greatest sinners. She welcomed all who came to her, some 
times prostrating and kneeling to them, at other times pressing 
them to her heart. She suffered many to kiss her hand, she, the 
border of whose garments they were not worthy to touch. Some 
in their pride and ignorant malice took offence at this, but 
indeed, she beheld the souls of those before her, and often took 
no note of their bodies. Many came to her from the most 
distant countries,, and to all she was a star of consolation. No 
one in affliction ever went to her without receiving comfort. 
When she arrived in any place, the joy of the people was universal 
only to think that Catherine of Siena was present among them ; 
and when she left them they would ask for her blessing and 
rejoice to think that their country had been so honoured. Such 
was our mother, vituperated in life by evil tongues, even among 
the number of her familiar companions, worn out with labours 
and fatigues, pressed down by the burden of the Church which 
she bore upon her shoulders ! Woe to us, her children, unworthy 
of the name ! Woe to us-, because we can no longer have recourse 
to that most sweet mother ! What teaching she would give us, 
how to live, and how to direct our souls ! She used to say, Let 
us begin afresh every day ! How she would warm the tepid and 
rouse the negligent, for to her every heart was open. Alas, we 
can no more run to her as we used to do, saying, Let us go, let 
us go and see our sweetest mother ! Never more shall we read 
those letters dictated by the Holy Spirit ; never more shall we be 
fed with the food of her familiar words, never never more ! O 
holy mother ! where is now that place in my own home of Lecceto 
where you used to feed your sons with the pasture of your words; 


alas, alas ! we were not worthy of your presence ! we shall never 
see you more ! " 1 

Such are some of the words in which K William has left 
recorded his love for his holy mistress, and they need no com 
ment. Among the other brethren of Lecceto who regarded them 
selves as her spiritual sons must be named, besides B. Anthony 
of Nizza, a certain F. Felix, of Massa, of the noble house of Tan- 
credi, who is numbered among the Bead of Lecceto, and who 
accompanied the Saint on her journey to Avignon; and F. 
Jerome of Siena, to whom Catherine dictated a letter in ecstasy. 
This letter we shall quote on account of its singular beauty, both 
of teaching and language. If we are to gather from it any idea 
of the character of him to whom it was addressed, we should 
conclude that F. Jerome was a tender and loving soul, somewhat 
addicted to sadness and to a too sensitive affection towards his 
friends. Catherine seeks therefore to win him to an exclusive 
love of God, the only worthy object of our tenderness, in Whom, 
as she says, "nothing is wanting. Know then, my son Jerome," 
she continues, " we must be stripped of the love of self, and of 
the love of the world, and of all sadness ; for sadness dries up 
the soul and hinders us from knowing the infinite goodness of 
God. For when a soul contemplates its Creator and His good 
ness it cannot help loving Him, and would rather die than do 
anything contrary to Him whom it loves. We love what He 
loves, and hate what He hates, because love makes us one with 
Himself. And this love and this desire inspire us with z. passion 
for the Eternal Truth, so that we cannot love anything but Jesus 
crucified. Think how our Lord delivered Himself for us on the 
tree of the Cross, as though His love for us was an intoxication, 

1 The above passages do not in the original follow one another conse 
cutively, but are scattered in various parts of the voluminous and verbose 
panegyric which fills seventy-two closely written pages. It has been a work 
of labour to sift the soil and extract the golden grains, which, when found, 
however, well repay the trouble expended on the search. I have also thrown 
in a few sentences extracted from F. Flete s letter to F. Raymund preserved 
in MS. in the same library. For a further account of our illustrious country 
man and his writings, see Appendix B. 


a folly ! This is the pasch I desire to eat with you. Now, then, 
understand what I say. I know you love the creature only 
spiritually, in God. But sometimes from one cause or another, 
as you know very well, we love spiritually but find in this affec 
tion a pleasure and a joy, so that our less spiritual nature finds 
its part also. If you ask me how you can detect when this is, 
I reply, If you see that the person beloved fails you in anything, 
is no longer on the same terms with you, or seems to love another 
better than you, and if then you are chagrined and disturbed, 
and your own love grows less in consequence, then be sure your 
affection is imperfect. The Eternal Truth once said to one 1 of 
His servants, Daughter, act not as those who draw a vessel full 
of water out of a fountain, and drink from it when they have 
taken it out ; the vessel is soon emptied, and they do not see it. 
But you, when you fill the vessel of your soul, making of your 
affection only one thing with the love with which you love Me, 
you will not withdraw the vessel from Me, who am the true 
Fountain of living water ; but you will preserve in it the creature 
you love, as you keep the vessel in the fountain ; and drinking 
from it there, it will never be emptied. And so neither you nor 
the creature you love will be ever empty, but you will always be 
filled with Divine grace, and so will never fall into trouble and 
regret. He who loves in this way when he sees one whom he 
loves change, and perhaps avoid him, does not trouble himself, 
for he loved his friend for God and not for himself, though indeed 
he may naturally feel a certain emotion when he sees himself 
separated from what he loves. Such is the rule I would have 
you follow if you would be perfect, and may you ever abide in 
the sweet and holy love of God ! " (No. 132.) 

Lecceto still exists much as it was in St. Catherine s time. A 
well, the waters of which she is said to have blessed and rendered 
drinkable, is still shown, with the ancient oak near the door of the 
church where the first hermits hung their bell. In the portico 
may still be seen the fine old paintings of heaven and hell, the 
works of mercy, and the Seven Sacraments, which date as far back 
1 Herself, of course. 


as 1343, and are by a pupil of Ambrogio Lorenzetti. The place 
now belongs to the Seminary of Siena. Fifteen of the choral 
books of the brethren may be seen in the Communal Library of 
Siena, adorned with beautiful miniatures, which seem to indicate 
that the good hermits were lovers of art. At St Leonard s, or, 
the Hermitage of the Lake, 1 nothing now remains but the church, 
the convent having been wantonly destroyed in 1783 by the family 
who bought the place on the expulsion of the hermits. The church 
however was spared, and contains some precious frescoes ; and 
under it is a cave or subterranean vault in which the blessed 
Agostino Novello is said to have lived for the greater part of his 
life, doing penance, and dying there in 1309. The spot was no 
doubt familiar enough to William Flete, who came to this place 
when he desired even more retirement than he could command 
at Lecceto. It is remarkable, however, that in spite of his efforts 
to bury himself in the wilderness and be hidden from the know 
ledge of men, the fame of F. William s sanctity reached his native 
land, where he was held in great reverence, and his opinions on 
certain matters had its weight, as we shall see hereafter, even in the 
councils of the realm. He is said by Landucci to have foretold 
the apostacy of the English nation from the faith, and is numbered 
by him among the illustrious men of his Order. 

These, then, were some of Catherine s disciples, for it would 
take us too long to enumerate them all. How dear they were 
to the Saint and she to them may be judged by their words and 
hers ; she prayed for them continually, one by one and by name, 
and in her Dialogue she recommends them all to God in a touch 
ing prayer : " O Lord," she says, " I pray for all those whom Thou 
hast given me, whom I love with a special love, and whom Thou 

1 The lake from which this hermitage derives its name received the waters 
of the Bruna, to keep which within their assigned bounds the Sienese con 
structed a wall, the remains of which still exist. The lake, however, burst 
its boundary and overflowed the country round, causing much loss of men 
and cattle. It was into this dangerous lake that Peter Ventura once rode 
his horse by accident, and was delivered, as he states in the Processus, by 
invoking St. Catherine. It is now dried up, and the land it occupied is 
brought into cultivation. 


hast made one thing with me. For they are my consolation, and 
for Thy sake I desire to see them running in the sweet and narrow 
way, dead to self-will and pure from all judgment and murmuring 
against their neighbour. O sweetest Love ! let not the enemy 
snatch any of them from my hands, but may all attain to Thee, 
O Eternal Father, to Thee who art their final end ! " l And she 
received an intimation that this prayer on behalf of her children 
was indeed granted. 

1 Dialogo, ch. viii. 


WHO does not know the value which attaches to a genuine 
portrait ? Could such be found of the saints we love 
the best, we feel that the silent study of their features would help 
to put us in communication with their souls, and that we should 
know and understand them better if we could but once set them 
before us in their living natural reality. It is often our misfortune 
that the very veneration which the saints inspire in their biographers, 
makes war on the fidelity with which their characters are trans 
mitted to us ; by which I do not mean (as the reader may well 
believe) to throw discredit on the miraculous facts which are 
delivered to us regarding them ; but only that there is a way of 
presenting us with the extraordinary, which conceals from us the 
everyday reality ; we learn something of the saint or the heroine 
at the sacrifice of knowing little or nothing of the woman. It is 
a vice which in its degree attaches to most biographies, in which 
the ordinary rule seems to hold good of regarding as a disrespect 
to the persons who are their subjects, anything which sets them 
on a level with ourselves, and displays them to us in their every 
day aspect of flesh and blood. No greater error can surely be 
committed, and specially in treating of God s saints. The tie 
between them and their votaries is perhaps the sublimest form of 
friendship. We do not merely venerate, but we love them ; and 
we desire to love, not abstractions, but realities. No fear that we 
shall venerate them less because we know them as they were ; no 
fear that we can be the losers by becoming familiar with their 
countenances, the tone of their voice, their ordinary ways, gestures, 


and phrases ; with their human infirmities, if such they had ; or 
with a thousand things which may be trifles to an indifferent eye, 
but which to those who truly love reveal the character and the 

Willingly would we present our readers with the Vera effigies of 
our beloved Mother. That which stands as the frontispiece of 
this volume is probably the nearest approach which can now be 
given of a true portrait. Two likenesses exist of St. Catherine of 
Siena ; one is the celebrated painting by Andrea di Vanni, which 
has already been spoken of; the other is the almost equally cele 
brated marble bust which claims to b e the work of Jacobo della 
Quercia, and to have been carved by him from a cast taken after 
death. A careful comparison of these two portraits will show 
certain points of general resemblance. In both we observe the 
length of the nose, the great width of the head at the line of the 
eyes, and the distinctly cut chin. In both there are indications 
of a magnificent development of that portion of the head which 
rises above the eyebrows. In the profile of the bust we observe 
also that straight line from the top of the forehead to the extremity 
of the nose which gives a certain classic character to the features. 
Add the attitude of the head, gently but not extravagantly bent, 
the attitude at once of meekness and of thought, and you will 
recognise the general outlines which seem to have been faithfully 
reproduced by Francesco Vanni, the author of the engraving of 
which our frontispiece is a fac-simile. Gaze at it, dear reader, 
and bear in mind that she whom it represents was never for a 
moment free from a wearing bodily pain ; you will detect in it 
something of the languor of suffering, and of that calm tranquillity 
which no provocation ever disturbed ; but do not call it sad, for 
those eyes could have rested on you with unutterable tenderness, 
and those lips could always command a smile which carried joy 
and comfort into the hearts of those who beheld it. Raymund 
tells us that the beauty of Catherine was not excessive. But few 
persons when they think of the saints represent them as possessed 
of that kind of beauty which can be depicted by the brush or the 
chisel. We think of them with the light of faith beaming from 


their eyes, with purity on their smooth unruffled brows, and every 
feature sweetened by charity. We think of them as we think of 
our own mothers, who in the eyes and to the memory of their 
children are always beautiful ; and we try to picture them as they 
were transfigured in moments of prayer and communion even 
before the eyes of men ; a faint foreshadowing of that heavenly 
beauty which will rest on their countenances when we behold them 
standing in the eternal light. 

Catherine always wore the habit of her Order, a white habit and 
veil, and a black mantle. In one of the narratives of her life she 
is represented as only wearing sandals on her feet At her belt 
she carried her rosary, from which we have seen her breaking off 
the silver cross, to give it as an alms. It is a little singular to 
find that she always wore a ring, from which she also sometimes 
parted at the call of charity. It was a poor exterior enough, but 
scrupulously clean and neat, for in the matter of cleanliness, as 
in so many others, she resembled her father St. Dominic. Nor 
did the poverty of her dress conceal that air of majesty and power 
which made some say that they trembled when they gazed at her. 
Yet the pervading charm of her appearance was one which carried 
consolation into the saddest heart. "No one ever approached 
her," says Pius II. in the Bull of her Canonisation, "without 
departing from her wiser and better." And one of her disciples 
adds, "At her mere presence the temptations of the enemy dis 
appeared ; the sun in its meridian splendour does not more 
instantaneously scatter the darkness; ... all the world recog 
nised her as the image of the virtues, the perfect mirror of Chris 
tian purity. Never did I hear an idle word come forth from 
her lips, but she turned all things, even those most trifling, to our 
spiritual profit." l 

Those of her disciples 2 who wrote their impressions of her in 
verse while she was yet living, have multiplied phrases which give 
us to understand how irresistible was her power over their hearts. 
"She draws souls as the magnet draws iron," they say, "always 

1 Stephen Maconi. 

2 Anastagio di Mont Altino and Jacomo del Pecora. 


kind, always full of clemency. She keeps her eyes turned 
heavenwards, bathed in pious tears, while she is ready to pour 
out her heart s blood at the call of charity. . . . She is ever 
joyful and smiling, and counts her own sufferings as nothing ; 
though she has always the sharp knife in her side, yet she makes 
light of it with her Spouse; and recreates herself cheerfully, 
praying the while for those who have need of pardon. . . . From 
the crown of her head to the sole of her feet, she is full of Christ, 
and sings His glory day and night. . . . And when she names 
the sweet name of Mary, she seems wholly united to her. O 
dearest, sweetest, most venerable Mother, I see thee at the foot 
of the altar without so much as a drachm of life left in thee, yet 
rising in thy spirit to venerate thy Lord, and with thy countenance 
wholly transfigured ! It is surely a seraph that I look upon, dyed 
in the Blood of the Lamb ! " . . . 

In fact, there was an ever springing fountain of joy in 
Catherine s heart which habitually found expression in her words 
and countenance. At times this joy could take the form of play 
fulness, and in the frank and happy intercourse which existed 
between her and her spiritual children there was nothing of 
restraint. They gathered about her and gave her the tenderest 
and most familiar titles ; " Nostra dolcissima mamma " was the 
ordinary name by which they addressed her. However distant 
she might be from them, she followed them with her heart, we 
had almost said with her eyes, for all they did or thought lay 
open to her gaze. " Truly, Mother," said Stephen Maconi, " it 
is a dangerous thing to be near you, for you find out all our 
secrets." " My son," she replied, " know that in the souls God 
has confided to me, there is not so much as a speck or the 
shadow of a fault which He does not show me." 

She was never idle ; when not engaged in prayer or in works 
of charity for the souls and bodies of others, she was always to 
be found either reading or working. Burlamacchi bids us take 
notice of the thimble that was in the bag of eggs, mentioned in 
one of the anecdotes of her life, as a proof that she was accus 
tomed to use her needle. But we know as much from other 


circumstances. She mended and patched the mantle of her 
clothing, and made the vestments and altar linen of her chapel. 
In fact, she was skilful in all a woman s best accomplishments ; 
she could wash and cook, make bread, or tend the sick, with 
those same hands that were to be sealed with the mysterious 

Judging from her letters we should say that her reading was 
extensive for the times in which she lived, for she quotes not only 
from the Holy Scriptures, but from the Fathers, and the Lives of 
the Saints, and her illustrations betray a varied knowledge which it 
is not necessary to regard as all derived from supernatural sources. 
Ignatius Cantu asserts that she was familiar with the poetry of 
Dante; nor would this have been in any way surprising, for Dante 
was popular reading in the fourteenth century, and we have 
distinct evidence that he was studied by some of her disciples. 1 
Although, therefore, no passage in her writings affords any 
evidence of the fact, it is quite possible that she may have been 
acquainted with the works of the great Florentine, who had visited 
Siena, and learnt in that city the terrible tidings of his exile and 
disgrace. That Catherine herself had some claim to the title of 
a poet is more certain ; her first written composition is declared 
by the best Italian critics to be in verse ; and she possessed all 
the other gifts which ordinarily accompany poetic genius ; a great 
sense of natural beauty, and the habit of seeing in exterior forms 
the symbols of Divine truths. Hence one of her disciples tells 
us that "she sought God in all that she saw. I remember" (he 
says) " how when she saw the flowers in the meadows, she would 
say to us, * See how all these things speak to us of God ! Do 
not those red flowers remind us of the rosy wounds of our Jesus ? ; 
And if she saw an ant-hill she would say, Those little creatures 
came forth from the mind of God. He took as much care in 
creating the insects and the flowers as in creating the angels ! 
And when we heard her speak thus, we neglected everything to 
listen to her, and often even forgot so much as to eat, neither 

1 " Se mipo .ete mandare quello pezo di Dante che vi Zassai, si me lo mandate" 
Letter from Gionta di Grazia to Neri Pacfliaresi. 


could we give a thought to our troubles or sufferings." 1 Of her 
love of flowers we have elsewhere spoken, and the singular skill 
she displayed in their arrangement. Some passages in her letters 
could hardly have been written by any one who was not a lover 
of flowers ; nor must the reader think it too minute a criticism if 
we say that the flowers which furnished her with her favourite 
illustrations were no garden exotics, but the wild blossoms which 
flourish so abundantly in the woods and meadows around Siena. 2 
Hear her describing our Lady as " the sweet field in which was 
sown the seed of the Divine word. In that sweet and blessed 
field of Mary, 3 the Word made flesh was like the grain which is 
ripened by the warm rays of the sun, and puts forth its flowers 
and fruit, letting its husk fall to the earth. It was so He did 
when, warmed by the fire of Divine Charity, He cast the seed of 
the Word into the field of Mary. O Blessed Mary ! It was you 
who gave us the flower of our sweetest Jesus ! That flower 
yielded its fruit on the Holy Cross, because there it was that we 
received the gift of perfect life ; and it left its husk on the earth, 
even the will of the only Son of God, who desired nothing but 
the honour of His Father and our salvation." 4 But Catherine 
had not only a sense of natural, but even of artistic beauty. As 
a citizen of Siena, it would have been hard for her not to have 
inherited a taste which was as indigenous with the Sienese, as the 
oaks and olives in their soil. She had artists among her disciples, 
and she lived exactly at the time when painting, sculpture, and 
architecture were cultivated in their purest forms and their most 
religious spirit. From her infancy she had daily frequented the 

1 Letter of Stephen Maconi. 

2 " Under the shade of these woods may be found three kinds of the 
anemone, the hellebore, lilies, geraniums, veronicas, and potentillas, also 
eight species of orchis. ... Of the multiplicity of plants which are to be 
found growing wild in the meadows, not a feiv are the admiration of floiver 

fanciers, . . . Some of the trees, natives of these parts, produce an odori 
ferous wood." Siena e il suo territorio, 1862. 

3 Ego flos campi. Cant. ii. I. 

4 Letter 46. The husk ; in the original, guscio. St. Bernard uses the 
same expression, but applies it to the Blessed Sacrament, cortex sacramenti. 
See Harphius, Theol. iriys. Lib. i, p. 2, chap. liv. 


church which boasted and still boasts of possessing the greatest 
artistic treasure of Siena. 1 She was no stranger to the works then 
being actively carried on by the Opera del Duomo, and in her 
many visits to the hospital of La Scala 2 she must have seen the 
glorious cathedral growing under the hands of the workmen, 
directed as they were by the choicest artists of the age. A pas 
sage occurs in one of her letters to Nicolas d Osimo in which we 
seem to behold her watching the builders at their work, and giving 
to all she saw a spiritual interpretation*. " Is there anything 
better or sweeter for us," she says, " than to build the edifice of 
our soul? But to do so we must find the stone, and the architect, 
and the workman. Oh ! how good an architect is the Eternal 
Father ! in whom dwell the treasures of infinite wisdom. He is 
He who is, and all things that are proceed from Him. . . . He 
has given His Son as the foundation-stone of our edifice, which 
is based on Him and cemented by His Blood. . . . Then the 
Father, considering all things in His wisdom, power, and good 
ness, has made Himself the artist, creating and building our souls 
in His own image and likeness. The artist works by the power 
that is in him ; by his memory, in which are the forms of all that 
he desires to produce ; with his understanding which comprehends, 
and with the hand of his will which executes. Now when we had 
lost grace by sin the Eternal Word came to unite Himself to our 
nature ; He made Himself the artist, and even the Stone of our 
soul, as St. Paul says, The rock is Christ. Yea, and He made 
Himself the workman also, and the builder of the edifice, for in 
His charity He has given us His life and His blood, as a builder 
mixes the lime and prepares the cement, so that nothing may be 
wanting. Let us rejoice then and give Him thanks that we have 

1 The celebrated painting of the Madonna, by Guido of Siena, which is in 
the Church of San Domenico, and which according to the inscription attached 
to it claims to have been painted in 1221, that is, nineteen years anterior to 
the birth of Cimabue ; a claim which, if established, would give to Siena the 
honour of founding a school of art earlier than that of Florence. Since the 
year 1859, however, critics have been found to question the real date of the 
inscription, and have so thrown doubt on this venerable tradition. 

2 The hospital occupies one side of the Piazza del Duomo. 


so good an architect, so excellent a stone, and a workman who 
gives His own blood for the cement of our edifice, and makes it 
so firm and strong that neither hail, nor wind, nor tempest can 
overthrow it unless we give our consent" (Letter 40.) 

This singular passage is certainly not a hastily written collection 
of far-fetched metaphors. When the Saint beheld the Eternal 
Father, as the Great Artist, creating our souls in His own image 
and likeness; and goes on to describe every human artist as 
drawing out of his memory the forms which he desires to produce, 
she evinced a comprehension of the real nature of art as exact 
as it is profound, and explains what we mean when, in a certain 
loose sense, we attribute to the true artist something of the 
creative faculty. He draws from within the ideas of those forms 
which he outwardly fashions ; even as the Eternal Word, the First 
and Mighty Artist, possesses within Himself the archetypes of 
all created forms. 

Catherine then, as we judge from this passage, was a lover of 
art, and understood its meaning. Of her musical taste, and of 
the traces it has left in her writings, we have elsewhere spoken. 
She had a sweet voice, that "excellent thing in woman," and often 
recreated herself with singing, and lastly, she had that most 
bewitching of gifts, a grace and facility in speaking, so that those 
who listened to her were never weary; but again and again 
declare in their depositions that they could have listened to her 
for ever. 

We cannot now reproduce the charm of that eloquence which 
owed half its magic to the tones that uttered it, and the living 
energy from which it flowed. We have nothing but dead written 
pages which bear the same relation to the spoken word as does 
a lifeless picture to the living countenance which it portrays. 
Yet taking her letters in our hands and putting from us for the 
moment all thought of her supernatural gifts, we are overwhelmed 
both with the extraordinary beauty of her language, and the 
amazing compass of her mind. You rise from their perusal fresh 
and vigorous, as though you had been brought in contact with an 
intellect whose predominant features were its strong good sense, 


its absolute freedom from affectation, and a certain straightforward 
clearness, which is sometimes tinged with a sense of humour, a 
thing indeed inseparable from genius ; and we hold it certain that 
apart from all supernatural illumination Catherine was a woman 
of true genius, and one not often surpassed. Her mysticism 
always has a daylight about it, and is expressed with such lucidity 
that after reading in the Dialogo her explanation of the different 
kinds of ecstasies, their whole phenomena appear to be rendered 
comprehensible even to the most ordinary intelligence. Then 
her mind was possessed of an exquisite skill in adaptation and an 
almost endless variety in its powers of illustration. I will not 
say that we never find her repeating herself, or that there is not 
a frequent recurrence of the same words, phrases, and reflections ; 
but for all that, her style is never " cut and dried ; " she does not 
write to a monk as to a man of the world, or to a noble lady as 
to one of her own sisters. She always remembers some little 
circumstance in the position or history or character of those whom 
she addresses, and introduces it with a happy grace. Thus in 
writing to the King of France, she does not forget his surname 
of "the Wise;" in addressing another prince, she remembers 
that he is a descendant of St. Louis ; to the knight and the man 
of arms she can discourse of lances, spurs, and even of war-steeds, 
and to the man of science of mirrors and the stars. 

Catherine had a true vein of enthusiasm in her ; a noble word 
could fire her, and set her in a glow. Thus we understand the 
animation she displays whenever she names the holy war, and 
that ardent desire which she shared with St. Dominic of laying 
down her life for God. F. Bartholomew Dominic tells us that 
sometimes when they were speaking together, she would point 
to her white habit and exclaim, " Ah, how lovely it would be if 
it were dyed red with blood for the love of Jesus ! " This 
enthusiasm was accompanied with a certain energy, almost vehe 
mence, of expression when there was question of the offence of 
God. Her intense faith realised in so sensible a manner that 
the Church was the Body of Christ, and that the Pope was His 
Vicar, that those who set themselves to divide and contemn the 


Church and its appointed Head were to her, by a rigorous logic, 
members of the evil one; and she expressed this by calling. them 
"incarnate devils." So too, regarding priests, as by their office, 
earthly angels, she did not shrink from telling those who degraded 
their high dignity that they were not men, but demons. To 
appreciate such language aright we must measure it by the faith 
out of which it sprang, and if after so doing there still seem 
something of excess, this, it is to be presumed, is no more than 
to say that she was a real woman, and not a shadowless ideal. 
"She spoke the truth openly," says William Flete, "and where 
God s honour was concerned, she never cared about pleasing 
or displeasing any one." In her very prayers there appeared the 
same amazing energy, when she wrestled with God for the grace 
of pardon for some hardened sinner, " with strong crying and 
tears, and groanings unutterable," watering the ground even with 
a bloody sweat, her whole frame shaken, and as it were, torn to 
pieces with a mysterious agony. 1 

But we have not yet made acquaintance with the real Catherine ; 
to do so we must try and set before our minds what she was to 
the poor sinful souls whom she rescued out of their misery by 
thousands and tens of thousands. Who shall find words with 
which to depict that great sea of charity, whose ample floods 
were ever pouring forth their tide for the salvation of sinners? 
In this too she was the true daughter of that great and glorious 
Father whose habitual ejaculation in his hours of prayer was, 
"What will become of sinners!" To quote once more the 
words of Anastagio di Mont Altino, which are precious from 
their unmistakable genuineness : " You may see her kindly and 
suppliantly embracing now this sinner and now that ; she takes 
them by the hand, and calls them to her if they would hide them 
selves from her, and if any conceal his thought, or is silent about 

1 F. Ambrose Ansano Tantucci, in his notes on the Supplement, has 
thought it necessary to say a word to justify these and other exterior signs of 
Catherine s emotions from the charge of excess, and he refers to St. Thomas, 
who speaks of the violence caused at times by the movements of the Holy 
Spirit. St. Th. 2da., 2dse., Quest. 175, arts. I, 2. 


it, she knows it nevertheless ; and if it is evil she bids him drive 
it away. . . . Her words were like thieves which snatched souls 
from the world and drew them to Holy Mother Church. She 
stood like a rock, all joyous and transformed in the likeness of 
her Spouse, and turned on us her pure vermilion countenance 
irradiated by that Sun ; then, bathed in tears, she would reprove 
our sins, and teach us the bitter price at which the soul is 

What is here conveyed in the language of poetry is repeated 
by others in sober prose. When any sought her presence weighed 
down by the sense of sin, and feeling incapable to achieve their 
own deliverance, she welcomed them to her heart as a sister 
would welcome a long-lost brother ; she lavished on them a 
tenderness which she drew out of that heart which God had given 
her, the Heart of Christ with which her own had become identi 
fied. She would not hear of the misgivings of fear or the despair 
of pardon. But she would bid them lay their sins and their 
penalties on her shoulders, and think of nothing but reconciling 
themselves with God. Her beautiful soul, stainless as the driven 
snow, came in contact with every hideous form of sin, and it is 
not to be doubted that the contact was an agony. The presence 
of sin made itself sensible to her exquisite organisation, as an 
insupportable and pestilential odour, yet she never shrank from 
sinners. The hardened and impenitent indeed she knew how 
to reprove and even to terrify, but there was no depth of iniquity 
from which she ever turned away if there was any hope of winning 
it to better things. Thus, besides the unnumbered conversions 
which she effected among criminals of every class, she did not 
refuse to seek out the most abandoned of her own sex, and to 
use her most winning eloquence in order to touch their hearts. 
We read how one night she returned to herself after a long 
abstraction in prayer in which it had been made known to her 
that a certain woman in the neighbourhood, fearing the anger of 
her husband whom she had betrayed, was on the point of com 
mitting suicide. She at once sent two of her companions to 
Fontebranda, desiring them to find the woman out and bring her 

VOL. I. N 


with them to her ; they obeyed, and were in time to prevent the 
dreadful deed ; and by means of Catherine s prudent interference 
the scandal was put an end to, and the husband and wife were 
reconciled. " Listen to me, beloved daughter," she writes to 
another unhappy outcast, " if you will but cast away your sins by 
a holy confession, and a firm resolution to return to them no 
more, the tender goodness of God ;has already spoken the word, 
I will no more remember thy offences. It is true, those who 
here expiate their sins by penance He will not punish in the next 
life. Surely it cannot be hard to you to have recourse to our 
sweet Mother Mary, the Mother of compassion and of mercy. 
She will lead you into the presence of her Son, and showing Him 
the breasts that nourished Him in His infancy, she will move 
Him to show you mercy, and then like a daughter and a slave 
redeemed by His Blood, you will enter within His Wounds, and 
the fire of His ineffable charity will consume all your miseries 
and wash away all your faults. He will make a bath of His own 
Blood in which to purify you ; believe it well ; our sweetest Lord 
will not despise you if you come to Him." (Letter 373.) 

With words like these did this soul of unspotted purity address 
itself to those encrusted with the filth of vice. Often enough her 
presence sufficed without her words to pierce them with com 
punction and draw them weeping to her feet. Nor is this to be 
wondered at ; for the true servant of God is a tabernacle in which 
is ever dwelling the hidden Christ. As the priest who bears the 
Holy Mysteries to the dying, carries through the unconscious 
crowds the presence of One who is among them and they know 
it not, and who yet, little as they suspect it, is diffusing, it may 
be a grace and a blessing as He passes by ; so the faithful soul 
united to her God is a true Ciborium, and bears His Presence 
into the world that forgets Him, and sheds around her the per 
fume of His charity. In this indwelling presence of God in the 
soul lies the true power of sanctity, for it is not the poor fallen 
child of Adam who effects in another soul its resurrection to a 
life of grace, but, "the Spirit of Christ that worketh in her." 
Hence it is that the saints, and Catherine among the rest, did 


far more by their prayers than their exhortations. What they 
did they did in virtue of their union with God, like the little child 
whose fingers indeed hold the pencil, which is nevertheless 
guided by the master s hand. And this is to be remembered 
lest any should mistake the significance of those narratives in 
which Catherine is presented to us, converting souls by her 
mere presence ; for such marvels are not told of her " as though 
wrought by her own strength or power," x but rather to glorify 
Him who made her heart His abode, and thence sent forth the 
rays of His power, as from a Tabernacle. 

Here, then, is a rude and imperfect outline of the portrait of 
St. Catherine, as we see her standing surrounded by her disciples. 
We could not, when sketching that little group, omit the central 
figure ; and now, perhaps, we shall better understand their mutual 
relations. Glancing over the names and quality of her devoted 
followers we see how greatly her acquaintance with the state of 
society, both in Siena and elsewhere, must through their means 
have become extended. Vanni, for example, had visited the 
Court of Avignon, and could tell her something of the condition 
of affairs in that luxurious capital ; and the longing eagerness for 
the restoration of the Holy See to Italian soil, which had prompted 
his journey, found a ready echo in her heart. From the Tolomei 
and the Malevolti and other noble families she must have become 
familiar with many a history of family feud and civil discord; 
while the Friars, who, like F. Bartholomew, were going hither and 
thither preaching and giving missions, would bring back sad and 
terrible tales of the spiritual desolation which they found in the 
scenes of their ministrations, and the scandals that had penetrated 
even into the sanctuary. What kind of reports could those have 
been which Bartholomew brought from his long sojourn at 
Asciano ; and which prompted her to dictate a letter to Berenger 
dei Arzocchi, the parish priest of that place, in which she hints 
at ecclesiastics who out of avarice sell spiritual graces, and spend 
their money in feasting and fine equipages ; and that other letter 
addressed to the parish priest of Semignano which is probably 
1 Acts iii. 12. 


the most terrific castigation an unworthy minister of the altar 
ever received from the lips of man or woman ? 

From men of business and of the world, like Christofano and 
Master Matthew, she must have heard much of the ruin of 
families, and the stagnation of trade caused by those " rapacious 
locusts," the roving Free Companies, and the danger constantly 
threatening the safety and prosperity of peaceable citizens. Yet 
existing authorities, whether civil or ecclesiastical, seemed power 
less to apply any remedy to all these frightful evils, and Catherine, 
as she poured out her soul in prayer for her country which she 
loved like a true Italian, and for the Church of God which she 
regarded as none other than the Sacred body of her Divine 
Spouse, must often have cried out in the language of the prophets : 
" How long shall I see men fleeing away, and hear the voice of 
the trumpet? How long shall the land mourn, and the herb of 
every field wither ? Woe to the pastors that devour and tear the 
sheep of the pasture ! For behold ! the city of Thy sanctuary is 
become a desert : Sion is a waste, and Jerusalem is desolate. 
And the house of our holiness and of our glory where our 
fathers praised Thee is burned with fire, and all our lovely things 
are turned to ruins." l 

But before the great thoughts which were working in her soul 
could begin to be accomplished, she herself was to be subjected to 
a new discipline of persecution. " When God would exalt a work," 
says Saint Vincent of Paul, " He first humbles the workman ; " 
and the wonderful career of Catherine of Siena offered no 
exception to this Divine law. Let us see in what manner this 
came about, and admire the Providence which watches over Its 
chosen ones, and guards the souls most richly gifted by grace, 
from "the moth of pride," by covering them over with "the 
black garment of humiliation." 

1 Jer. iv. 21, xii. 4, xxiii. I ; Isa. Ixiv. 10, II. 



IN the beginning of the year 1372 Catherine received from our 
Lord the intimation that the wonders of her life were about 
yet further to increase. The promise of graces greater than any 
she had hitherto enjoyed was accompanied by a warning that the 
prodigies which God was about to work in her would give rise 
to murmurs on the part of men, and of some even of her own 
followers. Hers was not intended to be a merely splendid career 
in the judgment of the world, nor one the sufferings of which 
should be sweetened by the love and confidence of all good souls. 
Like her Divine Master she was to be a stone of stumbling and a 
rock of offence even to her own brethren. 

" One day," says Raymund, " as she was praying in her little 
chamber, our Lord appeared to her, and announced to her the new 
kind of miracle He was about to operate in her. Dear daughter, 
He said, henceforth thy life will be full of prodigies so amazing 
as that ignorant and sensual men will refuse to believe them. 
Many even of those who are now attached to thee will doubt 
thee, and believe thee to be deceived. My grace infused into 
thy soul shall overflow into thy body also, and thou shalt experi 
ence its effects, and no longer be able to live, save in a manner 
wholly extraordinary. Thou shalt be exposed to many labours, 
and gain many souls, but thy conduct will scandalise many, and 
they will contradict and publicly accuse thee. Nevertheless, fear 
nothing ; I will be ever with thee, and will deliver thee from the 
tongue that speaketh falsely. Follow with courage the path that 
I shall show thee, and by thy means I will save many souls from 


hell, and conduct them to My kingdom. Catherine listened with 
reverence, and when she heard the words repeated, * Fear nothing, 
for I am with thee, she answered humbly, Thou art my God, 
and I Thy little handmaid ; may Thy holy will be accomplished 
in all things, only forsake me not, but incline to my assistance. " 
When the vision had ended, she reflected within herself what 
change it should be that was thus graciously announced to her. 
And she became sensible of such an increase of spiritual grace 
as had for its inevitable result a yet further suspension of all her 
natural powers. At length it pleased God to inspire her with the 
thought of receiving as often as she could the Blessed Sacrament 
of the Altar, in which she might be granted the fruition of her 
love, not so as she would enjoy it in the bliss of heaven, yet so 
as to satisfy her in some sort during her time of exile. With the 
permission of her confessor, therefore, she began to communicate 
almost daily, 1 unless hindered by sickness; and when unable 
from any cause to do this she suffered so greatly as to be even 
in danger of death. Moreover, this heavenly food satisfied and 
supported not only her soul, but her body also ; so that ordinary 
food became no longer necessary to her, and the attempt to 
swallow it was attended by extraordinary sufferings. This fact 
seemed to her family and those about her so incredible, that they 
readily enough decided it was a deceit of the enemy, and her 
confessor ordered her to take food daily, and give no heed to 
any visions which might seem to prescribe the contrary. She 
obeyed, as she invariably did, but the obedience reduced her to 
such a state that they feared for her life. Then he examined her 
and drew from her the fact that the Blessed Sacrament so satis 
fied her as that she neither desired nor was able to take any other 
food ; nay, that the mere presence of the Blessed Sacrament, or 
of the priest who was privileged to touch It, in some sort refreshed 
her and supported her bodily strength. As he still hesitated, in 
doubt what to think, Catherine said to him with her customary 
sweetness and respect, "Father, I would ask you to tell me one 

1 Raymund distinctly says she did not actually communicate every day, 
though this was currently reported. Leg., Part 2, ch. xi. 


thing : in case I should kill myself by over-fasting, should I not 
be guilty of my own death?" "Yes," said he. " Again," said 
she, " I beseech you resolve me in this : which do you take to be 
a greater sin, to die by over-eating or by over-abstinence ? " " By 
over-eating, of course," he replied. "Then," she continued, "as 
you see by experience that I am very weak, and even at death s 
door by reason of my eating, why do you not forbid me to eat, 
as you would forbid me to fast in the like case ? " To that he 
could make no answer; and, therefore, seeing by evident tokens 
that she was near the point of death, he concluded by saying : 
" Daughter, do as God shall put in your mind, follow the guidance 
of His Holy Spirit, and pray for me ; for I see the things that 
our Lord works in you are not to be measured by the common 

The account which Raymund has given in his Legend is con 
firmed by the testimony of many of her disciples. Caffarini, who 
often sat with her at table, says that she forced herself to swallow 
a few herbs, but that it cost her such pain that she used to call it 
" going to execution," and was obliged afterwards to reject what 
ever she had taken. He says he had seen the green twigs she 
introduced into her throat for that purpose. Francis Malevolti, 
who on one occasion spent four consecutive months in her com 
pany, gives a precisely similar account both of her efforts to eat 
and the suffering it occasioned. The anonymous author of the 
Miracoli, who wrote during her lifetime, says that this extra 
ordinary kind of life began with her so far back as the year 1370 ; 
and speaks as follows : " This holy virgin always has with her two 
or three Sisters who wear the same habit, and who never leave 
her ; and not for her own consolation, but theirs, she sits down 
with them to table. Her companions do not eat meat, but only 
herbs, vegetables and fruit, with bread and wine, and other coarse 
food, cooked or raw. She takes something into her mouth, 
according to what may be on the table, sometimes a morsel of 
bread as big as a nut, sometimes a leaf of salad, or an almond, or 
other such things, and in like quantities. She swallows nothing 
that she puts into her mouth, but when she has masticated it, 


rejects it into a little vessel, rinsing her mouth with some cold 
water. And this she does only once in the day." Stephen 
Maconi gives the same account, and says that she usually waited 
till the others had finished to take even this small amount of 
nourishment, saying gaily, " Now, let us go and do justice on the 
miserable sinner." Often the artificial means she was obliged to 
use to reject what she had swallowed caused her to vomit an 
abundance of blood. 

Sometimes her confessor would compassionate her, and advise 
her to let men talk, and not to torture herself by the effort to eat. 
" No, no," she would say ; " it is better to expiate my sins here. 
I ought not to shun the occasion which God gives me of making 
satisfaction for them in this life. If we did but know how to use 
His grace, we should profit from everything. Whether in favour 
able events or in contradictions, we should always say, I must 
reap something from this. Did we but do this we should soon 
be very rich." l 

This strange and unwonted manner of life gave matter of great 
offence to most of her friends. " They were in the valley," says 
Raymund, " and they presumed to judge concerning what was on 
the summit of the mountain." Some accused her of pride, as 
seeking to appear better than our Lady and the apostles, nay, 
even than our Divine Lord Himself, whom Holy Scripture 
declares did indeed both eat and drink. Others alleged the rules 
of spiritual life which forbid religious persons to practise any 
singularity. Some said that all virtue is in the mean, and all 
extremes are to be suspected. And others again in plain terms 
declared she was a mere hypocrite, who made up for the denial 
she practised in public by plenty of good cheer in secret. If any 
of these slanders reached her ears, or were uttered in her 
presence, Catherine would reply with unruffled sweetness and 
patience. "It is true indeed," she would say, "that our Lord 
sustains my life without food, but I know not why this should 
offend you. Truly I would eat with a good will if I could. But 
Almighty God for my sins has laid on me this strange kind of 
1 Legend, Part 2, ch. iv. 


infirmity, so that if I eat, I am forthwith in peril of death. Pray 
for me therefore that He will vouchsafe to forgive me my sins, 
which are the cause of this and of every other evil." 

Yet she did not fail to suffer intensely ; for Catherine had by 
nature a keenly sensitive disposition, and the injurious suspicions 
which were daily expressed in her presence caused her a secret 
anguish. This was rendered yet more intense when she perceived 
that in spite of what had passed between them, her confessor 
himself began to waver. Caffarini tells the story in his Supple 
ment, and relates how one morning, meeting F. Thomas, the 
Saint observed that he was preoccupied and troubled, and asked 
him what ailed him. He endeavoured to evade her question, 
but she, who knew all that was passing in his mind, refused to 
be so put off. " You may tell me without fear," she said, " for 
indeed I already know all about it." Then he told her the 
various things that were gossiped about the city, and how he 
began to fear that he had not the light requisite for guiding so 
extraordinary a case, or discerning by what spirit she was led. 
The Saint paused, and then with great humility replied : " Father, 
let me pray, and ask God to make us know if you have hitherto 
directed me aright or not ; " and then she told him exactly who 
the persons were who had suggested his doubts, though she had 
never either seen or spoken to them. The night following she 
prayed, kneeling without any support and with such intense 
fervour that, though it was winter time, her person and the very 
floor of the room where she knelt were bathed in a profuse sweat. 
And even as she prayed, the trouble passed from the mind of her 
confessor, and her own soul too was filled with a wonderful calm 
and assurance. At break of day she sent for him, and bade him 
give thanks to God for delivering him from his doubt, adding, 
"When I saw that you, who know the very secrets of my heart, 
were beginning to doubt by what spirit I was led, I too began to 
doubt, and to entertain great fears, but God in His goodness has 
been pleased this night to reassure both you and me." 

Still neither were the murmurs of the world silenced, nor did 
any change take place in her condition of body. One day, in the 


month of September 1372, as she knelt weeping over her sins, our 
Lord appeared to her, and bidding her weep no more, extended 
His hand over her head, and pronounced the customary formula 
of absolution. For many days after she felt the touch of that 
Divine Hand, and the unspeakable joy of her soul was such, that 
from that date until the Feast of the Ascension in the year follow 
ing a space of nearly eight months the suffering occasioned by 
the attempt to take food greatly increased. From September until 
Lent she could only retain the smallest quantity. From Ash 
Wednesday, which fell that year on the 8th of March, until 
Passion Sunday even this was impossible, and from Passion 
Sunday until Ascension Day, a space of fifty-five days, no kind of 
food passed her lips. And during the whole of that time she 
suffered incredible pain, yet neither her weakness nor her suffer 
ings seemed to diminish her activity in all good works. For 
though she had become so feeble that those about her expected 
every hour to be her last, yet if there were any occasion for winning 
a soul to God, or doing any other good work for His glory, she 
would rise and go about without any sign of weariness. 

A few days before the Feast of the Ascension her sufferings 
greatly increased, and believing herself unable to endure them 
much longer, she turned to God, saying, " O Lord, how long is it 
Thy blessed will that I should endure this torment ? " And she 
was given to understand that it would cease on the coming 
Festival During the three Rogation days her extreme state of 
weakness prevented her from going to the church and receiving 
Holy Communion, the only food which for two months had sus 
tained her life. Caffarini says that our Lord took pity on her, 
and deigned that an angel should bring her the Sacred Host in a 
precious veil, which so comforted and refreshed her that she 
revived, but during those three days spake no word to any living 
creature. The rest of the story shall be told in the graphic words 
of F. Bartholomew. He says, that on going to see her the eve 
of the feast, he doubted if she would live till morning. "The 
bell rung for Compline and we all rose to depart. O Mother, 
I said, are you about to leave us ? I know not, she replied, 


4 but either I shall go to God, or, if I recover, I shall live in some 
unusual way. 3 At daybreak (May 25th, 1373) she called Alexia, 
saying, Give me my shoes and mantle. Alexia, astonished but 
rejoicing, did as she was bid, and they went to the church 
together. Catherine went to Communion with the other Sisters 
and remained in ecstasy, making her thanksgiving till the brethren 
came into the church to finish grace after dinner, according to 
the custom of the Order. Having finished grace in choir, many 
went into the nave of the church to look at Catherine. Then 
rising from her prayer gay and joyful, she comforted them all by 
her sweet manner of receiving them. To-day is the feast of our 
Lord/ she said, I think our sweet Lord wishes me to eat with 
you to-day for your consolation. These words filled them with 
joy, and six of the Friars went home with her, to dine with her 
at her own house, but as nothing had been provided, the brethren 
sent back to the convent for some beans dressed in oil that had 
been cooked for the community. They all then ate with her, 
rejoicing, and many devout people hearing what had happened 
rejoiced also; and coming in to visit her, she was obliged for 
their satisfaction to take food and wine several times in the course 
of that day." 1 

Nevertheless the hard judgments passed on her conduct did 
not cease. F. Bartholomew in his deposition mentions the letter 
written to her some time later by a certain person of high reputa 
tion for piety, named Elbianco, in which he remonstrated with 
her for her unusual manner of life. The letter fell into the 
hands of F. Raymund, who was at that time her confessor, and 
was by him shown to Bartholomew. Whilst they were conferring 
about it, Catherine observed their trouble and asked the cause. 
When she heard it she not unnaturally claimed her letter, and as 
they hesitated about giving it to her, she said, " If you will not 
give it to me, at least tell me what concerns me in it." Raymund 

1 We have followed the account of Caffarini and F. Bartholomew. If any 
one will compare their joint narratives with the brief and imperfect account 
given by Raymund in the Legend, it will be seen that they wrote as eye 
witnesses, whereas he only gathered his information from hearsay. 


accordingly read it to her. She listened calmly, and then gently 
reproved them both for the indignation they had expressed. 
"You ought," she said, "to thank him who has written me this 
letter. Do you not see that he has given me precious advice? 
He fears lest I should fall into the hands of the enemy, and 
wishes to warn me of my danger. I must have that letter, and 
shall certainly write and thank the author of it." In fact she did 
so ; and seeing that Raymund was not convinced by her words, 
she gave him a severe look, and reproved them both for seeing 
evil where there was nothing but good. 

Her reply is preserved, 1 and is as follows: "I thank you heartily, 
my dear Father (she says), for the zeal you have for my soul. It 
seems you are astonished at what you hear of my way of life, and 
I am sure you have no other motive than a desire for God s 
honour and my salvation, and that you fear for me lest I should 
be deceived by the enemy. This fear does not at all surprise 
me, and I assure you if you feel it, much more do I tremble for 
myself, so greatly do I dread the delusions of the evil one. 
Nevertheless, I trust in God s goodness, and I am on my guard 
against myself, knowing that from myself I can hope for nothing. 
I take refuge in the Cross of Jesus Christ, and fasten myself to 
it, being persuaded that so long as I am nailed there with the 
nails of love and humility, the devil cannot harm me ; not for 
my merits, but for those of Jesus crucified. 

"You tell me I ought to pray God that I may be able to eat; 
I assure you before God that I use every effort to do so, and that 
once or twice every day I force myself to take food. I have 
constantly prayed to God, and I do and will pray that He will 
grant me grace to live like other people, if such be His will. I 
assure you I have thoroughly examined this infirmity, and I think 
that in His goodness He must have sent it to correct me of the 
vice of gluttony. I deeply regret not having had strength enough 
to correct it from the motive of love. I do not know what 
remedy I can now make use of, but I would beg you to pray the 
Eternal Truth, if it be for His glory, that He would enable me 
1 No. 305. 


once more to take food. I am sure He will not despise your 
prayers; and I entreat you to send me the remedy you name, 
and I will certainly try it. I would also ask you not to judge 
lightly of what you have not examined before God. I will 

The gentle reproof contained in the last phrase of this humble 
letter must, we would hope, have touched the heart of the person 
to whom it was addressed. 

But the trials to which the Saint was exposed from the hard 
judgment of others were by no means confined to their strictures 
on her abstinence from food. It has been said that at the same 
time that this suspension of her ordinary powers became more 
habitual, her longing for Holy Communion greatly increased. It 
grew in very truth to be the life of her life, the daily bread of 
body and soul. Most wonderful, indeed, are the things that are 
told us of the Communions of Catherine, and of the favours she 
at such times received. We do not speak of them in this place, 
as they will more fitly form the subject of a separate chapter. 1 It 
was not so much these mysterious favours which formed matter 
of criticism, as the frequency of her Communions ; a point on 
which endless discussions arose, many even of her best friends 
withholding their approval. Among the Mantellate themselves 
there existed a strong difference of opinion on the subject. There 
are indications of a sort of jealousy which had sprung up about 
this time on the part of the elder Sisters against Catherine and 
her younger companions. Why should these young ones affect 
to be holier than their seniors ? Who was Catherine Benincasa 
that she should gather disciples about her and set up for being 
a Saint ? So the matter was carried to a director of the Tertiaries, 

1 In order to preserve the chronological order of Catherine s life, it has 
been thought best as a general rule not to introduce incidents attested by 
Raymund of Capua until we reach the period when he first became known 
to the Saint. It is the mixing up of facts which occurred before and after 
that time which has confused the order of events, as given to us in the Legend. 
On this account, therefore, we defer the subject of Catherine s favours in 
Holy Communion to a later chapter, in which will be thrown together the 
testimonies of all her confessors and disciples on this interesting subject. 


whom Raymund does not name, but only calls "an unenlightened 
religious." 1 He sided with the malcontents, and this is less 
surprising when we remember that such frequent Communion 
was not then a common thing even with the devout. Soon both 
Friars and Sisters were split into two parties. The one affirmed 
that these frequent Communions were presumptuous, and tended 
to irreverence ; whilst the other as warmly took Catherine s part. 
Father Thomas stoutly defended his penitent, and in reply to the 
arguments and censures which he daily had to encounter, appealed 
to the practice of the early Christians, as recorded in the Acts 
of the Apostles, and to the authority of St. Denys the Areopagite, 
who declares that in the primitive Church the faithful communi 
cated daily. His opponents were not at all disconcerted, but 
alleged on their side a saying attributed to St. Augustine, 2 " To 
communicate daily, I neither blame nor praise." When this was 
repeated to Catherine, and by no less a personage than a learned 
bishop, she listened with her usual sweetness, and gave the matter 
a pleasant turn by replying, " If St. Augustine does not blame 
me, my lord, why should you?" Her confessors, who were 
familiar with the doctrine of St. Thomas, that they who find in 
themselves an increase of devotion and reverence towards the 
most Holy Sacrament by frequent Communion may safely receive 
it oftener, gave testimony that in her case she did increase, as in 
devotion, so also in charity, humility, and godly patience : they 
said, too, that when hindered from Communion, she languished as 
one sick of some bodily infirmity. Yet for all that many of her 
own religious sisters were not afraid of using every effort to pre 
vent her communicating, on the plea that it troubled the Fathers, 
that it gave offence, and other like pretences. On this matter, 
Raymund has made some sad and humiliating disclosures. It 
seems that some of the elder sisters, moved by their miserable 

1 This could not have been F. Bartholomew Montucci, who is generally 
spoken of as holding that office, a man of great piety, and one of Catherine s 
most devoted friends. 

2 In reality it is from Gennadius, De Ecctes. Dogm. in cap. qtiotid. 13. de 
consec. dis. 2, See Liguori on Frequent Communion. 


jealousy, so worked on the Prior of San Domenico, and certain 
of the friars who had espoused their side, that at last it was 
determined that Catherine should be deprived of Communion, 
and that the faithful confessor who had directed her for so many 
years with consummate prudence should be removed. When 
she next approached the altar rail, therefore, she was driven away 
before the eyes of the public, and obliged to retire in confusion. 
Catherine bore the trial with unruffled patience, and never uttered 
a word of bitterness or complaint. But this was not all. On the 
rare occasions when she was now permitted to communicate, they 
required her to finish her prayers directly and quit the church ; a 
thing which was wholly impossible in her case, as she could never 
receive Communion without falling into an ecstasy, and remain 
ing in that state some hours. The Fathers who had taken this 
affair into their hands seem to have considered it in the light of 
an intolerable nuisance. Low and vulgar minds will regard even 
the sublimest mysteries from a low and vulgar point of view. 
We can fancy the old sacristan fidgeting about -"ith his keys in 
his hand, unable to shut the church doors because Catherine 
Benincasa was so long at her prayers. That was the limit of his 
view of the subject, and he found many among his brethren 
whose comprehension of the matter did not rise to a higher level 
than his own. So at last, one day, losing patience, they took her, 
all in ecstasy as she was, and carrying her off in a rough and 
brutal manner, they flung her out on a heap of rubbish outside 
the church doors, which they then proceeded to lock behind her. 
There she lay, cast out as if she had been some vile reptile, with 
her senses the while all rapt in God. Her companions, bathed 
in tears, gathered about her to protect her from the rays of the 
midday sun, and so waited the moment when she would return 
to herself. And this happened not once, but often. 1 At such 
times the passers-by would kick her contemptuously ; one miser 
able woman satisfied her malice by kicking her in the church, 

1 This is clear from the Legend. Raymund gives several instances of 
persons, both men and women, who kicked and otherwise maltreated her, 
and of the judgments that fell on them. See Leg., Part 3, chap. vi. 


and then publicly boasted of what she had done. Catherine 
knew all this, but she never spoke of it except to excuse the 
authors of these strange excesses. One man, unhappily a religious, 
was not content with grossly insulting the Saint in the presence 
of her companions, but went so far as to take from her some 
money, bestowed on her for charitable purposes. Catherine gave 
not the smallest sign of trouble. She forbade her companions 
to speak evil of the miscreant, or to cause him any pain. She 
possessed her soul in patience, and by patience she at last over 
came. Surely, in the sight of the angels, this is the sublimest 
page in Catherine s life. To many it is given, in a certain sense, 
to taste of the sufferings of their Divine Master, but compara 
tively few enjoy the privilege of sharing His humiliations. 
Catherine in her ecstasy, flung out of the church by rude hands, 
and lying in the broad thoroughfare under the scorching sun ; 
kicked and spat upon by brutal men and spiteful women ; but 
unmoved in her patience, always calm, always sweet, always silent ; 
what a spectacle is this ! What a reflection of the ignominies 
of Jesus ! And having reached that depth of profound abjection, 
can we wonder that she should soar upwards from it to the 
sublimest heights of charity ? 

About this time (probably towards the end of the year I373), 1 
Catherine became aware that an old woman named Andrea, her 
self one of the Sisters of Penance, was dying by inches of a 
terrible cancer. As her malady made progress it caused such 
disgust to those about her, that scarcely any one could be found 
to visit or tend upon her. When Catherine heard this, she 
understood that our Lord had reserved the poor forsaken sufferer 
for her loving care; and going to her at once with a cheerful 
countenance, she offered to remain with her and assist her as 
long as her illness might last. The charity thus generously 

1 Carapelli places it at the beginning of that year, but when we remember 
in what a condition Catherine then was, it seems more likely to have been 
some time after May. We consider then the events here alluded to as occupy 
ing the latter half of 1373 and the beginning of 1374, immediately before her 
first visit to Florence. 


offered was as generously accomplished ; day after day Catherine 
lavished on her patient the tenderest care; in spite of the re 
pulsive nature of the services she had to perform, she never 
showed any sign of disgust or repugnance, or adopted any of 
those precautions which others had made use of in the tainted 
atmosphere of the sick-room, lest by doing so she should give 
pain to Andrea s feelings. Once when the intolerable stench 
almost overcame her courage, she reproached herself for this as 
for a weakness, and bending over the bed she even applied her 
lips to the wound, until she had triumphed over the revolt of 
nature. But wonderful to say her charity elicited no gratitude 
from her who was its object. Andrea s ears had no doubt been 
poisoned by the malicious slanders before mentioned. The 
tongues of some of the Sisters had already been busy tearing in 
pieces Catherine s good name, and getting up a party among the 
friars against her and her confessor ; and this explains the other 
wise incomprehensible fact that the sick woman should have had 
her mind filled with the most injurious suspicions of the holy 
virgin. She persuaded herself that Catherine s heroic persever 
ance in doing what no one else would consent to do was part and 
parcel of her affectation of holiness, a would-be superiority to 
other people, for it was there that the devil of jealousy had found 
entrance among the Sisters ; and at last her diseased fancies 
so completely blinded her that whenever Catherine was out of 
her sight she imagined her to be engaged in something sinful. 
Though Catherine knew well enough the judgment which Andrea 
passed on her, she did not show herself one whit less loving or 
serviceable than she had been before. But the more charity she 
bestowed, the more was the malice of the old woman stirred 
against her, so that not content with her unjust suspicions, she 
went so far as to communicate them to the other Sisters, to 
whom she accused Catherine as guilty of a breach of chastity. 

The matter was too grave to be passed over without exami 
nation, and the Sisters, with their Prioress at their head, after 
questioning Andrea, summoned Catherine before them to answer 
to the charge. Catherine listened to their reproaches in humble 

VOL. i. o 


silence, and when she had to speak, said no more than these 
words, "Indeed, my good Mother and Sisters, by the grace of 
our Lord Jesus Christ I am a virgin ! " And however much they 
pressed her she would give no other answer save again and again 
to repeat, " Indeed, I am a virgin." Then she went back to the 
author of this malicious slander, and waited on her humbly and 
charitably as before, yet not without feeling a pang in her heart 
when she thought of the infamy attributed to her. Retiring to 
her own chamber she opened her grief to Almighty God : " O 
Lord, my sweetest Spouse," she said, "Thou knowest what a 
tender and precious thing is the good name of those who have 
vowed their virginity to Thee ; and Thou seest the efforts made 
by the father of lies to hinder me in this charitable work which 
Thou hast appointed me to do ; help me therefore in my inno 
cence, and suffer not the wicked serpent to prevail against me." 
When she had thus prayed a long time with many tears, our 
Lord appeared to her holding two crowns in His hands, one in 
His right hand of gold, all decked with precious stones, another in 
His left hand of very sharp thorns, and said these words to her : 
" Dear daughter, it is so, that thou must needs be crowned with 
these two crowns at sundry times ; choose thou, therefore, 
whether thou wilt rather be crowned with the sharp crown of 
thorns in this life, and have that other reserved for thee in the 
life to come ; or else, whether thou like better to have this goodly 
golden crown now, and that other sharp crown to be reserved for 
thee in the life to come ? " To this demand the humble virgin 
made answer after this manner : " Lord," said she, " Thou 
knowest very well that I have resigned my will wholly to Thee, 
and have made a full resolution to do all things according to Thy 
direction ; and therefore I dare not choose anything, unless I 
may know that the same shall stand with Thy most blessed will 
and pleasure. Nevertheless, because Thou hast willed me to 
make answer concerning this choice, that Thou hast here made 
unto me, I say thus : That I choose in this life to be evermore 
conformed and made like to Thee, my Lord and Saviour, and 
cheerfully to bear crosses and thorns for Thy love, as Thou hast 


done for mine." With that she reached out her hands with firm 
courage, and taking the crown of thorns out of our Lord s hands, 
she put the same upon her own head with such a strength and 
violence that the thorns pierced her head round about insomuch 
that for a long space after she felt a sensible pain in her head by 
the pricking of those thorns, as she declared afterwards to her 
ghostly Father. Then our Lord said to her : " Daughter, all 
things are in My power ; and as I have suffered this slander to 
be raised against thee by the devil and his members, so is it in 
My power to cease the same when I will. Continue thou, there 
fore, in that holy service that thou hast begun, and give no place 
to the enemy that would hinder thee from all good works. I will 
give thee a perfect victory over thine enemy, and will bring to 
pass that whatsoever he hath imagined against thee, it shall all 
be turned to his own greater confusion." Catherine, much com 
forted, returned to her charitable labours, giving no heed either 
to the malice of her enemy or the injurious gossip of the neigh 
bours. But when the rumours that were spread abroad reached 
the ears of Lapa, her anger was past control. She needed no 
proof of her daughter s innocence, knowing more than the world 
did what manner of life she led; and bursting into her presence, 
she began with her accustomed vehemence : " How often have I 
told thee that thou shouldest no more serve yonder wretched old 
crone? See now what reward she gives thee for all thy good 
service. She has brought a foul slander upon thee among all thy 
Sisters, which God knows whether thou wilt ever be able to rid 
thyself^of so long as thou livest. If ever thou serve her again 
after this day, or if ever thou come where she is, never take me 
for thy mother ; for I tell thee plainly I will never know thee for 
my daughter." Catherine listened as she spoke, and at first was 
somewhat troubled. But after a little time, when she had 
recovered her usual calm, she went to her mother, and kneeling 
down before her with great reverence, she spoke as follows : 
" Sweet mother, think you that our Lord would be pleased with 
us if we should leave the works of mercy undone because our 
neighbour shows himself unthankful towards us? When our 


Saviour Christ hung on the Cross, and heard there the reproachful 
talk of that ungrateful people round about, did He because of 
their cruel words give up the charitable work of their redemption ? 
Good mother, you know very well that if I should leave this old 
sick woman, she were in great danger to perish of neglect ; because 
she would not find any one to come near her and do such service 
as is requisite to be done about a woman in this case ; and so 
should I be the occasion of her death. She is now a little deceived 
by the ghostly enemy, but she will hereafter, by the grace of God, 
come to acknowledge her fault and be sorry for the same." With 
such words she pacified her mother s mind and got her blessing ; 
and so returned again to the service of the sick woman, about 
whom she did all things with great diligence and love, never show 
ing either in words or countenance the least token of discontent 
or displeasure. So that the sick Sister was much astonished and 
withal ashamed for what she had done, and began to have great 
sorrow and repentance for the slander that she had raised against 
her. Then it pleased our Lord to show His mercy towards His 
faithful spouse, and to restore her again to her good fame after 
this manner : One day the holy maid went to the sick Sister s 
chamber to serve her, as she was wont to do ; and as she was 
coming towards her bed where she lay, Andrea saw a marvellous 
goodly light coming down from heaven, which filled all her 
chamber, and was so beautiful that it made her utterly to forget 
all the pains of her disease. What that light might mean she could 
not conceive, but looking about her here and there she beheld the 
maiden s face gloriously transformed, the majesty whereof was so 
strong that she seemed to her rather an angel from heaven than 
any earthly creature. Which brightness the more the old woman 
beheld, the more did she condemn the malice of her own heart 
and tongue in slandering such an excellent and holy creature. 
At last her heart being quite softened, with much sobbing and 
weeping she confessed her fault to the holy maid, and besought 
her pardon. When Catherine saw her repentance and sub 
mission, she took the old woman in her arms and kissed her, 
and spoke very sweet words unto her, saying, " Good mother, I 


have no displeasure in the world against you, but only against our 
enemy the devil, by whose malice and subtilty I know all this is 
wrought ; but rather I have to thank you with all my heart, for 
you have reminded me to have a more careful guard to myself, 
and so doing, you have turned the malice of the fiend to my 
greater good and benefit." With such kind speeches she com 
forted the sick Sister, and then she set herself to do all such ser 
vices as were wont to be done about her. And when she had 
done all, she took her leave very gently (as her manner was), and 
so retired to her chamber, to give God thanks. In the meantime 
the old woman, who had a great care to restore the innocent 
virgin to her good name again, when any of those came to her 
before whom she had made that slanderous report, took occasion 
openly to confess, with many tears, that whatever she had at any 
time reported against that holy maid she had been induced to 
report it by the craft of the devil, and not by anything she ever 
saw or knew in her. She affirmed, moreover, that she was able 
to prove that the holy maid was not only t free from all such 
suspicion, but also endued with singular graces of God, and that 
she was, indeed, a most pure and holy virgin. "Thus much," 
said she, " I speak not upon hearsay or opinion, but upon my 
certain knowledge." l 

But the enemy of souls was not thus to be vanquished, and 
returning to the attack, he endeavoured once more to overcome 
the Saint s heroic courage by exciting within her a revolt of the 
senses. One day as she uncovered the dreadful wound to wash 
and dress it, the infected odour which arose from it was so insup 
portable that it seemed impossible for her to repress the disgust 
which it occasioned. But full of holy indignation at her own 
delicacy, she turned against herself, saying, " O wretched flesh, 
dost thou then abhor thy fellow-Christian ! I will make thee 
even to swallow that of which thou wilt not abide the savour," 
and collecting in a cup the water in which she washed the wound, 
she went aside and drank it. This action became known, and 
her confessor questioned her about it. Catherine answered him 
1 Fen., Part 2, ch. xi. 


with some embarrassment ; at last she owned the truth, and 
added, " I assure you, father, never in my lifetime did I taste 
anything one half so sweet and delightful." The remainder of 
the story must be given in the words of the Legend. " The next 
night following, our Saviour Christ appeared to her, and showed 
her His Hands, Feet, and Side, and in them imprinted the five 
Wounds of His most bitter Passion, and said unto her : * Dear 
daughter, many are the battles that thou hast sustained for My 
love ; and great are the victories that thou hast achieved through 
My grace and assistance. For which I bear thee great good-will 
and favour. But especially that drink that thou tookest yesterday 
for My sake pleased Me passing well, in which, because thou 
hast not only despised the delight of the flesh, but cast behind 
thy back the opinion of the world, and utterly subdued thine own 
nature, I will give thee a drink that shall surpass in sweetness 
all the liquors that the world is able to bestow. With that He 
reached out His arm, and bringing her lips to the Wound of His 
sacred Side, * Drink, daughter, He said, drink thy fill at the 
Fountain of Life ! Catherine obeyed ; she pressed her lips to 
that Sacred Side, and drew from the wounded Heart of her Lord 
the liquor of life, as from the fountain of everlasting salvation ! " 

Meanwhile the story of her heroic charity could not be con 
cealed. Andrea herself proclaimed to all comers the spotless 
innocence of her whom she had formerly calumniated, and the 
marvellous act of self-devotion which she had witnessed with her 
own eyes. 1 From that day, says Caffarini, she was called by all 

1 The story of Andrea is given in the earlier chapters of the Legend. 
Nothing, however, is to be concluded on that account as to the actual date 
of the occurrence, for Raymund grouped together events without the slightest 
regard to the order of time. F. Angiolo Carapelli, who has made a serious 
study of the chronology of St. Catherine s life, assigns it to the year 1373. 
And on examination, many things will be found to support the accuracy of 
this statement. The calumny, so incredible at a time when Catherine s 
reputation for sanctity stood universally respected, would not unnaturally 
win belief at such a crisis as has been described in the above chapter, and by 
the very class of persons whom we have seen so maliciously disposed against 
her. Then her words to her Lord, "Thou knowest that I have resigned my 


men " the Saint ; " and the fame of her virtue, spreading abroad 
like a sweet perfume, was carried beyond the bounds of her native 
place into the remotest cities of Tuscany. 

will wholly to Thee," seem to bear evident reference to that exchange of wills, 
which it is impossible to date earlier than 1371. And lastly, from the expres 
sion used both by Caffarini and Bartholomew, we infer that it was at that 
time " her fame spread through Tuscany ; " whilst naturally enough, the very 
next event following is her summons by the General to Florence, which we 
know took place in 1374. 

( 216 ) 


THE PLAGUE, i 374 . 

" T N the May of 1374, at which time the Chapter of the Friar 
1 Preachers was being held at Florence, there came thither, 
by command of the Master General of the Order, a certain 
Sister of Penance of St. Dominic, named Catherine, daughter of 
Giacomo of Siena. She was of the age of twenty-seven, and was 
reputed to be a great servant of God ; and with her came three 
other Sisters wearing the same habit, who held her company and 
took care of her, and from whom I, hearing of her fame, went 
to see her, and make her acquaintance." Thus writes the anony 
mous author of the Miracoli ; and his words just quoted afford 
us the only existing notice of this first visit of Catherine to the 
city of Florence. No allusion to the fact is to be found in the 
pages either of the Legend or of any other original biography ; 
we are left entirely in the dark as to the cause and duration 
of this visit, so that in the absence of all certain information on 
the subject, it may be permitted for us to venture on our own 

She was summoned thither, as it appears, "by command of 
the Master General of the Order." That office was then held 
by F. Elias of Toulouse. Considering what had gone before, 
and the contradictory opinions which must have reached the 
General s ears regarding this celebrated woman, we can imagine 
it a very likely explanation that he summoned her to Florence in 
order that he might by his own personal examination satisfy him 
self as to her real spirit; and this appears the more probable, 
when we learn from the same writer that the injurious gossip 


spoken of in the last chapter had preceded her to Florence, and 
was there busily caught up and propagated. For he tells us that 
a dear friend of hers in that city expressing his sorrow at hearing 
that there was much murmuring against her singular way of life, 
not only on the part of the laity, but also of religious, she replied, 
"That is my glory; that is what I desire, to be well spoken 
against all my life ; never you care about it ! I am sorry for them, 
but not for myself." It seems then most probable that the hub 
bub which had been going on at Siena, involving as it did not 
Catherine alone, but also her confessor and the other fathers who 
had stood her friends, must have come to the knowledge of 
Father Elias, and necessitated his interference. The great theo 
logical Order of the Church, which glories in the title of the 
" Order of Truth," could scarcely be indifferent as to the real 
character of one wearing their habit, who was proclaimed on one 
side to be an Ecstatica and a Saint, living without corporal food, 
nourished by the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, to whose super 
natural glance the secrets of hearts were manifested, and whose 
prayers had never been known to be offered without avail ; and 
who, on the other, was stigmatised as an impostor and a hypocrite, 
who not only went astray seduced by the enemy, but was leading 
all the weak heads of Siena after her. 

Whatever may have been the cause, the fact of her visit appears 
certain, and if there is any truth in the above surmise, we must 
suppose that the result of the investigation of the General and 
the Fathers of the Chapter proved perfectly satisfactory. It was 
the first journey that Catherine had ever taken so far from her 
native place. No doubt she must have contrasted the splendour 
of the great republican capital with the more homely beauties of 
her own little city. All things in Florence were then peaceful 
and prosperous, and there was nothing to indicate the outbreak 
of that terrific storm which two years later was to bring her back 
in a far different capacity. There can be no doubt, however, 
that the ties she formed during this, her first visit to Florence, 
and the impression she left on the minds of the people, had 
much to do with their future appeal to her mediation ; and we 


may almost certainly conclude that the "dear friend" spoken of 
above can have been no other than Nicolas Soderini, the brave 
and virtuous citizen whose friendship for her began at this time, 
and lasted until death. In fact, his house was always her home 
in Florence, and in it is still to be seen a little chamber said to 
have been that occupied by Catherine, on the wall of which is 
painted a crucifix, before which she is supposed to have prayed. 
Soderini had been introduced to Catherine by her brothers, who, 
it will be remembered, were then living in Florence, and whom, 
being unfortunate in business, he had assisted with money. 1 
According to the " Archivio di ATagistrato" they occupied a 
house near the Canto a Soldani, in a street running into the 
Piazza d Arno. Bartolo s children were at Siena with their 
grandmother, but Catherine would have found here her niece 
Nanna, the daughter of the elder brother, who soon became dear 
to her. After she left Florence she often wrote to this young 
girl, and one letter is preserved which shall be quoted here for 
the sake of its sweet motherly tone, betraying that it was written 
by one remarkable for her tender love of children, and who knew 
how to adapt her style to the capacity of a child. 

" Dearest daughter in Christ, I desire to see you avoiding 
everything which can hinder you from having Jesus for your 
Spouse. But you will not be able to do this if you are not one 
of His wise virgins, who have their lamps full of oil and light. 
Do you know what that means? The lamp is our heart, for our 
heart should be made like a lamp. You know a lamp is broad 
at the top and narrow at the bottom ; that is the shape of our 
heart, which we must always keep open to heavenly things and 
good thoughts . . . but the lamp is narrow at the foot, and so 
we must shut our hearts up and keep them closed to things of 
earth. In this way our hearts will be like a lamp : but then we 
must have oil, for you know, my child, that without oil a lamp 
is of no use. Now the oil represents that sweet little virtue 
humility, for the spouse of Christ must be very humble, and mild, 

1 " As to Benincasa s affair, I can say nothing about it, not being in Siena. 
I thank Master Nicolas for his charity to them." Letter 115. 


and patient. ... If we are patient and humble we shall have oil 
in our lamp ; but that is not enough, the lamp must be lighted. 
Now the light is holy faith, but it must not be a dead faith, but 
a holy living faith ; you know the Saints tell us faith without 
works is dead. We must try then to apply ourselves to virtue, 
and abandon our childish ways and vanities, and live, not like 
silly girls in the world, but like faithful spouses of Jesus, and so 
we shall have the lamp, the oil, and the light. But remember 
our sweet Spouse is so jealous of His spouses, I could never tell 
you how jealous He is ! If He sees you loving anything beside 
Himself, He will be angry, and if you do not correct your faults, 
He will shut the door, and you will not be able to enter when 
the nuptials are celebrated. It was so with the five foolish 
virgins . . . they had not brought the oil of humility, and it was 
said to them, Go and buy oil/ There is an oil which the 
world sells, it is the oil of flattery and praise, and so it was said 
to the foolish virgins, You have not chosen to buy eternal life 
with your good works, but you chose to buy the praise of men, 
and all you have done was done for that ; go now, then, and buy 
that praise, but you cannot enter here. Beware then, my child, of 
the flattery of men ; do not seek for your actions to be praised, 
for if you do the door of eternal life will be closed." 

Catherine left Florence some time in June, and returned 
to Siena to find the city suffering from the twofold calamity of 
famine and pestilence. Neither of these scourges were new 
things in Siena, which had been wellnigh depopulated by the 
plague in the very year of Catherine s birth. But never before 
had it been known to rage with equal violence. It attacked 
persons of all ages, and a single day often sufficed to begin and 
end its fatal course. A panic seized the population ; and whilst 
the more wealthy sought safety by flight, the poorer sort were 
thus abandoned in their misery, with none to help them. It will 
be remembered that when Catherine had left the city in the 
month previous it was under sorrowful circumstances. Many of 
her own sisters, and of those friars whose very footsteps in old 
time she had kissed with loving reverence, had turned their backs 


on her, regarding her as something half-way between a mad 
woman and an impostor. She had received scorn and insult 
precisely from those who were most bound to protect her ; and, 
true woman as she was, it is not to be believed that she could 
have been wholly insensible to such cruel injuries, or that the 
memory of them could have been quite effaced by subsequent 
applause. But now when she saw the gaunt faces of her fellow- 
citizens, and heard the doleful sound of the dead-cart as it went 
from house to house gathering the bodies of that day s victims 
for burial, there was but one thought in her heart, " This time is 
for me." 

Her first ministrations were needed in her own family. Her 
sister Lisa (of the hospital) was one of the first victims. Then 
Bartolo, who had accompanied Catherine back to Siena to see 
his mother, was carried off by the pestilence. Francis Malevolti 
tells us that Catherine at this time lost two of her brothers, " both 
honourable merchants," and his statement is explained by a 
passage in the disposition of Peter Ventura. He tells us that 
Stephen had gone to Rome on occasion of the approaching 
Jubilee, and that one night, Catherine, who had received a 
revelation of his death, called her mother and said, " Know, dear 
mother, that your son and my brother has just passed out of this 
life," and some days later the fact was confirmed by persons who 
came from Rome bringing the sad tidings. 1 But this was not all : 
out of eleven of her grandchildren whom Lapa was bringing up 
in her own house, most of them the children of Bartolo, eight 
died. Truly in that hour of cruel bereavement she must have 
sighed for the death from which she had formerly shrunk, and 
bitterly bemoaned herself in the desolate house once filled with 
the gay voices of so many innocent children. But Catherine, to 
whom they were all so dear, buried them with her own hands, 
saying as she laid them one by one in their last resting-place, 
"This one, at least, I shall not lose." Then she turned her 
thoughts to those outside her home, and resumed her old habits 
of heroic charity. Terrible indeed are the accounts left by 
1 Process., fol. 199. 


historians of this awful time. In some streets not a creature was 
left alive to answer the call when the dead-cart stopped at their 
door. Sometimes the priests and those who carried a bier to the 
grave fell lifeless while performing this last act of charity, and 
were buried in the yet open sepulchre. The public tribunals 
were closed, and the laws no longer remained in force. The 
victims were of all ranks. Two of the " Defenders " died within 
a day or two of each other. At the great Hospital of La Scala, 
the Rector, Galgano di Lolo, gave his life in discharge of the 
duties of his office. 1 The charity and the resources of the 
Confraternity of the Disciplinati were taxed to the uttermost, and 
not a few of them in like manner died martyrs of charity. 

Once more, therefore, was Catherine to be seen in the hospitals, 
and the most infected parts of the city, assisting all no less with 
her charitable services than with her prayers. " Never did she 
appear more admirable than at this time," says Caffarini ; " she 
was always with the plague-stricken ; she prepared them for death, 
she buried them with her own hands. I myself witnessed the joy 
with which she tended them, and the wonderful efficacy of her 
words, which effected many conversions. Not a few owed their 
lives to her self-devoted care, and she encouraged her companions 
to perform the like services." For herself she was insensible 
either to fear or the repugnances of nature. She had died and 

1 The office of Rector of La Scala was one of great dignity and importance. 
The person who filled it was by right a member of the high Consistory, and, 
moreover, appointed the governors of a great many other hospitals which 
depended on this one, not only in Siena, but even in other towns of Tuscany. 
He was also protector of several other charitable institutions in the city. 
Some of the governors were bound to be Sienese gentlemen. Besides the 
ordinary work of a hospital, La Scala received and educated foundlings, 
lodged pilgrims, and distributed alms to the sick and needy outside its walls ; 
and & in time of famine it distributed a great quantity of grain. Its revenues 
were very large. Among its sacred treasures is the Holy Nail that transfixed 
the left hand of our Lord on the Cross. Here is also preserved the Sienese 
standard which was carried at the great victory of Montaperto to which was 
given the title of the " Manto di Maria ; " and a picture representing our 
Lady covering the city and its inhabitants with her mantle in token of her 
protection. Diario Sanese, ii. 95> 9 6 - 


come to life again, and in whatever sense we understand that 
incident, she had come to regard this world as we also should 
regard it were we true to our profession of faith ; as those could 
not fail to regard it to whom the last things and the eternal truths 
had by earnest meditation become realities. What were the 
chances of life or death, sickness or danger, to one who (as we 
may say) had seen eternity ? What should they be to those who 
verily believe in it? "How can you endure such cold?" asked 
her confessor one day, as he saw her setting forth to her daily 
fatigues, scantily protected from the bitter winds to which Siena 
is so much exposed. "A dead body feels nothing," 1 was her 
reply ; and truly in her total insensibility to the claims of nature 
she might fitly have been said to have been dead. That heroic 
act of her early life by which she had chosen suffering as her 
portion in this world, was no empty profession ; in virtue of it 
she accepted pain, fatigue, humiliation, and the frustration of 
many hopes with an equal mind and with an utter indifference 
to everything save the discharge of duty. Caffarini tells us that 
her disciples would sometimes express their wonder at her 
patience and courage ; but in reply she would only laugh, and 
say, "If people knew how sweet it is to suffer for God, they 
would covet the opportunities of having something to bear as a 
piece of singular good fortune." In the same place he relates 
how a certain priest, having come from Florence for the purpose 
of testing her sanctity, in his presence uttered the most injurious 
reproaches against the holy virgin, who, lying on her bed of 
boards (for she was at the time very weak), listened to it all with 
a countenance so sweet and unmoved, and with such a heavenly 
joy and serenity, that when the speaker left her presence, he 
could only say that " she was pure unalloyed gold." 2 It was in 
this spirit, therefore, that she took on herself during this frightful 
time labours and duties, at the thought of which flesh and blood 
might well have shuddered; and whilst we are told that the 
unhappy citizens shrank from encountering one another in the 
streets, where men, to use the expression of Tommasi, "were 
1 Burlamacchi s notes to the Legend. 2 Process., 1270, 1271. 


daily falling dead like ripe apples from the tree/ there was one 
form from which they did not shrink, but welcomed it as the 
harbinger of comfort ; for they recognised in that attenuated, 
white-robed figure, " Catherine, the spouse of Christ," she whom 
they were wont to call " the Mother of Souls." 1 

For by this time her fellow-citizens had come to understand 
who and what she was. In their intolerable sufferings she pos 
sessed the power of consolation. She could give them sympathy, 
for they had not lost more than she. They had seen her burying 
the little ones whom she loved so tenderly ; and mothers, there 
fore, who had lost their treasures, could bear to listen to her when 
she told them not to grieve. 

It was precisely at this time that she made her first acquaintance 
with him who during the remainder of her life was to enjoy her 
entire confidence. This was Father Raymund of Capua, a Friar 
Preacher eminent alike for his learning and virtue, who for four 
years had filled the office of confessor to the nuns of St. Agnes 
of Montepulciano, where he wrote the life of that saint. He was 
a member of the Neapolitan family Delle Vigne, to which had 
belonged the celebrated chancellor of Frederick II. Early called 
into the Order of St. Dominic in some remarkable manner which 
he alludes to, but does not narrate, he suffered much from weak 
health, on which account the physicians forbade his keeping the 
fasts of the Order. This greatly afflicted him ; and making it a 
matter of special prayer, he obtained strength enough not only to 
keep the obligations of his rule, but even to fast on bread and 
water on the vigils of all our Lady s feasts. 2 After preaching and 
lecturing on Sacred Theology in various cities of Italy, he was 
made Prior of the Minerva at Rome in 1367, and in that capacity 
presented his community to Urban V. when that Pontiff visited 
the eternal city. He was remarkable for his great devotion to 
the Blessed Virgin, and composed a treatise on the Magnificat in 

1 Process. Dep. of Bart, de Ferrara. 

2 He relates this story himself in a letter to Philip, Cardinal of Ostia, written 
in defence of regular observance, and by way of proving that on this head 
physicians are not the only authorities to be consulted. 


her honour, as well as the Office used on the feast of the Visita 
tion. Several years before he became acquainted with Catherine, 
the same most Blessed Virgin had made known to the Saint that 
she would one day obtain for her a confessor who would give her 
more help than any she had yet consulted. The first occasion 
on which she saw him was the feast of St. John Baptist, when the 
high mass for the day was sung by F. Bartholomew Dominic, 
assisted by F. Raymund of Capua and F. Thomas della Fonte. 
After the conclusion of the high mass, Raymund said his own 
low mass, at which Catherine likewise assisted ; and it was then 
that she heard a Voice saying, " This is My beloved servant ; this 
is he to whom I will give thee." l From that day she placed the 
direction of her conscience in his hands. No doubt Raymund 
was well aware of the difference of opinion which existed among 
some of the friars regarding her. He had probably been con 
sulted on the subject by them, and the visit of F. Thomas della 
Fonte and F. George Naddi to Montepulciano, mentioned in a 
former chapter, may have had some connection with the same 
affair. It is even possible that his superiors had despatched him 
to Siena with a view of settling the disputes which were dividing 
the community of San Domenico, as one to whose character and 
experience all would yield. These, however, are only conjec 
tures ; what is certain is, that a complete confidence was estab 
lished between him and F. Thomas, equally honourable to both 
parties. F. Thomas put him in possession of his long experience 
in the guidance of this soul; of the notes he had taken day 
by day of her supernatural graces ; and in particular of all the 
wonderful favours granted to her in Holy Communion. 

Raymund, who was a man of much greater learning than F. 
Thomas, hesitated not in the favourable judgment which he at 

1 (Latin) Supplement, Part 2, Trat. 6, 17. I quote the original as referred 
to and explained by Carapelli, in preference to Tantucci s translation, which 
is in this place obscure. See also letter of Stephen Maconi, and Catherine s 
letter to Raymund of Capua, No. 134. If the whole circumstances of the 
foregoing narrative are borne in mind, the change of confessors and final 
appointment of Raymund to that office become clear and intelligible. 


once formed on the question. " I first became acquainted with 
Catherine," he says, " when I went to Siena as Lector ; and I 
used my best efforts to procure her the privilege of receiving 
Holy Communion, so that when she desired to approach, she 
more confidently addressed herself to me than to any other 
Father in the convent." This simple and unpretentious state 
ment reveals to us that up to that time the difficulties which had 
been raised on the subject of Catherine s communions had by no 
means been dissipated. But Raymund s reputation and influence 
were of sufficient weight to prevent any interference between him 
and his new penitent ; and from that time Catherine had no more 
disturbance on the subject. 

Still the plague raged with ever increasing violence. Raymund 
perceived the terror that it everywhere inspired, and knowing, as 
he says, " that zeal for souls is the spirit of our Holy Order," he 
devoted himself to the aid of the sufferers. He, too, visited the 
sick and the hospitals, and in particular he went very often to the 
Casa delta Misericordia, the Rector of which establishment, Master 
Matthew, 1 he loved entirely for his virtue s sake. Both he and 
Catherine were, in fact, in the habit of calling at the Misericordia 
every day to confer with Matthew upon matters connected with 
the relief of the poor. 

One day, then, as Raymund was going his rounds visiting the 
sick, having to pass the gates of the hospital he went in to see 
how Master Matthew was. The rest of the story must be given 
as it stands in the pages of the English Legend. 

" When he entered, he saw the brethren busily occupied carry 
ing Master Matthew from the church towards his chamber. With 

1 Master Matthew was appointed Rector of the Misericordia, August I, 

1373. In the Leggenda Minore the date 1373 is given for his attack of the 
plague and its appearance in the city. The author of the Miracoli gives 

1374, and the correctness of the latter date is confirmed by the Sienese 
Chronicle of Neri di Donate and the Necrology of San Domenico. We 
must remember that, according to the Sienese method of computation, the 
first three months of 1374 would be reckoned as 1373. The plague may 
also have first appeared in that year, but historians are unanimous in giving 
the later date as that of its greatest ravages. 

VOL. I. P 


that he asked him cheerfully how he did. But Master Matthew 
was so feeble and so far spent that he could not give him one 
word to answer. Then he asked them that were about him how 
that sickness came to him. And they made answer that he had 
watched that night with one that was sick of the plague, and 
about midnight took the sickness of him ; since which time, said 
they, he has remained, as you see, without colour, strength, or 
spirit. When they had brought him to his chamber, they laid 
him down upon his bed, where, when he had rested a little while, 
he came to himself again, and called for Raymund, and made his 
confession to him, as he was wont oftentimes to do. That done, 
Raymund tried to cheer him. Master Matthew/ said he, how 
do you feel? Where is your pain? My pain, he said, is in 
the groin, so that is seems as if my thigh were ready to break in 
sunder ; and I have so vehement a headache, as though my head 
would cleave in four parts. With that he felt his pulse, and 
found, indeed, that he had a very sharp fever. Whereupon he 
caused them to send for a physician, who, when he came, declared 
that he saw evident tokens of a pestilential ague, and also of 
approaching death. Wherefore, he said, I am very sorry, for 
I see we are like to lose a very dear friend, and they of this house 
a very good Rector. What, said Raymund, * is it not possible 
by your art to devise some kind of medicine that may do him 
good ? We will see to-morrow/ said he : but to tell you truly, 
I have small hope of doing him any good, the disease is too far 
gone. When Raymund heard these words, he returned towards 
the sick man again with a heavy heart. In the meantime it came 
to the ears of Catherine that Master Matthew was dangerously 
sick of the plague. When she heard that she was much troubled ; 
for she knew him to be a very virtuous man, and therefore loved 
him greatly ; and forthwith went in great haste towards his house. 
And before she came into his presence she cried out with a loud 
voice, saying : Master Matthew, rise ! Rise up, Master Matthew : 
It is no time to lie now sluggishly in your bed. At that word 
and at that very instant the pain and headache and the whole 
disease quite forsook him, and he rose up as merry and as sound 


in his body as if there had never been any such disease upon 
him. And when he was ready he honoured the holy maid, and 
gave her most humble thanks, saying that he knew now by 
experience in his own body that the power of God dwelt in her and 
wrought strange things by her. But she could not abide to hear 
any words that tended to her own commendation, and therefore 
she went away. As she was going out, F. Raymund came 
towards the house, and meeting her in the gate, looked very 
heavily, for he knew nothing of all this that was done in the 
house, but came directly from the physician. When he saw her 
there, being as it were overcome with sorrow, he said to her : O 
mother, will you suffer this good man that is so dear to us, and 
so profitable and necessary to many others, to die after this sort ? 
To that she made answer very humbly, showing, indeed, that she 
had no liking of such words. * O father, said she, what manner 
of talk is this that you use to me ? Do you take me to be a God 
that you would have me deliver a mortal man from death ? I 
pray you, said he, speak these words to those who are strangers 
to you, and not to me who knows your secrets. I know well enough 
that whatever you ask of God heartily He will grant you. With that 
she bowed down her head a little and smiled ; and after a time, look 
ing up to him again cheerfully, she said these words : Father, be of 
good cheer, for he shall not die this time. When Raymund heard 
these words, he was much comforted, for he knew well what grace 
was given to her from above. And so he went into the house to 
comfort his friend, supposing that the thing had been yet to do that 
was already done. When he came in he found him sitting up in 
good health, declaring to them that were about him the manner 
of the miracle that had been wrought upon himself. For the 
further confirmation whereof the table was laid, and they ate 
together that morning, not such meats as sick men use to eat, but 
raw onions and such other coarse meats as cannot be digested 
save only by those in perfect health. And as they were eating 
they took great pleasure to recite the wonderful things that it 
pleased God to work by the holy maid. 

" In the course of this same plague the hermit Fra Santi caught 


the contagion, which, when Catherine understood, she caused him 
to be taken out of his cell, and to be brought to the Misericordia, 
where she came to him with some other of her Sisters and nursed 
him, providing for him all such things as she thought necessary. 
And to comfort him with words also, she put her head close to 
his, and whispered him softly in the ear, saying : * Be not afraid, 
however you feel, for you shall not die this time. But to the 
rest that were there she said no such thing, but rather, when 
they entreated her that she would pray to God for his recovery, 
she gave them but a doubtful answer, which made them very 
sad, for they all knew him to be a holy man, and therefore both 
honoured and loved him tenderly. The disease increased hourly 
more and more, and they despairing of his life gave over the 
charge of his body, and looked only to the health of his soul. 
At last, when he was in extremes, and they all stood about him 
with great heaviness, looking only when he would give up the 
ghost, the holy maid came to him again, and said in his ear : 
Be not afraid, for you shall not die at this time. The sick man 
both heard and understood that word, though before it seemed 
that he was past all sense. And he took comfort in it, crediting 
the word of the holy maid that sounded in his ear rather than the 
throes of death that gripped him by the heart. However, he 
showed no token of amendment, and therefore they, not under 
standing what she had said, provided lights and other things for 
his burial, looking still when he would depart out of this life. At 
last, when it seemed that he was even passing out of the world, 
Catherine came to him again, and spake these words in his ear : 
I command thee, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that 
thou pass not at this time. At that word he took comfort of 
spirit and strength of body, and rose up in his bed and called for 
meat, and ate in the presence of them all ; and after that time 
lived many years, and was one of them that were present with 
the holy maid in Rome when she departed out of this life." 1 

Besides these cases of her power with the sick, Raymund had 
experience of the same in his own person. " When the plague 

1 Fen., Part 4, chap. iii. 


was raging in Siena," he says, <; I resolved to sacrifice my life for 
the salvation of souls and not to avoid any plague-stricken patient 
whatever. It is certain that the malady is contagious ; but I knew 
that our Lord Jesus Christ is more powerful than Galen, and 
that grace is superior to nature. I also saw that many had taken 
flight, and that the dying remained without assistance ; and as 
the blessed Catherine had taught me that charity obliges us to 
love the soul of our neighbour more than our own body, I was 
desirous of assisting as many sick as I could, and I did so by 
God s grace. I was almost alone in that vast city, and had 
scarcely time to take a little food and sleep. One night as I 
rested, and the time approached to rise and recite my office, I 
felt a violent pain in the part which is first attacked by that 
malady, and soon discovered the fatal swelling which declares its 
presence. Greatly alarmed, I dared not rise, and began to think 
of my approaching death. I longed to see Catherine before the 
disease made further progress, and when morning came, I dragged 
myself with my companion to Catherine s residence; but she 
was absent, having gone out to visit a sick person. I decided to 
wait, and as I could no longer support myself, I was obliged to 
lie down on a bed which was there, and besought the persons of 
the house not to delay sending for her. When she came, and 
saw my excessive suffering, she knelt down by my bed, placed 
her hand on my forehead, and began to pray interiorly as usual ; 
I saw she was in an ecstasy, and I thought that there would soon 
result some good both for my soul and body. She remained 
thus during nearly an hour and a half, when I felt a universal 
movement in every limb, which I thought was the prelude to 
some dangerous crisis ; but I was in error, for I began at that 
moment to improve ; and before Catherine had recovered the 
use of her senses, I was completely cured, there only remaining 
in me a certain weakness, a proof of my illness, or an effect of 
my want of faith. Catherine, aware of the grace that she had 
obtained from her Spouse, came to herself and caused them to 
prepare for me the ordinary nourishment common to the sick. 
When I had taken it from her virginal hands, she ordered me to 


sleep a little. I obeyed, and on awakening I found myself as 
well as if nothing had happened to me. Then she said to me, 
Now, go and labour for the salvation of souls, and render thanks 
to the Almighty God who has delivered you from this danger. 
I returned to my ordinary work, glorifying the Lord who had 
bestowed such power on His faithful spouse." At the same time 
and in the same manner she effected the cure of F. Bartholomew, 
though he had been lying sick of the plague for a considerable 
time. Simon of Cortona was also cured by her, as he himself 
relates in his deposition. 

Raymund relates other miracles, such as the cure of one of the 
Sisters of Penance, who lived near the Misericordia, and devoted 
herself to Catherine s service, and who was crushed under a fall 
ing building. The neighbours drew her out of the ruins, and 
found her not dead, but in horrible anguish and past medical aid. 
"As soon as Catherine heard it," he continues, "she was filled 
with compassion for one who was her Sister, and who had made 
herself her servant. She went immediately to visit her, and 
exhorted her to patience. When she saw her suffering so exces 
sively, she began to touch the places of which she complained ; 
the patient willingly consenting, because she knew that those 
blessed hands could not fail to do her good. As soon as 
Catherine touched any place, its pains vanished : then the sick 
woman showed her the other parts that were tormented, so that 
she might apply the same remedy, and Catherine lent herself 
to this charity with so much care that she finished by completely 
healing her. In proportion as her virginal hand glided over the 
bruised body, the pain disappeared, and the sick woman, who 
before could not move a single member, little by little recovered 
the power of motion. She kept silence whilst Catherine was 
present lest she might alarm her humility, but afterwards she said 
to the physicians and neighbours who surrounded her : Catherine, 
Lapa s daughter, has cured me by touching me. " 

Another cure, attested by all Catherine s biographers, was that 
of Sister Gemmina, one of the Mantellate, who, being attacked 
by a quinsy and in danger of suffocation, by an extraordinary 


effort contrived to get to Catherine s house, and said to her, 
" Mother, I shall die, if you do not help me ! " Full of pity, 
Catherine applied her hand to the sufferer s throat, and at once 
the malady left her. 

But pestilence was not the only scourge which at this time 
afflicted Siena; terrible civil disorders were likewise preying on 
the lifeblood of the republic. She was reaping the inevitable 
fruits of revolution. No government found itself strong enough 
to repress the licence which universally reigned ; and while the 
Riformatori were capable of any oppressive act towards the weak, 
a powerful miscreant had every chance of escaping just punish 

Geri, Lord of Perolla, had an only daughter, to whom when 
dying he left his castle and estates in the Tuscan Maremma. 
Her kinsman, Andrea Salimbeni, under pretext of a friendly visit, 
seized the castle, and dyed his murderous hand in the blood of 
the innocent girl. He then applied himself to sack and ravage 
the adjacent territories ; but such an excess of brutality did at 
last rouse the indignation of the senator, who prepared to avenge 
the crime. An armed force was despatched against Andrea : he 
was taken with twenty-eight associates, and committed to prison 
on the 23d of April 1374. A few days later, sixteen of the more 
insignificant criminals were executed, but the senator feared to 
proceed to extremities against Andrea and his more powerful 
comrades ; and so the real authors of the bloody outrage were 
spared. When the popolani learnt this, they assembled in vast 
numbers, and marching to the doors of the Palazzo Pubblico, 
demanded vengeance. Galgano, the captain of the people, deserted 
by his colleagues and powerless to resist the armed multitude, 
came forth and declared that he made over to their leader, Nocci 
di Vanni, a saddler by trade, the right and authority to do what 
ever he might deem best for the public good. The stern tribune 
seated himself on the bench of justice and commanded Andrea 
to be brought before him. Then in few words sentence was given, 
and the miserable man was borne forth into the Piazza, and there 
summarily beheaded. 


The Salimbeni and all their adherents, furious at this act of 
popular justice, flew to arms ; Cione Salimbeni, thinking it a good 
opportunity for gratifying his ambition, seized several fortresses 
belonging to the republic ; and soon the whole mountain region 
was plunged in war, if such be not too dignified a word to be 
applied to the ruffianly hostilities of these bandit chieftains. 
Agnolo Salimbeni, the head of the family, and a man of chivalrous 
honour, seems on this occasion to have acted in a way which 
earned him the confidence of the citizens ; for they made 
over to him the command of some of the strongest castles, 
a circumstance which excited against him the jealousy of 
Cione, and became the origin of a feud which was only extin 
guished three years later through the efforts of St. Catherine. 
But while such anarchy raged throughout the country, the fields 
were left uncultivated, and the miserable peasantry took refuge 
within the city walls from the violence of the roving brigand 
bands. Famine soon came to increase the horrors of pestilence, 
and Catherine and her companions had to feed as well as to 
nurse the destitute citizens. To this year must probably be 
assigned an incident which is related in the Legend, and which 
we shall quote from its English version. Catherine, as it seems, 
was at that time staying, according to her wont, in the house of 
Alexia. " It chanced that year that there was such a scarcity of 
corn in the city and country, that the people were constrained to 
eat bread made of musty corn that had been kept long time in 
underground caves, because there was none other to be got for 
money. Of such corn Alexia had made provision for herself and 
her family for that year. But before her store was spent, the 
harvest-time was come, and she heard that there was new corn 
to be sold in the market, whereupon she thought to cast away 
the little portion that was left of the musty corn, and buy new. 
But before she did it, Catherine being in the house with her, she 
chanced to break her mind to her, and to tell her what she was 
about to do. What will you do ? said she ; * will you cast that 
away that God hath sent for the sustenance of man ? If you will 
not eat of that bread yourself, yet bestow it upon the poor that 


have no bread to eat. To that Alexia replied, saying, that she 
had a conscience to give such mouldy and unwholesome bread 
to the poor, she would rather buy new corn, and make them 
bread of that. Well, said the holy maid, bring me here a 
little water and that meal which you intend to cast away, and I 
will make bread of it for the poor. So Alexia did as she was 
bid. Then the holy maid took it, and made paste of it : and of 
the paste made such a quantity of bread, and that so quickly, 
that Alexia and her servant, who beheld her all the time, were 
astonished to see it, for they made as many loaves as would have 
required four or five times as much meal ; and delivered them to 
Alexia to lay upon boards and carry to the oven. And (which 
was most marvellous) there was no bad savour in those loaves as 
there was in all other made of the same corn. But when they 
were baked and set on the table to eat, they that ate of them 
could find no manner of evil taste in them, but rather said that 
they had not in their life eaten better or more savoury bread. 
This miracle being spread in the city, her confessor came with 
certain other of his brethren to examine the matter, and found, 
in very deed, that there were two great miracles wrought, one in 
augmenting the quantity of the paste, and another in amending 
the evil quality and stench of the corn. And a third miracle 
was added soon after, which was, that whereas the bread was 
very liberally dealt out to the poor and none other eaten in the 
house but that, yet there remained ever more great store of it in 
the larder. And so it continued many days and weeks, which 
moved certain devout persons that understood the truth of the 
matter to take some of the said bread, and to lay it up reverently 
where it might be kept for a relic and perpetual remembrance of 
the great work that Almighty God had wrought by His dear 
spouse. Afterwards F. Raymund being desirous to be more 
particularly informed of the matter by the holy maid, prayed her 
that she would declare to him how the thing had passed. And 
she made him answer simply after this manner : Father, I had 
a great zeal that the thing that God had sent us for the relief of 
man should not be lost ; and I had moreover a great compassion 


for the poor. Whereupon I went to the hutch of meal with great 
fervour of spirit. As soon as I was there, behold, our blessed 
Lady likewise was there with me, accompanied with a number 
of saints and angels, and bade me to go forward with my work 
as I had determined. And she was so benign and charitable that 
she vouchsafed to labour with me, and to work the paste with her 
own hands ; and so by the virtue of her holy hands were those 
loaves multiplied in such sort as you have heard, for she made 
the loaves and gave them to me, and I delivered them to Alexia 
and her servant. Truly, mother/ said F. Raymund, I marvel 
not now if that bread seemed to me and others that tasted it 
passing sweet, considering that it was made with the hands of 
that most heavenly and glorious Queen, in whose sacred body 
was wrought and made by the Holy Trinity that living Bread 
that came down from heaven to give life to all true believers. " 

F. Thomas Caffarini mentions this incident in his deposition, 
and says he was one of those who had eaten of the bread thus 
made. Father Simon of Cortona also declares that during this 
time of famine the Saint often multiplied bread in order to feed 
the poor, and that he was himself present on one such occasion. 


\ RUMOUR of the heroic deeds performed by Catherine and 
/\ her companion during the plague was not long in reaching 
Pisa, where it made a great sensation, specially among the nuns 
of a certain convent which Raymund does not name. They 
appear to have pressed her to pay them a visit, but not meeting 
with the success they desired, they put the affair into the hands 
of a personage no less important than Peter Gambacorta, the 
supreme head of the republic. The character of this celebrated 
man is variously represented by various historians, but if not free 
from the charge of ambition, it undoubtedly possessed many 
noble points. His father and uncles had distinguished them 
selves by their resistance to the usurpation of a certain Giovanni 
Agnello, who, secretly encouraged by the Emperor Charles IV. 
(the same whom we have seen so ignominiously defeated at Siena), 
had assumed the title of Doge, and aimed at becoming the tyrant 
of the republic. The Gambacorti had paid the penalty of their 
patriotism on the block; their estates were confiscated, whilst 
Peter and the surviving members of the family were driven into 
banishment. Before many years were over, however, a fresh 
revolution broke out. The Doge was deposed, and all the exiles 
recalled. Peter and his children, now reduced to the utmost 
poverty, returned to Pisa, and entered the city in triumph carry 
ing olive branches in their hands. Amid the acclamations of the 
populace they proceeded to the Cathedral, and there, standing 
before the high altar, Peter gave thanks to God for his restoration 
to his native country, and solemnly swore in the name of all the 


exiles " to live as a good citizen, forgiving and forgetting all past 
injuries." When we remember the ruthless spirit of the age in 
all that concerned the forgiveness of enemies, this act on the part 
of one who had suffered such bitter injustice appears truly heroic ; 
and indeed it was far above the comprehension of his partisans. 
Instead of following so glorious an example, they proceeded to 
celebrate their triumph by setting fire to Agnello s house; and 
the wind being high, the flames spread, and the entire city was 
threatened with destruction. Then it was seen that Peter s pro 
mise was not an idle form of words ; he rushed from the Cathedral 
into the midst of the burning flames, and interposed his own 
person between the savage multitude and his fallen enemies ; all 
day long he was to be seen battling with the fire, and driving back 
the maddened mob ; and standing there alone like a true hero 
he cried aloud to those who clamoured for the blood of Agnello, 
"/have pardoned him, what right havejjw/ to revenge?" 1 

Such a man was worthy and capable of appreciating the char 
acter of Catherine ; and he was not unwilling to draw her to Pisa 
at a moment when the political horizon was overcast, and when 
there seemed no small likelihood of a breach between Florence 
and the court of Avignon. So he sent her a letter pressing her 
to come, to which Catherine s answer is preserved : 

"I received your letter," she says, "and was much touched by 
it; I know it is not my virtue or goodness, for I am full of 
miseries, but your own kindness and that of these holy ladies 
which moves you to write to me so humbly, begging me to come 
to you. I would gladly comply with your wish and theirs, but 
for the present must beg to be excused : my weak health will not 
permit of it; and, moreover, I see that just now it would be an 
occasion of scandal. I hope, however, please God, that when 
the time arrives when I can do so without offence, and without 
giving rise to murmurs, I may be able to come, and then I shall 
be at your command. Recommend me to those holy ladies and 
beg them to pray for me, that I may ever be humble and subject 
to my Creator." 

1 Sismondi, vol. vii. ch. xlviii. 


The state of her health which she here gives as a reason for 
declining the invitation to Pisa was indeed more suffering than it 
had been at any former period. Possibly, she had exhausted her 
strength during the time of the pestilence, for we learn by a 
passage in the Miracoli that in the August of that same year she 
was attacked by grievous sickness. " On the feast of the Assump 
tion, 1374," says the author of that memoir, "Catherine fell sick, 
and was brought to death s door, but there was no sign of pesti 
lence in her malady. She believed herself dying, which caused 
her the most unbounded joy. It would be impossible to describe 
the rapture she felt at the thought that she was passing to eternal 
life, and the very joy she felt so comforted and restored her vital 
powers, that the danger passed. Whereat she conceived a great 
sorrow and began to pray to the Blessed Virgin that she would not 
permit her to remain longer in this life. Then our Lady appeared 
to her, saying, Catherine, my daughter, seest thou all that crowd 
of people who are behind me? Yes, she replied, Madonna 
mia,\\ see them all. Then, continued our Lady, look and 
see which thou wilt choose. My Divine Son, desiring that thou 
shouldst live yet a little longer, will give thee all these souls to be 
brought to eternal life, besides those others whom He has already 
given to thee, if thy death is deferred for another time ; but if 
thou choose to die now, He will not give them to thee. Choose, 
therefore, which thou wilt. Then Catherine replied again, 
Madonna mia, thou knowest that there is no power in me to 
will or not to will, for my will is not mine, because I have given 
it to thy Son Jesus. Then said our Lady, Know then that He 
has given thee all these souls that I have shown thee ; and that He 
will call thee to Himself another time, when it shall please Him. 
Our Lady disappeared, and Catherine found herself delivered 
from the sickness which she had been suffering. Some time 
after she made known this vision to a person, who asked her, 
saying, Should you know any of those persons whom our Lady 
showed to you? And she replied, Yes, if I were to see them, 
I should know them all. " 

The other reason she assigns for deferring her visit lest she 


should give occasion of complaint to her fellow-citizens is but an 
example of the difficulties which generally presented themselves 
in the way of her leaving Siena. In the present case, however, 
they were rather more serious than usual, for just then Peter 
Gambacorta was not in very good odour with the magistrates of 
Siena. He had encouraged the Prior of the Pisan knights of St. 
John to seize possession first of the strong place called Rocca 
delP Albarese, and then of the castle of Talamon, and to hold 
them in the name of the Church. Talamon, as has been stated 
before, was the key of Siena, and its occupation by the knights 
was a very sore point with the citizens. Catherine therefore was 
wisely anxious not to irritate them further, and besides, she was 
habitually reluctant, and not forward, when there was any question 
of producing herself before a world of strangers. So she remained 
at Siena during the remainder of that year and the beginning of 
the following ; and whilst waiting for a more favourable opportunity 
for visiting Pisa, she undertook a less distant journey to the 
monastery of St. Agnes at Montepulciano. It is here that Ray- 
mund of Capua had resided for three years as confessor to the 
nuns before coming to Siena. He tells us in his Legend that 
Catherine had a great love for these holy pilgrimages ; and, 
naturally enough, has given a rather careful account of the two 
visits which she paid to the convent which was his old home, and 
which he still governed as Vicar of the Provincial. Moreover, 
he goes out of his way to relate to us the history of St. Agnes, 
which he had written during his residence there, and which he 
also related to Catherine. After hearing his narrative she con 
ceived a great desire to go and venerate the body of the saint 
which was preserved there incorrupt ; and having asked and 
obtained the permission of her superiors, she set out with her 
companions ; Raymund and Father Thomas following her the 
day after. Having reached the convent, Catherine at once pro 
ceeded to visit the holy body, attended by all the nuns of the 
community, as well as by the Sisters of Penance who accompanied 
her ; and kneeling at the feet of St. Agnes she stooped to kiss 
them, when in the sight of all present one of the feet suddenly 


raised itself as if to meet her lips. At this spectacle Catherine 
was much troubled and confused, and restoring the foot to its 
former position, she prostrated in humble prayer. Next day 
when the two confessors arrived they found no small discussion 
on what had passed going on among the religious ; some affirming 
it to have been the work of God, and others disposed rather to 
regard it as a deceit of the enemy. Raymund, as superior of 
the nuns, thought it prudent to investigate the matter; and 
calling the community together desired all to give their testimony 
under a precept of holy obedience. "All present," he writes, 
"declared that they had seen the incident occur as related; and 
as there was one who had offered greater opposition than the 
rest, I inquired of her more particularly whether the affair had 
passed as had been represented. Yes/ she replied, * I do not 
deny it, I desire only to explain that the intention of St. Agnes 
was not what you believe. My very dear Sister, I replied, 
we do not interrogate you concerning the intentions of St. Agnes, 
being well aware that you are neither her secretary nor her con 
fidante ; we merely ask you whether you saw the foot rise ? To 
that she assented ; and I then imposed a penance on her for the 
discourses she had indiscreetly held." 

Some little time later Catherine returned to the convent bring 
ing her two nieces, Eugenia and another whose name is not 
preserved, both of whom took the religious habit in the com 
munity. "As soon as she arrived," says Raymund, "she repaired, 
as at the first time, to the body of the saintly foundress with her 
companions and some nuns from the convent ; she did not place 
herself at the feet this time, but approached the head ; designing 
by humility, as we presume, to avoid what had happened before 
when she attempted to kiss the feet ; or perhaps she remembered 
that Mary Magdalen at first poured her perfumes over the Saviour s 
feet and afterwards shed them over His head. She placed her 
face on the ornaments of gold and silk which cover the counten 
ance of St. Agnes, and there remained a long time; then she 
turned sweetly to Lisa, the mother of her two nieces, and inquired 
smiling : What, do you not observe the present that Heaven 


sends us : do not be ungrateful ! At these words, Lisa and the 
others lifted their eyes and saw a very fine white manna falling 
like heavenly dew, and covering not only St. Agnes and Catherine, 
but also all the persons present, and with such abundance that 
Lisa filled her hand with it." 

A letter is preserved, written by the Saint to Eugenia after her 
profession at the convent, which exhibits the motherly interest 
she felt in her niece. In this letter she warns her against 
imprudent intimacies whether with priests or seculars, " If I 
ever hear of your contracting such intimacies," she says, " I will 
give you such a penance as, whether you like it or not, you will 
remember all your life." Then she speaks of the visits of strangers : 
" If they have anything to say, let them say it to the Prioress ; 
do not you stir to go to them unless the Prioress send you, and 
then be as savage as a hedgehog. And when you go to confes 
sion, confess your sins, and having received your penance, retire. 1 
Do not be surprised at my speaking thus, for the company of 
those most falsely called devotees corrupts the rules and usages of 
the religious life. Be on your guard, then, never to let your 
heart be tied to any one but Jesus crucified ; otherwise when you 
would wish to untie it, you will not be able to succeed without 
much difficulty. The soul that is fed on the Bread of angels sees 
that all these things are obstacles. Seek rather all that will unite 
you to God, and the best of all means is prayer." She then gives 
her a long and beautiful instruction on the three kinds of prayer, 
namely, a recollection of the presence of God, vocal, and mental 
prayer. Of vocal prayer, including the recital of the office, she 
says, " We should use it in such a way as that, when the lips 
speak, the heart is not far from God." She describes the diffi- 

1 " Recevuta la penitenza, fugge" The severe expressions here used may 
be understood as in part directed against the Fraticelli, a dangerous and 
insidious sect who at that time made it their business to find their way into 
the parlours of convents, for the purposes of spreading their pernicious 
doctrines among the nuns. St. Catherine had many encounters with these 
gentry, and her letters are full of allusions to them. Eugenia died young, 
like so many of her family. At the Chapter held at her convent in 1387, 
her name does not occur in the list of the community. 


culties which often beset the soul in mental prayer, such as 
combats, weariness and confusion of mind ; but warns her niece 
not on that account to abandon it, because by these struggles 
God will fortify the soul and make it constant ; and if we gain 
nothing else we get to know our own nothingness ; whilst God on 
His part will not fail to accept and bless our good resolutions. 
"Prayer of this sort," she says, "will teach you to love your rule, 
it will seal in your heart the three solemn vows of your profession, 
and engrave there the determination to observe them even until 
death. Let me then see you a precious jewel in the presence 
of God, and have the consolation of knowing that I have not lost 
my time/ 1 

In the narrative of the visit to St. Agnes s body the reader will 
have noticed that the name of Lisa once more occurs. She had 
returned to Siena after her husband s death, and putting on the 
habit of Penance, thenceforth made her home with Lapa and 
Catherine. The three are named together in a document dated 
1378, as taxed by the Commune for the sum of six hundred lire. 2 
On Lisa were settled as her marriage dowry the farm and vine 
yard belonging to the Benincasa family at San Rocco a Pili. 3 
Catherine often visited this spot, which is situated about five 
miles out of the city on the Grosseto road. Caffarini in his 
Supplement relates the circumstances of one of these visits, when 
Catherine came thither at Lisa s earnest solicitation to recruit 
her strength, she being at the time in a very suffering state. 
Having reached the farm, Catherine had so sharp an attack 
of her habitual pain in the side, as to be unable to leave the 
house all that day and the following night. Next morning, desir 
ing to receive Holy Communion, she rose, and went to the little 
parish church hard by. But presently she bethought herself that 

1 Letter 159. 

2 Burlamacchi s Notes to the Legend. 

3 Sano di Maco was Procurator to Lisa in a money transaction regarding 
this property, the document relating to which is preserved in the Libra delle 
Denunzie di Dogano (Diario Sanese, ii., 100). Gigli calls the parish S. 
Rocco, Grottanelli, Santa Maria a Pili. At present (he says) it bears the 
name of S. Bartolomeo. 

VOL. I. Q 


she was perhaps guilty of presumption in thus approaching the 
altar without having previously been to confession. She therefore 
presented herself to the priest for absolution, and at the moment 
of receiving it felt herself bathed anew in the Blood of Jesus. 
Rapt in ecstasy she communicated, and remained so abstracted, 
praying for her confessor and her disciples by name. Raymund 
and one of his companions were at that moment in the convent 
of Siena ; but feeling a sudden and sensible visitation of Divine 
grace, they said one to another, " Catherine must be praying for 
us ! " and found afterwards that it had been even so. 1 

The memory of St. Catherine is still preserved in this place, 
which is commonly called // Podere di Lisa, or Lisa s farm, and 
bears an inscription, recording its connection with St. Catherine. 
It was long the custom for the Rogation Processions to make a 
station on the spot, when the priest would exhort the people 
to offer special prayers for a blessing on their parish, on this 
ground once sanctified by the footsteps of the holy virgin 
of Siena. 2 And here we may observe that these Rogation 
Processions were in Catherine s time ceremonies of great 
splendour and importance, at which all the clergy and citizens 
assisted, nor is it to be doubted that the Saint herself was ac 
customed to take part in these beautiful devotions of her native 
city. Each day the crimson banner of the Duomo led the way 
out of one or other of the city gates, the procession making a 
circuit of many miles to bless the fields and vineyards of the out 
lying territory. Those w r ho were too old or feeble to undertake so 
fatiguing an expedition, waited at the gates for the return of the 
banner ; none ever dreamed of absenting themselves altogether. 
One beautiful custom existed of holding the consecrated banner 
across the street at certain spots where, according to tradition, 
pagan monuments formerly stood, in order that all the people 
might pass under it, and so offer their protest against the worship 
of the false gods, and render their homage instead to the symbol 
of Christianity. On the first day the procession went forth 
through the Porta Camollia, saluting as they passed the ancient 
1 Latin Sup>, Part 2, Trat. 6, art. 48. 2 Diar. San. ii. 100. 


image of our Lady which stood there, and being careful to 
take the road through the chestnut woods of Montagnuola, 
that the chestnuts might be well blessed. On Tuesday they 
took a southerly direction, going out of the Porta Pispini 
through the suburban parish of St. Eugenia; on Wednesday 
they issued forth by the Porta Tun, through the beautiful fields 
whence are seen the mountain district and the peaks of Monte 
Amiata, together with the valleys watered by the Orcia, and the 
distant Maremma. Gigli, who preserves these details, tells us 
that the Sienese kept the Rogation days as solemn holydays, and 
even gives us to understand that they observed what St. Cesarius 
of Aries had prescribed regarding them, namely, that on these 
solemnities no man should either be bled or take medicine, 
unless in great danger ; probably in order that none might thereby 
be prevented from joining in these devout processions. 

One other locality must be named in the vicinity of Siena where 
Catherine often retired ; it was the hospice belonging to the 
Dominican Fathers at St. Quirico in Osenna, twenty-four miles out 
of the city on the Roman road. It is situated on a hill between 
the Orcia and the Ombrone, and from it is dated one of the Saint s 
letters to F. Thomas della Fonte. In the peace and silence of 
that beautiful retreat she pours forth some of the most exquisite 
of her impassioned words. Yet she begins by accusing herself of 
caring so little for God s honour, and thinking so seldom of His 
teaching. " I ought to live dead to my own will," she says, " and 
yet I have not subjected it to the yoke of obedience half so much 
as I could and ought to have done." Then she proceeds to 
speak of that transformation of the soul in God which is wrought 
by this conformity of our will with His: "O Love! Sweet 
Love ! " she continues ; " enlarge our memory to receive, to 
contain, to comprehend all Thy goodness ; for when we com 
prehend it, we shall love it, and by loving it we shall be united to 
it, and so, transformed in charity, we shall pass through the door of 
Jesus crucified, according to His words to His disciples, I will 
come, and make My abode with you. You tell me in your 
letter," she adds, " that you have been to visit the body of St. 


Agnes (at Montepulciano), and that you have recommended us 
to her and to all the religious, which much consoles me ; and you 
say that you know not why, but that you have no wish to return 
thither. I reply, there may be many reasons for this; one is, 
that a soul really united to God, and transformed in Him, readily 
forgets itself and all creatures. May this be so with you."- 
(Letter 105.) 

Catherine often returned to Montepulciano, and corresponded 
with the Prioress and other members of the community ; and 
there are no tenderer allusions in her letters than those which 
refer to "her St. Agnes," as she calls the convent. At the time 
of her first visit in 1374 it was situated at some distance from the 
town, but a few years later the unsettled state of that mountain 
district rendered it necessary for the nuns to seek safety by 
transferring their residence within the walls ; and as the requisite 
expenses were beyond their means, St. Catherine applied to 
Ricasoli, Archbishop of Florence, who had promised to give her 
the first alms she wished to bestow. " Since you are the father 
of the poor," she writes, "and since you have made me promise 
to address myself to you the first time I wished to bestow an 
alms, I will fulfil my promise, for there is a very pressing alms I 
want to make to the convent of St. Agnes. They must be trans 
ferred within the walls on account of the wars; but they want 
fifty gold florins to begin with, the town will do the rest. I beg 
of you, therefore, help them if you can." 

The secret of Catherine s great love for this community lay in 
the revelation which had been granted her, that in heaven she 
should enjoy a degree of bliss equal to that of St. Agnes; and 
that they should be companions throughout eternity. It is a 
beautiful, and perhaps an unique passage in the lives of the saints. 
It gives us a glimpse of something beyond even the hope that 
shattered links of human affection will be reunited and purified 
in another life. It reveals to us the saints in glory endowed with 
the capacity, in some unspeakable way, of drawing near one to 
another in God, bound by the ties of a new and unearthly friend 
ship. Nor, as we may safely infer, could such a trait be found 


in the history of one the chords of whose heart did not respond 
to that note of sublimised human affection ; Catherine on earth 
knew how to practise her own doctrine of never removing the 
vase from the fountain which supplied it ; and there was reserved 
for her in heaven to drink from the abundant torrents of sweet 
ness which water the courts of the eternal mansions. 

It would seem that these journeys to Montepulciano in 1374 
had a double object; and that, besides the family affairs which 
often took her to the convent, Catherine was also bent on the 
reconciliation of certain feuds for which her mediation had been 
solicited. However, on this, as on many like occasions, her 
departure from Siena gave rise to jealousies and suspicions on 
the part of the magistrates. They had moreover some difficult 
business of the same kind on their hands just then which they 
despaired of bringing to a favourable issue without her help; 
and evil tongues, always busy with their criticisms on her doings, 
filled their ears with murmurs and complaints. So at last the 
Signoria despatched her disciple, Thomas Guelfaccio, with a 
message bidding her return, as she was greatly wanted in Siena. 
Catherine, however, was equally proof against their flattery and 
the fear of their displeasure. "You desire my return," she says 
in her reply, " and ask my advice how to obtain peace. I am 
incapable of the least good, but I shall bow my head whenever 
God wills me to obey you, for of course I must place the will 
of God before that of man. At present I do not see that I can 
possibly return, for I have still an important business to nego 
tiate for the nuns of St. Agnes, and I am here with the nephews 
of Messer Spinello, in order to make peace with the sons of 
Lorenzo. I regret the trouble my fellow-citizens take in judging 
me ; it really seems as if they had nothing else to do than to 
speak evil of me and my companions. In my case they are right, 
for I am full of faults, but they are wrong in their judgment of the 
others. However, we shall overcome all things with patience." 

It was at Montepulciano that two events took place which are 
related by Raymund in the Legend as " occurring in the begin 
ning of their acquaintance." He had heard many marvellous 


things concerning her, which he hesitated to believe, and desired, 
as her confessor, to put them to the proof by some infallible test. 
"I remembered," he says, "that we were living in the time of 
the third beast with the skin of a leopard, whereby is denoted 
hypocrites, and in my day I had met with plenty of persons, 
specially women, easily deceived like their first mother." The 
test he resolved on was to desire that by her intercession she 
should obtain for him such a perfect contrition for his sins as he 
never before had, and that he might also have some token that 
the same had been procured by her means ; for he was assured 
that the devil could not be the author of such contrition, and that 
it is not in the power of any man, but of God only, to touch and 
move the heart to conceive such sorrow. With this purpose, 
therefore, he went to Catherine, and asked her to do him a 
pleasure. "What is it?" she asked. "None other than this," 
he replied, "that you will pray to your Spouse for me, that of 
His mercy He will pardon me all my sins." She answered that 
she would cheerfully do what he asked, as one who felt no doubt 
of obtaining her request. "But," said Raymund, "this is not 
enough. I must have a full pardon and bull drawn after the 
manner of the court of Rome." She asked his meaning. " The 
bull I desire," he said, "is that I may feel a deep and true 
contrition." At these words she gave him a sweet and penetrating 
look which seemed to betoken that she had read the secret 
thoughts of his heart. " Have no fear," she said, "you shall have 
the bull you ask for." And so they parted, for it was towards 
evening, and the friars lodged at a house separate from the monas 
tery. The next morning Raymund found himself too unwell to 
leave the house, and so remained in his apartments together with 
his companion, Brother Nicolas of Pisa, 1 the same who has before 

This brother Nicolas da Cascina finds honourable mention in the Chronicle 
of S. Caterina of Pisa as a man of signal virtue. He was a man of austere 
life, chastising his body, and often spending entire nights watching and pray 
ing in the church. He was as learned as he was humble, and a model of 
religious obedience. At his death, which took place on the vigil of Pentecost, 
the angels are said to have visibly assisted. 


been named as having travelled from Pisa to Siena for the sole 
purpose of seeing the Saint. Catherine, understanding in spirit 
that he was ill, said to her companion : " F. Raymund is ill ; 
let us go and see him." They went, therefore, and entering his 
apartment somewhat suddenly, she approached the couch where 
he lay, and asked him how he found himself. Then entering 
into discourse she began to speak of God, of His benefits to His 
creatures, and of their ungrateful return for all His goodness, with 
such grace and unction, that, as he listened, Raymund felt his 
heart moved as it had never been before. And all the time he 
never thought of the bull he had asked for, but was wholly carried 
away by the force and efficacy of her words. They pierced his 
heart like sharp darts, and wakened such a sense of his past sins 
as never in his life had he experienced until that moment. For 
he seemed to see himself arraigned, as it were, before the tribunal 
of God, and confessed in himself that he was worthy of everlast 
ing punishment. Then when this terrible thought had lasted a 
good space, he seemed to behold our Lord as a pitiful Father, 
clothing His nakedness with His own robes, leading him into 
His house, giving him to eat at His table, and accepting him as 
one of His own servants. And so considering both the deformity 
of his sins, and the merciful goodness of our Saviour who 
received him again so lovingly, he burst into tears, and continued 
weeping and sobbing as though his heart would break. Catherine, 
who had watched the whole matter, and who understood well 
enough what was passing in his heart, when she saw the medicine 
begin to work, held her peace, and let him weep on undisturbed. 
At last he suddenly remembered within himself what had passed 
between them the day before, and turning to her he said : " Ah, 
daughter, is this the bull I asked for yesterday ? " " Even so," 
she replied ; then rising she touched him lightly on the shoulder 
saying, " Forget not the benefits of God," and departed, leaving 
him and Nicolas much consoled and edified. 

He tells us of another token of her sanctity, which was given to 
him without his having asked for it, and at the same monastery. 
It happened that she was suffering much from her accustomed 


infirmities, and was lying on her little couch, when having 
received certain high revelations, she sent to Raymund, praying 
him to come at once that she might communicate the same to 
him. " When he heard the things that she reported, and reflected 
on the greatness of the same in comparison to what he had read 
of other saints, he said to himself, * Is it possible that all this 
should be true that she saith ? And with that, looking steadfastly 
upon her, he saw her face suddenly transformed into the face of 
a Man, who likewise set His eyes steadfastly upon him, and gave 
him a marvellous dreadful look. The Face that he saw was 
somewhat long ; it appeared to be that of a man of middle age ; 
His beard was somewhat of the colour of ripe wheat, that is, 
between red and yellow, His countenance was very comely, 
reverend, and full of majesty. And for a little time he saw that 
Face only, and could see none other thing, which put him in 
such a fear and terror that, casting up his hands above his 
shoulders, he cried with a loud voice, and said, O Lord, who is 
this that looketh thus upon me? It is He, said she, that is. 
And with that she came again to her own form." 1 " At the 
same moment," he writes, "my understanding was illuminated 
with an abundant light on the matter of our discourse. I had 
indeed been before incredulous, but our Lord had come and 
manifested to me His own Face, that I might no longer doubt 
Who it was Who spoke in her. As Thomas, after he had received 
the token which he had demanded, exclaimed, saying, My Lord 
and my God ! so I also, after this vision, exclaimed to myself, 
Verily, this is indeed the spouse and disciple of my Lord and 
God. And I declare these things that my readers may understand 
that our Lord displayed His doctrine in her as in a vessel frail 
and weak indeed by nature, but by His power miraculously made 
strong." 2 

1 Fen., Part I, ch. xxiv. 2 Legend, Part I, ch. ix. 



IN following thus far the course of Catherine s history we have 
chiefly been engaged with its domestic aspect, and have 
sought to unravel the narrative as it has been given to us by 
Raymund, supplementing it, where defective, by the abundant 
testimony of her other biographers and disciples. Her life, how 
ever, was something more than a series of charming stories and 
supernatural favours. The graces which were poured out on her 
with such magnificent profuseness were given to her not for herself 
alone, but for others. Called to a special work and a wholly excep 
tional mission, she was designed by God to be a chosen vessel to 
carry His name before princes and nations. 1 And that mission, 
as was fitting and natural, she began among her own people. 

Surrounded, therefore, by the group of faithful disciples whom 
we have described in a former chapter, and to whose ranks fresh 
accessions daily flowed, Catherine accepted the work which Divine 
Providence presented to her, and applied herself to it with that 
earnestness mingled with simplicity which marked her whole 
career. If that career were strange and unprecedented for a 
woman to follow, this, at least, is worthy of remark, that there is 
no single example to be found of her ever taking on herself any 
duty (beyond those ordinary good works open to all devout 
women) without solicitation or command. On the contrary, 
there is abundant proof of the reluctance with which she invari 
ably hung back from the efforts made on the part of the world to 
draw her from her retirement. But when the multitude sought 

1 Acts ix. 15. 


her out in her humble chamber in the Fullonica, she did not refuse 
to listen to their sorrows and to heal their discords, nor did she 
hesitate to use the marvellous but unstudied eloquence both of 
tongue and of pen which God had bestowed upon her, to deliver 
His message to men of all conditions. Catherine was a true Italian 
and a true Dominican also. She loved her country, and names it 
m her letters with unmistakable tenderness, and she inherited 
the traditions of an Order, one of whose chief works in the early 
centuries of its existence had been the healing of party feuds. 
Everywhere throughout Italy the friars appeared as the apostles 
of peace ; we need but mention the names of John of Salerno, 
Latino Malabrarica, and Bernard di Guido, to remind the reader 
of those tales of wondrous and pathetic beauty which exhibit to 
us the sons of St. Dominic in the character of the blessed peace 
makers. And surely no portion of their apostolic mission could 
fall more fitly or gracefully than this to the share of a religious 
woman. How could she come in contact with such a soul as 
that of James Tolomei without conceiving a detestation for those 
habits and social maxims so deeply rooted in the hearts of her 
countrymen, that crime had ceased to be regarded as crime, and 
a youth before he had attained to manhood could boast of the 
blood which he had shed, just as some wild Indian might exhibit 
and number up the scalps of his victims ? "The hatreds of the 
Middle Ages," says Capecelatro, had a vigour and tenacity in 
them unknown in our days, when base cowardice sometimes dis 
guises itself under the mask of gentle manners. The super 
abundant life of those times, when men seemed full of young 
blood, and which when directed to Christian practice produced 
such prodigies of charity, betrayed itself also in those deadly 
hatreds which resisted even the instincts of faith then so powerful 
in society. The customs of their old heathen and barbarian 
ancestors had not entirely decayed, so that the supreme moment 
of life, blessed and sanctified by the last offices of religion, was 
often chosen as a time for securing that the dying sinner s thirst 
for vengeance should last beyond the tomb. Horrible oaths 
sealed these iniquitous compacts; the Almighty, the Father of 


mercy and of pardon, was called to witness the work of blood, 
and sons believed themselves bound to discharge the infamous 
obligation as a sacred inheritance from their fathers." l Yet the 
men who made up such a society were Christians ; they believed 
in God, and expected to be pardoned through the Blood of His 
Son ; they probably from time to time recited their chaplet, and 
asked to be forgiven even as they forgave; and saw no incon 
sistency with such words upon their lips in handing on from 
father to son a legacy of revenge and homicide. 

When such men heard of the holy maid of the Fullonica (" La 
Beata Popolana" as the citizens loved to call her proud of 
her plebeian birth), they often enough came, now with one of her 
disciples, and now with another, to behold the prodigy of Siena. 
And when Catherine began to speak to such souls, she had in 
the most literal sense of the word to " lay again the foundation 
of penance from dead works . . . and the doctrine ... of 
eternal judgment." 2 We will give one example of the kind of 
men with whom she had to deal, and of her method of addressing 
herself to their hearts. There were two nobles, Benuccio and 
Bernard, members of the haughty family of the Belforti. They 
belonged to the Guelph faction, and reckoned among their kins 
men not fewer than nineteen valiant warriors. They were the 
hereditary lords of Volterra, in whose historic annals the most 
heroic deeds of valour and patriotism were often enough mingled 
with tales of treachery and assassination. Bochino, the head of 
the family, was himself afterwards slain with many of his faction. 
His brother Pietro was married to Angela Salimbeni, one of that 
illustrious family with whom Catherine was on intimate terms, 
and Benuccio and Bernard were their sons. At her urgent 
request, it would seem, Catherine undertook to address the two 
brothers and remind them that they were Christians. But before 
we quote her words to the two warriors, let us hear in what terms 
she consoles Donna Benedetta, the wife of Bochino, when she 
was mourning over the loss of several much-loved children : 
" My dearest mother and sister in Jesus Christ," she says, " is 
1 Storia di St. Cath., Lib. 2. Heb. vi. I, 2. 


it not sweet to you to think that the heavenly Physician came 
into this world to heal all our infirmities ? And like a good physi 
cian, He is often obliged to give us a bitter medicine, and even 
to bleed us sometimes, in order to restore our health. You know 
a sick person will endure anything in hope of being cured. 
Alas ! why do we not treat the Physician of Heaven as we do 
the physician of earth? He does not wish the death of the 
sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live. And 
so He puts a bitterness into the things of sense. And He bleeds 
us too, when He takes from us our children, our health, our 
worldly goods, or whatever else He thinks best. Courage then ; 
what He has done, He has done to heal, and not to slay ; and 
since it is the sweet will of God, clothe yourself with patience. 
As to the other son who is left to you, you must try not to look 
on him as something that belongs to you, for that would be to 
.appropriate to yourself what is not really yours, but only lent. 
You know I am speaking the truth, and because these things are 
only lent, not given to us, we must be ready to give them back 
to our sweet Master Who gave them and Who created them. 
When I heard that He had called them to Himself, I rejoiced 
at their salvation ; and though I pitied you, yet I rejoiced at the 
fruit which you will draw from this affliction. Have courage 
then, the time is short, our sufferings are light, and the reward 
exceeding great. May the peace of God be with you. Catherine 
the useless servant salutes you." 

No doubt when Catherine compared the anguish of Benedetta 
as she wept over her dead sons, with that which her kinswoman, 
Donna Angela, endured when she watched the career of her own 
living ones, she must have felt that bereavement was not the 
worst sorrow. They were steeped up to their eyes in deadly 
enmities, to lay aside any one of which would have been ac 
counted a blot on their scutcheon. This was that grievous " point 
of honour," which the saints so fervidly denounced ; not honour 
in its true and noble sense, but the false honour of the world, 
which at that time held a man disgraced if he did not seek to 
slaughter his enemy. 


" My dearest sons," writes Catherine, " I desire to see your 
hearts and souls at peace with our crucified Jesus, otherwise you 
cannot be sharers in His grace. You know, my sons, that sin 
establishes a feud between man and his Creator. When the 
whole human race was at enmity with God through the sin of 
Adam, our merciful Creator desired to make peace with man, 
and sent us His only Son to be our Peace and our Mediator, 
and He became so by bearing all our iniquities in His own Body 
on the Cross. You see, then, that God has made peace with 
man, and that so perfectly that even if man revolt against Him, 
he can always find the precious Blood again in holy confession, 
which we may make use of every day if we choose . . . But 
know this, we cannot love God except through our neighbour. 
Christ asked Peter if he loved Him, and when he said Yes, 
our Lord replied, Then, feed My sheep. As much as to say, 
it is very little to Me that you love Me, unless you love your 
neighbour. And this is the way of putting an end to the great 
feud we have with God. For our crucified Jesus came into the 
world to extinguish the fire of hatred between man and his 
brother. Yes, my dear children, I want to see hatred disappear 
out of your hearts. Do not act as madmen do, who by seeking 
to injure others only injure themselves. He who kills his enemy 
kills himself first, and with the same poniard, for he dies to grace. 
Fear the Divine judgments then, hanging over you, and promise 
me two things : Be reconciled both to God and to your enemies ; 
you cannot have peace with God unless you have peace with 
your neighbour; and, then, come and see me as soon as you 
can ; if it were not so difficult for me to do so, I would come 
and see you." 

We do not know the result of this appeal, or whether the 
sweet echo of that word peace found an entrance into the heart 
of the Belforti ; but having seen in what way she sought to win 
these turbulent spirits by her w r ords, it may be well to show her 
gaining one such soul by the simple power of her prayers. The 
story is thus beautifully told in the old English Legend. 

" There was in the city of Siena a gentleman called Nanni di 


Ser Vanni,i who bore a great sway among the people, bein- a 
very fierce and warlike man, and also of a marvellous subtle and 
crafty wit in worldly affairs. This Nanni, with the rest of his 
family and friends, maintained a faction and perpetual quarrel 
among certain other families in the city, who, dreading his power 
and policy, sought by all means and with great submission to 
make their peace with him. He made them answer that it was 
all one to him whether they had peace or no peace, and that for 
his own part he was very ready and willing to come to terms if 
they would win certain others to it, who were as much concerned 
in it as he was himself. And thus he gave them very fair words, 
and put them in hope of peace ; but in the meantime he dealt 
secretly with those other persons, bidding them stand stiffly to it, 
and in nowise to condescend to any conditions of peace. This 
matter came to the ears of Catherine, who seeing herein the 
occasion of working a charitable work, sought by many means 
to speak with him. But whenever he understood that she was 
coming towards him, he fled from her, as a serpent is wont to 
flee from the enchanter that comes to charm him. At last, by 
the importunity of a holy hermit, Brother William the English 
man, 3 they won so much of him that he was content to hear the 
holy maid speak, but yet with this protest, that whatever she said 
concerning the peace, he was fixed, and would not be moved. 
With this resolution he went to Catherine s house at a time when 
she chanced to be abroad. F. Raymund, by the providence of 
God, was there at that time, who, understanding that Nanni was 
coming, was very glad of it, for he knew that the holy maid had 

1 Mrs. Butler, in her life of St. Catherine, has confused Nanni di Ser Vanni 
with Andrea Vanni the painter. They were two totally distinct persons. She 
even imagines that Father William Flete s acquaintance with Nanni was 
formed on occasion of having his portrait painted, the last notion that would 
probably have occurred to the good hermit. Nanni really belonged to the 
noble hou^e of Savini ; Vanni was not his family name, but th<T Christian 
name of his father, and he bore it according to the Italian custom of 
times, just as Stephen Maconi is called Stephen di Corrado, and Neri dei 
Paglieresi appears as Neri di Landocdo. For an account of the Savini family, 
see Diar. San. ii. 162. 

2 i.e., Father William Flete. 



a great desire to speak with him ; so he went out to meet and 
entertain him until her return. When they were come into the 
house, F. Raymund led the way to the holy maid s chapel or 
oratory, where he caused him to sit down, and entered on such 
talk with him as he thought most convenient to protract the 
time. But after they had sat there a little while, and saw that 
she came not, Nanni thought the time long, and therefore began 
to break the matter with F. Raymund after this manner : Father, 
he said, I promised Brother William that I would come here 
and speak with this holy maid ; but now seeing she is abroad 
about some other business, and I have at this present certain 
affairs that must needs be despatched out of hand, I pray you 
excuse me unto her, and tell her that I would gladly have spoken 
with her if she had been at home. F. Raymund was very sorry 
that Catherine came not. However, to gain a little more time, 
he took occasion to talk with him concerning the peace, and 
asked him how the matter stood between such and such persons. 
Whereunto he made answer after this manner : Father, said he, 
to you who are a priest and religious, and to this blessed maid, of 
whom I hear report of great virtue and holiness, I will speak no 
lies, but tell you plainly and sincerely how the case stands between 
these men. It is true that I am he who hinders this reconciliation, 
though indeed it seem otherwise, because the matter is openly con 
trived by others, but I alone privily maintain and uphold one side ; 
and if I would give my consent to the peace, the matter were ended. 
But to tell you my meaning in few words, my peace shall be made 
and confirmed with the blood of my enemies. This is my resolu 
tion, and from this I will not be moved. Wherefore, I pray you, 
set your hearts at rest, and trouble me no more. And with that 
he rose up and took his leave to depart ; but F. Raymund was 
very loath to let him go, and therefore, though he saw that he 
was unwilling to tarry, or to hear any more words of that matter, 
yet to gain more time, he asked him divers and sundry questions, 
and by that means kept him there so long that Catherine was 
come home and entered into the house before he could get out 
of the oratory. When Nanni saw her, he was sorry that he had 


tarried so long. But she was right glad to see him there, and 
bade him welcome after a very charitable and loving manner, 
and caused him to sit down again. And when he was seated, 
she asked him the cause of his coming. He answered her, and 
declared so much in effect as he had declared before to F. Ray- 
mund ; at the same time protesting that concerning that matter 
of the peace he would have no talk, for he was absolutely bent 
to the contrary. The holy maid hearing that, began to exhort 
him to brotherly love and concord, and showed him withal what 
a dangerous and damnable state they were in that lived out of 
charity. But he gave a deaf ear to her words, which she perceived 
well enough, and therefore she sat still, and spake no more to 
him. But casting up her eyes and heart to God, she besought 
His grace and mercy for that hard-hearted man. When F. Ray- 
mund, who had evermore a diligent eye to the holy maid, had 
espied that, he spoke some words to Nanni to occupy him the 
while, nothing doubting but that she should work a better effect 
in him by that silent prayer than both he and she had done before 
with many words. And so indeed it proved ; for within a little 
time after, he spoke to them both after this manner: It shall 
not be said of me that I am so hard and untractable that I will 
have my own way in all things and relent in nothing. I will 
condescend to your mind in some one thing, and then I will take 
my leave of you. I have four quarrels in the city, of which I am 
content to put one into your hands. Do in it what you shall 
think good ; make you my peace, and I will abide your orders. 
With that he rose up, and would have gone his way; but on 
rising, being inwardly touched, he said these words to himself : 
O Lord, what comfort is this that I feel at this instant in my 
soul upon the only naming of this word " peace " ! And soon 
after he said again : < O Lord, O God ! what virtue or strength 
is this that holdeth and draweth me after this sort ! I have no 
power to go hence. I can deny you nothing that you require me. 
O Lord ! O Lord ! what thing may this be that thus enforceth 
me? And with that he burst out into weeping, and said: I 
am quite overthrown. I am not able to make any longer resist- 


ance. Then suddenly he cast himself down at Catherine s feet, 
and with marvellous great submission and abundance of tears, 
said these words : O blessed maid, I am ready to do whatso 
ever you command me, not only in this matter of peace, but also 
in all other things whatsoever they be. Hitherto I know well the 
devil has led me up and down fast tied in his chain, but now 
I am resolved to follow you whithersoever it shall please you to 
lead me ; and therefore I pray you for charity s sake be you my 
guide, and teach me how I may deliver my soul out of his bonds. 
At those words the holy maid turned to him and said, Brother, 
our Lord be thanked that you are now, through His great mercy, 
come to understand in how dangerous a state you stood. I spake 
to you concerning your soul s health, and you made light of my 
words. I spake to our Lord touching the same matter, and He 
was content to hear me. My advice therefore is, that you do 
penance for your sins in time, for fear of some sudden calamity 
that may fall upon you, which finding you unprovided, may other 
wise bear you down and quite overwhelm you. Nanni was so 
inwardly stricken with these words of the holy maid, that he went 
forthwith to Father Raymund and made a general confession of 
all his sins with great sorrow and contrition. And so, when he 
had made his peace with Almighty God, by the advice of F. Ray 
mund and virtue of the holy Sacrament of Penance, he was 
content likewise to submit himself to the order of the holy maid, 
and according to her direction and arbitration to make a firm 
peace with all his enemies. Within a few days after Nanni was 
thus converted, it chanced that he was taken by the governor of 
the city and cast into a strait prison for certain outrages that he 
had committed before. And it was commonly said among the 
people that he should be put to death, the which when F. Ray 
mund understood, he came to Catherine with a heavy cheer, and 
said, Lo, mother, so long as Nanni served the devil, so long 
did all things go prosperously with him. But now, since the 
time that he began to serve God, we see the world is wholly 
bent against him. This sudden alteration putteth me in great 
fear and doubt of the man, lest, being as yet but a young and 

VOL. I. R 


tender branch, he should be broken off by the violence of this 
storm, and so fall into despair. Wherefore I beseech you heartily, 
good mother, commend his state to God in your prayers, and as 
you have by your mediation delivered him from everlasting death, 
so do you endeavour also to deliver him from this temporal and 
imminent danger. To that the holy maid made answer, saying, 
Father, why take you this matter so heavily ? Methinks you 
should rather be glad of it, for by this you may conceive a very 
sure hope that our Lord hath pardoned him all his sins, and 
changed those everlasting pains that were due to him for the same 
into these temporal afflictions. When he was of the world, the 
world made much of him, as one that was his own ; but now, since 
he began to spurn at the world, no wonder if the world should 
likewise kick at him again. As for the fear that you have, lest 
he, being overcome with these calamities, should fall into despair, 
be of good comfort, and assure yourself that the merciful goodness 
of our Lord, that hath delivered him out of the deep dungeon of 
hell, will not suffer him to perish in prison. 3 And as she said, 
so it proved indeed, for within a few days after he was delivered 
out of prison ; his life was indeed spared, but for that they set 
a great fine of money on his head. Whereof the holy maid was 
nothing sorry but rather glad. For, said she, our Lord hath 
mercifully taken away from him that poison with the which he 
had before and might again have poisoned himself. " 

Nanni was not ungrateful to her who had delivered him from 
his miserable bondage ; and as soon as he regained his freedom 
he made over to her by deed of gift his great castle of Belcaro, 
about four miles out of Siena, that she might convert it into a 
convent. And this, as we shall show, she did a little later, dedi 
cating it under the title of Our Lady of Angels. 

It was not long before Catherine acquired such a reputation 
for success in the reconciliation of long-standing family feuds, 
that appeals were made to her arbitration from all quarters. As 
at Montepulciano, so also at Asciano, Semignano, and other of 
the towns and villages in the vicinity of Siena, there are indica 
tions in her letters of her exercising the good office of an angel of 


peace ; reconciling enemies, and not unfrequently administering 
some well-earned rebukes. 

At Semignano, a village about a mile out of Siena, two priests 
were themselves engaged in a deadly feud against each other, 
and St. Catherine was appealed to, to put a stop if possible to 
this frightful scandal. She wrote to one of them, and if her words 
are terrible in their severity, there is evidence that they were 
every whit deserved by the offender. It is thus that she addresses 
him : "Priest ! whom the august Sacrament which it is yours to 
administer renders dear to me, I, Catherine, the slave of the 
servants of Jesus Christ, write to you in His Precious Blood, 
desiring to see you a vessel of election, bearing worthily the name 
of Christ, and applying yourself to live in peace with your 
Creator and to make peace between His creatures. That is 
your duty, and you ought to fulfil it. If you do not do it, God 
will reprove you with severity. Respect the exalted dignity of 
your state. God in His mercy has appointed you to administer 
the fire of Divine Charity, I mean the Body and Blood of Jesus 
crucified. Oh think, the angelic nature enjoys not that honour : 
do but consider, He has put His Word into your soul as into a 
sacred vessel. You represent the person of Christ when you 
consecrate His Sacrament. Therefore, you should love and 
reverence your dignity with great purity and with a peaceful 
heart, tearing out from your soul every hatred and desire of 

"Alas! where is now the purity of God s ministers! You 
require a spotless purity in the chalice you make use of at the 
altar, and refuse to use one that is soiled ; remember then, that 
God, the Sovereign Truth, demands a like purity in your soul. 
Woe is me ! on all sides we behold the contrary. Those who 
should be the temples of God are the stables of swine : they carry 
the fire of hatred and vengeance, and an evil will in their souls. 
They forget that God sees them, and that His eye is ever over 
them, penetrating to the bottom of their hearts. Alas ! Alas ! 
Are we brutes without reason? One would say so, when one 
sees how we abandon ourselves to our wicked passions. The 


pride of man is now so great that he will not humble himself 
either to God or creatures. If any one injures him or threatens 
him with death, he will not pardon his enemy, and yet desires 
and expects that his own sins against God shall be pardoned. 
But he deceives himself; for with the same measure that he 
metes to others he shall be measured himself. ... I wonder 
how a man like you, whom God has drawn out of the world and 
made an earthly angel by making him the minister of His Sacra 
ment, I do wonder how you can hate. I know not how you 
dare to celebrate, I declare to you that if you persevere in this 
hatred, and in your other vices, the wrath of God will burst over 
your head. Let there be an end of this, reform your life, and 
cast out from your heart all this misery, and, above all, this deadly 
hate. I desire that you be both reconciled. What a disgrace to 
see two priests engaged in deadly hatred ! It is a marvel to me 
that God does not command the earth to open and swallow you 
both up. But courage ! there is yet time, have recourse to Jesus, 
and He will receive you if you will but go to Him. If not, you 
will be punished like the wicked servant, who, after he had been 
forgiven by his master, refused to forgive his fellow servant a 
paltry debt, and tried to strangle him. Then his master revoked 
his pardon, and bade them bind him hand and foot and cast him 
into the outer darkness. Our sweet Jesus left us those words as 
a warning to those who lived in the hatred of God and their 
neighbour. I will say no more ; but reply to me, and tell me 
what is your will and intention. May you abide in the love of 
God ! " l 

Such a letter as the foregoing suggests the answer to a question 
which inevitably presents itself when we read of the kind of work 
which fell into the hands of St. Catherine. How was it that in 
a Christian land the word of a woman should have been needed 

1 At Semignano, the residence of the unhappy man to whom this letter 
was addressed, there now stands the magnificent villa of Cetinale, where 
Alexander VII. was wont to spend his hours of learned retirement. In a 
chapel in this villa is preserved, among other relics, a bone of St. Catherine 
of Siena. She has a worthy claim to be venerated on that spot. 


to bring men to penance? were there not Priests, Bishops, Pastors 
of souls ? Alas ! it must be said : at this precise epoch the deepest 
and deadliest of all the wounds which were lacerating society was 
the corruption of manners among the clergy. Most religious 
orders were in a state of relaxation, and the example of the court 
at Avignon had spread among the prelates of the Church, to say 
the least, habits of worldly ease and luxury which cried aloud for 
reform. Not to state this fact plainly would be to omit what alone 
explains, and we may sxy justifies^ many of St. Catherine s acts 
and words ; a fact also which alone can enable us to comprehend 
how such events as the Great Schism in the fourteenth century, 
and the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth, could ever have 
come about. 

This terrible wound of the Church lay open to Catherine s eyes, 
and we see by her writings that she had probed it to its depths. 
It formed one part of her lifelong martyrdom to know all that she 
did know of the lives led by those whom, in her intense and 
living faith, she could think of only as "the Ministers of the 
Blood." If to love God and see Him offended be anguish to a 
loving soul, what must it have been to see every abomination of 
desolation brought even into the sanctuary? It caused her a 
horror which inspired her most burning words. " How ! " she 
exclaims, " God has not yet commanded the ground to open, or 
wild beasts to devour you : He still bids the earth yield you its 
fruits, and the sun to shed on you its warmth and light. The 
heavens still roll on in their course, that you may live and have 
time to repent ; and all this He does out of love ! " Again and 
again she reminds the priest and prelate to whom she bears 
the message of her Master that they are consecrated chalices, 
channels to convey to souls the ever-flowing torrents of the 
Precious Blood ; and alas ! reminds them, too, what kind of 
sacrilege it is to soil the sacred vessels of the sanctuary with the 
iniquities of avarice and sensuality. Hence she was ever praying 
for the reform of the Church ; a word which has been laid hold 
of by some writers as indicating that the Saint of Siena may be 
claimed as one of those precursors of the so-called Reformation, 


among whom are to be numbered such luminaries as Huss and 
Wickliffe. One passage of her own writing will be the best 
answer to this extravagant theory, and sufficiently explains in 
what sense she makes use of a word destined in after ages to bear 
so questionable a reputation; "Strengthen yourself," she writes, 
"in the sweet Spouse of Christ. The more tribulation and 
sorrow abound, the more does the Divine Truth promise an 
abundance of sweetness and consolation ; and this sweetness will 
be in the renewal of good and holy pastors, who like glorious 
flowers will offer to God the good odour of virtue. For this 
reform will only be in the ministers and pastors : the Church 
herself has no need of being reformed, for the fruit she gives can 
never be spoiled ?ior diminished by the sins of her ministers" * 

In addition to what has already been said of the demands 
made on Catherine as a healer of feuds, there were other sources 
of trouble and civil distraction which naturally arose out of a 
society seething with successive revolutions. In the purely 
political side of these matters Catherine took no part ; neverthe 
less the tumults and popular changes of the republic always 
brought to her door some new work of charity. She was not 
one to harangue mobs, or take on herself the part of a politician, 
but when the excitement was over, she was ever at hand to soothe 
the susceptibilities which had been roused, and bring comfort to 
many a wounded heart. Thus, when in 1373 the populace 
clamoured for the blood of Vico di Mugliano, senator of Siena, 
who had earned their hatred by hanging a good many public male 
factors and banishing others, Catherine was ready with her words 
of consolation to support his terrified wife, who in her dismay 
had sent her word that she had no other hope than in the holy 
virgin s prayers. 

Daughter of the people as she truly was, she never shrank 
from giving her sympathy to the victims of the revolutionary 
government, whose leaders were not long in power before they 
showed themselves in the light of cruel tyrants. The state prisons 
were filled with unhappy beings, whose crimes were of no blacker 
1 Letter 90. 


dye than those of Agnolo d Andrea, condemned to death for 
giving a banquet to which none of the " Riformatori " had been 
invited. But even into those darksome dungeons the charity of 
Catherine penetrated. On a certain Holy Thursday, when full 
of the thought of the Passion of her Lord, the solemn celebration 
of which is just then commencing, her heart wanders away to 
those forlorn ones whom she had already doubtless visited ; and 
she strives to render their sufferings more tolerable to them by 
reminding them of One, who for their sakes had suffered torture 
and imprisonment. " O my sweet Love, Jesus ! " she exclaims, 
" did not You endure for us opprobrium and ill treatment ? were 
You not bound and buffeted and scourged at the column, tied 
and nailed to the cross, drenched with ignominies, tormented 
with thirst; and for Your relief they gave You nothing but 
vinegar and gall, and You bore it all with patience, and prayed 
for Your murderers ? O unutterable mercy ! You not only prayed 
for them, but excused them, too, saying, Father, forgive them, 
for they know not what they do/ Oh, my children, it is impos 
sible that you should not bear your misfortunes patiently ; for in 
the memory of the Blood all bitter things become sweet, and all 
hard things easy. Remember that you have to die, and you know 
not when ; prepare then by confession and Communion, that after 
death you may rise again to grace with Christ Jesus." 

These victims, whether of justice or state tyranny, were the 
objects of her peculiar tenderness. She saw in them the likeness 
of her adorable Master, as He passed to Calvary loaded with 
chains to die between two malefactors. Hence she was no 
stranger to the " Giustizia," or place of public execution ; many 
a time had she taken her place in the grim procession as it set 
out from the Piazza of the Old Market, and leaving the city by 
the Porta della Giustizia, made its way through the Val di Mon- 
tone and ascended the little hill called the Corposanto a Pecorile, 
opposite to which was the church of St. Stefano, where the bodies 
of those executed were buried. 1 Those who would venerate each 
footprint left by Catherine of Siena, should follow that track with 
1 See Grottanelli s notes to Leggenda Minore, p. 53- 


a kind of awful reverence. She came thither not once, but often ; 
Simon of Cortona tells us in his deposition that she converted, 
and brought to confession, many who were led to execution in a 
desperate state ; and Caffarini declares that he could not number 
the occasions when she gave help to the dying ; whether those who 
had been slain by their enemies, or those who paid the penalty 
of their crimes on the public scaffold. Of the first-named act of 
charity no example has been preserved, but one is recorded of 
the second, and by no other than her own pen. 

A young knight of Perugia, named Nicholas di Toldo, was 
accused of having spoken against the Riformatori, and advised 
his friends in Siena to shake off their odious yoke. He was 
arrested and condemned to death. The sentence fell on him 
like a thunderstroke and drove him to the madness of despair. 
Of noble birth and full of gallant hopes, with all his passions 
unsubdued, he could not resign himself to give up his life while 
yet the young blood was coursing through his veins, and the world 
spread itself before him as a fairy land of enjoyment. He had 
never cared for his religious duties, never even made his first 
Communion, so that when that terrible decree had gone forth, 
there was nothing to brighten the path that lay before him. A 
day or two more in his miserable dungeon, and when next he 
should be restored to the light of day that bright sun in which he 
had revelled would shine only on the black cart that would be 
carrying him to the gallows. In his utter misery he bethought 
him of Catherine ; he had heard of her, but they had never met. 
Still, her name was in every one s mouth, and men said her power 
of consolation was something boundless ; so, forsaken of every 
other hope, the unhappy youth despatched a messenger, and 
implored her to come to him in his prison. She came, and when 
the awful scene was over, she wrote the following narrative to 
Raymund of Capua. 

" I went to see him whom you know of, and he was so cheered 
and encouraged that he confessed at once to F. Thomas, and 
showed the best dispositions possible. He made me promise, for 
the love of God, that when the time of execution came I would 


be with him. I promised him, and I kept my promise. In the 
morning before the sound of the bell I hastened to him, and my 
arrival greatly comforted him. I took him to Mass, and he com 
municated for the first time in his life. He was perfectly resigned 
to God s will, and had no other fear than that his courage might 
forsake him at the last moment. But God in His goodness 
inspired him with such a love of His holy will that, penetrated 
with a sense of His adorable Presence, he kept repeating the 
words, Lord, be with me ! Abandon me not, Thou art with me 
now, and all must go well with me ! I die content ! Oh, how 
at that moment I longed to mingle my blood with his, and shed 
it all for our sweet Spouse Jesus ! This desire increasing in me, 
and seeing my poor brother agitated by fear, I said to him : 
Courage, my brother ! we shall soon be at the eternal nuptials. 
You are going to die washed in the adorable Blood of Jesus, and 
with His sweet Name upon your lips ! I charge you forget it not, 
and I will wait for you at the place of execution. Now think, 
my father, how his soul must have lost all fear; for his face was 
transformed from sadness to joy, and he said in a kind of tran 
sport, Whence comes such a grace to me as this, that the sweet 
ness of my soul should wait for me at the holy place of execution ! 
You see what great light he must have had to have called the place 
of execution holy. Then he said : I shall go strong and full of 
joy ; it seems to me as if I should have to wait a thousand years 
till I see you there ; and he added other words so sweet that I 
was amazed as I beheld the goodness of God. 

"I went then to the place of execution, where I ceased not to 
invoke Our Lady and St. Catherine the martyr. But before he 
arrived, I knelt down and placed my own neck on the block, but 
alas ! my desire was not fulfilled. Oh, how I prayed that Our 
Lady would obtain for him at that last moment light and peace 
of heart, and for me, the grace of seeing him attain his end. My 
heart was so full, and the impression of the promise I had re 
ceived so deep, that in the midst of all that crowd of people I 
saw no one. At last he came, and like a meek lamb he smiled 
when he saw me, and desired I would make the sign of the cross 


on his forehead. I did so, saying, Depart to the eternal 
nuptials ; soon, very soon, you will be in the life that never ends. 
He extended himself on the scaffold, and with my own hands I 
placed his head under the knife ; then I knelt by his side, and 
reminded him of the Blood of the spotless Lamb. His lips 
murmured the words, Jesus and Catherine. Then the knife 
fell, and I received his head in my hands. I fixed my eyes on 
the Divine goodness, and lo ! I beheld, as clearly as one beholds 
the light of the sun, Him who is God and Man. He was there ; 
and He received that blood. ... He received it, and placed it 
in the open Wound of His Side, in the treasury of His mercy. . . . 
Oh, how lovingly He looked on that soul bathed in the blood 
made precious by being united to His own ! Then Father, Son, 
and Holy Spirit received him ; and he was inundated with a joy 
that would have ravished a thousand hearts. And then I saw 
him turn, as the bride does when she reaches the door of the 
bridegroom ; she turns and bows her head to salute those who 
have conducted her there, and to give them a last farewell. 
Then all disappeared, and I felt a delicious peace, and the per 
fume of that blood was so sweet to me, that I would not suffer 
them to wash away what had fallen over me. Alas ! miserable 
that I am, still to be left to linger in this wretched world ! " l 

1 The last paragraph, which in the letter (Let. 97) is very obscure, receives 
a perfect explanation from the following passage in the Leggenda Minore. 
It will be remembered that the writer is F. Thomas Caffarini, who was 
present on this occasion. 

"La quale disse poi al suo confessore, e anco a not altri, che benche si 
fusse grande moltitudine di gente, essa non vedeva neuno. Ma ben vide Jesu 
Cristo benedetto che in virtu della sua santissima passione accetto il sangue 
di quello agnello ingiustamente sparto, con la sua volonta in tutto accordata 
con la volonta di Dio, a portare pazientamente questo martirio. Unde in quello 
punto introdusse quella benedetta anima nell eterno regno. E prima che 
intrasse st rivolse dietro, inchinandosi alia vergine in segno di ringraziamento. 
(Leg. Min., Part 2, chap, vii., p. 94). The date of Nicholas di Toldo s death 
is uncertain, but it occurred after the Saint had become acquainted with 
Raymund of Capua (to whom the letter describing his death is addressed), 
and therefore some time later than June 1374. It forms the subject of a fine 
fresco by Sodoma, in the chapel of St. Catherine in the Church of San 


At this most wonderful scene, F. Thomas Caffarini was per 
sonally present, and he has carefully described it in the Process. 
He says, at the moment when the axe fell, Catherine received 
the head in her hands, being in an ecstacy. Her eyes were fixed 
on heaven, and her eyelids motionless, and so she remained for 
a long space. The spectators were all in tears, and declared they 
were witnessing the death of a martyr rather than the execution 
of a criminal ; while Catherine, heedless of all around her, was 
beholding in spirit the happy soul of him, whose blood was flow 
ing over her garments, ascend to heaven, and before entering the 
eternal portals turn to give one last look of gratitude on her whose 
amazing charity had rescued him from perdition. " I saw it all," 
says Caffarini, " and never at the most solemn religious festival 
have I witnessed such devotion as there was displayed at his 

It must not be gathered from what has been said of Catherine s 
horror of feuds, or of her wondrous pity for criminals, that she 
was on the one hand deficient in that appreciation for brave men 
and brave deeds which finds a place in every woman s heart that 
is attuned to what is noble ; or that, on the other hand, her com 
passion for the erring was akin to weakness. In the righteous 
cause of God or country, Catherine would have buckled on the 
sword of the combatants, and followed them with her prayers to 
the battlefield. Some of her letters addressed to knights and men 
at arms seem to ring with the very sound of the tourney. 
Perhaps there are no figures of speech in which she appears more 
entirely at home than with those of knighthood and battle. " Our 
King," she says, writing to the Prior of the Knights of St. John, 
" Our King, like a true knight, remained on the battlefield till all 
His foes were conquered. With His flesh all torn with scourges, 
He vanquished our rebellious flesh ; by His ignominies, He over 
came the pride, and by His wisdom the malice of the devil, and 
with His unarmed hands, pierced and nailed on the Cross, He 
has conquered the prince of this world. Our knight mounted on 
His battle-steed, the wood of the most holy Cross, and for His 
cuirass He took the flesh of Mary, that clothed in it He might 


receive the blows which should satisfy for our iniquities. The 
helmet on His head is that cruel crown of thorns that pierced to 
His very brain ; His sword is that wounded Side which displays 
to us the Secret of His Heart, a gleaming sword, indeed, that 
should pierce our hearts with ardent love ; and for His lance, He 
bears the reed given Him in derision. The gauntlets on His 
hands, and the spurs on His feet, are the rosy Wounds in the 
Hands and Feet of that sweet Word. Who armed Him thus ? 
It was Love. What bound and nailed Him to the tree of the 
Cross? not the nails, nor the stones, nor the earth in which it 
was planted ; they could not have held fast the Incarnate God. 
It was nothing but the bond of love, love for God s honour and 
our salvation. Oh, what heart could behold such a knight and 
such a chieftain, at one and the same time dying, yet a conqueror, 
and not be ready to overcome all his weakness, and go forth 
bravely against all his foes ! It is impossible. Take then Jesus 
crucified for your model ; dye your tunic 1 in His crimson Blood, 
and by Him you will triumph over all your enemies." 

Nor, when occasion served, did Catherine shrink from reading 
a lesson to the magistrates of the republic, and telling them some 
honest truths which, had they proceeded from any other lips, 
might have sent the speaker to the dungeons of the Palazzo 
Pubblico. " My Fathers and Brothers in Jesus Christ," she says 
(writing to the * Magnificent Lords Defenders of the people ), " I 
desire to see you true and faithful Christians, full of zeal for holy 
justice, which should shine like a precious jewel on your hearts ; 
stripped of self-love, so that you may be able to apply yourselves 
to the general good of the city and not your own private interests. 
A man who thinks only of his own interests has very little of the 
fear of God ; he does not observe justice, but breaks it in a 
thousand ways ; he allows himself to be corrupted sometimes for 
money, sometimes to please those who ask him to do them a 
service in an unjust way; sometimes also, to avoid the just 
punishment of his own faults, he will let off those on whom the 
stroke of justice should fall. And so he shares in the guilt and 
1 The tunic worn by the knights on state occasions was of crimson velvet. 


deserves to suffer the same punishment which he has been bribed 
to spare another. Yet if a poor man were to do the thousandth 
part as much, he would punish him without mercy. 1 

" A wretch like this who is appointed to govern the city, and 
yet does not know how to govern himself, cares not to see the 
poor oppressed ; he despises their rights, while he listens readily 
enough to those who have no rights to plead. But it is no wonder 
that such men commit injustice when they are cruel even to 
themselves, wallowing in sensuality like swine in the mire. 
Proud and senseless, they cannot bear to hear the truth. They 
tear their neighbours to pieces and wring out of them unjust 
gains, and commit a thousand other offences which I will not 
weary you with enumerating. I wonder not that such as these 
fail in administering holy justice; and therefore it is that God has 
permitted, and still permits, that we should suffer from chastise 
ments and scourges, the like of which I verily believe have never 
been seen since the world began." 2 

Truly, there spoke the " Blessed Popolana," the " Daughter of 
the People," fearless and true, striking her blows home to guilty 
consciences, and appalling them with her clear, calm words ; the 
advocate of the poor, the lover of justice, the healer of discords 
and the champion of truth. 

And here we close the first part of Catherine s history, to which 
for the most part belong those narratives which display her to us 
exercising her mission of chanty within the walls of her native 
place or its immediate vicinity. Those who have trodden its 
streets best know how ineffaceable are the footprints which she 
has left behind her. At every turn they are met by some memory 
of her who, belonging to a city so rich in Saints, still remains and 
will ever remain the Saint, by excellence, of Siena. They gaze 
at the grand old church as it stands on the summit of its grassy 
hill, and behold, it may be, in pious imagination the vision of 

1 This passage is aptly enough illustrated by the affair of Andrea Salimbeni, 
narrated in the last chapter. It was not, however, written on that occasion, 
but some years later. 

2 Letter 204. 


beauty which first won the heart of Catherine to her Eternal 
Spouse. They descend to the fountain by the very path down 
which so many a time she came to draw water for those homely 
household duties she loved to discharge, and which, ever blended 
with tales of vision and rapture, remind us that her life was all 
the time the life of a sister and a daughter, perfumed through 
and through with the charities of home. They enter her house, 
and stand within her chamber; they see the little window and 
the hard brick steps beneath, where she rested her head. And 
in that sanctuary they kneel to do homage to the greatest of all 
the Divine works ; the sanctity of which a human heart is capable 
when the will of God is substituted for the will of the creature : 
and they contemplate in amazement the close union which He, 
by His grace, renders possible between Himself and the frail 
mortal espoused to His Heart, in " the Perfection of Faith and 

Part BE. 





IN the year 1305, in the reign and at the solicitation of Philip 
le Bel, Pope Clement V. transferred the residence of the 
Popes from Rome to Avignon. Urgent as the causes may have 
been which prompted this measure, its effects on Italy and the 
Church at large were most disastrous. The six successors of 
Clement were all Frenchmen by birth and sympathies; and 
having purchased from Joanna of Naples the sovereignty of 
Avignon, they established themselves in the fairest city of France, 
and drew around them the most splendid and luxurious court in 
Europe. The cardinals also were all but exclusively French ; 
and from their ranks were drawn the legates sent into Italy to 
VOL. i. s 

274 URBAN V. 

govern the States of the Church. Their indifference to the popu 
lations over whom they ruled, and their undoubted misgovern- 
ment and rapacity, brought the Holy See itself into contempt, 
and sowed the deadly seeds of hatred and rebellion. All good 
men lamented what in the writings of the times was stigmatised 
as the second Babylonish Captivity, and minds as widely apart 
in their sympathies as were those of Francis Petrarch and St. 
Bridget of Sweden alike sighed for the day of deliverance. 

Urban V. was the first to conceive and attempt the execution 
of a project for returning to Rome. Deaf to the remonstrances 
of his French courtiers, he left Avignon in the May of 1367, and 
reached Rome in the following October. His progress was one 
long triumph. When the rumour of his coming first spread 
through Italy it awakened high hopes and passionate rejoicing. 
Queen Joanna of Naples and all the maritime republics sent their 
galleys to conduct him to the Italian shores ; and when he landed 
at Corneto, St. John Colombini was waiting on the landing-place 
to receive him, surrounded by his followers, "the poor men of 
Siena," with rose garlands on their heads and olive branches in 
their hands. All the way to Viterbo they ran beside his litter, 
singing praises to God and telling the Pope how glad they were 
to see him. When he entered Rome, the sad and melancholy 
streets of that long-deserted city put on its beautiful garments to 
greet him, and every house appeared garlanded with flowers. 
All the princes of Italy were there, taking part in the glorious 
procession. Nicolas of Este, Lord of Ferrara, headed his body 
guard ; Ridolfo of Camerino bore aloft the standard of Holy 
Church ; while walking at the Pope s bridle, in the character of 
Master of the Horse, was Amadeus IV., the brave Count of Savoy. 
Two thousand bishops, abbots, and ambassadors followed, and 
conducted Urban to the palace of the Vatican. It was a day of 
splendid promise, which ended in as bitter a disappointment. 
During the three years that Urban remained in Rome he did 
enough to vindicate the wisdom of the step he had taken ; but 
the calamities of a century could not be dissipated in three years, 
and a nearer view of the unhappy country, as it lay lacerated by 


its intestine wars, petty tyrannies, and the ravages of the Free 
Companies, so disheartened him, that in 1370, overcome by the 
entreaties of his French cardinals, and desirous, as it is thought, 
of stopping a renewal of hostilities between France and England, 
he returned to Avignon, to die. 

Some writers, and among others Isidore Ugurgieri, have repre 
sented this visit of Pope Urban s to Rome as due to the representa 
tions of St. Catherine. But there is actually no ground for such a 
supposition. In the year 1367 she was only just emerging from 
her life of retreat, and though she must have heard not a little about 
the great event from the lips of the Colombini family, and though, 
doubtless, her own heart responded to the universal joy, yet it is 
quite certain that at that time she had as yet taken no part in 
public affairs outside her own city. 1 

The cardinals, on whom devolved the election of Urban s 
successor, regarded with dismay the possibility of a second 
departure from Avignon, and thought to secure themselves against 
such a danger by electing one who, while his virtues rendered 
him well worthy of their choice, seemed of all men the least likely 
to undertake a difficult and unpopular enterprise. Peter du 
Rogier de Beaufort-Turenne, who took the name of Gregory XI., 
was only thirty-six years of age, of blameless life, and enjoying 
a reputation, writes the Florentine ambassador, Lucius Coluzzi, 
"for prudence, modesty, circumspection, faith, goodness, and 
charity ; and what is yet rarer to find in a great prince, for truth 
in his words and loyalty in his actions." 

Despite his gentle and even timid character, Gregory was 
capable of great purposes, and from the moment of his accession 
one desire filled his breast. It was to bring about the pacification 
of Europe by the proclamation of a CRUSADE. The word falls 
dull and meaningless on the ears of our generation, or associates 

1 Ugurgieri in his Fasti Senensi (part 2, lib. viii., p. 143) affirms as a fact, 
that Urban V., desiring to reform the monastery of Monte Cassino, appointed 
as abbot Dom Bartholomew of Siena, at the recommendation of St. Catherine. 
Malevolti, the historian of Siena, likewise says that she wrote to this Pontiff, 
but if so, none of her letters to him have been preserved. 


itself to the notion of a scheme of half-crazed enthusiasm. To 
regard it in that light, however, is to betray but an imperfect 
comprehension of history. Neither would it be at all accurate to 
suppose that the announcement of such a project in the fourteenth 
century burst on the world and took it by surprise, as the 
revival of an idea long obsolete. In fact, there was nothing at 
all new in it ; it had been the cherished desire not of this holy 
soul or of that, but, in turn, of all the Sovereign Pontiffs. So 
long as the safety of Christendom was threatened on the side of 
the infidels, that is, for the space of about six centuries, those 
who successively filled the Apostolic See were ever seeking to 
raise a bulwark against their further advance westward, and 
persevered in unavailing efforts to rouse Christian kings and 
nobles to a sense of their terrific danger. What they desired, 
and were ever seeking to promote, was to oppose to the onward 
wave of barbarism the fair front of a united Christendom. The 
fratricidal wars between France and England were for a long 
course of years the great obstacle to the realisation of these 
hopes ; and we have but to turn to history to see what were the 
efforts of the Roman Pontiffs to put a stop to those miserable 

This project of the crusade, then, was the first thought which 
Gregory shared in common with Catherine. Indeed, most writers 
represent him as first moved to act in this matter by her persua 
sions : but such a supposition falls very far short of the truth. 
He was but following the constant tradition of the papacy when 
he proposed to raise the standard of the holy war, and thereby at 
one and the same time to check the advance of the infidels, and 
sheathe the swords which were drenching the fair fields of his 
native land in torrents of Christian blood. Gregory was every 
way moved to take a keen interest in the last-named matter. A 
Frenchman by birth, he was not without a tie to England. He 
had resided in that country, where he held the office of Arch 
deacon of Canterbury ; he was the intimate friend of William of 
Wykeham, to whom he seems to have sent the first tidings of his 
election to the papal chair; and he gladly welcomed English 


prelates to his court, and was no stranger to their habits or 
language. It was but natural that to one of his gentle character 
the chief ambition which filled his breast should be that he might 
become a pacificator between two nations both equally dear to 
him. His first act, therefore, after his election in 1371, was to 
write letters to the king of England, the court of Flanders, and 
the doge of Venice, calling on them to come to the defence of 
Holy Church and turn their arms against the Turks. He 
bestowed on Raymund Berenger, Grand Master of Rhodes, the 
rich domain of Smyrna to be an outpost against the enemy ; and 
to unite in one body the Christians of the East and of the West, 
he had it in his mind to call a congress in which to settle the 
plan of the crusade and raise the necessary means for its 
commencement. But at the very moment when the father of 
Christendom was thus concerting schemes for the pacification of 
Europe and the repulse of the common enemy, two of the 
maritime powers on whom he chiefly relied for the accomplish 
ment of his purpose, took up arms against one another in a 
miserable quarrel. War broke out between Genoa and Venice ; 
the navy of the former state was despatched against Cyprus, and 
thus the project of the congress for that time ended in smoke. 

Still the crusade itself was not abandoned, and the design of 
the new Pontiff was well known throughout Europe. It was a 
thought which had long occupied the mind of Catherine, and she 
must have rejoiced with exceeding great joy when she understood 
that the Vicar of Christ was labouring for its accomplishment. 
Though far from believing that it owed its birth to her suggestion, 
we deem it almost certain that the projected Crusade formed the 
matter of their earliest communication, and that her letters of 
sympathy and encouragement on that subject were the first links 
of their mutual friendship. 

But whatever may have been Catherine s enthusiasm for the 
holy war, not less urgent was her solicitude for the peace of Italy. 
How are we to condense in few words the unutterable woes under 
which that unhappy country was at this period writhing ? Yet we 
must make the attempt, even though it should seem to transform 


the page of sober history into the semblance of some monstrous 

In the middle of the fourteenth century, then, Italy presented 
the spectacle of every variety of government. Her old republican 
institutions were falling into decay, and in many states the sove 
reign power had been seized by some fortunate adventurer who 
raised himself to the position of its tyrant. Thus, in the north, 
almost all Lombardy was bent under the sway of the Visconti. 
Bernabo Visconti, Duke of Milan, a great military genius, an 
astute politician, and a patron, moreover, of art and men of 
letters, had spent the greater part of his life in arms against the 
Church. Wholly indifferent to all religious obligations, he had 
grown accustomed to excommunication during the Pontificates of 
Innocent VI. and Urban V., and mocked at the censures of the 
Church with a profanity worthy of the age of Voltaire. Indeed, 
he seems to have united in his single person the brutality of the 
eleventh, the astute cunning of the sixteenth, and the scepticism 
of the eighteenth centuries. Muratori gives a summary of his 
game laws that casts those of our Norman tyrants into the shade. 
No man was allowed to kill or eat a wild animal under pain of 
death. His five thousand hunting dogs were quartered on the 
convents, and the monks were expected to keep them well fed and 
bring them to a monthly review. Those who failed to bring up 
their dogs in good condition were fined, flogged, or otherwise 
tortured. At the approach of his huntsmen the miserable 
peasants quailed in abject fear. None had the courage to rebuke 
the tyrant save two friars who, valuing their lives as nothing for 
God s sake, entered his presence and reminded him of death and 
judgment. Bernabo with a hideous laugh ordered them at once 
to be burnt alive. He had gradually obtained possession of his 
large dominions by a long course of cunning and treachery. One 
example may suffice as showing the origin of his war with 
Gregory XI., and aptly illustrating the anarchy which everywhere 

Gonzaga, Duke of Feltrino, governed the city of Reggio as 
feudatory of the pope. Este, Marquis of Ferrara, leagued with some 


of the inhabitants to deprive him of his sovereignty; and having 
hired a company of German Free Lances, commanded by the 
celebrated Condottiere Lando, he loosed these ruffians against the 
unhappy city, expecting them to resign their conquest into his 
hands according to the terms of their mutual bargain. Lando 
soon made himself master of the place, but after frightful 
slaughter and the desecration of every sanctuary, he found it 
more to his advantage to listen to proposals made him by 
Bernabo, to whom he sold the city for 25,000 gold florins. The 
rights of Feltrino and of the Holy See were naturally as little 
regarded as the contract with the Marquis, for whom it is impos 
sible to feel much sympathy when he found himself the dupe of 
a more sagacious scoundrel than himself; and it was by various 
achievements of a like character that Bernabo contrived to gain 
possession of other territories of the Church. 

After fruitless appeals and embassies, Gregory at last pro 
nounced against him sentence of excommunication. But to a 
man like Bernabo such a sentence only afforded matter for some 
grim pleasantry. When Urban V. had adopted a similar measure, 
Bernabo had met the Legates who were bringing the Bulls of 
excommunication on the bridge of Lambri, and required them to 
eat the parchment on which they were written, on pain of being 
flung into the river. Then he dressed the Pope s ambassadors 
in white garments, and paraded them through the streets of 
Milan; and when the Archbishop ventured a remonstrance 
against such acts, he answered fiercely : " I would have you to 
know that I am Pope, emperor, and king in my own domains, 
nor shall God Himself do here what is contrary to my will." 
When the news reached him of his fresh excommunication by 
Gregory XL, he dressed up a poor madman in some ridiculous 
vestments, and commanded him to excommunicate the Pope. 
In 1372, therefore, Gregory declared war against him: he 
obtained the support of the Emperor, the queen of Naples, and 
the king of Hungary ; and took into his pay the English leader, 
Sir John Hawkwood. Bernabo did not feel himself strong 
enough to oppose an alliance so strong, or so redoubtable a 


general : he had recourse, therefore, to his usual weapon of 
cunning, and despatching ambassadors to Avignon, proceeded to 
bribe some of Gregory s counsellors, in order to obtain for him 
self a favourable truce. Meanwhile Cardinal Peter D Estaing, 1 
whom Scipio Ammirato calls " a man of large heart and wise 
head," was appointed Legate of Bologna. This was in the year 
1372, and the letter alluded to in the last chapter, as the first of 
a positively political character which Catherine is known to have 
written, is addressed to him by her on hearing of his appointment. 
But as a French writer has well remarked, this letter shows her to 
be already in the possession of a political influence, not in its 
infancy, but fairly established. When the curtain rises to display 
her public life at last begun, we find to our wonder that in reality 
it must have begun long before. It is impossible to read her 
letter to Cardinal D Estaing and for a moment to doubt that they 
were personally, and even intimately acquainted. Perhaps in a 
former visit to Italy he had passed through Siena, and visiting 
the holy maid of the Fullonica had conferred with her on what 
lay close to both their hearts the peace of Christendom and the 
proclamation of a Crusade. It was certainly no stranger whom 
she addresses with that graceful play upon words impossible to 
render into English: "Scrivo a voi con desiderio di vedervi 
legato nel legame della carita, siccome siete fatto Legato in Italia, 
secondo che o inteso." 2 Observe, too, on this first page of her 
correspondence that beloved name of ITALY ! and what has she 
to say to him ? 

" Son and servant, redeemed in the Blood of Jesus ! " she cries, 
" follow His footsteps promptly and bravely : suffer not yourself 
to be held back either by suffering or pleasure ; but apply your 
self to root out the iniquities and miseries caused by the sins 

1 In St. Catherine s Letters, those to D Estaing bear the title, "To the* 
Cardinal Peter of Ostia." But this has been added by some later hand, and 
is an anachronism. D Estaing afterwards became Bishop of Ostia, but he 
was not so at the time of his appointment as Legate. 

2 "I desire to see you bound with the bonds of charity, as I hear you have 
been made Legate in Italy." The significance, of course, is in the double 
meaning of the words legato (bound) and Legato (Legate). 


which outrage the name of God. Hunger and thirst for His 
honour and the salvation of souls that you may repair so many 
evils; use the power given you by the Vicar of Christ in the 
sweet bonds of charity, without which you cannot discharge your 
duty. Be strong in Christ, then, and zealous, not negligent in 
what you have to do ; and thereby I shall know that you are a 
true Legate if you have a longing to behold the standard of the 
holy Cross at last displayed on high ! " In a second letter she 
urges him to restore peace to the distracted country. "If 
possible, make peace," she says ; " is it not miserable to see us 
with arms in our hands, fighting one against another, whilst every 
faithful Christian should be ready to do battle only against the 
infidels ! The servants of God are overwhelmed with sorrow 
when they see nothing on all sides but deadly sin and perishing 
souls ; whilst the devils rejoice, for they have it all their own 
way. Peace peace, peace, then, dear Father ; urge the holy 
Father to think more of the loss of souls than the loss of cities, 
for souls are dearer than cities to the heart of God." l 

Meanwhile strange to say, Bernabb had bethought him of 
addressing himself to the holy virgin, of whose marvellous powers 
he had often heard. He believed that if he could only establish 
relations with her, it would patch up his reputation as a pious 
Christian, and stand him in good stead with the court of Avignon. 
He therefore stooped to try and gain the good graces of the 
"Popolana" of Siena, and in reply to his overtures received a 
letter which made him comprehend that there could be no fellow 
ship between Christ and Belial. It must have stung his brutal 
pride to the quick to have been told that "to glory in one s 
human power is a folly and a madness," and that " no man can 
properly be called the lord or master of anything here below, 
because he is only steward of the one real Master." Then she 
reminded him of the Blood of Redemption, and that he who 
holds the key of that Blood is the Vicar of Christ. How mad 
then is he who revolts against Jesus in the person of His Vicar ! 
" Do nothing I charge you, then," she says, " against your Head. 
1 Letter 24. 


The devil will persuade you that you may and ought to punish 
the faults of wicked pastors. Believe him not, and lay not your 
hands on those who are the Lord s anointed. He reserves that 
right to Himself, and has confided it to His Vicar. Mix yourself 
no more up in these affairs, but govern your own cities in peace 
and justice ; punish your subjects when they do amiss, but judge 
not the ministers of the Precious Blood. You can only receive 
It from their hands, and if you do not receive It, you are a dead, 
corrupt member cut off from the body of the Holy Church ! " 
Then she adds a word of terrible warning. " Think not because 
Christ appears to see nothing in this life that He will not punish 
in the next. When our soul departs out of our body we shall 
then know to our cost that He has indeed seen all." And she 
concludes by inviting him to repair the past by taking the cross 
and turning his arms against the infidels. " You must now come 
to the help of him whom you have hitherto resisted. The holy 
Father is raising the standard of the holy Cross it is his one 
wish and desire. Do you be the first to solicit him to carry out 
his enterprise. Truly it were a shame for Christians to leave the 
infidels in possession of what is our own by right. Be ready then 
to give your life and all that you have for the cause of Christ 
crucified." How great must have been the opinion in which 
Catherine was held even by such characters as the Visconti, may 
be guessed by the fact that not only did Bernabb endeavour to 
make her his friend, but that his wife, Beatrice Scaliger (or La 
Scala), the proudest, vainest, and most ambitious woman of her 
time, despatched a trustworthy envoy of her own to the holy 
virgin, whom possibly she thought to dazzle by so bewildering a 
condescension. The character of Beatrice, like that of the 
Visconti themselves, was that of a thorough parvenue. Her 
ridiculous assumption went so far that she insisted on being 
given the title of Queen, though her husband had never assumed 
the royal dignity. She demanded adulation from everybody, and 
no doubt expected it from the Saint; and even on her tomb, 
after death, there blazed the pompous words of courtly flattery, 
" Italic? splendor, Ligurum Regina Beatrix. " Catherine replied to 


her humbly enough, addressing her with the homely title of 
" Reverend Mother in Christ," and requesting her to become 
the instrument of reconciling her husband to the Pope. Always 
happy in her mode of adapting her exhortation, she suggests to 
the haughty dame some wholesome counsel against the pride of 
wealth and the love of display, and tells her that she ought to 
look on herself as the appointed means for leading her husband 
to a better way of life, and keeping him in the paths of virtue ; 
an idea which was probably the very last to suggest itself to 
Donna Beatrice as any part of her vocation. There was one 
other member of the Visconti family with whom Catherine was 
in correspondence, as is proved by a letter addressed by her to 
the Saint in 1375. This was Elizabeth, daughter to the Duke of 
Bavaria, and wife of Bernabb s eldest son. From this letter we 
learn what we should not otherwise have known, that Catherine 
contemplated a personal visit to Milan for the purpose of secur 
ing the Duke s adherence to the cause of the Crusade. " Your 
proposed visit here," writes the princess, " has filled us with a joy 
no tongue can tell, as we hope thereby to receive great consola 
tion." It is needless to say the journey to Milan never took 
place, having probably been frustrated by the negotiations with 
Florence in which the Saint soon after became involved. 

D Estaing concluded a truce with Bernabb, a step prompted 
no less by the entreaties of Catherine than by Gregory s natural 
mildness of character, and his aversion to bloodshed. " Far be 
it from me," he replied to Bernabb s ambassador, "that I should 
be at enmity with any one." In a purely political point of view, 
however, the truce was a mistake ; for had the allies pushed their 
advantage at that moment against the Visconti, their odious 
power would probably have been broken ; whereas the modera 
tion shown them, however creditable to the clemency which 
inspired it, met with no other return than renewed treachery. 
For the moment, however, the restoration of peace facilitated the 
prosecution of the Crusade, and the powers who had joined the 
league against Bernabb were naturally those whose support 
Gregory solicited for his cherished design. To them also 


Catherine as naturally addressed herself. She was unavoidably 
drawn into the current of public affairs by the constant appeals 
made to her for advice and direction by men in high position. 
Thus, when in 1372 Gerard du Puy, the abbot of Marmoutier, 
and a kinsman of the Pope, was named Governor of Perugia and 
Apostolic Nuncio in Tuscany, his first thought was to write a 
letter to Catherine and ask her advice as to his future course. 
We have her reply ; and we gather by it that the Nuncio must 
have written, not in his own name, but rather in that of the 
Sovereign Pontiff. In this fact we possibly come on the first 
link of the chain which united the future lives of Gregory and 
Catherine. She writes as follows : 

" I have received your letter, my dear Father, and it gives me 
great joy that you should deign to think of a creature so vile as 
I am. I think I understand it ; and in reply to the three ques 
tions you ask me on the part of our sweet Christ on earth, I think 
before God that he ought above all things to reform two great 
evils which corrupt the spouse of Christ. The first is the exces 
sive love of relations; that abuse should be entirely and every 
where put a stop to. The second is a weakness which springs 
from too much indulgence. Alas ! the cause of all these corrup 
tions is that no one now reproves ! Our Lord holds in aversion 
three detestable vices above all others they are impurity, avarice, 
and pride. And they all reign in the spouse of Christ at least 
among her prelates, who seek after nothing but pleasures, honours, 
and riches. They see the demons of hell carrying off the souls 
confided to them, and they care nothing at all about it, because 
they are wolves, and traffic with Divine grace. It needs a strong 
hand to correct them, but over-compassion is real cruelty ; only 
in order to reprove we must blend justice with mercy. 

" I hope, by God s goodness, the abuse I first spoke of, the 
excessive love of relations, is beginning to disappear, thanks to the 
unwearied prayers of His servants. The spouse of Christ will 
be persecuted, no doubt, but she will, I trust, preserve her beauty. 
As to what you say of our sins, may God show you the abundance 
of His mercy. I, your poor little daughter, will take the penalty 


of your sins on myself, and we will burn yours and mine together 
in the fire of charity. As to the other point, in urging you to 
labour for Holy Church, I was not so much thinking of temporal 
things ; the care of them is all very well ; but what ^ou ought 
chiefly to work at in concert with the Holy Father is to use every 
effort to drive out of the sheepfold those wolves those incarnate 
demons who think of nothing but good cheer, magnificent ban 
quets, and superb equipages. What Christ gained on the wood 
of the Cross they spend in guilty pleasures. I conjure you, should 
it cost you your life, urge the holy Father to put a stop to these 
iniquities. And when the time comes for choosing pastors and 
cardinals, let not flattery and money and simony have any part 
in their election, but entreat him as far as possible to regard 
nothing but the good qualities of the persons proposed, and give 
no heed whether they are nobles or peasants. Virtue is the only 
thing which really makes a man noble, or pleasing to God. This 
is the work I recommend you, my Father : other works no doubt 
are good, but this is the best. I recommend myself to you a 
hundred thousand times in Christ Jesus." l 

We may, I think, safely infer that in 1372, when this very 
interesting letter was written, Catherine was not yet in direct 
communication with the Holy Father. Had she been, it would 
not have been requisite for her to say what she had to say through 
the intervention of a third party. Equally evident is it that 
Gerard had been deputed by Gregory to ask her opinion, and 
the next step would easily follow of a direct communication 
between Catherine and the Pope. In this light, then, the letter 
is an important link in the chain of our present history ; but it 
has also a melancholy interest of another kind. It gives us a 
glimpse of what those disorders were which at various times drew 
from the Saint such tremendous denunciations. Her language 
no doubt was strong, and so was that of the prophets when they 
declared, " Woe to the pastors who devour the sheep," and 
" destroy the Lord s vineyard ; " so, too, was that of the Chief 
Pastor when He unveiled the abomination of the Scribes and 
1 Letter 41. 


Pharisees, and drove out from His sanctuary the miserable money 
changers who had converted it into a den of thieves. It was 
language that could only find a place on the lips of one to whose 
loving faith the Church was Christ Himself, and the ministers of 
His sanctuary by their office, earthly angels; for such alone 
could measure the abyss of misery into which those would fall 
who should profane so sacred a calling. 

In the meanwhile, advantage was taken of the interval of peace 
to urge on the prosecution of the Crusade, which was publicly 
proclaimed by the Pope in the beginning of 1373; and whilst 
Gregory was despatching fervent and eloquent letters to the 
Emperor, and the kings of Hungary and Bavaria, as well as to 
the knights of St. John in England, Bohemia, France, Portugal, 
and Navarre, Catherine, on her part, addressed herself to those 
personages of importance with whom she had been brought into 
communication during the course of late events, and among 
others to Queen Joanna of Naples. 

As the name of this unhappy woman will often occur in our 
subsequent pages, a few words must here be devoted to remind 
the reader of her character and history. Not a few writers have 
sought to draw a parallel between her story and that of the no 
less unfortunate Mary Stuart, and the points of supposed resem 
blance between them are obvious at a glance. Both were Queens- 
regnant, both thrice engaged in the ties of marriage, 1 both charged 
with the assassination of one of their husbands, and both them 
selves the victims of a violent death. For the rest, those to whom 
the good name of Mary Stuart is wellnigh as dear as their own 
(and in spite of the freaks of our pseudo-historians such persons 
still exist) will feel a reluctance to see it so much as occupy the 
same page with that of Joanna of Naples. 

We have no great love for tales of scandal, and no skill in their 
narration, but one incident in the history of this celebrated woman 
must be briefly touched on, as throwing light on some future 
passages in our story. After the death of her first husband, 

1 The above expression is not literally accurate, for Joanna was four times 


Andrew of Hungary, whom she was accused of having caused to 
be suffocated, Joanna fixed her affections on Prince Charles of 
Sweden, who visited Naples with his mother, the celebrated 
St. Bridget. Charles was already married, but the infamous 
queen did not fear to press him to divorce his wife and accept 
her hand. St. Bridget, trembling for the soul of her son, recom 
mended him to God, desiring rather to see him die than fall a 
victim to so detestable a conspiracy. Her prayer was heard, for 
Charles fell sick and died a holy death, and was thus preserved 
from the terrific danger. Those who desire to know in what 
light the character of Queen Joanna was made known to the 
royal Saint of Sweden may read the awful vision which is described 
in the Seventh Book of her Revelations. 1 

However, at this precise time the measure of Joanna s iniquities 
was not full ; she had not entirely lost all womanly reputation, and 
she had shown herself a zealous supporter of the Holy Father in 
the league against Bernabo. Her adhesion to the Crusade was 
of paramount importance, as the head of a great maritime state 
which, by its geographical position, held command of the southern 
Mediterranean, and was in the direct line to Palestine, half-way 
between west and east. So Catherine writes to her, and informs 
her that the Holy Father has sent letters to the Provincials of the 
Friars Minors and the Friars Preachers, "and to one of our 
Fathers, a servant of God," 2 bidding them preach the Crusade, 
and seek out in all Italy those who should be ready to offer their 
lives for the faith. She conjures the Queen to join the holy cause 
of the Church, and prepare the necessary forces ; and it would 
seem that her appeal received a gracious answer, for in her next 
letter Catherine thanks her for her reply which has filled her with 
joy, and reminds her in her felicitous style of the glorious title 
which she bears as Queen of Jerusalem. In fact, the sovereigns 
of Naples had assumed this title since the year 1272, in conse 
quence of their descent from John of Brienne, one of the last 
kings of Jerusalem. Very beautiful are the words in which she 

1 St. Bridget, lib. vii. chaps, ii., xi. 

2 i.e., Raymund of Capua. 


takes this empty and unmeaning title, and makes it a text to 
remind her to whom she speaks, that after the sovereignties of 
this perishable world shall have passed away, there is awaiting us 
another crown and another kingdom, and the heritage of the 
eternal Jerusalem. She also wrote to the queen-mother of 
Hungary, begging her to use her influence with her son King 
Louis, and get him to take the Cross. " Persuade him to offer 
himself to the Holy Father/ she says, "and to assist him in his 
project of the Crusade against those wicked infidels the Turks, 
who, they tell me, are about to undertake fresh conquests. No 
doubt you have heard how they persecute the faithful, and possess 
themselves of the dominions of the Church. I have written to 
the Queen of Naples and many other princes. They have all 
replied favourably, and have promised help in men and money, 
and seem impatient to see the Holy Father raise the standard of 
the holy Cross. I trust in God he will soon do so, and that you 
will follow their example." In short, at this moment everything 
seemed to promise success to the enterprise ; when on the Tuscan 
horizon there arose a little cloud. Bernabb Visconti, unable to 
meet the allies in the field, had adopted a policy worthy of him 
self. Having by a feigned submission secured for himself excel 
lent terms, he applied himself to work underground, after the 
fashion of a mole, in order to destroy the power of the Sovereign 
Pontiff in Tuscany, and foment all existing discontents. It was 
his cunning and slanderous tongue which first whispered into the 
ears of the Florentines that the real object of Gregory was to 
enslave Tuscany, and deprive her cities of their independence. 
Unhappily, the folly of some of the Legates gave a colour of 
probability to the suggestion. In a former chapter we spoke of 
the petty civil war that was being waged between the citizens of 
Siena and some of her turbulent nobles, particularly Cione Salim- 
beni. He was causing endless trouble and bloodshed to his dis 
tracted country, yet he found support and encouragement from 
Gerard du Puy, the Legate of Perugia. Bernabo failed not to 
point to this fact in confirmation of his statement, and quoted it 
as a fair sample of the future policy to be looked for from the 


court of Avignon. Other steps as imprudent and impolitic on 
the part of the Legates were used with a like skill, and thus were 
sown seeds of disaffection, which needed but an accident to ripen 
into open insurrection. It will be seen in a subsequent chapter 
in what way this was at last brought about, and a storm raised 
which for ever swept away all hopes of the holy war. 

VOL. I. 



T was not until the February of 1375 that Catherine found 
herself able to comply with the renewed and pressing soli 
citations of her friends at Pisa that she would repair to that city ; 
nor did she finally yield her consent until moved to do so by the 
express wish of the Holy Father, who committed into her hands 
certain important negotiations with the magistrates of the republic. 
In obedience to his commands, therefore, she set out, accom 
panied by Raymund of Capua, Master John III., F. Thomas 
della Fonte, Alexia, Lisa, and her own mother Lapa, who, fore 
seeing that her daughter s absence from Siena would be of some 
duration, refused to be left behind. 

Her reputation, as we know, had preceded her, and the 
eagerness to behold the Saint of Siena was so great that the 
citizens gave her a public reception. In the crowd which on 
that occasion assembled to welcome her, there appeared, besides 
the Sisters of Penance, who were very numerous in Pisa, the 
Archbishop, Francesco Moricotti da Vico, and Peter Gambacorta, 
the renowned chief of the republic, who brought with him his 
daughter Thora, then a young maiden of thirteen. 

Catherine was received as a guest by Gerard Bupnconti, in a 
house which may still be seen in the street where stands the little 
Church of St. Christina. 1 Gerard and his brothers, Thomas, 
Francis, and Vanni, were already well known to the Saint. Their 
sister, Agnes, now became her disciple, and was afterwards one 
of the first companions of B. Clara Gambacorta. The three 
1 Baronto in his deposition calls the house "Juxta Cappellam S. Christina" 


younger brothers had at Catherine s solicitation taken the Cross ; 
Gerard, as a married man, being excused from joining them. 
The chamber which she occupied in his house is still shown, 
together with the Madonna before which she was accustomed to 
pray ; nor is it strange that these relics of her residence at Pisa 
should have been carefully preserved, for her visit was of some 
duration, and rich in incident. 

Almost the first day of her arrival, her host, Gerard Buonconti, 
brought to her a youth about twenty years of age, on whose behalf 
he begged her charitable prayers. For eighteen months the poor 
sufferer had been subject to attacks of fever which had resisted 
all medical skill and reduced him to a miserable condition. 
Fixing her eyes on the young man, Catherine at once asked him 
how long it was since he had been to confession. " Not for some 
years," was his reply. " Know then," she said, " that God thus 
afflicts you on account of this neglect ; go, therefore, and wash 
away the sins that infect your soul, for they are the real cause of 
your bodily infirmity." Then sending for F. Thomas, she com 
mitted the youth to his care ; and when, having made his con 
fession, he returned to the holy virgin, she gently laid her hand 
on his shoulder, saying, "Go, my son, in the peace of Jesus 
Christ, and in His name I bid thee have the fever no more," and 
from that moment he found himself entirely delivered from his 
troublesome malady. 

One main motive which had determined Catherine on under 
taking this journey was the hope that, by her influence, she might 
keep the cities of Pisa and Lucca faithful to the Sovereign Pontiff. 
The quarrel between the republic of Florence and the court of 
Avignon had already begun ; and the Florentines were using 
every effort to draw all the other cities of Tuscany into a great 
league against the Church. The very first letter which has been 
preserved from Catherine to Gregory XI. appears to have been 
written shortly after her arrival at Pisa, and alludes to these affairs 
and to the difficulty in which the Pisans found themselves placed. 
"I beg of you," she says, "to send the inhabitants of Lucca and 
Pisa whatever paternal words God may inspire you to utter. Help 


them as much as you can, and encourage them to stand firm and 
faithful. I am here, using every effort to induce them not to 
league with the guilty parties who are in revolt against you ; but 
they are in great perplexity, for they receive no encouragement 
from you, and on the other hand they are threatened by your 
enemies. However, as yet they have promised nothing. I 
earnestly beg of you, therefore, to write to Master Peter, kindly 
and without delay." (Letter i.) 

Master Peter, here named, was, of course, Peter Gambacorta, 
the Captain of the people, and first Anziano (or Ancient) of the 
republic. He was at that time in the enjoyment of undisputed 
power; and James Appiano, who eighteen years later betrayed 
and assassinated him, was then his chosen friend, and filled the 
office of chancellor. Peter s support and alliance was essential 
to the success of the contemplated Crusade. Pisa was the great 
naval republic of the Middle Ages, and though at the time of 
which we are speaking her power had been considerably broken 
by her wars with Genoa, yet she was still an important maritime 
state. With such traditions as adorned her history, it was not to 
be doubted that she would fling herself with enthusiasm into the 
holy war whenever it should commence in earnest. Of all the 
cities of Europe none was more closely linked than she was to 
the cause of Palestine, and none could boast of prouder achieve 
ments in the long struggle waged by Christendom against the 
infidels. As Catherine passed through the streets and visited 
the churches, with her heart and her thoughts full of the Holy 
Land, she would everywhere around her have seen its sacred 
memorials. That noble Cathedral, the glory of Italy, was a 
thank-offering for the success of the Pisan fleet, sent in 1063 to 
assist the Normans in freeing Sicily from the Saracen yoke. 
Breaking the chain that guarded the harbour of Palermo, the 
Pisan ships attacked the enemy and won a glorious victory ; and 
returned home with six captured vessels and abundant booty. It 
was the best age of faith and of chivalry ; and with the treasures 
thus gained the brave citizens resolved to raise a sanctuary to 
God which should be a worthy tribute of their gratitude. Then 


there was the Campo Santo, the beautiful cloisters of which were 
built to receive the earth brought from Mount Calvary in fifty- 
three Pisan ships by Archbishop Ubaldo Lanfranchi, in the days 
of Saladin. These cloisters were being decorated almost at the 
time of Catherine s visit with the celebrated frescoes which, even 
in their decay, still impress us with awe and admiration ; some of 
them being the work of her own countryman, Simon Memmi. 
We are not left merely to conjecture whether she ever paid her 
devotions in this holy spot, and kissed the soil once watered by 
the Price of our Redemption : we have sufficient proof of the 
fact, were any needed, in the letter she afterwards addressed to 
" James and Bartholomew, hermits in the Campo Santo." (Letter 
1 86.) Nor would she fail to have visited such churches as St. 
Sisto, erected to commemorate four victories, all gained over the 
infidels in different years on the feast of that saint ; or St. Stephen s, 
where hung, and still hang, the banners and scimitars taken by 
the knights of St. Stephen from the Turks. Nay, a yet stranger 
memorial of that distant Eastern land, bound close to every 
Christian heart as by the tie of home, might be found in the 
camels, whose ancestors had been brought thither by crusading 
heroes, and whose uncouth forms would have met her eye as they 
passed through the streets, laden with water-skins, or carried their 
loads of wood in the pine forests outside the city walls. 1 

Naturally, therefore, there was much in the very exterior aspect 
of Pisa which kept alive in Catherine s mind the thought of the 
Crusade. And as it happened, she found on her arrival in the 
city the ambassador of the queen of Cyprus, who was waiting 
there for a favourable wind in order to pursue his journey to 
Avignon. Eleanor, queen of Cyprus, was a daughter of the 
prince of Antioch, and governed the island for her son, Peter II., 
during his minority. The same island, which in the strange 
transformation of European policy is now held by England for 

1 Beckford describes the oriental appearance which these animals in his 
day imparted to the streets of Pisa. About two hundred of them may still 
be seen at the dairy farm of San Rossore in the suburbs ; and are said to be 
descended from the same lofty ancestry. 


the protection of the Turkish Empire, was then regarded as an 
outpost of Christendom, which Europe was bound to defend 
against the advancing Turkish hordes. Gregory, who was well 
. aware of the importance of the island, as well as of the dangers 
by which it was threatened, had placed the queen under the 
special protection of Raymund Berenger, the grand-master of 
Rhodes. But as the inroads of the Turks were daily advancing 
nearer, Eleanor now despatched an embassy to Avignon to 
implore more efficient aid. The ambassador, whose name has 
not been preserved, sought an interview with Catherine ; and we 
may well imagine how her heart kindled as she gave ear to the 
tales he had to tell. They brought in living reality before her 
the cause for which she would gladly have shed her blood ; and 
listening to his narrative on that heroic soil, where all around 
her recalled the memory of the holy wars, she felt a renewed 
desire to see all brave and noble hearts rally to the defence of 
Christendom, and to do what in her lay to rouse them to embrace 
so glorious an enterprise. It would be impossible to quote all the 
letters she wrote during her residence at Pisa with the hope of 
infusing into the princes and nobles whom she addressed some 
thing of her own generous enthusiasm. Nor must it be supposed 
that she was content with mere pious exhortations on the subject. 
These letters bear evidence that in some directions her negotia 
tions had obtained very substantial results. " Oh ! " she exclaims, 
writing to F. William Flete, " could I but hear that word which 
all the servants of God are longing to hear : Go forth out of 
thine own home and thine own land ; follow Me. and offer the 
sacrifice of thy life ! I assure you, my dear Father, when I con 
sider that God is perhaps giving us at this time an opportunity of 
dying for His Name, I feel as if my soul would depart out of my 
body. The time seems fast approaching, and everywhere we find 
men in excellent dispositions; I suppose you know that we 
despatched Brother Giacomo to the governor of Sardinia with a 
letter about the Crusade. He sent a very gracious reply, saying 
he would come in person, and furnish for ten years two galleys, a 
thousand horsemen, three thousand foot-soldiers, and six hundred 


arbaletiers. Genoa also is full of enthusiasm; every one there 
seems ready to offer his person and his fortune. God will surely 
draw glory out of all this." (Letter 125.) 

But by far the most singular episode connected with St. 
Catherine s efforts on behalf of the Crusade was the attempt she 
made to gain the adherence of Sir John Hawkwood and his 
company of Free Lances* This design, had it been crowned 
with succesSj would indeed have been a master-stroke of policy ; 
at one and the same time ridding Italy of a terrible scourge, and 
securing for the Christian armies the assistance of the most skil 
ful general of the time. It will not be a digression from the 
subject in hand if we here say a few words on the origin of these 
Free Companies and the position which they then occupied in 
society. A great change in the military system of Europe, espe 
cially in Italy, was taking place in the middle of the fourteenth 
century. The feudal custom of rendering personal military ser 
vice was now often enough exchanged for the payment of sums 
of money, which were devoted by the sovereign to the hire of 
mercenary troops. This change brought with it two great evils : 
the people lost their military habits, and a new class of men we re 
created, most formidable to society. These were the bands of 
foreign companies, known as Free Lances, or Companies of 
Adventure, composed of disbanded troops of all nations ; indif 
ferent as to the cause for which they fought, their only motive in 
bearing arms being the hope of plunder and the freedom of a 
lawless life. Very soon these mercenaries, when discharged from 
the service of a state or republic, began to gather together under 
leaders of their own, and to make war on their own account. 
This system of brigandage first began in 1343, when the republic 
of Pisa having disbanded a large body of German cavalry which 
had been employed in the war with Florence, the troops united 
into a free company under a chief known as " the Duke Guarnieri " 
(or Warner), and roamed over Italy, levying contributions from 
the peaceful inhabitants. A little later followed a yet more 
formidable body under the command of Conrad Lando, to whom 
the rich cities of Tuscany and the Romagna paid large sums in 


order to purchase immunity from their ravages. None of the 
foreign partisan chiefs or Condottieri, however, were so famous as 
the Englishman, Sir John Hawkwood, called by Italian writers 
Agutus. 1 The son of a tailor, he had served in the French wars 
under Edward III., from whom he received his knighthood ; he 
was a man of true military genius, and Hallam calls him, " the 
first real general of modern times, the earliest master in the 
science of Turenne and Wellington." After the peace of Bretigni, 
a large number of the disbanded troops, who had hitherto found 
employment in the wars between France and England, gathered 
under Hawkwood s standard, so that he found himself at the 
head of a powerful army, with which he was engaged for upwards 
of thirty years waging war sometimes in the pay of Bernabb 
Visconti, the tyrant of Milan, sometimes in that of Florence, 
sometimes of the Pope, and not seldom living on the contribu 
tions or plunder of the states through which he marched. Urban 
V. took vigorous measures for freeing France from the scourge 
of the Free Companies, and succeeded to a great extent in 
driving them out of that country ; but in Italy the evil had taken 
a yet deeper root, chiefly owing to the decay of military spirit 
among the citizens of the northern republics. They were con 
stantly engaged in petty wars one against another, and being 
unable to fight their own battles, were obliged to have recourse 
to these paid brigands. One great object which Gregory XL 
had in view for urging the Crusade was, as we have seen, the 
hope of pacifying Italy by engaging in this enterprise all the 
restless spirits who filled the ranks of the Free Companies. He 
had very early addressed himself to Hawkwood for this purpose, 
and would appear to have received some vague promise, which 
however did not restrain the English chief from continuing 
his destructive raids ; for in 1374, the very year in which Tuscany 
was ravaged by that famine which was the immediate occasion of 
the war between Florence and the Holy Father, Hawkwood s 

1 The Italian variations of Hawkwood s name are worth preserving : 
Auguto, Aguto, Acuto, Haukennod, Hau Kennode, Hau Kebbode, Haucutus, 
Aucobedda, and Falcon del Bosco ! 


Company appeared to increase the misery of the suffering popu 
lation. Angelo de Tura di Grasso, the author of the " Annals 
of Siena," thus speaks : " On the i2th of July 1374, the Company 
which had been in Lombardy came into Tuscany to make trouble 
between the Church and Messer Bernabb. They made a truce 
for eighteen months, and all the cities of Tuscany bought them 
selves off, and their captain was Messer John Acuto" 

We have now to see how it was that St. Catherine was brought 
into communication with this redoubtable leader. In one of her 
letters to Nicholas Soderini, which bears no date, but which 
appears to have been written during her stay at Pisa, she says to 
him, " The time is come for us to use our treasure in a sweet 
merchandise. Do you know what I mean ? Nothing else than 
the sacrifice of our lives for God, by which means we may expiate 
all our sins. . . . The flower is about to open and shed forth its 
perfume. I am alluding to the Holy Crusade, about which the 
Sovereign Pontiff, the Christ on earth, wishes to know our dis 
positions. If men are ready to give their lives for the recovery of 
the Holy Land, he will help them with all his power. This is 
what he says in the Bull which he has sent to our Provincial, to 
the Minister of the Friars Minors, and to Father Raymund. He 
recommends them to ascertain the favourable dispositions which 
may be found in Tuscany and elsewhere, and to let him know the 
number of those who desire to join the Crusade." 

The presence in Tuscany at this very time of the English 
commander and his well-disciplined Company suggested to St. 
Catherine the idea of despatching F. Raymund to him with a 
letter from herself. This letter appears in the old Aldine edition 
of her epistles, with a heading (omitted in Gigli s edition) which 
runs as follows : " To Messer John, Condottiere and head of the 
Company which came in the time of the famine ; which letter is 
one of credentials, certifying that he may put faith in all things 
said to him by F. Raymund of Capua. Wherefore the said F. 
Raymund went to the said Messer John and the other captains, 
to induce them to go over and fight against the infidels, if it 
should happen that others should go. And before leaving he had 


from them and from Messer John a promise on the Sacrament 
that they would go, and they signed it with their hands and sealed 
it with their seals." Then follows the letter : 

" Dear and well-beloved brothers in Christ Jesus, I, Catherine, 
the servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, write to you 
in His Precious Blood, desiring to see you true knights of Christ, 
willing if need be, to give your lives a thousand times in the 
service of our sweet Jesus, Who has redeemed us from all our 
iniquities. Oh, my dear brothers, that you would enter a little 
into yourselves, and consider the pains and torments that you 
have endured whilst you were in the pay and service of the devil ! 
My soul desires now to see you quite changed, and enrolled 
under the Cross of Christ crucified ; you and all your comrades 
forming a Company of Christ, and marching against the infidel 
dogs who possess the holy places where the Sweet and Eternal 
Truth lived and died for us. I beg of you, therefore, in His 
name, that since God and our Holy Father give the orders to 
march against the infidels, and since you are so fond of fighting 
and making war, you will fight no more against Christians, for 
that offends God, but go and fight against their enemies. Is it 
not a cruel thing that we who are Christians, members of one 
body, the Holy Church, should attack and slaughter one another ? 
Do so no more, but set out with holy zeal and with quite other 

"I am astonished that you, who, I am told, had formerly 
promised to go and die for Christ in the holy wars, now persist in 
carrying on war here. It is not a good preparation for what God 
demands of you, by calling you to those holy and venerable 
places. You ought to be now preparing yourself by the practice 
of virtue for the moment when you and your companions may 
give your lives for Christ Then you would show yourselves to 
be brave and gallant knights. This letter will be given you by 
Father Raymund ; believe all he tells you, for he is a true and 
faithful servant of God ; and he will advise you nothing that is 
not for God s honour and the salvation of your own souls. In 
conclusion, my dear brothers, think of the shortness of time. 


Abide in the sweet love of God ! Catherine, the useless 

The promise thus extorted from Hawkwood and his comrades 
was conditional on the Crusade actually taking place ; and as it 
never did take place, the promise of course fell to the ground. 
Burlamacchi, however, in his notes to this letter bids us remark 
that Catherine s appeal was not entirely without fruit, for from 
that time Hawkwood only used his arms in just and regular war 
fare, entering into the pay first of Gregory, then of the Floren 
tines, and finally into that of Urban VI. , for whom we shall 
hereafter see him doing good service. I fear we must admit that 
these fluctuations between the service of the Church and the 
republic were not very honourable to the memory of the English 
chief; and that, in spite of his promises, he did not altogether 
abstain from private brigandage. However, Sir John Hawkwood 
was decidedly the most skilful, and perhaps not the very most 
rapacious of the Condottieri, " the greatest nor the worst " of the 
Free Lance captains. The Florentines, whom he served with a 
certain amount of fidelity during many years, regarded him with 
esteem and admiration, and on the occasion of his death in 1394, 
they decreed him a public funeral of extraordinary splendour. 
He lies buried near the chief entrance of the church of Santa 
Maria del Fiore, the cathedral of Florence, where may still be 
seen his equestrian portrait, painted by Paolo Uccello at the 
command of the magistrates. Another monument to his memory 
formerly existed in the parish church of Sybil-Headingham, in 
Essex (the birthplace of this singular man), rebussed with hawks 
flying through a wood ; but it has long since been destroyed. 

The great affair of the Crusade did not so entirely engage 
Catherine s attention as to hinder her charity from being claimed 
on behalf of many souls who gathered around her, attracted by the 
fame of her sanctity. In the letter from the Blessed John Dominic 
to his mother, which has already been quoted, he refers to what 
he himself witnessed at this time. " In the year 1375," he says, " I 
heard her at Pisa speak to many sinners, her words being so 
profound, burning, and full of power, that she at once trans- 


formed these vessels of impurity into vessels of purest crystal, as 
Jesus Christ did to St. Mary Magdalen, as we sing in the hymn 
of that saint." 1 We should have been glad if this illustrious 
writer had given us some more exact particulars of these conver 
sions, but like too many of the Saint s biographers he contents 
himself with referring to facts instead of relating them. His 
account, however, corroborates that of Raymund, who speaks of 
the wonderful power which she exerted over those who approached 
her, and which was exhibited in a very special degree at this 
time. Many of those who came to see her would kneel down and 
kiss her hand, at which some took scandal. Among others there 
was a certain famous physician in Pisa named John Gittalebraccia, 
who determined on visiting Catherine that he might put her 
sanctity to the test. He came, therefore, in company with Peter 
Albizi, a very learned lawyer; and Master John, who was the 
younger of the two, began as follows : "We have heard, Sister 
Catherine, a great deal of your virtue and your knowledge of 
Holy Scripture, and have come to gather some instruction from 
your lips. I wish to know how you explain the passage where we 
are told that God spoke when He created the world. How could 
He speak ? Has He a mouth or a tongue ? " And he went on 
further in the same strain, putting a great number of similar 
questions ; and then paused, awaiting her reply. Catherine, who 
had listened in modest silence, answered, " I wonder that you who 
teach others should say that you come to seek instruction from a 
poor little woman like me, whose ignorance you should rather 
enlighten. However, as you desire me to speak, I will say what 
God may inspire. It would be of very little purpose to me to 
know how God, Who is a Spirit and not a body, spoke in creating 
the world. What does matter both to me and to you is to know 
that Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of God, took flesh and 
suffered to redeem us. It is necessary for me to believe in Him, 
and to meditate on Him, that my heart may be full of His love, 
W T ho died for the love of me." She continued for some time to 

1 In vas translata gloriae 
De vase contumeliae. 


speak in this way, and that with so much fervour and unction, 
that at last Peter Albizi could not restrain his tears, and falling on 
his knees he begged her pardon for having tried to tempt her. 
Catherine knelt likewise, and begged him to rise ; and then they 
had a long spiritual conference, which ended by his asking her to 
stand sponsor to his infant daughter. She promised to do so, 
and from that time both John and Peter became, her zealous 

But the unfavourable judgments which were passed on the 
Saint, in consequence of the exterior signs of respect which were 
shown by those who resorted to her, induced Raymund to make 
his own representations on the subject. "Why do you not forbid 
people who come to you to kiss your hand?" he asked. "The 
world says you like this sort of homage, and it causes scandal ; 
are you certain that such things never cause in you a movement 
of vainglory ?" Catherine replied with her usual frankness, "As 
to the first part of your question, my dear Father, I assure you 
I never observe what they do ; I am too much engaged with the 
interior disposition of their souls, and I certainly do not like it ; 
as to the second, / marvel how any creature, knowing herself to be 
a creature, can find it possible to be moved to vainglory." 1 Noble 
words, which deserve to be numbered among the Saint s pro- 
foundest utterances. 

Yet to one whose humility rested on a less solid basis, the 
admiration and popularity which Catherine excited at Pisa might 
truly have been perilous. She could not stir out of her house 
without gathering a crowd about her. Among other depositions 
in the process is that of the Cistercian Abbot, Baronto di Ser 
Dato. He was a novice of sixteen, in the Dominican Convent of 
Santa Caterina, at the time of Catherine s first visit to Pisa ; but 
afterwards entered the Cistercian Order, and became Abbot of 
the monastery of St. Thomas at Venice. He deposes to having 
frequently seen the Saint in ecstasy, both in the church of St. 
Christina, and likewise in that of St. Catherine. One day when 
she was crossing the Piazza in front of the latter church, the 
1 Process, Dep. of Caffarini. 


crowd of persons of all ranks and conditions who thronged about 
her was so great, that Baronto, wishing also to see her, and being 
quite unable to do so, bethought him of climbing the wall of an 
old tomb hard by, and was about to do so, when Catherine, 
knowing his purpose in spirit, though she could not so much as 
see him, nor he her, called out in a loud voice, bidding the by 
standers prevent that young religious from climbing the wall, as 
it was unsafe. This proved to be the fact, and the incident soon 
became known throughout the city. He also relates that having 
some habitual indisposition he went to. Catherine, and kneeling 
down, begged her to procure for him the same relief which she 
had obtained for so many others. But she replied, " My son, 
this infirmity will be profitable to you, and will be the means of 
your ultimate salvation ; were you to be cured of it you would 
fall into many sins ; you will never, therefore, be quite free from 
it, but it shall not so gravely incommode you as to hinder you in 
your religous duties." And her words proved true, for though 
he consulted many physicians, and took every possible means of 
restoring his health, he suffered from this malady in a less 
aggravated form to the end of his days. 1 

We will now pass on to give some account of two of 
Catherine s Pisan friends who were hereafter like her to find a 
place in the calendar of the Dominican Order. The first of 
these was Thora Gambacorta, destined to commence, that reform 
of the order, so long one of the cherished desires of Catherine s 
heart. She was born in 1362, and while still a child was espoused 
to Simon di Massa, whom, however, she never saw after her 
seventh year, for he went to serve in foreign wars, and died without 
returning to Pisa. During Catherine s stay in the city a great 
intimacy sprang up between her and the young girl, who two 
years later was left a widow. As soon as she found herself thus 
set free from worldly engagements, she resolved to dedicate 
herself to God. That in this resolve she was advised and 
encouraged by Catherine is evident from the letters addressed to 
her by the Saint, in which, after alluding to the cruel opposition 
1 Process, fol. 210. 


which Thora had to encounter on the part of her family, she 
counsels her " to enter the bark of holy obedience ; it is the 
safest way, and makes a soul advance not in her own strength 
alone, but aided by that of the Order." (Letter 322.) In another 
beautiful letter she seeks to confirm Thora in her generous 
resolution, by setting before her the nothingness of the world and 
the infinite treasures we possess in God. " If our heart be 
stripped of the world it will be full of God, but if it is empty of 
God, it will be full of the world. We cannot serve two masters. 
Let us then free ourselves from the yoke of the tyrannical 
world and give ourselves generously to God; all to God, without 
division, without reserve, without pretence, for He is our own 
God, and beholds the most secret folds of our hearts. What 
folly to wait for a time that may never be ours ! We are always 
deferring and delaying ; if God presents one thing to us we take 
another ; we fear more to lose some passing pleasure than to lose 
God Himself. And so He justly permits that the soul that loves 
earthly things with irregular affection shall become weary of them 
and insupportable to itself. Such a soul suffers from what it 
possesses, through fear of losing it ; and it suffers from what it 
does not possess, desiring to obtain it ; and so it is never at 
peace, because all things that are in the world are less than the 
soul. God, and God alone, knows, and wills, and can give us 
more than we know how to desire. In Him alone the soul can 
find peace, because He is the infinite riches, and wisdom, and 
beauty, and goodness ; and He will fill to overflowing the holy 
desires of those who strip themselves of the world for His sake." 
(Letter 323.) 

What wonder if such words, from such a teacher, bore fruit in 
the sanctification of her to whom they were addressed ? Thora 
found courage at the age of fifteen to resist the entreaties, and 
even the violence of her father and brothers, and flying first to 
the Franciscan Convent of St. Martino took there the name of 
Sister Clara. But before her profession she was forcibly seized 
by her father and imprisoned at home for five months, at the 
end of which time she was released through the interference of 


Alphonsus di Vadaterra, Bishop of Jaen, and formerly confessor 
to St. Bridget. He was one of the most influential religious of 
the time, and had a special hold over the heart of Peter 
Gambacorta, for in former days they had been fellow pilgrims to 
the Holy Land. His mediation obtained Clara s release, and 
eventually her father founded the Dominican Convent of the 
Holy Cross, into which she entered with four companions in the 
year 1382, establishing there such strict observance, that the new 
convent became the cradle of reform to the entire Order, in 
which she is now venerated as the Blessed Clara Gambacorta. 

Another beatified saint of the Dominican Order was likewise 
gained to religion by Catherine during her residence in Pisa. 
This was the Blessed Mary Mancini. She was the daughter of 
Bartholomew Munguto, and her baptismal name was Catherine. 
She had been twice married, and was living as a devout secular 
at the time of Catherine s coming to Pisa. A strict friendship 
sprang up between them ; and we are told that on Easter Day, 
the two being together in prayer in the chapel of the Annunziata, 
attached to the Dominican Church of Santa Caterina, they were 
in the sight of all the people covered by a beautiful and brilliant 
cloud, out of which there flew a white dove. Most writers tell 
us that it was at this time that Catherine persuaded her friend 
to enter the Third Order of Penance ; while others say that Mary 
did so in consequence of a vision in which the Saint appeared 
to her after her death. She subsequently entered the convent 
of the Holy Cross, and governed it as Prioress after the death of 
Blessed Clara. 

Meanwhile Catherine was still suffering from the same infirm 
state of health which she had pleaded in the previous year as an 
excuse for not coming to Pisa. At no period of her life, indeed, 
did her physical strength appear less equal to the demands of her 
fervid and energetic soul. " During her whole sojourn at Pisa," 
says Raymund, "her continual ecstasies so enfeebled her body 
that we thought her at the point of death. I dreaded losing her, 
and considered what means I could take to revive her strength 
when thus exhausted. Meat, eggs, and wine she held in abhor- 


rence, and yet more, any kind of cordials. At last I bethought 
me of asking her to let me put a little sugar into the cold water 
which she drank. But she answered a little quickly, Alas, Father, 
would you utterly quench the little life that is left in my body ? for 
you know that all sweet things are like a deadly poison to me. " 

It was a difficult case ; nevertheless, Raymund and their good 
host, Gerard Buonconti, set themselves to consider what they 
could find to give her some refreshment. " Then," says Ray 
mund, " I remembered having seen in similar cases the temples 
and wrists of an invalid bathed in a certain red wine, called the 
wine of Vernaccia, which caused much relief. I proposed to 
Gerard that as we could give her nothing which she could take 
interiorly, we should try and administer this exterior remedy. 
He replied that he knew of one of the neighbours who had a 
cask of this kind of wine, and that he would at once send and 
procure some of it. The person whom he sent for the purpose 
described the exhaustion from which Catherine suffered, and in 
Gerard s name begged for a bottle of the wine. The neighbour, 
whose name I forget, replied, * My friend, I would gladly give 
Master Gerard not a bottle only, but the whole cask : but it has 
been quite empty for the last three months ; to make sure, how 
ever, come with me and see. So saying, he led the way to the 
wine-cellar, and the messenger saw well enough that the cask 
was empty. Nevertheless, the good man, to make more sure, drew 
the wooden peg which served for drawing off the wine, when lo ! 
an excellent wine of Vernaccia came forth in great abundance and 
flowed on the ground. The owner, greatly astonished, replaced 
the peg, and calling all the inmates of the house, asked who had 
put new wine into the cask. All declared that there had been 
no wine in it for the last three months, and that it was impossible 
for any one to have poured any into it secretly. The news spread 
through the neighbourhood, and every one regarded it as a 
miracle. Gerard s messenger, meanwhile, full of joy and wonder, 
brought back a bottle of the wine, and related to us what had 
happened ; and Catherine s spiritual children rejoiced in the 
Lord, giving thanks to Him for His miraculous assistance." 

VOL. i. u 


A few days later, Catherine, being somewhat restored in 
strength, went to visit the Apostolic Nuncio who had just arrived 
in Pisa ; but no sooner had she entered the streets than the 
whole city was in commotion. The artizans left their shops, and 
hurried out to see her. " Behold," they cried, " the woman who 
does not drink wine herself, and who has yet miraculously rilled 
a cask with excellent wine ! " When Catherine perceived the 
general excitement, and knew herself to be the cause of it, she 
was much distressed, and poured out her complaint before God. 
"O Lord," she exclaimed, "why wilt Thou afflict the heart of 
Thy poor servant, and render her the sport of the whole world ? 
All Thy servants may live in peace among men, save only me ! 
Who asked this wine of Thy bounty ? For many years I have 
taken no wine, for Thy sake, yet now, behold, on account of 
this wine I am covered with confusion. I conjure Thee, then, 
of Thy mercy, cause it to dry up again as quickly as possible, so 
as to put a stop to all this talk and unseemly excitement." Then 
in answer to her prayer, our Lord worked another wonder greater 
than the first. The cask had up to that time been filled with 
the very best wine, and although out of devotion many of the 
citizens carried some of it away to their own houses, yet the 
quantity in no way diminished. But now it suddenly changed 
into a thick sediment, and what had before been so excellent and 
delicious became nothing but disgusting dregs, quite unfit to 
drink. In consequence of this, the master of the house and 
those who had drank of the wonderful wine were obliged to hold 
their peace, being ashamed to say any more about it. Catherine s 
disciples were also much mortified, but she herself was never 
gayer or better satisfied, and gave thanks to God that He had 
delivered her from the observation of men, and turned their 
praise to her own confusion." 1 

But if Catherine had been revived for the moment by the solici 
tude of her friends, no remedy could really relieve the malady 
under which she was suffering. She was slowly dying the glorious 
martyrdom of the saints, burnt up in the sacred fire of Divine 
1 Leg., Part 2, chap. ii. 


Love. Moreover, as the time was approaching when she was to 
be called to labours yet more responsible than any she had ever 
yet undertaken for the good of Holy Church, it pleased God that 
according to the law which appeared always to regulate the suc 
cessive stages of her wonderful life, a Divine seal should be set 
on this fresh mission, and a new and surpassing grace bestowed 
on her to whom had already been granted the ring of Espousal, 
the Crown of Thorns, the exchange of Hearts, and a foretaste of 
the sufferings of the Passion. 

It was a Sunday; the fourth Sunday in Lent, which that year 
fell on the ist of April. According to their custom, Catherine 
and her companions were assembled in the little Church of St. 
Christina to hear Mass, which was celebrated by F. Raymund. 
He administered Holy Communion to all the company, after 
which, as was usual with her, Catherine remained a long time 
in ecstasy. "The soul that sighed after its Creator," he says, 
"separated as much as it could from the body. We waited until 
she had recovered her senses, hoping to receive some spiritual 
consolation from her; when suddenly we beheld her, who until 
then had been lying prostrate on the ground, rise a little, then 
kneel and extend her hands and arms. Her countenance appeared 
all on fire, and thus she remained for a long time perfectly motion 
less. Then, as though she had received a deadly wound, we saw 
her fall suddenly, and a few moments later she came to herself. 
She immediately sent for me, and said to me in a low tone, 
* Father, I have to make known to you that by the mercy of our 
Lord Jesus Christ, I now bear His Sacred Stigmas in my body. 
I replied that I had guessed as much from what I had observed 
during her ecstasy, and asked her in what manner it had come 
to pass. She replied, saying, I beheld our Lord fastened to 
His Cross coming down towards me surrounded by a great and 
wonderful light. Then my soul was all ravished with the desire to 
go forth and meet its Creator, so that by the very force of my spirit, 
as you might see, my body was constrained to rise. Then there 
came down from the holes of His Blessed Wounds five bloody 
rays, which were directed towards the same parts of my body, 


namely, my hands, feet, and heart. I understood the mystery, 
and cried out, saying, "Ah, Lord God, I beseech Thee, let no 
signs of those holy marks appear outwardly to the eyes of men ! " 
And while I was yet speaking, those rays that were before of a 
sanguine red changed to a marvellous brightness, and so in the 
form of most pure light they rested upon those five parts of my 
body. Then I asked her if no beam of light had reached her 
right side. She replied, * No, it fell on the left side and directly 
above the heart; for the ray of light that came from the right 
side of our Lord did not strike me obliquely, but directly. Then 
I inquired if she felt any sensible pain in those places, on which, 
sighing deeply, she answered, I feel in those five places, but 
specially in my heart, so great and violent a pain, that unless 
Almighty God be pleased to work a new miracle, I cannot live. 
These words filled me with grief, and I carefully examined whether 
I could see any tokens of such grievous suffering. So when she 
had finished what she had to say, we all went out of the church 
together to return home. On reaching the house she went at 
once to her chamber, and lying down on her bed soon became 
quite unconscious. All her disciples collected round about her, 
weeping bitterly to see her whom they loved so tenderly in this 
state, and fearing lest they should lose her. For though we had 
often before seen her in ecstasies which deprived her of the use 
of her senses, we had never before seen her apparently so near to 
death. Presently she came to herself, and when at last she was 
able to speak she repeated to me that if God did not come to her 
aid, she felt certain she should depart this life. When I heard 
that, I assembled all her spiritual children, both men and women, 
and besought them with tears that they would unite in offering 
their prayers to God that He would spare our Mother and Mis 
tress to us yet a little while, and not leave us orphans before we 
were confirmed and strengthened in the path of virtue. They 
all assented, and going to her dissolved in tears, they said, O 
Mother ! we know well that your desire is to be with your dear 
Spouse and Lord, our Saviour Christ. But our earnest petition 
is that you would take pity on us, your poor children, and not 


leave us thus comfortless and without direction. Your reward is 
safely laid up for you in heaven, and abideth your coming ; but 
we are in danger of perishing a thousand ways in the tempestuous 
sea of this world. We know also, good Mother, that your dear 
Spouse loveth you so tenderly that He will deny you nothing that 
you ask Him. Wherefore, we all beseech you with one voice to 
make your humble prayer to Him that He will vouchsafe to lend 
you yet a little time of life among us, for our further instruction 
in this holy order of life wherein you have begun to train us. 
We will pray with you also ; but what are we, feeble wretches 
and sinful creatures ! We are unworthy to appear before His 
Divine Majesty, being, as we are, full of iniquity and subject to 
many imperfections. And therefore we pray you, dear Mother, 
that our suit may be offered up to Almighty God by you, who, 
for the tender love you have always shown to us, will solicit it 
more carefully, and obtain it more certainly. Many such words 
we spoke to her, with great heaviness of heart, which we showed 
more by tears than by words. Then Catherine answered us, 
saying, * It is now a long time, as you know, that I resigned my 
own will to God, so that I have no will of my own, nor do I wish 
or desire aught whether for myself or others save what is in 
accordance with His most blessed will. True, indeed, I love 
you all entirely, and no less true is it that He also loves you far 
more tenderly than I can do, and thirsts for your salvation more 
than I or all men are able to conceive, as He has shown by the 
shedding of His most Precious Blood. His will therefore be 
done in this and in all things. Therefore I will not cease to 
pray, but only that His gracious will may be done, as may be for 
the best. 

"On hearing these words we remained deeply afflicted, but 
God did not despise our prayers. On the following Sunday, 
having received Holy Communion, she again fell into an ecstasy, 
as before ; but this time, instead of being left prostrate by it, she 
seemed on returning to herself to have regained fresh vigour. I 
told them all that I trusted our prayers and tears had been 
accepted by God. But to be more certain, I asked her, saying, 


1 Mother, does the pain in your side, feet, and hands continue as 
before ? To which she replied, I think our Lord has granted 
your prayers. For not only are these wounds no longer a torture 
to me, but they seem even to strengthen and fortify my body, so 
that what before weakened me now gives me comfort ; and there 
fore, I see that Our Lord at your entreaty has given me a longer 
time of affliction in this life, which I am glad of for the love I 
bear you. " 

We have little to add to Raymund s circumstantial narrative of 
this wonderful event. It took place when the Saint was twenty- 
eight years and six days old. The place where the miraculous 
favour was granted is marked in the Church of St. Christina by a 
little column and an inscription. 1 The crucifix 2 before which St. 
Catherine was kneeling at the time was in 1563 removed from 
Pisa to Siena, with the consent of Angelo Niccolini, Cardinal 
Archbishop of Pisa ; but so great was the devotion of the inhabi 
tants to everything connected with her memory, that the removal 
had to be effected by night, and under the escort of an armed 

1 This inscription unfortunately contains a chronological inaccuracy which 
has caused some perplexity to St. Catherine s biographers. It states that she 
received the stigmas in 1375, when she was on her way to Avignon. One or 
other of these statements is necessarily mistaken. If the date is correct, she 
was not then on her way to Avignon, whither she did not proceed till the 
June of 1376 : if it was on her journey thither that the event took place, 
then the date 1376 should be substituted for 1375. But we know for certain 
that this latter supposition is impossible, for the chief witness and narrator of 
the event is Raymund of Capua, who did not accompany Catherine on her 
journey from Florence to Avignon, but preceded her thither some time before. 
Moreover, all the other witnesses concur in assigning 1375 (i.e., the period 
of Catherine s first visit to Pisa), as the known date of her reception of the 
stigmas. P. Gregorio Lombardelli, in his Disputa a difesa della Sacre Stimate, 
misled by the inscription which he too easily accepted as correct, has included 
among the witnesses present, all those whom he knew to have been her com 
panions on her journey to Avignon, and among others Stephen Maconi, whose 
acquaintance with the Saint did not commence until after her return from 
Pisa, and who certainly therefore could not have been present on this 

2 This crucifix, the work of Giunta Pisano, is now preserved in the chapel 
of the Fullonica, Siena. 


During the lifetime of the Saint the stigmas remained invisible, 
but it was not so after her death. P. Gregorio Lombardelli, in 
his learned " Defence of the Sacred Stigmas of St. Catherine," 
has collected the testimonies of several witnesses who actually 
beheld them. Among others he quotes a letter written to 
Raymund of Capua by F. Antonio of Siena, who was Prior of 
the Minerva at the time of Catherine s death, and who solemnly 
affirms that on the day of her obsequies the stigmas 1 were 
distinctly seen both by himself and other persons. On the foot 
preserved at Venice, in the Church of St John and Paul, the 
stigma is said to be plainly marked. P. Frigerio of the Oratory, 
the author of an excellent Life of St. Catherine, writes in 1656, 
that he had seen the hand, which is kept as a sacred relic in the 
Convent of SS. Domenico and Sisto at Rome, and declares that 
on it, also, the stigma is plainly discernible. If by a stigma we 
are to understand an open wound or scar, this assertion is 
certainly not correct. Nevertheless, the precious relic does 
exhibit in the centre of the palm an appearance as though all the 
substance of the hand under the skin had in that part been 
pierced, or removed ; so that when a lighted candle is placed 
behind it, a spot of light becomes distinctly visible, shining as it 
were through the thin integument. 2 Caffarini in his Supplement 
has an entire treatise on the subject of the stigmas, in which he 
enumerates the various ways in which they may be, and have 
been, received at different times and by different persons. He 

1 " The Blessed Anthony, of the illustrious family of the Counts of Elci of 
Siena, was Prior of the Minerva at Rome when Catherine died there, and 
kept account of all things which took place at her death and burial : and in 
a letter written by him to Raymund of Capua, he testifies to having seen with 
his own eyes her five sacred stigmas, which were manifest after death to who 
soever chose to behold them." (Sommario della disputa a difesa della Sacre 
Stimate. Part I, chap, x.) Although no reference to the stigmas is made 
by Pius II. in his Bull of St. Catherine s Canonisation, yet the fact is affirmed 
in the Office drawn up for her feast by the pen of the same illustrious Pontiff, 
in the Vesper Hymn, in which occur the following words : Vzilnerum for/nan 
miserata Christi exprimis ipsa. 

2 In a photograph taken from the hand, and in the possession of the writer, 
the stigma appears very distinctly. 


dwells on the thought that this crowning and stupendous favour 
was granted to Catherine as a means of more entirely imprinting 
on her the likeness of the sufferings of Our Lord ; those sufferings 
which she contemplated with such devout affection, and strove 
to make her own by such generous and lifelong penance. And 
he adds one fact, which is given by no other writer, but which 
coming from his pen must be held as of undoubted authenticity, 
namely, that she who in her younger days was wont to chastise 
her own flesh with such rigorous severity, was accustomed in 
later years to receive the same penance from the hands of her 
companions, in order the more exactly to conform herself to the 
humiliations of our Divine Lord. 1 The office of the stigmas of 
St. Catherine was first granted by Pope Benedict XIII. to the 
whole Order of St. Dominic ; and afterwards at the request of 
the Dukes of Tuscany was extended to every part of their 
dominions. This feast is now kept on the 3rd of April. 

At the time of Catherine s residence at Pisa the little Church 
of St. Christina, which was the scene of the mysterious event just 
spoken of, had for its curate a certain Ranieri, commonly known 
among his fellow-citizens as Ranieri di Sta. Christina. After 
Catherine left Pisa he decided on entering the Dominican Order, 
and we have a letter addressed to him by the Saint on hearing 
the good news of his approaching reception of the habit. In 
Gigli s edition this letter (120) is addressed : "To Father Ranieri 
in Christ, of St. Catherine, of the Friars Preachers at Pisa." The 
oid Dominican convent at Pisa is dedicated, it must be remem 
bered, to St. Catherine the Martyr. Burlamacchi in a note to 
this letter observes that in the Aldine edition of 1500, the words 
stand, not of St. Catherine but of St. Christina; but that 
Farri, who published a later edition of the letters in 1579, 
substituted the words l St. Catherme instead; and the last 

" Caterina quante voile si fece dar la disciplina dalle compagne, e per tali 
percosse si vedevano in lei i lividi segni." (Sup. Part 2, Trat. 7.) This treatise 
is not included in F. Tantucci s Italian translation of the Supplement. It is 
to be found, however, in the original MS. preserved at Siena, and an authentic 
copy of it is in the possession of the writer. 


reading was adopted by Gigli. "Whether of the two readings is 
correct," he continues, " I cannot guess." His perplexity would 
have been easily set at rest had he been acquainted with the 
ancient and very curious " Chronicle of the Convent of St. 
Catherine in Pisa" which has of late years been printed in the 
Second Part of the 6th Volume of the Archivio Storico Italiano. 
There we find entered the name of " Fra Ranieri di Sta. 
Christina," with the following notice : " Fra Ranieri called of Sta. 
Christina, by reason that when he entered our Order he was 
parish priest of the Church of St. Christina of Pisa. He had 
before been chaplain of other churches in our city of Pisa, and 
received the habit of our holy Order on the Feast of St. Thomas. 
He was assiduous in the Divine Office, and sang well, with a 
good voice. He was also a skilful, acceptable, and indefatigable 

It is evident that the Aldine reading is the correct one, and 
that Farri only blundered in seeking to amend it. And thus 
we come on the interesting fact that St. Catherine numbered 
among her disciples, and welcomed into the ranks of her own 
Order, the parish priest of the little church where during her stay 
at Pisa she made her daily orisons, and where she received the 
supreme favour of the stigmas. 1 The Chronicle contains no 
direct reference to St. Catherine s visit to Pisa; but glancing 
further over its Catalogue of the brethren, we come on the name 
of Fra Niccolo Gittalebraccia, " whose family was very great and 
powerful in the time of the Lord Peter Gambacorta, and who was 
a great friend of the blessed Clara." And we learn in a note that 
" of this family was the famous physician, John Gittalebraccia, 
who lectured at Pisa in 1373 at a salary of 200 gold florins;" 
and who, I need not say, was identical with our friend John, the 
companion of Peter Albizi, when he tried to puzzle the Saint with 
hard questions. 

1 Ranieri was certainly present on the occasion. P. Lombardelli, in his 
list of the witnesses, gives twice over the name of Ranieri (or Neri) del 
Paglieresi, and it would seem that this error arose from the circumstance of 
a second person of the same name being present. 


One other fact may be given to show in what light the recep 
tion of the stigmas of St. Catherine was regarded in her own time, 
and by those immediately surrounding her. Among the disciples 
whom she gained at Pisa was Giovanni di Spazzaventi di Puccetto, 
or, as he was more commonly called by his fellow-citizens, Nino 
Pucci. He was priest and chaplain of the Metropolitan Church, 
of great repute for holiness, and a large benefactor to the Certosa 
ofCalci. He was also the founder of a pious Confraternity 
among his penitents and disciples, and chose for its title, "the 
Stigmas of St. Francis," in memory, as is commonly supposed, of 
the somewhat analogous favour granted in Pisa to the holy 
maiden of Siena, whom he regarded and venerated as his spiritual 



A BOUT six miles to the east of Pisa, in a beautiful spot called 
XX the Valle Graziosa, stands the celebrated Certosa of Calci, 
the splendid buildings of which were raised in the seventeenth 
century on the site of a more ancient monastery which was 
founded in St. Catherine s lifetime, and the erection of which 
remained incomplete at the time of her coming to Pisa from the 
want of funds. Nino Pucci and the Gambacorta family had 
helped the monks with liberal alms ; but their contributions did 
not supply the whole sum required. The Prior of Calci at this 
time was the Blessed John Opezzinghi, who had joined the ranks 
of Catherine s disciples ; and we learn from the MS. memoirs left 
by Don Bartholomew Serafmi of Ravenna (one of the witnesses 


of the Process) that the Saint undertook to plead the cause of 
the Carthusians with the Sovereign Pontiff, and that in conse 
quence of her representations, Gregory gave them 1000 gold 
florins towards the completion of their monastery. She visited 
Calci more than once, and made the brethren several fervent 
exhortations, and her correspondence exhibits the close relations 
which she kept up with these and other Carthusian disciples 
between whom and herself there existed a sympathy the more 
remarkable from the contrast which existed between their respec 
tive states of life. Two inscriptions are to be seen at Calci which 
affirm that it was owing to St. Catherine s good offices with 
Gregory XL that the island of Gorgona was made over to the 
Carthusians of Calci ; if this statement is correct, it would serve 
to explain the visit which she made to that island at the urgent 
entreaty of the Prior, Don Bartholomew. The island of Gorgona 
is about twenty-two miles from the shores of Tuscany, and is not 
without its poetic and classic associations. It finds a place in 
the poem of Dante, who, after relating the terrific story of Count 
Ugolino s starvation, denounces Pisa for the monstrous crime, and 
calls on the two islands of Capreja and Gdrgona to rise from their 
deep foundations, and dam up the mouth of the Arno, that so 
every soul in the guilty city might perish by the overflowing 
waters. 1 Gorgona was a dwelling-place for monks as early as the 
fourth century, as we learn from some verses of Rutilius Claudius 
Numantius, which are quoted by Baronius in his Annals. St. 
Gregory the Great reformed their discipline, but in the fourteenth 
century their descendants had become so relaxed that Gregory 
XI. removed them and made over the island to the Carthusians 

1 Inferno, Canto xxxiii. 82. " Cette imagination peut paraitre bizarre et 
forcee si 1 on regarde la carte ; car 1 ile de la Gorgone est assez loin de 
1 embouchure de 1 Arno ; et j avais pense ainsi jusqu au jour, oil etant monte 
sur la tour de Pise, je fus frappe de 1 aspect que de la, me presentait la 
Gorgone. Elle semblait fermer 1 Arno. Je compris alors comment Dante 
avail pu avoir naturellement cette idee, qui m avait semble etrange ; et son 
imagination fut justifiee a mes yeux. Ce fait seul suffirait pour montrer 
combien un voyage est une bonne explication d un poe te." -J, F. Ampere, 
Voyage Dantesque. 


of Calci. Don Bartholomew Serafmi was appointed their first 
Prior, and through his exertions religious observance was rigorously 
established, and all inhabitants besides the monks excluded from 
the island. They remained there until 1425, when the attacks of 
the Saracen corsairs forced them to return to Calci. 

It was certainly a bold proposal on the part of the Prior that 
Catherine and her companions should come and spend a day with 
him and his brethren in their island retreat ; involving as it did 
a voyage of twenty-two miles for one as yet wholly unused to the 
perils of the sea. Indeed, he had to renew his request several 
times before it was granted, and was obliged at last to secure the 
powerful support of Father Raymund to back his petition. 
Catherine s consent was at last obtained, and our readers may 
think of the little company setting out in the early summer 
morning, and riding through the great pine woods which extend 
between Pisa and the seashore, till they reached what we now 
name Leghorn, then more often called "the Port of Pisa." 
There, from that shore, she for the first time beheld the sea! 
Perhaps she had before this caught its distant gleam from the 
hills about Siena, or from the peaks that rise above the Certosa 
of Calci ; but not until now had she stood on its shores or beheld 
its big waves breaking at her feet. Now for the first time she 
lifted her eyes to the broad horizon of the purple Mediterranean, 
and felt its breath on her forehead, while its musical chant was 
sounding in her ears. She drank in that spectacle of the "mare 
magnum et spatiosum, " which as yet she knew only in the poetry 
of the Psalter. It left its impress on her memory and in her 
writings, stamping there two images, the one of trouble and rest 
lessnessa fitting symbol of the inconstant world ; the other of 
peace and immensity, which became to her the most familiar 
image of God ; so that often afterwards she was heard in her 
hours of prayer and ecstasy murmuring the words, O mare 
piacevole: O mare padfico ! " And in her Dialogue we see her 
contemplating Him again and again under that aspect, and liken 
ing Him to the tranquil sea. 1 

1 Dialogo, chaps, liii., liv. She also compares the unruffled surface of a 


Gorgona is a lofty and picturesque rock rising precipitously 
out of the waves, in form not unlike a haystack ; the landing is 
at certain times attended by some danger, but no misadventure 
befel the little party, who were about twenty in number. " The 
evening of our arrival," says Raymund, "the Prior lodged 
Catherine and her companions about a mile from the monastery ; 
and the following morning he conducted all his monks to 
Catherine and requested her to favour them with some words of 
edification. Catherine refused at first, excusing herself on the 
grounds of her incapacity, her ignorance, and her sex ; saying that it 
was meet that she should listen to God s servants rather than speak 
in their presence. Overcome at last by the earnest prayers of the 
Prior and of his spiritual sons, she began to speak, and said what 
the Holy Ghost inspired her in reference to the numerous tempta 
tions and illusions which Satan presents to solitaries, and con 
cerning the means of avoiding his wiles and of gaining a complete 
victory ; and all this she did with so much method and distinct 
ness, that I was filled with amazement, as indeed were all her 
audience. When she had terminated, the Prior turned towards 
me and said with admiration, Dear Brother Raymund, I am 
the confessor of these religious, and consequently know the 
defects of each. I assure you, that if this holy woman had heard 
the confessions of all of them, she could not have spoken in a 
more just and profitable manner; she neglected none of their 
wants, and did not utter a useless word. It is evident that she 
possesses the gift of prophecy, and that she speaks by the Holy 
Ghost. " 

When they were about to quit the island and return home, Don 
Bartholomew begged the Saint to leave him her mantle as a 
remembrance. 1 She complied with his request, saying as she did 
so, "Father Prior, watch well over your flock, for I warn you 

calm and crystal sea, which mirrors on its bosom the reflection of the heavens, 
to Faith, wherein we see and know the beauty and the truth of God (Ibid., 

1 This mantle he afterwards left as a precious relic to the Certosa of Pavia, 
where he died in 1413. 


the enemy is trying to cause some scandal." Then seeing him 
troubled, she added, " Have no fear, he will not prevail." Some 
of the monks accompanied their visitors on their return, and 
when Catherine had landed, they asked her blessing before starting 
home again. She gave it them, saying, " If any accident should 
befall you on the way, fear nothing, for God will be with you." 
As they approached the island a storm arose, the helm broke, 
and the vessel striking on a dangerous part of the coast filled 
with water. A monk who came down to their help was carried 
away by the waves, yet in spite of all this no harm befel any of 
them, and the vessel itself was uninjured. It was not long, how 
ever, before Catherine s warning to the Prior received its accom 
plishment. " Some days later," says Don Bartholomew in his 
deposition, " the master of a boat from Pisa, laden with wood 
for our island, brought to one of the young monks bad news of 
his mother. He asked leave to return to Pisa in the boat, and 
when permission was refused, he fell into melancholy and tempta 
tion. One day he came to me with a disordered countenance 
and demanded with great violence that he might be allowed to 
go to Pisa. I was reluctant to give consent, but seeing his excite 
ment, desired one of the elder monks to follow him. The 
unhappy youth ran to his cell, and taking thence a knife tried 
to kill himself. His companion, however, was in time to catch 
his hand, and calling for help, I went with all speed and endea 
voured to calm him by promising that his request should be 
granted. But he began to say, No, no ; it is the devil who 
is tempting me, and he is even now endeavouring to persuade 
me to throw myself from the top of the convent. And as all 
the religious were agitated and terrified, I ordered the cloak that 
the Saint had given me on quitting the island to be brought, and 
placing it in the arms of the monk, he immediately recovered. 
I said, My son, recommend yourself to the prayers of Sister 
Catherine. He answered, She is truly praying for me, other 
wise I should certainly have been lost. " Being at Pisa, after 
Catherine s departure, Don Bartholomew interrogated a possessed 
person, "Is that Saint in Siena as holy as persons think?" he 


asked. " More holy," answered the possessed. Another religious 
asked him whether Catherine could deliver him ? " She could 
do what you could not do," he replied, " because, although you 
are a good religious, you have not arrived to the same degree 
of perfection." 

Catherine had a special love for the Carthusian Order, and 
corresponded with the General, Don William Rainaud, as well 
as with the monks of Pontignano and Belriguardo near Siena, 
and those of Milan, Rome, and Naples. Her letters to Don 
John Sabbatini at the Certosa of Belriguardo were written from 
Pisa, Gerard Buonconti acting as her secretary. There is also 
a curious letter written to another Don John of the Roman 
Certosa, to comfort him under his unreasonable affliction at not 
being permitted by his superiors to visit the Purgatory of St. 
Patrick. 1 Nor among Catherine s Carthusian disciples and cor 
respondents must we omit the name of Francesco Tebaldi of 
Gorgona, whom she addresses as " my sweetest, my dearest, and 
my best beloved brother, whom I love as my own soul," and to 
whom she sent a copy of her Dialogue. 

Catherine s residence in Pisa certainly lasted as long as six 
months, during which time her attention was directed to every 
variety of business. A rumour reached her that the Pope was 
about to raise F. Elias of Toulouse to the dignity of Cardinal ; and 
considering how this event might be made to advance the good 
of the Order, she at once wrote to Gregory, entreating him to 
appoint " a good and virtuous Vicar ; our Order needs one," she 
adds, "for its garden has run very wild." She suggests his con 
suiting on the subject with the Archbishop of Otranto, and Master 
Nicholas da Osimo, two of her own personal friends, to whom 

1 This is a cave or well in an island in the Lake of Dungal in Ireland, 
where, according to tradition, St. Patrick, finding it impossible to make the 
people believe in hell, traced a circle with his stick, when an abyss opened, 
out of which cries and groans were heard to issue. It was further said that 
the saint obtained a promise from God that those sinners who should spend 
an entire day in this cave should, on their repentance, be entirely purged 
from their sins. The spot is still visited in pilgrimage by great numbers of 


she writes more openly than she could venture to do in addressing 
the Pontiff. "I hear," she says, writing to the Archbishop, 
" that our General is to be made a Cardinal ; I conjure you, 
think of the interests of the Order, and beg the Christ on earth 
to give us a good Vicar. Perhaps you could suggest Father 
Stephen della Cumba, who has been Procurator. He is a 
virtuous and energetic man, and has no fear ; and just now our 
Order needs a physician who will not be timid, but know how 
to use the knife of holy justice. Up to the present time so much 
ointment has been applied that the diseased members have 
become corrupt. I have not named him in writing to the Holy 
Father, but only begged he would consult with you and Master 
Nicholas. If F. Raymund can be of any use in this matter, he 
will be at your command." (Letter 33.) She wrote in the 
same terms to Nicholas, but the report in question proved fal 
lacious, and Elias remained in office, and lived, unhappily, to 
take part in the Great Schism. 

We also find letters which belong to the same time, and which 
are addressed by Catherine to Peter, Marquis del Monte, who 
held the office of Senator of Siena ; in which she calls his atten 
tion to a number of affairs, and requests that justice may be done 
on a certain offender who has been persecuting a convent of 
nuns. Peter held his office from the February to the August of 
1375) tne precise time of Catherine s stay at Pisa; a fact which 
shows that she took cognisance of the events which were mean 
while passing at Siena, and relaxed nothing of her vigilance over 
the interests of her native city. Meanwhile Catherine s prolonged 
absence was exciting great impatience among her friends at home. 
She exercised a power over the hearts of her disciples which had 
in it this great inconvenience, that they found it difficult to make 
themselves happy without her ; and when she left them for any 
length of time, some of them were foolish enough to think and 
to say that she did not care for them, or that she cared more for 
others. Something of this sort reached the Saint s ears when she 
was at Pisa, and what is more, she had reason to think that no 
less a person than good Master Matthew had joined in the silly 

VOL. i. x 


gossip. So she wrote him a letter (142) in which we seem to 
see that one cause of the discontent so often expressed arose 
from a sort of jealousy on the part of those she did not take with 
her, against those whom she chose as her companions. Sad 
and humbling as it is to think that these petty feelings could exist 
among the disciples of a saint, we cannot say that it was altogether 
strange or unnatural ; and perhaps it better helps us to realise 
her life and its difficulties, when we see her dealing with the 
ordinary infirmities of men and women of precisely the same 
quality as other sons and daughters , of father Adam. In her 
letter to Matthew, St. Catherine says a good deal about sheep 
and shepherds, and tells him that shepherds must not abandon 
the sheep who are in real danger to go after those who only fancy 
themselves so. " Look at the saints," she says, " whether they 
travelled, or whether they stayed at home, you may be sure there 
were always plenty of murmurs. Now, do you all be faithful 
sheep ; and do not suppose I am leaving the ninety-nine for one. 
On the contrary, I can tell you this ; for every one of those I am 
leaving, I have ninety-nine known only to the Divine Goodness ; 
and this is what makes me endure for God s glory the fatigue of 
the journey, the burden of my infirmities, and the annoyance of 
scandal and murmurs. If I go, or if I stay, I shall do it to please 
God, and not man. I have been delayed by sickness, but still 
more because it is God s will ; we shall return as soon as we can. 
Meanwhile you ought to rejoice to see me go, or stay ; so calm 
yourselves, and believe that all will be ordered by Providence, 
if I am not an obstacle by my sins." (Letter 142.) In this letter 
she speaks of sickness as the cause of her delay, but from another, 
written about the same time to F. Thomas della j Fonte, we find 
that the Archbishop of Pisa had applied to the General of the 
Order for permission to keep her a little longer. 1 By her words 
we gather that some kind of a storm had been raging in the home 

1 This fact is worthy of notice, as showing that the Tertiaries were at that 
time under the government of the Order, and that a strict obedience to her 
religious superiors was required of Catherine, without whose permission she 
undertook no journeys. 


circle, and that Alphonsus Vadaterra, who was then at Siena, was 
one of those who had been agitating for her return. " The cross 
is our best consolation, my dear Father," she says, " let us make 
our bed upon it. I assure you I rejoice at all you say, and to 
hear that the world is against me ; I feel unworthy of so great a 
mercy, since what else are they giving me than the vestment which 
was worn by our Lord ? And then it is such a trifle a trifle 
so small as to be next to nothing. May the sweet Word give us 
some good morsels ! I fear not to be faithful to obedience, for 
the Archbishop has asked our General as a favour to let me stay 
here a few days longer. Beg that venerable Spaniard, therefore, 
not to oblige us to return without necessity." l 

But before Catherine returned to Siena, she was doomed to 
receive the tidings of events which filled her with the deepest 
affliction, and seemed to put a stop to all present hopes of the 
proclamation of a Crusade. Allusion has been already made to 
the intrigues set on foot by Bernabb Visconti, with the view of 
effecting a breach between the Pope and the Florentines, and to 
the partial success of his efforts. The famine, which had followed 
the pestilence of 1374, and spread through every part of Tuscany, 
had been the immediate occasion of fanning the smouldering 
embers of resentment into a flame. William Noellet, Cardinal 
of St. Angelo and Papal Legate of Bologna, whether actuated by 
an ill-will to the Florentines, or merely by the desire of protecting 
the interests of his own dominions, refused to allow corn to be 
exported from the States of the Church into Florence during the 
time of scarcity, although earnestly implored to give the starving 
people this relief. At the same moment when his refusal was 
causing the utmost suffering and exasperation, other sinister 
events occurred. The troops of Hawkwood, who had been taken 
into pay by Gregory, in order to carry on the war with Bernabo, 
were dismissed after the conclusion of the truce. And foreseeing 
that the leader of the Free Lances was not likely to leave the 
country without seeking to indemnify himself for his trouble by 
some acts of pillage, Noellet warned the Florentines that should 
1 Letter 106. 


Hawkwood enter and ravage the lands of the republic, it would 
not be in his power to hold him back, he being no longer in the 
pay of the Church. In fact, the terrible bands appeared as was 
expected ; laid waste the whole country, and even attempted to 
take possession of Prato, at the very gates of Florence. 1 So far 
from being pacified by the assurance of the Legate, the enraged 
republicans saw in the whole transaction only fresh and convinc 
ing proof of the Legate s treachery. Mad with rage, the Floren 
tine rulers determined to take Hawkwood into their own pay, and 
heedless of their Guelph traditions, to declare war against the 
Sovereign Pontiff. A frightful revolutionary spirit seemed to 
awake among the citizens; they rose in insurrection, attacked 
the convents and churches, slaughtered the inquisitors in the 
public streets, and declared the clergy to be the enemies of the 
state; while the magistrates sharing in the popular excitement, 
passed a decree, in virtue of which the nomination to all benefices, 
as well as judgment in all ecclesiastical causes, was made over 
to the civil government. 

When the tidings of these events reached Avignon, they 
deeply afflicted the gentle and fatherly heart of Gregory. He at 
once gave orders for the export of grain from the Romagna to 
the suffering districts ; but Noellet refused so much as to read 
the Papal Brief, and persisted in his former odious prohibition. 
War seemed inevitable, and both parties began their preparations. 
Fresh troops were taken into pay by the Pope, while the Floren 
tines, according to their custom, elected a body of Magistrates 
to whom was entrusted the management of hostilities. All the 
members of this body were in the present case chosen from the 
ranks of the most advanced Ghibellines ; they were eight in 
number, and were commonly known as the " Eight of War," but 
the mob, with horrible pleasantry, conferred on them the title of 
the " Eight Saints," in mocking allusion to the deeds of blood and 
sacrilege which marked the beginning of their rule. Another 
committee was formed to propagate the revolt throughout the 

1 This was the event alluded to in the preface to Catherine s letter to 
Hawkwood, quoted in the last chapter. 


rest of Italy ; and for this purpose envoys were despatched to a 
great number of cities, who, by a singular anticipation of the 
phraseology and even of the badge of modern revolution, dis 
played a blood-red flag inscribed with the ominous word 
" LIBERTY ! " " Fling off the yoke of the foreigner," they cried ; 
" the time is come : every man who takes up arms against the 
Church is the friend and ally of Florence ! " These words be 
trayed the root from which the whole evil had arisen ; the Popes, 
since their residence on the soil of France, had come to be 
regarded by the natives of the Italian provinces as foreigners^ and 
the national jealousy of the Italians had thus been roused against 
their authority. The flame spread like wild-fire : Civita di 
Castello was the first city to join the alliance, and her example 
was soon followed by Viterbo, Perugia, Narni, Spoleto, Urbino, 
and Radicofani : in short, before the close of 1375, eighty cities 
and strong places had joined the league, and taken up arms 
against their common mother. 

These, then, were the tidings which reached Catherine and 
her companions while they were still at Pisa. When Raymund 
received the news of the revolt of Perugia he was overwhelmed 
with grief and horror. " I went at once to Catherine," he says, 
"in company with F. Pietro of Velletri, penitentiary of St. John 
Lateran. My heart was drenched in grief, and with tears in my 
eyes I announced to her the sad event. At first she mingled her 
sorrow with ours, deploring the loss of souls and the great scandals 
which afflicted the Church ; but after a little, perceiving that we 
were too much dejected, she said, in order to calm us : Be not 
in haste to shed tears ; you will have worse things to excite your 
lamentations ; what you now mourn is mere milk and honey to 
what will follow. These words, instead of administering com 
fort, awakened a deeper grief, and I said to her, Mother, can 
we possibly witness greater misfortunes than to behold Christians 
lose all love and respect for the Church of God ; and many, fear 
less of her censures, even separating from her ? the next step will 
be to deny our Lord Himself! Then she said to me: Now 
it is the laity who behave thus ; but ere long you will find that 


the clergy will also render themselves guilty. And as, in great 
astonishment, I exclaimed, How ! will the clergy also rebel 
against the Sovereign Pontiff? she continued, When the Holy 
Father will attempt to reform their morals, the clergy will offer 
the spectacle of a grievous scandal to the whole Church ; they 
will ravage and divide it as though they were heretics. These 
words overwhelmed me with emotion, and I asked, What, 
Mother ! will a new heresy arise ? She answered : // will not 
be an actual heresy, but it will divide the Church with all Chris 
tendom ; hence arm yourself with patience, for you will be obliged 
to witness this misfortune. " x 

The course of our history will show the fulfilment of this 
prophecy, which anticipated the origin and course of the schism 
that was hereafter to break out with a precision truly extra 
ordinary. At this moment, however, the dangers which threatened 
were of another kind ; and the too probable success of the 
intrigues by which the Florentines were seeking to draw into 
revolt, not Pisa and Lucca alone but Siena also, made clear to 
Catherine the new line of duty which lay before her. The power 
which God had given her over the hearts of men she was now 
to use to hold them to their allegiance ; and at once accepting 
the burden, she turned her steps homeward, and arrived at 
Siena some time in the month of August 1375. 

1 Leg., Part 2, ch. x. 

( 3 2 7 ) 


ATHERINE S return to Siena was scarcely a return to rest, 
nor indeed was her stay there of any long duration. The 
grievous events related at the close of the last chapter were 
rousing anxiety on the part of all good men ; and no one knew 
where next the spirit of insurrection might be expected to break 
out. Moreover, there was an additional sorrow in the reflection 
that all the fault was not on the side of the rebellious people. 
Though Catherine was ready to shed her life-blood in the cause 
of the Sovereign Pontiff, and refused no labour that could avail 
to win back the cities of Italy to their true allegiance, yet she never 
dissembled the grave fact, that all the disasters which had taken 
place had had their origin from "bad pastors and bad governors." 
Hence, when at the close of the year she learnt the nomination 
of nine new Cardinals, a pang shot through her on hearing that 
seven out of the nine were Frenchmen and three of them near 
relations of the Pope. Not that either condition was incom 
patible with their being worthy of their high dignity ; but the 
moment seemed to demand the promotion of those only who 
would secure the confidence of Gregory s estranged subjects, and 
be the certain pledge of a sounder future policy. Hence in 
writing to the Pope she refers to the event in a few prudent but 
suggestive words, " It is said here that you have made some new 
Cardinals. I think God s honour and your own interests require 
that you should choose men of virtue ; otherwise you will incur 
blame and do harm to the Church, and then we cannot wonder 


if God sends us chastisements. I entreat you, do what you have 
to do courageously, fearing no one but God." 

But soon came rumours that the danger was approaching nearer 
and nearer; the emissaries of the revolution were everywhere 
busy ; and the little republic of Lucca was being sorely pressed 
now by the threats, and now by the promises of the cities 
already in revolt. Catherine had already exerted herself with 
success in holding back Pisa from joining the league, and she 
now considered what steps could be taken to preserve Lucca also 
unshaken in its fidelity. And first she addressed a letter to the 
Magistrates of that city, the nervous eloquence of which fills us 
with amazement. "You fancy perhaps," she says, "that the 
Church has lost her power, that she is weak and ready to 
succumb, and that she can help neither herself nor her children. 
Believe it not : trust not to appearances, look within, and you 
will discover a strength in her before which no enemy can stand. 
What madness for a member to rise up against his Head ! 
specially when he knows that heaven and earth will pass away 
sooner than the power and strength of that Head. If you say, 
I know nothing about all that ; I see some of these rebellious 
members prospering and doing very well, I reply, Wait a little, it 
will not be so always ; for the Holy Ghost has said, Except the 
Lord keep the city, he labours in vain that keeps it. Their 
prosperity will not last, but they will perish, body and soul, as 
dead members. God will not defend them if they turn against 
His Spouse. Never let yourselves be moved by servile fear; 
that was what Pilate did, when for fear of losing his power he 
put Christ to death, and so lost both soul and body. 

" I entreat you then, my dear Brothers, all of you children of 
Holy Church, be firm and constant in what you have begun. Do 
not let yourselves be persuaded either by demons, or by men 
who are worse than the demons, whose office they fulfil. Keep 
faithful to your Head, and to Him Who alone is strong; and 
have no fellowship with those dead members who have separated 
themselves from the source of strength. Beware, I say, beware 
of allying yourselves to them ; suffer anything rather than that ; 


fear to offend God above all things, and then you need fear 
nothing else. 1 As for me, I thrill with joy in thinking that up to 
this time you have remained firm in your obedience to the 
Church. I should be overwhelmed with sorrow if I heard the 
contrary, and I come on the part of Jesus crucified to tell you 
that on no account must you abandon what you have begun. If 
you are tempted to do so under the hope of preserving peace, be 
very sure you will only plunge into wars more bloody and ruinous 
than anything you have yet experienced. You know that if a 
father has many children and only one remains faithful to him, 
that one will receive the inheritance. But, thank God, you are 
not alone. There are your neighbours the Pisans, they will not 
abandon you, they will help and defend you until death against 
any attacks. Oh, my dear Brothers, what demon can hinder 
the union of two such members in the bonds of charity ! 
(Letter 206.) 

But she was not content with despatching to them her written 
words of encouragement. Caffarini tell us she had received an 
express command from Gregory to repair in person to Lucca; 
and though only just returned from her former journey, she was 
ready to defy the murmurs of her own people in order to obey the 
orders of the Sovereign Pontiff, and to leave no means untried to 
confirm the wavering allegiance of the Lucchese. She set out, 
therefore, in the month of September, once more passing through 
Pisa on her way. A close connection subsisted between these 
twin republics, and at various times Lucca had been subject 
to her powerful neighbour, though at that moment she enjoyed 
her independence, and was governed by her own Gonfalonier and 
Ancients, chosen from patrician families. The two cities were 
but ten miles apart, but separated by that high ridge of mountains 
which, as Dante says, prevents the Pisans from beholding Lucca. 2 

1 In these words St. Catherine almost anticipates the famous line of Racine, 
"Je crains Dieu, cher Abner, et n ai point d autre crainte." 

il monte 

Per che i Pisan veder Lucca non ponno. 
Inf. xxxiii. 36. 


Over those beautiful mountains Catherine now travelled, passing 
on her way through the frontier town of Ripafratta, destined only 
four years later to give to her Order a saint, 1 foremost in the 
cause of reform ; while all around her bristled castles and towers, 
many of which may still be seen standing, the memorials of a 
feudal age long since passed away. On reaching Lucca the warm 
reception given her by the inhabitants suggested the consoling 
hope that her mission would not prove ineffectual. She was 
lodged at first in a house provided for her by F. Gilbert di Narni, 
near the Church of St. Romano. It is still pointed out in the Via 
St. Romano. She was afterwards entertained as a guest by a 
noble citizen named Bartholomew Balbani, who lived in a villa 
outside the city; and here Catherine was received with open 
arms by Donna Mellina Balbani, who had assembled a little group 
of pious ladies at her house, all eager to see and listen to the 
saintly maiden of Siena. The names of this devout little company 
are preserved in the letters addressed to them by Catherine after 
her departure, but we possess no other notices regarding them. 
F. Thomas Caffarini has left us a vivid account of the enthusiasm 
which her presence caused among the Lucchese. "She was 
received," he says, 2 " by the nobles and citizens with every 
demonstration of honour. As she passed through the streets, all 
those who had any petition to recommend, and who could find 
no other means of obtaining an interview, were to be seen run* 
ning to her and flocking about her. Persons of every age, sex, 
and condition demanded to see her ; and it was no wonder, for 
her reputation had preceded her, and through all the country 
round they spoke of her admirable holiness and prudence, and 
the wonderful graces which God had granted to this young 
maiden destined to treat of such important affairs, though she 
was no more than twenty-eight years of age. Moreover He gave 
manifest proofs of her sanctity when she was in St. Romano, the 
church of our Order, where she used to repair for prayer and 
Holy Communion. She was often seen there after Communion, 

1 Blessed Lawrence of Ripafratta, born 1359, professed 1379. 
2 Sup., Part 2, Trat. 6, 7. 


not only motionless and in ecstasy, but with her body raised from 
the ground in the ardour of her contemplation, and remaining so 
for a long time, supported, as it were, by an invisible hand." The 
Dominican Convent attached to St. Romano was founded in the 
year* 1236. The church, however, which still exists, is much 
older, and dates from the eighth century. Modem restorations 
have left little of the ancient structure, nor does it contain any 
memorial of St. Catherine, unless we class as such the beautiful 
picture of her in ecstasy, together with her patron St. Mary 
Magdalen, by Fra Bartolomeo, formerly to be seen near the 
entrance door, but now removed to the museum. 

In this church, or in that which stood in its site before the 
barbarians of the seventeenth century began their so-called 
restorations, wonderful scenes were witnessed. F. Francis of 
Lucca, a Friar Preacher, whose deposition is in the Process of 
Venice, declares that he often beheld her at this time, and saw 
her do many things which caused her to be regarded as a saint. 
Such multitudes of both sexes resorted to her, that even in the 
church she was often quite surrounded, in such sort that many 
who wished to see her could not get at her for the crowd. And 
he tells a story which is also related by Caffarini, from whose 
pages we shall quote the narrative. 

During her residence in the city Catherine fell sick, and made 
known to a certain priest her humble desire of receiving Holy 
Communion, from which alone she hoped to receive any relief. 
The priest appeared willing to grant her request, but formed the 
guilty resolution of making this an opportunity for testing the 
truth of the common report that she could take no food save the 
Holy Eucharist. He therefore went to the church, and thence 
set out for Catherine s house, accompanied as usual with a 
number of the faithful, chanting psalms and bearing lights, whilst 
he carried in a small pyx an unconsecrated Host, which he deter 
mined to give her. Entering the house he approached the bedside 
of Catherine, but she neither moved nor gave the least sign of 
religious reverence, though the bystanders, according to custom, 
prostrated in worship, making acts of faith and adoration. Seeing 


Catherine did not join in these, the priest went so far as to 
reproach her for her indevotion. Then the Saint, justly indignant 
at beholding the Sacred Mystery thus profaned, kindled with holy 
zeal, replied, "Are you not ashamed, Father, to bring me a piece 
of common bread, an unconsecrated Host, and with this ceremony 
to deceive all the people assembled here, and oblige them to 
commit an act of idolatry ? If they stand excused of impiety, 
being ignorant of what you have done, I could not be excused, 
God having made known to me your fraud." Full of confusion 
the priest retired, troubled as much ,by her reproof as by the 
remorse of his own conscience. He sincerely repented of his 
fault, and always retained a great veneration for her whom, by 
his own experience, he had certified to possess such supernatural 
light. 1 

There is another sanctuary in Lucca which Catherine certainly 
visited, and which contains a sacred treasure, to which she alludes 
in writing to one of her Lucchese disciples. In a chapel attached 
to the cathedral is preserved the "Volto Santo di Luca," 2 an 
ancient cedar-wood Crucifix, said to have been carved by Nico- 
demus, the disciple of our Lord. When he came to the face, 
says the old tradition, he desisted through fear and reverence, 
and was assisted by an angel who completed it, and thus gave 
the features that expression of majesty which is recognised by all 
beholders. It was brought to Lucca from Palestine in the eighth 
century, and is held in great veneration by the inhabitants who 
call it the Santo Volto, or, quite as often, the Santa Croce. It is 
under the latter term that St. Catherine refers to it, in a letter to 
be quoted presently. During Catherine s stay at Lucca she 
visited at their own houses several sick persons who could not 
come to her, and an incident which occurred in one of these 
visits of charity is related by Caffarini in the Supplement. 
" Happening one day," he says, "to hear that a poor woman lay 

1 Sup., Part 2, Trat. 6, 7. 

- In Latin "Vultum de Luca." This explains the customary oath of 
William Rufus, "Per vultum de Luca," rendered by many English writers 
as " By the face of St. Luke." 


in her agony and in imminent danger of losing her soul, she left 
the house without delay and hastened to find her out, though a 
torrent of rain was falling at the time. Catherine remained with 
the dying woman, consoling and assisting her till she breathed 
her last sigh. The rain meanwhile continued to fall so that in 
returning home she found the streets running with water, never 
theless she reached the house without being in the least wet." 1 
Many other remarkable events happened at Lucca, which are 
unfortunately alluded to, but not related, by Caffarini. The same 
observation applies to the testimony of Dino and Leopard, two 
Lucchese merchants, disciples of Catherine, who are named in 
the Process as having witnessed marvellous, but unrecorded 
incidents. 2 No illusion occurs in the Legend to this visit of 
Catherine s to Lucca a fact which is sufficient to illustrate how 
imperfectly the narrative of Raymund gives the real history of 
her life. He probably did not accompany her thither; and 
judging from the manner in which Caffarini appears as the chief 
authority for what relates to this journey, we should judge him 
on this occasion to have taken Raymund s place. Neri di 
Landoccio was also one of her companions, a fact which we 
learn incidentally from a line in one of his poems, one of those 
half revelations which tantalise us by what they leave untold, 
rather than satisfy by what they tell. 

" E non di vero gia mai si strucca 
In fin che tu non mi sarai ben certo 
Di do che mi promettesti a Luca" 

What it was that she promised him at Lucca he does not say ; 
but judging from his ordinary temptation to despondency, it 
seems probable that at this time she encouraged him by some 
powerful hope of his perseverance. 

I will conclude this part of our narrative with a few extracts 

1 Sup., Part 2, Trat. I, 5. 

2 Included in the Process are the depositions of two other men of Lucca, F. 
John of Lucca, Dominican friar, and Thomas Thomasini, a bishop ; but they 
bear no reference to her visit to the city. They are printed by Baluze in the 
fourth volume of his " Miscellanea." 


from her correspondence with her Lucchese friends after her 
departure from the city. She seems to have spent about three 
months with her hospitable host, and returned to Siena towards 
the close of the year. The warm affection which Donna Mellina 
had conceived for her new friend left her inconsolable when the 
time came for their separation. It was an embarrassment to 
which Catherine was constantly exposed ; those who were 
brought into close relations with her found in that wonderful 
mixture of strength with sweetness, and that unbounded power 
of sympathy, which sprang from her habit of loving all creatures 
in God, so great a support and consolation that they knew not 
how to live without it. Mellina was one of these, and together 
with her little circle of devout friends conveyed to Catherine a 
woful expression of the desolation they felt after her departure 
from among them. It was a great blank which nothing would 
fill up, and they knew not how to endure it. Catherine was 
indulgent, and wrote no fewer than five letters of consolation to 
her sorrowing friends. That to Mellina is of touching beauty, 
and is worth quoting for the sake of its exquisite lesson on 

"I wish, my dear daughter," she says, "that I could see you 
transformed in the ardour of charity, so that no creature could 
separate you from it. You know that in order that two things 
should be united there must be no obstacle between them that 
would hinder their perfect union. Think, then, that God would 
have no other love come between Him and you, whether it be 
the love of yourself or of any other creature ; for God loves us, 
entirely, generously, gratuitously, without obligation, and without 
being first loved by us. Man cannot thus love God ; he is bound 
to love Him by duty, being always the object of the benefits and 
goodness of God. We should love nothing, therefore, whether 
spiritual or temporal, out of God. You will say, How can I 
obtain such a love as this ? I reply, only by drawing it out of 
the Fountain of Supreme Truth. There you will find the beauty 
and the dignity of your soul. In that Fountain the soul drinks 
deep ; seeing and loving nothing in herself, but seeing all things 


reflected in the clear Fountain of God s goodness ; loving all that 
she loves for His sake, and nothing apart from Him. When 
once she beholds how good God is, how can she help loving 
Him ? And it was to this that He invited us when He cried, 
standing in the temple, If any one thirsts, let him come to Me 
and drink, for I am the Fountain of living water. Let us then 
go to the Fountain of God s goodness, whence we can draw out 
the water of Divine grace ; but to follow this path we must lay 
aside every burden. And therefore I will not have you love me, 
or any other creature, unless it be in God. I say this, because I 
see from your letter that you have suffered from my departure ; 
but you must follow the example of our Lord, who did not allow 
His love for His Mother and His disciples to hinder Him from 
running to the shameful death of the Cross. He left them, 
though He loved them ; He left them for God s honour and the 
salvation of His creatures. And the Apostles also separated, 
because they did not rest in themselves. They renounced their 
own consolation in order to glorify God and to save souls. No 
doubt they would gladly have remained with Mary whom they so 
tenderly loved ; and yet they all went away because they did not 
love themselves, neither did they love their neighbour nor God 
for themselves ; but they loved God for His own sake, and in 
Him they loved all things. 

"And this is how you must love yourselves and creatures. 
Think only of God s honour and the good of souls. If the separa 
tion from those you love causes you sadness, do not let yourselves 
be cast down. Try not to be any more afflicted about me, for 
that would really be an obstacle, and prevent your being united 
with Jesus crucified, and resembling Him. God gave Himself 
generously to us, and He demands the like generosity from us : 
therefore renounce all affection which opposes charity. That 
glorious affection unites, it never divides. It is like the mortar 
which an architect uses when he builds a wall of many stones ; 
for the stones only form a wall when they are cemented together 
by mortar : without that they would all fall asunder. 

"Perhaps you will remind me of our Lord s words to His 


disciples when He said, A little while and you shall not see Me, 
and again, a little while and you shall see Me/ and you will ask 
me, < Why say that God will have no ties of the heart, when here 
He speaks of them ? My dear children, the bond of charity is 
not a tie. If you put in place of it the tie of self-love, that, 
indeed, will separate us from God, and lead us to nothing. So 
now, have courage. I feel for your sorrow, but I show you the 
remedy: give your hearts wholly to God; and if indeed you 
desire to love me, unworthy as I am, I will tell you where you 
may always find me. Go to that sweet that adorable Cross, 1 
with the good and tender Magdalen, and there you will be able 
to satisfy all your desires ! " (Letter 348.) 

One more quotation, and we must take leave of Lucca, though 
not without regret and a wistful longing to know more of her 
relations with the place and its inhabitants who seem so heartily 
to have appreciated her. This time she is writing, not to senators 
or noble ladies, but to John Perotti, a poor tanner, and to his 
wife, who had sent her, as a souvenir from their city, one of those 
" Bambini," or images of the Infant Jesus, for the manufacture 
of which Lucca is still famous. The good couple had dressed 
the Bambino with their own hands ; and in reward for their kind 
thought and simple piety, Catherine found time to write them a 
graceful letter of thanks. She reminds them that we should try 
not only to clothe the little image of the Bambino, but ourselves 
to be clothed with Jesus Christ. " I thank you with all my heart 
for your present," she says, "and as out of love and charity you 
have clothed the Child Jesus, I doubt not He will clothe you with 
the new man, Christ crucified; and in His sweet love I pray 
that you may ever abide." (Letter 302.) 

Of Catherine s political negotiations at Lucca and their result, 
not a trace is to be found in the pages of her biographers. She 
barely alludes to the subject in her first letter to Gregory XL, in 
a passage which has been quoted in a former chapter. 2 

Pisa eventually got entangled so far as to fall under the interdict, 

1 i.e., the Santa Croce of Lucca, spoken of above. 
2 See page 291. 


but Lucca remained faithful. Neither city entirely escaped the 
same kind of trouble as that in which Siena became involved, by 
holding friendly communications with the Florentines after they 
had incurred the censures of the Church ; but they certainly took 
no open part in the hostilities carried on by Florence against the 
authority of the Sovereign Pontiff. Considering the power then 
exercised in Tuscany by the latter republic, this abstention could 
not have been persevered in without considerable firmness on the 
part of the weaker cities ; nor can it be doubted that this result 
was mainly owing to the counsels and influence of Catherine. 

VOL. I. 

( 338 ) 



A^ the moment when Catherine was entering on a period in 
her life which was to be filled with fresh sufferings and 
heavy responsibilities, it pleased God to sweeten her path by the 
gift of a great consolation. He brought into the ranks of her 
spiritual family a soul who became dearer to her, perhaps, than 
any of her other disciples, and whose name for the remainder of 
her life was to be indissolubly connected with her own. Stephen 
Maconi was the son of Conrad Maconi and his wife Giovanna, a 
daughter of the house of Bandinelli. They were grandees of 
Siena, and as noble by character as by birth. We first hear of 
Stephen as the schoolfellow and close friend of Thomas Caffarini ; 
and their friendship not only lasted through the vicissitudes of 
school-life, but stood the test of separation. At fourteen Caffarini 
entered the novitiate of San Domenico, whilst Stephen remained 
in the world and was bred to arms ; yet in spite of the widely 
different careers which they embraced, nothing dissolved that tie 
of friendship, "which has remained unchanged," writes Caffarini 
in the concluding part of his Supplement, "for more than fifty 
years." Stephen s parents were proud of their son, and not with 
out reason. In addition to a handsome person and bewitching 
manners, he possessed great natural gifts, and a heart as pure and 
innocent as that of a child. In this lay the secret of that gaiety 
and light-heartedness which made him so universally beloved; 
but it was not long before dark clouds gathered on his horizon. 
At a banquet at which were present certain members of the 
Rinaldini and Tolomei families, between whom and the Maconi 


there existed a kind of rivalry, a dispute arose on some point of 
honour. Stephen himself had good sense enough to desire that 
this unfortunate quarrel should not be suffered to ripen into a 
feud ; but his companions were less reasonable, and urging him 
to support the honour of his family, they pledged themselves to 
stand by him to the end. Stephen, therefore, in compliance with 
the miserable customs of the time, raised a band of followers, and 
being joined by several of his relatives, they went about the city 
armed, and prepared for bloodshed. All this took place in the 
year 1374, when Siena was being ravaged by the plague, a cir 
cumstance which produced no sort of impression on the youthful 
partisans. Efforts were made by mutual friends to bring about a 
reconciliation, but without success ; and so a year or more went 
by. At last some were found who advised Stephen to apply to 
Catherine and secure her mediation ; for the continuance of the 
feud with two such powerful families would, it was feared, bring 
ruin on his house. But Stephen scorned the idea. "To what 
purpose would it be," he said, "to apply to a woman of no rank 
or authority ; one who has managed to get a reputation for 
sanctity by sitting in the corners of churches telling her beads ? 
Do you suppose that one like her will be able to succeed where 
so many illustrious gentlemen have failed?" At this time he 
had no knowledge of the Saint. " Although a citizen of Siena," 
he writes, " neither I nor any of my family had any acquaintance 
with Catherine before the year 1376. At that time I was carried 
away in the current of a worldly life, and had no thought of 
becoming known to her; but the Eternal. Goodness, Who wills not 
that any should perish, saved my soul from the abyss by means 
of this holy virgin." It was through the entreaties of his mother 
that Stephen s pride at last yielded. She cast herself into his 
arms, and implored him to make peace at any cost, advising him 
to place himself in the hands of a certain Peter Bellanti, a friend 
of the family, and one well acquainted with Catherine, being pro 
bably a relative of that Andrea dei Bellanti whose conversion 
on his deathbed has been related in a former chapter. Stephen 
consented to be guided by his advice ; and Peter, who had him- 


self been reconciled to his enemies through Catherine s means, 
offered to introduce him to the Saint, and accompany him to her 
house. " We went therefore together," says Stephen, " and she 
received me, not with the timidity of a young girl, but like a 
sister who was welcoming a brother returned from a distant 
journey. Full of astonishment, I listened to the words she 
addressed to me, exhorting me to confess, and lead a Christian 
life. I said to myself, The finger of God is here. When I had 
unfolded to her the object of my visit, * Go, my son, she said, 
( leave the matter with me ; I will do all in my power to obtain 
for you a good peace. And thanks to her efforts, we did indeed 
obtain peace in a manner truly miraculous." What this was he 
does not say, but the story is related at length in his life. Cathe 
rine, who, as we know, had great influence with the Tolomei, 
succeeded, though not without difficulty, in getting all the hostile 
parties to agree to meet in the Piazza Tolomei to be reconciled ; 
but when the appointed day came, the Tolomei and Rinaldini 
kept away, and avoided meeting Catherine for some days after. 
She perceived their intention of escaping from their engagements. 
" They will not listen to me," she said ; "well, then, whether they 
will or no, they shall listen to God." So saying, she left her 
house, and going to the Piazza Tolomei, where she had desired 
Conrad Maconi and his son Stephen to met her with the rest of 
his family, she led them all into the neighbouring church of 
St. Christoforo, where, prostrating in prayer before the high altar, 
she was rapt in ecstasy. And suddenly there entered the church 
the Tolomei and the Rinaldini ; they came, neither aware of the 
other s intentions, brought thither by God ; and seeing the holy 
virgin raised in ecstasy, her face surrounded by light, the spectacle 
so struck them with compunction, that they laid aside their 
rancour, and agreed to place themselves entirely in her hands ; 
nor did they all leave the church until a perfect reconciliation 
and mutual forgiveness had been exchanged between them. 1 
This occurrence took place in the beginning of the year 1376. 
After this Stephen often visited her on business connected with 
1 Vita Steph. Maconi, lib. i., cap. vi. 


the reconciliation, and she asked him to help her by writing some 
letters from her dictation ; for, says Dom Bartholomew, the 
author of his life, " this holy virgin being engaged in many affairs 
regarding the salvation of souls, in which, by reason of her sex, 
she could not always personally appear, was obliged to have re 
course to letters, and sometimes dictated to two or three secre 
taries at one and the same time, and on different subjects." He 
gladly complied with her request, and whilst writing from her 
dictation felt a singular change working in his heart, as though 
called to be a new man. And the change soon became apparent 
to the whole city, exposing him to no little ridicule. There were 
plenty of mockers to whom the spectacle of a young man of rank 
and worldly reputation acting as the secretary of the poor dyer s 
daughter, was regarded as an excellent joke ; and he was followed 
through the streets by some who spent their jests on his sudden 
conversion, calling him " be-Catherined" (Caterinato) the cant 
phrase with which the street wits of Siena were wont at that time 
to greet any who were known as disciples of the Saint 1 

Stephen soon became thoroughly one of the " spiritual family," 
and endeared himself to all of them, no less than to her whom 
they regarded as their mother. Between him and Neri di Lan- 
doccio a strict friendship sprang up, which was perhaps all the 
closer by reason of the marked contrast of their natural char 
acters. Where indeed could two beings have been found more 
unlike each other, than the gay young cavalier full of life and 
drollery, who even when writing on the gravest affairs could not 
restrain his love of banter, and the sensitive poet, the " grazioso 
rimatore" as Gigli calls him, who was ever trembling on the verge 
of despondency, and needing Catherine s strong and masculine 
direction to lift him out of himself? 

But as is generally the case, each found a charm in the opposite 
qualities of his friend. Stephen by his raillery often drove away 
from Neri s soul the black clouds of melancholy ; whilst Neri s 
graver and more thoughtful character was ever on the watch to 
guard the brilliancy of Stephen from degenerating into levity. 

1 It was the same witticism which had been expended on Fra Lazzarino. 


Catherine loved them both ; but Stephen was, or was supposed to 
be, the Benjamin of the "family," and like other Benjamins he 
had to pay for the privilege, real or supposed, of being his mother s 
darling, by incurring a certain amount of jealousy on the part of 
his companions. " She loved me," he says, " with the tenderness 
of a mother, far more than I deserved, so as to inspire some of 
her children with a kind of envy ; she admitted me into her closest 
confidence, whilst on my part I studied her words and all her 
actions with the greatest attention, and sinner as I am, I can say 
on my conscience, that though for sixty years I have frequented 
the company of many great servants of God, yet never did I see 
or listen to any one who had attained such exalted perfection as 
she. Never did an idle word fall from her mouth; our most 
frivolous conversations she knew how to turn to our spiritual 
profit. She could never be satisfied with speaking of God and 
Divine things, and I believe could she have found any one to 
listen to her on those subjects, she would never have slept or 
eaten. If any one spoke in her presence of worldly things, she 
took refuge in contemplation, and then her body would become 
wholly insensible. Her ecstasies were continual, and we wit 
nessed them a thousand times. Her body might then be seen 
raised in the air, contrary to the laws of gravity, as I myself can 
personally testify. Her whole life was a miracle, but there was 
one circumstance about it truly admirable. Nothing that she did, 
said, or heard, hindered her soul from being intimately united to 
God, and plunged as it were into the Divinity. She never spoke 
save of God or what referred to Him ; she sought Him and she 
found Him in all things, and that by an actual and sensible love. 
Temptations and troubles vanished in her presence. Criminals 
condemned to death often sent for her ; and when she had once 
visited them, they seemed no longer to think of the terrible 
destiny awaiting them. I myself remember often going to her in 
some interior trouble, and afterwards acknowledging to her that I 
had quite forgotten what it was. I would ask her to tell me, and 
she would do so, and explain it far better than I could have done 
myself. Nor is this surprising, for it is well known that she saw 


souls as we see faces ; we could hide nothing from her. By her 
holy words she brought back an immense multitude of persons to 
the path of virtue, and led them to confess their sins ; in fact, it 
was impossible to resist her. 

" Sometimes sinners presented themselves who were so chained 
by their sins, that they would say to her, Madam, were you to 
ask us to go to Rome or to Compostella, we would do it directly ; 
but as to our going to confession, do not mention it, it is impos 
sible. When she had exhausted every other method, she would 
say to them : If I tell you why you refuse to go to confession, 
would you then go? They would accept this condition, and 
she would then say to them : * My dear brother, we may some 
times escape the eyes of men, but never those of God. You 
committed such a sin, in such a place, and at such a time, and 
that is the reason that Satan troubles your soul and hinders you 
from confessing. The sinner finding himself discovered would 
prostrate himself at her feet, acknowledging his fault, and with a 
profusion of tears confess without delay. This I can certify as 
having occurred to many. One among others who held a high 
position and enjoyed a great reputation throughout all Italy, told 
me : * God and myself alone know what that holy woman revealed 
to me, I cannot therefore doubt that she is much greater before 
God than we can even think. " 

Stephen had personal experience of the Saint s wonderful 
powers in this respect. In the early period of their acquaintance 
he allowed himself to be drawn into some plots against the go 
vernment, and attended the secret meetings of the conspirators, 
held in the vaults of La Scala. Catherine, who knew by revela 
tion what was going on, sent for Stephen, and, severely reproving 
him, bade him take a discipline, and shed as many drops of his 
own blood as he had spoken words in the unlawful assembly. She 
also foretold that these holy subterranean vaults would one day 
be closed in consequence of the bad use made of them by sedi 
tious persons; a prediction which was verified in 1390. (Vit. 
Steph. Mac., lib. v. c. 2.) 

Such is the testimony which Catherine s favourite disciple has 


borne regarding " the holy memory," as he calls it. looking back 
on it through the long vista of thirty years. No wonder that the 
affection and confidence given him by such a soul weaned him 
from every other human tie, and that his intercourse with her 
seemed to satisfy every wish and desire of his heart. "The 
longer I was with her," he says, "the more I felt the love of God 
and a contempt of the world springing up and growing within me. 
Soon after our acquaintance had first begun, Catherine one day 
said to me, * You will see, my dear son, that ere long your greatest 
earthly wish will be accomplished. These words surprised me 
much ; I did not know what I could desire in the world, I was 
thinking rather of quitting it entirely. I said to her : * My very 
dear Mother, what is that greatest desire? She replied, Look 
into your heart. I said, Beloved Mother, I do not find any 
greater desire than that of always remaining near you. She 
answered instantly, And it will be satisfied. And, in fact, 
shortly after this conversation, events occurred which once more 
summoned Catherine away from Siena." 1 And in these fresh 
journeys Stephen was chosen to be one of those who should bear 
her company. " I left my father, my mother, my brothers and 
sisters, and all my kindred with joy," he says, " so happy was I 
to remain in Catherine s presence, and to be admitted to her holy 
friendship." And it is of these new and important expeditions 
that we now have to speak. 

1 In his letter to Caffarini, from which the above extracts have been taken, 
Stephen says that he soon afterwards accompanied Catherine to Avignon, 
omitting all mention of their previous visit to Florence. Caffarini, however, 
with his usual accuracy, says in his Supplement, that Stephen went with her, 
" from Siena to Florence, and from Florence to Avignon, and thence to 
Genoa ; after which he again returned with her to Florence." 

( 345 ) 



IN the part which Catherine had hitherto taken in the affairs 
of Tuscany she had found means of combining an uncom 
promising zeal for loyalty with an earnest advocacy of indulgent 
measures towards the revolted cities and provinces. There were 
two objects which she sought to gain by her efforts and by her 
prayers : on the part of the rebels, an unconditional submission ; 
on that of the Pontiff and his advisers, a policy of peace and 
reconciliation. Hence, while in her correspondence with her 
friends at Florence, she exerted herself to convince them that 
members of the Church when separated from its head must 
inevitably become dead and corrupt, and that no amount of 
wrongs endured can justify children in revolting against their 
Father, her letters to Avignon as constantly pleaded for pardon 
for the past and good government for the future. She uses 
every argument in her power to induce Gregory to adopt measures 
of pacification. She admits the just complaints which he might 
allege against the rebellious Florentines, but urges on him the 
magnanimous policy of forgiveness, as best befitting the Vicar of 
Him Who laid down His life for His sheep. What hope for the 
reform of scandals and abuses, what hope for the prosecution of 
the Crusade, if the Church were to plunge into war with her own 
children? Better far to admit their real grievances, and to 
appoint good and just governors ; this is the summary of all her 
arguments, and still she reiterates the cry, " Peace, for the love 
of Jesus crucified, no more war, my sweet Father, but peace ! 
peace ! " Gregory, who had already taken a considerable body 


of troops into his pay, listened to St. Catherine s appeal, and in 
the beginning of 1376 despatched ambassadors to Florence, 
offering very moderate terms. If the Florentines would renounce 
their warlike programme and engage not to stir up Bologna to 
rebellion, the Pope would grant freedom to Perugia and Citta di 
Castello. But such a proposal was by no means acceptable to 
the " Eight of war," whose power and consequence were entirely 
bound up with the prosecution of hostilities. Whilst, therefore, 
the Pope s envoys were actually negotiating these terms of peace 
with the citizens, the " Eight of war " secretly despatched their 
own envoys to Bologna, with instructions to rouse the populace 
to revolt; and the Legate of that city had to seek safety in 

This odious piece of treachery was naturally resented by 
Gregory, who saw himself mocked and betrayed at the very 
moment when he was condescending to the Florentines and 
soliciting peace. Catherine, however, did not yet despair, and 
whilst she continued to implore the Pope still to show clemency 
to the infatuated people, she addressed herself to one of the 
Florentine Magistrates whom she knew and trusted as an honest 
citizen, and faithful son of the Holy Church. This was Nicolas 
Soderini, who had been Gonfalonier of Justice in 1371, and at 
this time was one of the " Priors of Arts ; in Florence, and a chief 
Magistrate of the republic. Catherine addresses him in just such 
plain common-sense terms as suited his straightforward character. 
" Can there be a greater misfortune than to lose God ? We may 
form a powerful league, and be allied with many cities and great 
personages; but what good will that do us if we are not united 
with God ? What blindness ! It is God Who preserves all the 
cities in the world, and I revolt against Him ! Perhaps you say, 
I do not revolt against God ; but I say, what you do against 
His Vicar you do against Him. Since the Vicar of Christ has 
such power that he can open or shut the gates of life eternal, 
what are we but dead members if we revolt against him ? 
Without him we can do nothing. If you are against the Holy 
Church, how can you share in the Blood of Christ? For the 


Church is none other than Christ Himself. 1 Perhaps it seems 
to you that it is you who have received the injury, but how can 
those judge others who have themselves fallen into the same 
fault ? I beg of you, Nicolas, do your utmost to be just. It is 
not for nothing that God has put it in your power to make peace ; 
it is to save you and all Tuscany. War does not seem to me to 
be such a sweet thing that we need seek for it when it is in our 
power to avoid it. Try and discharge the office of the Angels 
who are ever seeking to make peace between us and God. Do 
your utmost, whether it pleases or displeases men ; think only of 
God s honour and your own salvation, and even if it cost you 
your life, never hesitate to speak the truth, fearing neither men 
nor devils." (Letter 217.) 

Meanwhile things seemed approaching a crisis ; on the one 
hand the mad Ghibelline mob, encouraged by their " Eight 
Saints," after slaughtering the inquisitors, seized the Papal Nuncio 
and flayed him alive in the streets of Florence with circumstances 
of unspeakable atrocity. The Pope replied to these enormities 
by placing the city under an interdict, and excommunicating 
the authors of the crime. The censures of the Church in those 
days were no mere nominal punishment, nor were their conse 
quences exclusively spiritual. In the present case the sentence 
pronounced against the Florentines broke up their commercial 
prosperity, and thus touched them on their tenderest point. To 
preserve their important mercantile relations with England, they 
despatched envoys to that country, declaring themselves entirely 
innocent of the crime of rebellion against the Pope, and request 
ing that their merchants might take refuge in the king s dominions, 
"till a more serene air of papal grace should smile upon them." 
Richard II. received them kindly, and showed himself disposed 
to grant their request, when letters were received from the Pope 
explaining the facts of the case ; declaring the Florentines excom 
municated for their crimes, and specially for the horrible murder 
of the Nuncio, and requiring that the Bulls to that effect should 
be published in the metropolis by the Bishop of London. A 
1 La chiesa non e altro che esso Chris to.. 


singular alternative, however, was offered by these Bulls to the 
Florentines residing in England. If they were willing to become 
bondsmen, with all their goods and chattels, it would be lawful 
for the English who so received them to communicate and treat 
with them, and for the Florentines who consented to such an 
alternative to remain and dwell in the land. In short, strange as 
the condition appears, it was, and was intended to be, a way of 
escape from the extreme penalty, as it enabled the Florentine 
merchants to hold on until better times ; and they unanimously 
agreed to accept the proposed condition. 1 

The injury inflicted on their commerce induced the Florentines 
to pause in their headlong career, and despatch envoys to Avignon 
to treat for peace. The envoys were accompanied by Donato 
Barbadori, a popular orator, who set forth the grievances of his 
fellow-citizens and the misdeeds of the Legates in a strain of 
impassioned eloquence, but without one word in acknowledgment 
of the treasons and atrocious acts of violence with which these 
grievances had been met. After some days consideration, 
during which the Italian Cardinals pleaded for gentle measures, 
and the French for war, the final answer was given : the counsels 
of the French prevailed ; the interdict was to remain in force, and 
war was declared. 

When this news reached Florence, it raised a furious storm. 
The revolutionary party proposed to break with the Church 
altogether and establish a new religion ; and, on the other hand, 
Count Robert of Geneva, appointed commander of the Papal 
forces, was leading into Italy an army of 10,000 Breton Free 
Lances. The danger was imminent, and in their extreme alarm 
the Florentines turned their thoughts towards Catherine, and the 
less insane members of the republic, with Soderini at their head, 
implored her to come to Florence and assist them in fresh 

1 See Thomson s "Chronicon Angl iae," by a monk of St. Albans, pp. 
IOI-2, 109-11. These facts explain the statement of Scipio Ammirato, who 
says that the English made slaves of the Florentines residing in England. 
Tronci, the Chronicler of Pisa, says that it was because the Pisans did not 
dare to expel the Florentine merchants from their territory, that they fell 
under the interdict. 


negotiations with the Pope ; " for," says St. Antoninus, " they 
knew her to be most acceptable to his Holiness." She set out, 
therefore, in the month of May 1376, just two years after her 
first visit. Many of the citizens had seen her on that occasion, 
and formed their own opinion of her sanctity. Others knew her 
by report alone, and the events of her six months residence at 
Pisa in the previous year could not fail to have reached the ears 
of many. It is thus that Scipio Ammirato, the Florentine histo 
rian, and one by no means to be reckoned among Catherine s 
adherents, speaks of the feeling of his countrymen regarding her. 
" The Florentines knew for certain that she had remained many 
days without any other food than the Blessed Sacrament, though 
that was impossible in the natural order ; they were aware that 
she had passed most of her life in the most absolute solitude ; 
they were convinced that it was by the particular design of God 
that she had exchanged the contemplative for the active life ; and 
hearing that with no knowledge of Latin she yet explained the 
most difficult passages of Holy Scripture, and that she had learned 
to read by no human means, all her words and actions came to 
be regarded as divinely inspired. Hence she was continually 
implored to reconcile enmities, to deliver the possessed, to con 
sole the afflicted, and to come to their help ; all which she did 
with so much zeal and humility, that though some were not 
wanting who blamed her with little kindness, she was generally 
regarded, as well by men as women, as a true servant of God, and 
very dear to His heart." l 

This passage is a valuable testimony from a purely secular 
writer, and shows in a clear manner how it was that Catherine 
was drawn out of her solitude and compelled to take part in 
public affairs, through the increasing fame of her sanctity, and 
its power over a believing people. She therefore prepared to 
depart. She had already sent Neri di Landoccio to Avignon, 
bearing a letter to the Pope, and had urged him to support its 
arguments with all his might. " Labour in the cause of charity," 
she writes to him, " and so you will be doing the will of God and 

1 Scipio Am., liv. xiii. p. 711. 


that of your poor mother, whose heart is just now very sad." 
Some time in March she had likewise sent F. Raymund of 
Capua and Master John III. to Avignon to prepare the way for 
a pacification. 1 We learn this from Raymund s own words in 
the Legend (Part III. chap vi.) and from a letter written to him 
by the Saint, in which she speaks of certain revelations made to 
her "on the first day of April." She was then preparing for her 
own part in the mission of peace. On that first day of April God 
revealed to her admirable things, and explained to her "the 
mystery of the persecution which the Church was then suffering." 
He made her comprehend how it was that these scandals which 
obscured the Church s splendour were permitted. " I allow this 
time of persecution," He said, " in order to tear up the thorns 
with which My Spouse is surrounded ; but I do not consent to 
the guilty acts of men. I do as I did when I was on earth : I 
make a scourge of cords to drive out those who buy and sell in 
My Temple, and with it I chastise those impure, avaricious 
merchants who traffic with the gifts of the Holy Ghost." Then 
Catherine beheld herself surrounded by many saints, among 
whom were St. Dominic and St. John the Evangelist, together 
with many of her children ; whilst our Lord placed His Cross on 
her shoulder and an olive branch in her hand, and commanded her 
to bear it alV uno popolo, ed air altro ; that is, to both the hostile 
parties. " I am dying of desire and expectation/ she concludes ; 
"have pity on me, and beg the Christ on earth not to delay." 
(Letter 87.) 

This, then, was her preparation for her first public mission, the 
Cross laid on her shoulder, the olive branch placed in her hand ! 
This interesting passage does not appear to have been quoted by 

1 Capecelatro supposes Raymund to have accompanied Catherine to 
Florence, and to have been sent thence by her. But these are Raymund s 
own words : " The Florentines decided that I should first go to the Holy 
Father on the part of Catherine ; and then they summoned her to Florence." 
She did not go to Florence until the beginning of May ; and writes to 
Raymund in the early days of April, her letter being addressed to Avignon. 
St. Antoninus says she was at Pisa when she was summoned to Florence, 
but this is allowed to be a mistake. 


any of the Saint s historians ; but no more exquisite introduction 
to her political life can surely be imagined. 

She proceeded then to Florence, accompanied by some of her 
ordinary companions and disciples, and among others by Stephen 
Maconi : and, as Raymund tells us, was met by all the principal 
men of the city with every mark of respect. In Francesco 
Vanni s illustrations of her life, he represents them riding forth in 
state to receive her, as she and her companions appear coming over 
the hills, clad in the garb of pilgrims. All the magistrates were 
not strangers to her. With Buonacorso di Lapo and Charles 
Strozzi she had probably made acquaintance the previous year, 
when they came to Siena as arbiters to settle the difference 
between the Sienese government and the nobles. Nicolas 
Soderini was also an old and long-tried friend, and he now 
gladly received her and all her company into his house, 1 furnish 
ing them with all necessaries, and exerting himself to introduce 
the Saint to those who might be likely to forward the business 
on which she came. 

Immense difficulties stood in the way of any peaceful accom 
modation. The government of Florence was carried on by a 
number of separate committees of magistrates, a minute account 
of which will be found given in Capecelatro s history. It was a 
system which seemed to have been devised with the express view 
of promoting factions and misunderstandings ; at any rate it 
offered singular facilities for the purpose. Moreover, like all the 
Italian republics, Florence was torn by the contending parties of 
Guelph and Ghibelline, and by the feuds of rival families. The 
Ricci fomented the war, because they aimed at placing them 
selves on a level with the great Guelph family of the Albizi ; and 
for that reason set themselves to oppose the efforts of the Saint 
to promote peace by all the means in their power. That in spite 

1 "Pursuing the quay along the river, the present Casa Molini and the 
houses on the other side of the Piazza beyond belonged to the Soderini family, 
who from the earliest times exercised great influence in the republic. It was 
here that Nicolas Soderini received St. Catherine of Siena." (Homer s 
"Walks in Florence," vol. ii. p. 284.) 


of every difficulty Catherine should have succeeded in gaining a 
hearing, and in softening the hearts of men inflamed with revolu 
tionary passions, speaks volumes of itself. In a short time she 
was able to despatch a letter to Gregory, in which she assures 
him of the pacific disposition of the Florentines, while at the 
same time she ceases not to press upon him the necessity of 
three important measures the conclusion of peace, the return 
to Rome, and the proclamation of the Crusade. 1 " Do not be 
discouraged/ she says, " by the scandals and revolts of which 
you hear, give no ear to the devil, who sees the loss which 
threatens him, and who would do all in his power to dissuade you 
from returning to Rome. My Father, I say to you in the name 
of Christ, come, and come quickly. Remember you hold the 
place of the Sweet Lamb of God, whose unarmed hand slew all 
our enemies. He made use of no other weapons than those of 
love. He thought only of spiritual things, and how to give back 
to men the life of grace. My dearest Father, with that same sweet 
Hand of His, I conjure you, come, and conquer all our enemies 
in the name of Christ crucified ; do not listen to those who would 
hinder you : be generous and fearless. Respond to the call of 
God, Who bids you return to the city of St. Peter, our glorious 
Head, whose successor you are ; come, and live there, and then 
raise the standard of the Holy Cross. This will deliver us from 
our wars, and divisions, and iniquities, and will at the same time 
convert the infidels from their errors. Then you will give good 
pastors to the Church, and restore her strength ; for those who 
have hitherto devoured her have drained her of her life-blood, so 
that her face is become quite pale. Do not stay away because 
of what has happened at Bologna. I assure you the savage 
wolves are ready to lay their heads on your bosom like so many 
gentle lambs, and to ask mercy of you, as of their father. I 
conjure you, then, listen favourably to what F. Raymund and my 
other sons will say to you ; they come to you on the part of 
Jesus crucified, and are faithful children of Holy Church." 

This letter explains St. Catherine s entire policy. Peace at any 
1 Letter 5. 


cost, and the prevention of that worst of all scandals the war 
between a father and his children ; the return of the Pope to his 
own States, that he might govern them with justice and clemency 
in his own name, and deliver them from the rapacity and cruelty 
of his lieutenants ; and, lastly,, the Crusade, to heal society, 
wounded to the heart with faction and civil discord, and unite all 
in a common cause, namely, the protection of Christendom from 
the approaching hordes of the Turks. Her views were not the 
views of a visionary enthusiast, but eminently practical, had there 
been in any of the public men of the time the heart that could 
have responded to such a call. She loved her country, and, like 
a true Italian, held in horror the bands of mercenary foreigners 
ready to be let loose on the fair fields of Tuscany ; and so in her 
next letter she failed not to remind the Pope that if he came, it 
would be to little purpose if he brought with him his foreign 
soldiers. " Keep the troops you have taken into pay," she says, 
"but do not let them come into Italy; for, instead of settling 
our difficulties, they will spoil all. Come like a brave and fearless 
man, but, for the love of God, come with the Cross in your hand,, 
not with a great military escort." Unhappily, even as she was 
writing the words, the Breton troops were already on their march.. 
Robert of Genoa left Avignon on the 27th of May,, and his 
soldiers, entering the Bolognese territory, at once commenced a 
course of pillage and devastation, which furnished triumphant 
arguments to those who desired nothing better than an irrecon 
cilable breach. 

Catherine s stay at Florence during this second visit could 
hardly have exceeded a month or six weeks, for she came thither 
in the early part of May, and entered Avignon on the i8th of 
June. During this time, short as it was, she was able to make 
many friends. Of Nicolas Soderini I have already spoken ; to 
his name must be added those of Peter Canigiani, and his two 
sons, Ristoro and Barduccio ; of Don John of the Cells, the 
hermit of Vallombrosa, whose acquaintance she had already 
made at Pisa, and who had given her his hearty support in her 
negotiations for the Crusade; of Bartolo Usimbardi, an illus- 

VOL. i. z 


trious noble, and his wife Monna Orsa, to whom she sent several 
letters which, oddly enough, are addressed to them in. common 
with Francesco Pepin, the tailor, and his wife Agnes. She like 
wise formed ties of yet stricter friendship with some of the 
religious communities in and near Florence, specially with that 
of St. Gaggio, whose Abbess, Nera (" My own dear Nera," as 
Catherine called her after her death), was tenderly loved by the 
Saint. In the intervals of her business with the citizens and 
magistrates, she resorted to various churches and monasteries, 
and it was probably at this time that she was often seen by 
Blessed John Dominic in the Church of Santa Maria Novella. 
Writing to his mother Paola, many years later, he reminds her 
of this circumstance. "I saw her at Santa Maria Novella in 
Florence, and I think you yourself must also many times have 
seen her there when she was in ecstasy, rapt out of her bodily 
senses, and remaining for a long time motionless as if dead." 
This is the wonderful feature in the character of Catherine ; it 
had as many sides as a cut diamond, and each side reflected its 
own exquisite colour. Now engaged in weighty negotiations for 
the pacification of her country, and braving all human respect, as 
she lays before the eyes of the Pontiff the wounds inflicted by 
bad pastors, who had drained Italy of her life-blood ; now in 
structing and reforming religious Communities that had fallen 
into decay, or building up others in the spiritual life ; now beheld 
in her hours of privacy rapt in ecstasy and dead to things of self; 
and now giving rules of Christian life to persons as opposite in 
their calling and intellectual calibre as Ristoro Canigiani, the 
scholar and advocate, and Monna Agnes, the tailor s wife. 

Her letters to Ristoro form a series by themselves, and contain 
a body of instruction for the sanctification of persons living in 
the world, which for their prudence and practical utility have 
never been surpassed. At the time that she was dictating these 
admirable compositions she was sending a good scolding to her 
female friends in Florence, who, after her departure from the city, 
had got themselves into a vexatious quarrel, all out of their love 
for her. They had undertaken to defend her against malicious 


tongues, and they did not defend her wisely. So Catherine 
writes a joint letter to them all. " I shall scold you well, my 
dear daughters, for forgetting what I told you. I recommended 
you to have nothing at all to say to those who might speak against 
me. Now, remember I will not have you begin it all over again. 
My faults are many, so many, alas ! that I could not confess them 
all. When any persons speak to you of them, tell them to have 
compassion on me, and to pray to God that I may change my 
life ; He will punish my faults, and reward those who bear with 
me for His love. As to Monna Paula, I will not have you put 
yourselves in a temper with her. Try and think that she acts 
like a mother who wishes to see if her daughter has virtue or not. 
I confess sincerely I find nothing good in myself, but I trust that 
God in His mercy will change and correct me. Courage, then, 
and do not torment yourselves any more ; let us all be united in 
divine charity, and then neither men nor devils will be able to 
separate us." (Letter 366.) 

In another Letter (No. 367), addressed to " Three Florentine 
ladies, " she gives some admirable practical advice on the folly of 
choosing many spiritual advisers, and following the direction of 
none. Nor in noticing her relations with her Florentine friends 
can we omit an anecdote related by CafFarini in his Supplement, 
though without indicating at what time the event occurred. 
There was, he says, a certain noble lady living in Florence named 
Donna Christofora, who had in her service a waiting woman 
named Elizabeth. The latter had a most ardent desire to see and 
speak with Catherine, whose fame resounded throughout Tuscany. 
She wished to consult her on some interior troubles, but her state 
of servitude rendered it impossible for her to undertake the 
journey to Siena in order to satisfy her wishes. One night, how 
ever, Catherine entered her chamber after she had retired to rest, 
and, sitting down beside her, consoled her with charitable words. 
Elizabeth was able to explain all her troubles, which the Saint 
entirely dissipated; and after a long and sweet conference she 
disappeared, leaving the poor woman full of consolation. 1 
1 Sup., Part 2, Trat. 5, 4. 


The notice in Blessed John Dominic s letter of Catherine s 
habitual visits to Santa Maria Novella has its special interest, as 
it enables us to fix with certainty one locality in Florence asso 
ciated with her presence. Begun in the year 1279, this beautiful 
church was not completed at the time of Catherine s visit; its 
decorations were still in progress, and on one series of frescoes, 
only recently finished, her eyes must often have rested with plea 
sure, whether for the sake of the subject of which they treat, or 
of the hand that executed them. We allude to those scenes from 
the Life of St. Dominic, which were painted in the old chapter 
house x (as is supposed) by the Sienese artist, Simon Memmi. To 
so ardent a lover of her glorious Father as was St. Catherine, it 
must have been a delight to have gazed at his noble form repre 
sented again and again as the Preacher, the Apostle, the Lover 
of Souls ; she was one, too, who could relish the quaint device of 
her fellow-citizen, who has depicted the followers of sin and error 
as wolves dispersed and driven away by black and white dogs, the 
Domini Canes ; and from those other grand and solemn represen 
tations of the Sacred Passion, of Judgment, Heaven and Hell, on 
whose faded colours careless eyes now come and gaze as on mere 
artistic curiosities, she received, perhaps, an illumination, a com 
prehension of the eternal truths, which rapt her in ecstasy, and 
drew her upwards to a region wherein the turbulent dissensions 
that raged outside those walls were for the time forgotten. 

We must also assign to this time spent in Florence certain visits 
which Catherine seems to have paid to various places in the 
neighbourhood of the city, where local tradition still preserves the 
traces of her presence. Thus in the Villa Petrognano in Val 
d Elza, there is a fountain from which she is said to have drunk, 
and which is on that account held in veneration by the people. 
A little chapel is built over it, and an inscription commemorates 
the fact. At Pontorno another interesting tradition declares that 
she came thither at the time when the church bell was being 

1 Now the Capella degli Spagnuoli, The paintings are commonly attri 
buted to Simon Memmi and Taddeo Gaddi, though the fact is disputed by 
Crowe and Cavalcaselle. 


founded, and that she cast into the melted metal her own ring. 
The inhabitants bestowed on the bell the name of " Catherine," 
and consider themselves to have been frequently preserved from 
tempests by ringing it. Gigli, in his Vocabolario^ mentions these 
anecdotes, and also speaks of another inscription to be seen in the 
Church of St. Antonio de Fanciulli, in memory of her residence 
near that spot, at the time of her embassy to the city. Of 
Vallombrosa, and her relations with its austere hermits, we must 
speak in a separate chapter. 

Meanwhile the leaders of the more moderate party at Florence 
were urging their colleagues to place the renewed negotiations for 
peace in Catherine s hands. Soderini and Buonacorso di Lapo 
were among those whose influence and persistency for the moment 
won the day; and presenting themselves to the Saint they 
besought her to save their city from destruction, by undertaking 
to go to Avignon, and plead their cause with the Sovereign Pontiff 
in a personal interview. One and all assured her of their sorrow 
for what had passed, and their readiness to humble themselves in 
any way that the Holy Father might require. Catherine s quick 
discernment disposed her to doubt the perfect sincerity of some, 
at least, of the speakers. "See, gentlemen," she said, "if you 
really have the intention of submitting to the Sovereign Pontiff, 
and if you desire me to present you to your Father as children 
willing to humble yourselves, I will shrink from no trouble or 
labour in bringing this business to a happy issue ; but on no other 
conditions will I go." * 

They all declared that those were their true sentiments, and 
that they desired nothing better than that she should so represent 
the case to the Holy Father. On this understanding Catherine 
consented to accept the difficult and responsible task ; but before 
starting she wrote to Raymund, expressing her ardent desire to 
see that removal of scandals, and that renewal of fervour for 
which she was ready to give her life. And she concludes with a 

1 Per altro modo io non v andarei. The whole narrative, even to the very 
words spoken, is given by the Saint herself in her letter to Buonacorso (Let. 
2J5), written from Avignon, and reminding him of what had passed. 


touching message to the Holy Father, whom as yet she had never 
seen. " Tell the Christ on earth that when I have seen him I 
shall sing my Nunc dimittis" 

It was the beginning of June when Catherine and her com 
panions left Florence. A manuscript by Buonconti, preserved in 
the Bandinelli family, informs us that the little party included the 
three Pisan brothers, Thomas, Gerard, and Francis Buonconti, 
besides Stephen Maconi, and three of the Saint s religious sisters. 
F. Bartholomew Dominic and Felix of Massa were also of the 
party : Raymund, Neri, and Master John III. awaited them at 
Avignon. We do not know with any certainty what route they 
took. Pius II., in the Bull of St. Catherine s canonisation, how 
ever, speaks of her having crossed " the Alps and the Apennines" 
in the service of the Church ; and it is therefore most probable 
that she performed the journey by land. This is also in accord 
ance with local tradition, which affirms her to have passed through 
Bologna on her way, where she visited the tomb of St. Dominic 
in the church of the Friar Preachers, and beholding their cemetery, 
is said to have exclaimed, " How sweet it would be to lie there ! " 
In any case it was a journey which involved fatigue and even 
danger, and must have occupied some time. The date of her 
departure from Florence has not been preserved ; but that of her 
arrival at Avignon is given by her own pen in a letter to Sano di 
Maco, then in Siena : " By God s grace," she says, " we arrived in 
Avignon twenty-six days ago, and I have already spoken to the 
Holy Father and to some of the Cardinals and other prelates of 
the Church, and have done a good deal in the affairs which 
brought us here. We reached Avignon June i8th, 1376." x 

1 Letter 214. 

( 359 ) 


ON the platform of the great Rocherdes Doms, which overlooks 
the whole city of Avignon, rises a pile of buildings wherein 
the fortress, the palace, and the cathedral are blended together 
in strange and picturesque confusion. You ascend to the 
cathedral, which is the most ancient part of the structure, by a 
flight of steps known as the Escalier du Pater, from the circum 
stance of its numbering as many steps as there are words in the 
Pater Noster. By the side of the cathedral stands the Papal 
palace, which Froissart calls " the strongest and finest building in 
the world." Begun by John XXIL, it received additions from 
each of his successors, and was only completed in 1364 by Urban 
V., who added that tower of St. Lawrence, which was called by 
the name of Rome, as though to keep alive the memory of the 
widowed city in the hearts of her exiled Pontiffs. 

The city of Avignon as yet formed no part of the dominions of 
France. It had been purchased by Clement VI. for 80,000 florins 
from Joanna of Naples, who ruled this part of the country as 
Countess of Provence. During the long wars with England 
which raged with short interruption throughout the fourteenth 
century, the peace and security which were banished from every 
other province found refuge here ; and, sheltered from the clash 
of arms, the Avignon of the Popes became the home of the arts, 
and the centre of a luxurious civilisation. Churches and monas 
teries, palaces and public buildings of all kinds multiplied ; the 
unceasing chimes of its many bells earned for it the title of la 
mile sonnante, while magnificent walls arose of squared stone, 


flanked with nine and thirty grotesque towers ; structures which 
time s destroying hand has as yet spared, and only imparted to 
them the mellow tint as of a faded leaf, which but augments their 

Strange, indeed, that to such a capital there should have come 
such an ambassadress as Catherine Benincasa, the humble Popo- 
lana of Siena. On that June evening when her little company 
entered the city gates she found herself in an atmosphere entirely 
new to her. With all their vices, the capitals of Tuscany, with 
which alone she had hitherto been acquainted, cherished in their 
citizens a certain robustness of character which grew out of their 
republican institutions. If Siena cultivated the arts with passionate 
enthusiasm, and if the Florentine merchants were second only to 
those of England in their pursuit of wealth, yet greater even than 
their love of money, or of the arts, was their love of liberty ; and 
the democratic forms so jealously cherished among them, fruitful 
as they were of many social evils, had at least protected them 
from courtly corruptions. But the character of a Court was pre 
cisely that most unmistakably stamped on the society as well as 
on the exterior aspect of Avignon ; nor were the disadvantages of 
such a state of things diminished by the fact that the courtiers 
were for the most part ecclesiastics. We have elsewhere spoken 
of the abuses which prevailed in Italy, and which had been so 
unsparingly denounced by St. Catherine ; of the luxury and 
worldliness too common among the prelates of the Church, and 
of the vices of the inferior clergy. But how could these abuses 
be remedied, so long as the city, which was now regarded as the 
capital of Christendom, presented such an example as we find 
portrayed in the pages of John Pino of Toulouse? As the 
modest band of pilgrims made their way through those streets of 
Oriental magnificence, they would have met the equipages of 
cardinals and prelates, the trappings of whose very horses blazed 
with gold, attended by crowds of servants in costumes of extra 
vagant magnificence. Avignon had its ladies, too, the nieces and 
sisters of great prelates, who thought it no inconsistency to dis 
play themselves and their finery in those same streets, and whose 


influence at court was reported as often more powerful than it 
was edifying. Much has often been said by ecclesiastical histo 
rians of the evils of nepotism ; but at Avignon the abuse had 
taken a form which could hardly fail to give scandal. It was 
commonly said that the road to promotion was through the salons 
of these great dames ; and those who desired a rich benefice were 
advised to pay their court to Miramonde de Mauleon or Ene - 
monde de Boulbon (the nieces, respectively, of Clement V. and 
Innocent VI.), or to some other lady as skilled in the "gate science" 
as she was nearly allied in blood to eminent and illustrious pre 
lates. Provence, it will be remembered, was the native soil of 
the muses of the Middle Ages, and these muses often bore but a 
doubtful sort of character. In any case it was unfortunate that 
the temporary capital of the Church should have been fixed in a 
region so given up to the influence of "singers, actors, cooks, 
mimics, and troubadours." 1 A motley crowd of such personages 
crowded thither day after day, and found liberal patronage at the 
hands of those who, in that soft and delicious climate, seemed to 
forget that life had any more serious end than amusement and 

A residence was assigned to the use of Catherine and her com 
panions, by order of Gregory, in the house of John de Regio. 
Stephen Maconi calls it " a handsome house with a richly 
adorned chapel," but when purchased by Cardinal Brancaccio 
in the seventeenth century, and presented to the college of the 
Jesuits, nothing remained but a tower, in which, though the 
chapel had disappeared, a room was still shown as St. Catherine s 
so late as 1706. Two days after her arrival she was admitted by 
the Pope to an audience, 2 and for the first time the holy maiden 
of Siena and the Vicar of Christ met face to face. 

Gregory s appearance was the index of his character. Small 
in stature, of a pale and delicate complexion, Peter du Rogier de 

1 John Pino, Vita Div. Cath. 

2 Capecelatro says he received her in public Consistory ; but there is no 
expression in Raymund s account which seems to indicate that it was anything 
but a private audience. 


Beaufort-Turenne bore on his person none of the marks of com 
manding will or splendid genius. He looked a man fitter to be 
loved than feared ; and distinguished, as he undoubtedly was, 
for modesty, fidelity to his word, and goodness of heart, he lacked 
that force of character which seemed needed for one who would 
stem the torrent of an evil time, or accomplish great and difficult 
achievements. Yet in the councils of Divine Providence such 
an undertaking was reserved to Gregory XL, and it was from the 
poor dyer s daughter of Siena that he was to receive, if not the 
inspiration to resolve upon, yet undoubtedly the courage to 
execute it. He could not have been insensible to the irresistible 
charm which has been attested by all who knew her ; and he pro 
bably felt the power of that great soul, the strength and grandeur 
of which one of her disciples has described by saying, that " you 
could not look at her without trembling." There was, neverthe 
less, some difficulty in their holding any intercourse together, for 
Catherine spoke only in the Tuscan dialect, which to Gregory, 
unhappily, was an unknown tongue. He himself addressed her 
in Latin, and Raymund of Capua acted as interpreter between 
them. Still, even with this disadvantage, it did not take long for 
Catherine to win the Pontiff s entire confidence. She pleaded the 
cause of peace with her lips, as she had already done by her 
letters, and that so successfully that Gregory placed the whole 
matter at issue with the Florentines in her hands. " The Holy 
Father," says Raymund, " in my presence and by my mouth, com 
mitted the treaty of peace to Catherine s decision, saying to her, 
* In order to show you that I sincerely desire peace, I commit the 
entire negotiation into your hands ; only be careful of the honour 
of the Church. " 

F. Bartholomew Dominic, who accompanied the Saint to Avig 
non, lets us know what Raymund does not notice, namely, that on 
first coming to the court Catherine had to encounter prejudices, 
not only on the part of the cardinals and prelates, but even of 
Gregory himself. "Almost the whole court of Rome," he says, 
"rose up against her; nevertheless, their minds soon underwent 
a wonderful change, so that those who were at first her perse- 


cutors became her greatest bene^totV He names among 
these the Lord (i.e., Archbishop) of Bari, afterwards Urban VI., 
who at this time made his first acquaintance with Catherine. 1 

After leaving the presence of the Pope, Catherine held con 
ferences with some of the cardinals and others of his councillors, 
and was able in a few days to give hopes to her friends at Siena 
of a speedy and favourable termination of her enterprise. Writing 
to Sano di Maco about three weeks later, she says, " I have seen 
the Holy Father and several cardinals, and other lords of the 
court, and the grace of our sweet Saviour has already done much 
in the business which brought us here ; therefore rejoice in Him, 
and be full of confidence." And indeed the obstacles which had 
hitherto opposed themselves to the conclusion of peace, and 
which had rendered fruitless the previous embassy of Barbadori, 
all yielded to the persuasive eloquence of the Saint ; and her 
mission would have been crowned with complete success, but for 
the bad faith of the Florentines themselves. It had been agreed 
before Catherine left Florence, that as soon as she had arrived at 
Avignon, other ambassadors should be despatched to the Papal 
court to treat for peace in a formal manner, on such terms as 
she might have been able to secure. Weeks passed on, however, 
and no ambassadors appeared. But instead there came rumours 
of fresh taxes having been levied on the clergy ; and Catherine, 
who instinctively felt that the hindrance of her efforts came from 
" Eight of War," addressed them a letter of remonstrance, which 
gives us a clear idea of the situation of affairs. " I have great 
cause to complain of you," she says, " if it is true, as is here 
reported, that you have taxed the clergy ; you have no right to 
do so, and it would be a great obstacle in the way of concluding 
peace, for the Holy Father when he hears it will be naturally 
indignant. I have had an audience with him, and he listened 
to me most graciously, through the effect of God s goodness 
and his own. He expressed the most sincere wish for peace, 
and seemed like a good father who, instead of regarding the 
offences committed by his son, remembers only that his son has 
1 Process, 1337. 


humbled himself for his fault, and is ready to show him mercy. 
No tongue could tell the joy which this has caused me. After my 
long conference with him, he told me that if things were as I said 
he was ready to receive you as his children, and to do whatever I 
might judge best. It seems to me that he cannot give any further 
reply until your ambassadors arrive. I wonder that they are not yet 
come ; I shall await their arrival, and will see both them and the 
Holy Father, and I will then write to you and say what are his 
dispositions. But I fear you will spoil all with your taxes and 
your new decrees. I beg of you not to do so, for the love of 
Jesus crucified, and for your own interest." 

It would seem that this rumour about the new taxes was a false 
report, spread abroad by the secret malice of those who had no 
desire to see the Florentines admitted to terms of reconciliation. 
On the other hand, the non-arrival of their ambassadors gave the 
enemies of peace grounds only too plausible for casting discredit 
on the whole affair. Gregory himself understood that the Floren 
tines were not to be trusted ; and in speaking to Catherine he 
expressed his misgivings in words which were exactly justified by 
the event. " Believe me, Catherine," he said, " the Florentines 
have deceived you, as before now they have deceived me. You 
will see they will send no ambassadors, or if they do, the ambas 
sadors will conclude nothing." And, in fact, when at last Pazzino 
Strozzi, Alexander dell Antella, and Michael Castellani arrived 
as envoys from the republic, it was plainly to be seen that the 
conclusion of peace was the last thing contemplated by those 
from whom they had received their instructions. In justice to 
the Florentines, however, it must be borne in mind that the 
parties at whose entreaty Catherine had undertaken her journey, 
were not the same as those who had despatched the envoys. 
The mischief arose from the vicious system of the Florentine 
government, which admitted of power being vested in several 
distinct bodies who were often of opposing views and interests, 
with no one supreme and responsible head. Soderini and the 
more moderate party in the republic had been sincere enough in 
soliciting Catherine to make their submission to the Pope ; but 


after her departure their views had been overruled by the more 
powerful "Eight of War," whose only object was to prolong their 
own term of power, which would cease with the proclamation of 
peace. They had consented therefore to despatch the envoys, 
but with a purpose very different from that which Catherine had 
designed, desiring only to soothe the irritation which had been 
roused at the Roman court by their proceedings, but with no 
purpose of submission. 1 

As soon as they arrived in Avignon, Catherine requested an 
interview, in which after reminding them of the mission which 
had been intrusted to her by the Magistrates of Florence, she 
informed them that the Sovereign Pontiff had listened graciously 
to her representations, and had placed the matter in her hands. 
It was in their power, therefore, to obtain peace on the most 
favourable conditions. If they dared not trust themselves to the 
French cardinals who had caused the rejection of their former 
overtures, they might safely place themselves in the hands of one 
who was ready to give her life to restore peace to Italy. To this 
the envoys replied briefly and coldly that they had no instructions 
to treat on the subject with her, but only with the Pope ; and on 
her reminding them of the pledge so solemnly given her at 
Florence before she would consent to undertake the mission, 
they only returned an abrupt and insolent refusal to have any 
thing to say to her on the affairs of the republic. 

An ordinary character, if placed in so mortifying a position as 
that in which Catherine now found herself, would have taken little 
further trouble in the cause of the treacherous Florentines ; but 
no motive of self-exaltation or desire of renown had prompted 
her to enter on her present undertaking. A dead body is not 
more insensible to pain or pleasure, than she was to all those 
human considerations which have their root in self-love. She 

1 It is Scipio Ammirato, a partisan of the Florentines, who gives this 
explanation of their conduct. "The Eight," he says, "thought it necessary 
to send an embassy to the Pope to calm somewhat the jealous suspicions of 
which they were the object ; but they did not on that account renounce their 
projects of war." (Stor. Fior., lib. xiii. p. 699.) 


desired peace, because in the continuance of hostilities she 
beheld the loss of souls, and the offence of God ; and the con 
tempt and ingratitude of the rebellious Florentines produced 
absolutely no change in her purposes regarding them. " Catherine 
saw through their dishonesty," says Raymund, " and perceived 
that the prediction of the Holy Father had been correct ; never 
theless, she did not discontinue her solicitations to Gregory XL, 
but continued as before to plead that he would show them the 
clemency of a father, rather than the severity of a judge." l 

However, she expressed her opinion on the conduct of the 
Magistrates in a letter to Buonacorso di Lapo. " Alas ! my dear 
brother," she says, " I am distressed at the means they are taking 
here for asking peace from the Holy Father ; they ask it more in 
words than in truth. You remember that when I consented to 
come here, you and the other Magistrates seemed repentant for 
the faults committed, and ready to submit to the Holy Father in 
order to obtain mercy. I said to you then, that if you really 
meant to humble yourselves, and to allow me to present you to 
your Father as contrite children, I would shrink from no trouble 
or fatigue, but that otherwise I would not go. And you all 
declared that you joyfully consented to these terms. That was 
the only right way of acting, and if you had persevered in it you 
would have obtained the most glorious peace. I do not say this 
at random, for I know what the dispositions of his Holiness were. 
But now we have taken quite the wrong road, and are employing 
the deceitful ways of the world, contradicting our words by our 
actions, and so rather irritating the Holy Father than appeasing 

" When your envoys came here they did not act as they should 
have done with the servants of God ; and it is now impossible 
for me to ascertain if you have spoken to them in the same sense 
as you did to me, when giving them their credentials ... If you 
had trusted your interests with the servants of God, they would 
have obtained an excellent peace for you from the Holy Father. 
But this you have not done. I am sorry for it, because of the 
1 Leg., Part 3, ch. vi. 


offence of God, and the injury you do yourselves, and you do not 
see the terrible consequences which your perseverance in this line 
of conduct will certainly produce." The reader will not fail to 
notice that in this simple and straightforward remonstrance, hot 
a word appears expressive of a woman s mortified vanity ; and so 
far was she from abandoning the cause of the people who had 
treated her so unworthily, that at her urgent solicitations Gregory 
agreed to condescend to yet further overtures, in the hopes of 
winning back his rebellious children, and saving them from the 
horrors of war, as it were, against their will. 

In the meantime, the extraordinary favour with which Catherine 
was regarded by the Holy Father was causing much perplexity in 
the court circles of Avignon. That one so wholly separate from 
the world should have been chosen to mediate between the greatest 
of the Italian republics and the Holy See, was in itself a difficult 
problem ; but the amazement of the French lords and ladies was 
increased when they formed a close acquaintance with this wonder 
ful woman, and took notice of her indifference to the splendour 
which everywhere met her eye, and the freedom of speech with 
which she passed her judgment on the courtly crowds around her. 
On one occasion, soon after her arrival in Avignon, when she was 
conversing with the Holy Father (Raymund of Capua, as usual, 
acting as interpreter), Catherine expressed her sorrow at rinding 
the Roman court, which should have been a Paradise of heavenly 
virtues, stained by so many grievous vices. The Pope, astonished 
at her words, turned to Raymund and asked how long they had 
been in the city ; and understanding it was only a few days, " And 
how," he asked, " have you in so short a time been able to gain 
so much information as to the manners of the Roman court?" 
" Then," says Raymund, c; suddenly changing her attitude of pro 
found humility and reverence, she raised herself with an air of 
majesty, and said, * To the honour of Almighty God I will dare 
to say that I was more conscious of the infection of the sins com 
mitted in the court of Rome when I dwelt in my native city, than 
those are who daily commit them. The Pope remained silent, 
and I have alwavs remembered her words with astonishment; 


nor shall I ever forget the dignity with which she feared not to 
speak to so great a Prelate." 

Her wonderful knowledge of souls was never more signally dis 
played than at this time, and enabled her to detect the concealed 
profligacy which often lurked under the fair outside of those with 
whom she came in contact. No mannerism of piety could deceive 
the keen spiritual instincts of the Saint. "It often happened 
both to me, and others who accompanied her on her journeys, " 
says Raymund, "that we found ourselves with her in companies 
altogether new to us, where we saw for the first time persons of 
honourable and respectable appearance, who were in reality 
addicted to every vice. Catherine knew the state of their interior 
directly, and would refuse so much as to look at them or answer 
them if they addressed her on spiritual subjects. And if they 
persisted she would say,, First let us purify ourselves from our 
faults, and be delivered from the bondage of Satan, and then we 
will converse about God. In this way she would soon rid us of 
the presence of these hypocrites, whom we afterwards discovered 
were plunged in incorrigible habits of sin." 

It was in this way that she conducted herself towards some of 
the fair dames of Avignon who sought an interview with her to 
satisfy their curiosity, and who imagined it necessary to assume 
the airs of devotes when they appeared* in the presence of so holy 
a personage. But no pious grimaces could ever impose on 
Catherine. One day a lady presented herself at the house, who, 
to the unsophisticated eyes of Father Raymund, bore every 
semblance of respectability ; her demeanour was so modest and 
her conversation so edifying, that it caused the good father no 
little surprise when he perceived Catherine resolutely turn her 
back, as though she would neither see nor be seen by her. On 
the departure of this visitor he ventured to remonstrate with the 
Saint for her apparent rudeness ; but she soon explained the 
matter. "O Father," she said, "if you had been conscious as I 
was of the stench of sin that made itself sensible whilst that 
woman was speaking to us, I think it would verily have turned 
you sick." He took some pains to ascertain the real circum- 


stances and character of the person in question, and found indeed 
that her life was a deplorable scandal. 1 

The Countess of Valentinois, sister to the Pope, and a person 
of real and unaffected piety, had succeeded in obtaining several 
interviews with Catherine, whose conversation inspired her with 
great esteem and veneration. Desiring much to be present on 
some occasion when the Saint should approach Holy Communion, 
she made known her wish to Raymund, who promised to satisfy 
her. On the following Sunday Catherine went to the chapel, 
and making her preparation for Communion, was as usual rapt 
in ecstasy. Calling Stephen Maconi, who was present, Raymund 
bade him go at once to the palace, and tell the Countess that 
Catherine would communicate that morning. The Countess was 
just about to hear Mass, but on receiving the message she at 
once set out for Catherine s residence, accompanied by a number 
of persons equally curious as herself, but considerably less devout. 
Among others was Elys de Turenne, wife of the Pope s nephew, 
a young and giddy woman of the world, and an utter stranger to 
divine things. While the Countess was praying with all earnest 
ness, Elys was examining Catherine, whose ecstasy she supposed 
to be feigned in order to attract attention ; she perceived that 
the Saint wore nothing but sandals ; so, stooping down under 
pretence of devoutly kissing her feet, she drew out a large pin, and 
with it pierced one of them through several times so as to draw 
blood. Catherine, however, remained motionless, for at such 
times, says Stephen, you might have cut off her feet sooner than 
have moved her. But when the crowd had withdrawn, and she 
resumed the use of her senses, she felt a sharp pain in her foot, 
and found herself unable to walk. Her companions, perceiving 
this, had their attention drawn to the cause, and found the 
bleeding wounds that had been thus wantonly inflicted. 2 

1 "Se voi aveste sentito il puzzo che io sentiva mentr ella meco parlava, 
voi avreste vomitato." (Leg., Part 2, ch. iv.) St. Antoninus says of this 
person, " Erat cujusdam magni prtelati ecclesiae concubina." 

2 Process, 1374. The cruel experiment of Elys de Turenne, mentioned 
above, had once before been tried on St. Catherine by a Dominican Friar, 
named F. Pietro Landi, who did not believe in her ecstasies, and who, to 

VOL. I. 2 A 


There were wiser and more respectable judges than Elys of 
Turenne, however, who expressed their incredulity as to the real 
character of her whose name was in everybody s mouth. By 
desire of the Pope, Catherine had spoken several times in 
presence of many assembled prelates and cardinals, and her 
eloquence and heavenly doctrine drew from them expressions of 
wonder and admiration ; " Never man spoke like this ! " they 
exclaimed ; " it is surely no woman who speaks, but the Holy 
Spirit dwelling in her." The report of her marvellous gifts, and 
of the impression they had made on the Pope and the cardinals 
soon spread abroad, and three prelates of very high rank sought 
an interview with Gregory for the purpose of speaking to him on 
the subject. "Holy Father," they said, "what think you? Is 
this Catherine of Siena as saintly as she is reported to be ? " 
" In truth," replied the Pope, " I believe her to be a Saint." 
" If it please your Holiness," they continued, " we will go and 
see her." " Do so," he replied, " and I think you will be greatly 
edified." So they proceeded to her house about the hour of 
None, and knocking at the door, it was opened by Stephen Maconi, 
who relates the story. ,"Tell Catherine," said one of them, 
" that we wish to speak with her." The message was delivered, 
and Catherine at once came down, attended by Father John 
Tantucci, and certain other religious. They bade her be seated, 
and at once began to address her in a haughty and insolent 
manner, endeavouring to irritate her by their wounding speeches. 
"We have come from his Holiness," they said, "and we desire 
to know if it be really true that the Florentines sent you here, as 
is pretended. Have they not got a man among them capable of 
undertaking such an important affair ? And if they did not send 
you, we marvel how an insignificant little woman like you should 
presume to converse with the Holy Father on so weighty a busi 
ness." Catherine showed no signs of disturbance, but replied 

test their truth, pierced the Saint s foot with a large needle during the time 
she was rapt out of her senses. Simon of Cortona tells the story in his 
Deposition, and adds that this religious died a miserable death, out of his 
Cider. (Process, fol. 212.) 


with a humility and firmness that filled them with astonishment. 
When she had satisfied them on this point, they proceeded to 
put to her many difficult questions on the spiritual life, and to 
examine her touching her ecstasies, and her extraordinary manner 
of life, reminding her that Satan often transforms himself into an 
angel of light, and inquiring what means she adopted in order to 
avoid his deceits. "The conference lasted until late in the 
evening," says Stephen, "and I was present the whole time. 
Sometimes Father John would endeavour to answer for her, but 
though he was a learned doctor in theology, they shut him up 
in very few words, saying, You should be ashamed to speak in 
such a manner in our presence. Leave her alone, for she satis 
fies us much better than you do. One of these prelates was 
a learned professor of the Order of St. Francis, 1 and seemed as 
though unwilling to accept Catherine s replies. But at last the 
other two gave over their attack, and took part with her against 
him." "What more would you have?" they said; "she has 
certainly explained all these matters better and more fully than 
we ever found them set forth by holy writers." On this they 
began to dispute among themselves, but at last departed, well 
satisfied with the result of their visit, and reported to the Pope 
that "they had never met a soul at once so humble and so 
illuminated." Gregory was not a little displeased when he under 
stood in what manner they had tried to move her to anger, and 
excused himself to the Saint, assuring her that it had been done 
without his knowledge or consent. He said, moreover, that 
should these prelates come again to speak with her, she was to 
shut the doors against them." 2 The next day Master Francis of 
Siena, 3 the Pope s physician, came to see Stephen. "Do you 

1 This was Bertrand de Lagery, Bishop of Glandevez, afterwards an 
adherent of the Antipope. 

2 Fen, p. 14, c. 18. 

3 This was Master Francis Casini, to whom one of Catherine s letters is 
addressed (Let. 227.) She met him again at Rome, where he was physician to 
Urban VI., who employed him in many affairs. He wrote several letters to 
the magistrates of Siena " in so barbarous a style," says Burlamacchi, " as 
would cause compassion," and became chief magistrate of his native city in 


know those three prelates who called at your house yesterday ? " 
he said ; " I can assure you that if the learning of those three 
were put in a balance, and the learning of all the rest of the 
court of Rome in another, the learning of those three doctors 
would weigh against it all. Wherefore I tell you this, that if they 
had not found Catherine s wisdom and virtue truly solid, she 
would have made as bad a venture in coming hither as ever she 
did in her life." 

No doubt during this singular scene Father John III. made his 
own reflections ; for his memory must have recalled that other 
occasion when, in company with Master Gabriel of Volterra, he 
had first entered Catherine s presence with the like intention of 
"shutting her up." l The humiliation which he that day received 
at the hands of the three learned doctors was a fair penance for 
his former offence ; and we would venture a shrewd guess that 
some of the party did not fail to rally him on so remarkable a 

1390. His nephew was created a Cardinal, and his tomb may still be seen 
in S. Maria Maggiore. Master Francis himself was a friend of Petrarch, who 
wrote him a letter. 
1 See p. 147. 

( 373 ) 


/^CATHERINE S mission on behalf of the Florentines had, as 
\^s we have seen, been frustrated through their bad faith, and 
in the eyes of many her journey to Avignon had doubtless been 
pronounced a failure. But the providential end for which she 
had been brought thither was yet to be accomplished, and a far 
more extraordinary success was to crown her enterprise in the 
restoration of the Sovereign Pontiff to his long-forsaken See of 
Rome. Not that the first suggestion of this step is to be 
attributed to our Saint ; Gregory himself had long contemplated, 
and even resolved upon it; and in the beginning of the year 
J 375> ne had solemnly announced his intention in letters addressed 
to the Emperor and the other sovereigns of Europe. He had 
done more than this. When Charles V., king of France, filled 
with consternation at the prospect of such a change, despatched 
his brother the Duke of Anjou to represent to the Pope that his 
health would suffer if he ventured to quit his native air, that 
Rome was a sort of desert, and its citizens a set of turbulent 
savages, Gregory replied with firmness and dignity that " whatever 
it might cost him to separate himself from a country so dear to 
him as France, he felt it his duty in the interests of the Church to 
return to that holy city which was the true See Apostolic ; and 
that with the help of God he should do so in the coming 
autumn." l 

But the resolutions which determine human acts pass through 
two distinct stages. One is the decision of the judgment, com- 
1 Rinaldi, Ann. 1375, n. 22. 


paratively easy to men of clear mind unprejudiced by passion. 
The other is the far more difficult decision of the will. That the 
two are not identical, who does not know, who to his sorrow sees 
the right, but lacks the strength and courage to accomplish it ? 
In the disproportion between these two kinds of decision lies 
written the history of all mental struggles, and the explanation of 
those amazing disappointments which make us marvel how men 
so wise in thought and word can often be so feeble and faulty in 

Gregory had thought out the problem, and satisfactorily con 
vinced himself that its true solution was in a return to Rome. 
Nor was it any wonder that he should have come to such a con 
clusion. It was a word re-echoed from the lips of all those whom 
men most held in veneration. Full sixty years had passed since 
Dante had reminded the Cardinals that it was their duty to elect 
a Pontiff who should restore to Rome the sun that had suffered 
eclipse ; l and Petrarch, to whom, if to any one, Avignon was 
dear, had nevertheless nothing closer to his heart than the desire 
of witnessing the resurrection, as he terms it, of the eternal city. 
He even ventured to address a poetical epistle to Benedict XII., 
in which, by a bold personification, he makes Rome plead her 
own cause, as a spouse forsaken by her bridegroom. " Behold 
me at your feet," she is made to exclaim ; " were I as in the days 
of my youth I need not declare my name ; but worn out as I am, 
and disfigured by poverty and sorrow, I must name myself to be 
recognised. Know, then, that I am ROME, once famous through 
out the whole world : can you discern any traits of my ancient 
beauty ? Yet, alas ! it is less age which has effaced them, than 
the long regret for your absence ! " It was a strange device for 
setting the truth before the eyes of the Pontiff; but in a second 
epistle the poet continues his allegory in a yet more touching 
strain. " Holy Father," he writes, " I have seen at your palace 
door a venerable lady whom I seemed to know, yet could not 
name ; she was sad, and her appearance showed signs of poverty 
and neglect, yet withal she bore the traces of unforgotten majesty. 
1 Ep. vii. (ed. Wite.) p. 48. 


Royalty was in her countenance, and she spoke with the voice of 
command; even through her rags you could discern her mighty 
soul. I asked her name, but she hardly dared pronounce it; 
only through her broken sobs did I catch the name of RoME." 1 

Yet severer and more terrible were the warnings and remon 
strances addressed to Gregory XL by St. Bridget of Sweden. 
Her dying words were carried to him in 1373 by Alphonsus 
Vadaterra, and were calculated to rouse the most sluggish con 
science. 2 And meanwhile his Legates never wearied of conjuring 
him to come, and to come quickly, if he would prevent a frightful 
scandal and restore peace to Italy. To one and all Gregory 
replied by saying that it was indeed his purpose to come ; but 
weeks and months passed on and brought fresh pretexts for 
delay, and fresh obstacles on the part of the Cardinals ; nor was 
it until he had been fortified by the heroic presence of Catherine 
that he at length gained from her the courage to obey his convic 
tions. In the letters she had addressed to him before her coming 
to Avignon she had urged his speedy return in words which, if 
they displayed less poetic grace than those of Petrarch, had yet a 
winning sweetness that was not to be found in the terrific adjura 
tions of St. Bridget. On her arrival at the court she found the 
question one of daily discussion, and quickly comprehended 
where the real difficulty lay. The upright mind and tender heart 
of Gregory were overborne by the opposition of his French coun 
cillors, who found no difficulty in devising arguments to support 
their own wishes. In particular they set before him the example 
of Clement IV., who made it a rule to do nothing without con 
sulting the Sacred College. A greater Pontiff, they argued, had 
never lived ; and would Gregory depart from this wise precedent, 
and dare to take so momentous a step on his own sole responsi 
bility? Gregory listened and hesitated, and finally appears to 
have sent a message to Catherine to ask her opinion of the 
matter. Her reply is worthy of being studied, so skilfully does 
she in her lucid and inartificial language unravel the fallacy, and 

1 Petrarch, lib. i., epist. 2 and 4. 

2 Rev. S. Brid., lib. iv. chap, cxxxix. 


defeat the manoeuvres of these false councillors. " Holy Father," 
she says, " I, your miserable little daughter Catherine, desire to 
see you immovable as a rock in your holy resolutions, so that you 
may be able to resist all the cunning artifices by which the enemy 
would prevent your return, and hinder all the good which he 
knows it will cause. Your Cardinals allege the example of 
Clement IV., who would undertake nothing without the advice 
of the Sacred College. It is true he often renounced what seemed 
to him to be best, in order to follow their advice. But, alas ! 
those who cite the example of Clement IV. are careful to say 
nothing at all about that of Urban V., who in things doubtful 
did, indeed, ask their advice, but in things which to him were as 
clear and evident as the duty of your return is to you, he followed 
his own judgment, and did not trouble himself about contrary 
opinions. It seems to me that the counsel of the good should 
always tend to the love of God, the salvation of souls, and the 
reform of Holy Church, not to the love of self: and that such 
counsel should be listened to rather than that which proceeds 
from men who love only the honours and pleasures of this life. 
Oh, I beg of your Holiness, for the love of Jesus crucified, not 
to delay. Hasten, and fear nothing ; if God is with you, nothing 
will be against you. Hasten, and you will restore the crimson 
bloom of life to the cheeks of your Spouse, who is lying now in 
the pallor of death." 1 The famous appeal to the practice of 
Clement IV. soon fell to the ground, but the Cardinals had a 
more powerful weapon in reserve. They urged as they and 
their predecessors had continued for more than sixty years to 
urge the danger of returning to a country so torn with civil dis 
orders as Italy. Nay, they whispered that the Italians were skil 
ful assassins; and they asserted as a well-known fact that the 
poison was already prepared which would be administered to the 
Pontiff as soon as he had set foot within the walls of Rome. He 
would then leave the soil of France which he loved, and which 
loved him so well, to find a cruel and ignominious death in Italy ! 
Did not every one know that Urban V. had been poisoned, and 
1 Letter 7. 


that precisely at the moment when he was preparing a second 
time to return to Rome ? Would he not take warning by such 
an example ? 

It must be owned that in their eagerness to scare the timid 
heart of Gregory, the Cardinals had here committed themselves 
to a notable blunder. For if Urban V., who died at Avignon, 
had been, as they asserted, the victim of poison, it is plain that 
the poison must have been administered, not at Rome but in their 
own city ; and if, furthermore, he had been thus assassinated at 
the moment when he purposed returning to Italy, the crime must 
have been perpetrated by those who sought to hinder his return, 
a line of argument which would bring the matter very close to 
their own doors. Nevertheless, they made as much as they could 
of the spectral fears which they had thus conjured up ; and having 
discovered how greatly Catherine s influence weighed with the 
Pope, who regarded her as a Saint, they contrived that a letter 
should be delivered to him, purporting to come from another 
person of reputed sanctity, 1 which warned him not to go to Rome 
if he were not prepared to be immediately assassinated. 

Catherine was of too fearless a nature herself to allow of much 
importance being attached to these appeals to cowardice. To 
her it seemed impossible that any man could be held back by 
fear from doing what he knew was right. And she quickly ex 
posed the miserably bad logic of her opponents, and the trans 
parent forgery of which they had been guilty. " This letter," she 
said, " purports to come from a just and virtuous man ; it will not 
be difficult for your Holiness to ascertain if this be so, and for 
the honour of God you are bound to examine into it. For my 
own part, as far as I can understand the case, its language is not 
that of a servant of God. It seems to me to be a forgery, and 
the hand that forged it is not a very skilful one ; he ought to be 
sent back to school, for he writes like a child. Observe, Holy 
Father, he tries to appeal to the weakest part of human nature, 
the fears which those entertain who have an excessive love of their 
own ease and safety, and who shrink from the least bodily suffer- 
1 Supposed to be B. Peter of Arragon. 


ing. This is his main argument, but by the grace of God I trust 
your Holiness cares more for God s honour and the salvation of 
your flock than for yourself; like a good pastor who is ready to 
lay down his life for his sheep. Then this false councillor goes 
on to tell you that your return to Rome would, indeed, be a most 
holy and excellent thing, only that he is afraid they are preparing 
poisons for you. He advises you to send trusty men before you, 
who will find poison ready on the tables (that is, no doubt, in the 
shops, where they are preparing it), in order to give it to you in a 
few days, or in a month, or in a year. For my part it seems to 
me you might quite as easily find poison on the tables in Avignon, 
or any other city, as on those of Rome, and that in a month, or a 
year, according as - might suit the purchaser ; nevertheless, the 
writer of this letter would have you send some one to Rome to 
search for it, and meanwhile delay your journey ; and all the time 
he himself is administering the worst of all poisons; he is trying 
to prevent you from doing that which God demands of you. If 
now you do not set out, you will cause a great scandal, and you 
will be accused of falsehood you, who sit in the chair of Truth : 
for you have announced and fixed your return ; and if you do not 
keep your word you will cause trouble and scandal to many hearts. 
I admire the words of this writer who begins by advising good 
and holy actions, and then desires you to give them up out of a 
fear of your bodily safety. That is not the language of the ser 
vants of God, who would never abandon their holy undertakings 
for any bodily or temporal fear, not even for the risk of life itself. 
Otherwise they would never attain their end, for it is perseverance 
alone that is crowned with glory. Be firm then to your purpose, 
most Holy Father; it is the only means of securing peace with 
your revolted children and the reformation of the Church. Then 
you will satisfy the desires of those who desire to see you raise 
the standard of the Holy Cross ; and then you will be able to 
administer to those poor infidels the Blood of the Lamb, of which 
you hold the key." l 

1 Letter 10. The letters to Gregory quoted in this chapter were all written 
at Avignon, and seem to have been summaries of conversations already held 


These last words show us that Catherine had not forgotten the 
Crusade, and that the difficulties of the time did not seem to her 
by any means to have closed that question. In fact, Raymund 
tells us that it was one of the chief objects of her journey to Avig 
non, and that it often formed the subject of conversation between 
her and the Pope. As has been elsewhere said, the project was 
a favourite one with Gregory, though probably his views and plans 
regarding it partook of the same shadowy character which attached 
to his other resolutions. If so, Catherine was ready to give them 
substance. One day when she was in the company of Gregory 
he adverted to the subject, saying, " First of all, we must establish 
peace among Christians, and then we will organise a Crusade." 
" Pardon me, Holy Father," she replied, " but the proclamation of 
the holy war will be the best means of re-establishing peace among 
Christians. All the turbulent soldiers who now keep up division 
among the faithful will cheerfully go and combat in that sacred 
cause ; very few will refuse to serve God in the profession which 
pleases them, and it will be a means of expiating their offences : the 
fire will thus be extinguished for want of fuel. You will thereby, 
Holy Father, accomplish several excellent things at once you will 
bestow peace on such Christians as require it, and you will save 
many great sinners. Should they gain important victories, you could 
act, in consequence, with the Christian princes ; if they are over 
come, you will at least have procured salvation to their perishing 
souls ; and besides, you might convert a number of Saracens." l 

This was the policy she constantly recommended ; and she re 
garded it as the most likely means of putting a stop to that fratri 
cidal contest between France and England which had for years 
been the open wound of Christendom. Wonderful to say, she made 
a convert to her views in the person of one who had come to 
Avignon for the express purpose of counteracting her influence. 

with him. They are in Latin, not Italian. Gregory being ignorant of the 
latter language, the conversations between him and Catherine were necessarily 
restricted, and she seems, on leaving him, to have dictated their substance 
to her secretaries, who translated her words into Latin before sending them 
to the Pope. 

1 Legend, Part 2, chap. x. 


This was Louis, Duke of Anjou, brother to Charles V. of France. 
He was the second son of King John, whom he had replaced as 
hostage in England. His ambition was greater than his ability, 
but it would seem that his acquaintance with Catherine for a 
moment awakened in him nobler and better aspirations than any 
of which he had hitherto been conscious. He was not content 
with ceasing to oppose her, he desired to be regarded by her as a 
friend, and even a disciple. No doubt her very appearance in 
the midst of that gay and luxurious capital read a silent lesson to 
many hearts, who, while they had no courage to free themselves 
from the shackles of a worldly life, could nevertheless feel and do 
homage to the power of sanctity. They listened to her, as in old 
time Felix listened to St Paul, and like him they trembled when 
she discoursed "of justice, and chastity, and the judgment to 
come." l They gave to truth the homage of a passing sigh that 
bespoke regret for wasted years, and a kind of wish that better 
things were possible for them ; and then they put the thought 
away " till a more convenient season," and plunged afresh into 
the old track of habit. But in the heart of Louis of Anjou the 
Saint appears to have awakened a deeper interest, and he begged 
her to accompany him to his castle at Villeneuve, that he might 
introduce her to his Duchess, and apart from curious eyes might 
open to her his secret heart. It was all one to Catherine whither 
she went, if there were question of helping the soul of one of 
God s creatures. She proceeded then to the royal castle with as 
much readiness and simplicity as she would have gone to the 
lepers hospital, if summoned on a mission of charity. Villeneuve 
was at that time a place of some importance ; it was the border 
fortress of France, and occupied the western bank of the Rhone, 
Avignon standing on the east. From the platform of the Rocher 
des Doms you look across the river towards its towers on the 
opposite side, to which you now cross by a wooden bridge. But 
in the days of St. Catherine the stone bridge built in 1188 by St. 
Benezet 2 was still standing, with its nineteen arches, and by this 

1 Acts xxiv. 25. 

2 St. Benezet was a poor shepherd boy, who, afflicted at the number of 


bridge she crossed to what was then the important border town 
of Villeneuve-lez- Avignon. She remained there three days, during 
which time Louis gave her his entire confidence. He owned to 
her that he was weary of the vanities in the midst of which he 
lived, and that he longed for some way of escape. Would the 
Crusade open to him such a way ? Should he take the Cross and 
seek the glory which he coveted, not on a European throne, but 
amid the lances of the infidels ? The thought came to him like 
a gleam of light piercing through the clouds, and Catherine hesi 
tated not to encourage him with her joyous enthusiasm. " I am 
sure," she wrote to him on returning to Avignon, 1 "that if you 
fix your eyes on the Lamb sacrificed and consumed with love 
upon the Cross to deliver you from death, it will excite you to 
carry out your holy purpose, and will soon banish out of your 
heart all thought of the vanities and foolish pleasures of the world. 
They pass like the wind and leave death behind them in the souls 
of those who possess them. I speak of those whose whole life is 
given to pleasure and magnificence, to luxury and feasting. It is 
on these things they spend their riches while the poor are dying 
of hunger. They seek out abundance of everything delightful 
beautiful plate, delicate dishes, and sumptuous clothing and 
never give a thought to their poor soul that is perishing of hunger. 
My dear and sweet lord, my brother in our sweet Jesus, do not 
let yourself be drawn away by the world in these years of your 

persons drowned in crossing the river, which at this spot is rapid and very 
dangerous, devised a scheme for building a bridge, and actually carried it 
into effect, directing the work himself. (For the interesting story see his 
Life in the Bollandists, April I4th. Tom. ii., p. 958.) After his death he was 
buried in a chapel erected between the second and third arches of the bridge, 
which is still standing, and where his body remained for five hundred years. 
In 1669 a great part of the bridge fell, through the swift current of the waters. 
The coffin was removed and placed in the church of St. Didier, where it still 
lies. On this occasion, and again in 1674, it was found perfectly incorrupt, 
unchanged in colour, and even with the eyes bright and lively. St. Benezet 
is regarded as the patron saint of Avignon. Four arches of his bridge are 
still standing. No doubt St. Catherine, when she crossed over it, entered the 
chapel and venerated his relics. 
1 Letter 190. 


vigorous and youthful manhood; remember the words of the 
Blessed Christ, when He told the Jews that they were like sepul 
chres fair outside, but within full of dead men s bones and of all 
corruption. Oh, how true are those words ! Yes, indeed ; those 
who seem so fair and beautiful in all their costly finery have 
death in their hearts, which are full of all that is shameful and 
detestable. But if, in the Divine Goodness, you are steadfastly 
resolved to change your life, those words will not apply to you. 
You will raise the holy standard of the Cross, you will efface all 
your past offences, and God will say to you, " Beloved Son, you 
have laboured and suffered for Me, come then to the nuptials of 
eternal life, where is fulness without disgust, hunger without 
suffering, and pleasure without shame. Far different are the joys 
of this world ; they cost much and have no profit, and the more 
a man partakes of them the emptier he becomes ; he seeks enjoy 
ment, and finds nothing but sadness. It was but yesterday that 
you experienced the truth of what I say. You had prepared a 
great entertainment and a magnificent feast, and it all ended in 
sorrow. God so permitted it that He might show you and 
those who were with you how vain and empty are all earthly 

Catherine is here alluding to an accident which had recently 
occurred at a great banquet given by the Duke ; in the midst of 
which a great wall suddenly fell and killed several of the guests. 
Coming at that moment, the event served to foster the serious 
impressions which Louis had received, and he authorised her to 
acquaint the Pope with his determination of taking the Cross. 
She accepted the commission with joy. "Holy Father," she 
said to Gregory, " I announce to you that you have two crusades 
to undertake. There must be an interior Crusade against bad 
pastors and all the vices with which the garden of the Church 
is overgrown ; and there must be an exterior Crusade against the 
infidels. You will tell me that for this last a captain is needed ; 
he is found, and I can offer him to you. The Duke of Anjou, 
out of devotion to the death of Christ and to the holy Cross, 
desires to take on him this office. He will see you soon, and 


speak of this great affair; for God s sake give him good words, 
and promise him that his hopes shall be realised." l 

The deep veneration which the Duke had conceived for 
Catherine, and the opinion he had formed by experience of her 
great qualities, led him to entertain the project of taking her to 
Paris, 2 that she might negotiate a treaty of peace with England. 
In her humility she declined this mission, though, doubtless, 
had it been laid on her by obedience, she would have accepted 
it with as little hesitation as she had shown on other occasions. 
But without some evident and unmistakable token of God s will, 
Catherine was never forward in undertaking such responsibilities ; 
however, she did not refuse to write to Charles, and we shall 
quote from her letter in this place, because for the first time it 
brings her before us in connection with the affairs of our own 

It is a remarkable fact that in the part which the Roman Pon 
tiffs took in the quarrel between France and England, they seem 
to have shown more consideration towards the latter country 
than might have been expected, either from their own national 
predilections, or from what would seem to us at first sight to 
have been the merits of the case. A close study of the action 
of the Holy See during the whole of that disastrous contest fills 
us with admiration for the strict impartiality and zeal for the 
interests of right and justice which were invariably displayed. 
The right and justice for which the Sovereign Pontiffs con 
tended were something higher than the claims of any particular 
prince or nation ; they pleaded the cause of God ; they sought 
to stop the effusion of Christian blood and the ruin of souls, far 
dearer to them than the gain of any national advantage ; and at 
every pause in the hostilities, their Legates were constantly at 
hand to offer their mediation, and urge on both parties to accept 
terms of peace. When we remember that the Popes of Avignon 
were all Frenchmen, and all but exclusively surrounded by French 
councillors, their abstention from a party view in this matter, and 
the noble manner in which they acted as the common fathers of 
1 Letter 9. 2 Process, 1337. 


Christendom, is truly wonderful; and it makes us understand 
Catherine s language in her letter to the king of France, which 
in a merely political view of the matter would otherwise seem a 
little hard. 

She urges him to observe three things in the discharge of his 
royal office, and as one worthy of being called the Wise. 1 First, 
not to look on his kingdom as his own property, but as something 
lent to him, of which he only has the stewardship ; secondly, to 
maintain justice, and to defend the rights of the poor ; " and the 
third thing," she says, "and this is the point which my soul 
most earnestly desires, is that you live in love and charity with 
your neighbour 2 with whom you have so long been at war. Re 
member the example of our sweet Lord, how, when the Jews 
cried, Crucify Him ! He replied by the prayer, so full of meek 
ness, Father, forgive them ! Follow His example ; show that 
you have a care for the salvation of your neighbour ; yes, my 
lord, do not trouble yourself about the loss of worldly possessions ; 
such a loss will be a real gain to you, for it will enable you to 
make peace with your brother. For my own part I wonder that 
you are not ready to give your whole life to procure this end, 
considering the destruction of souls and bodies caused by this 
miserable war. Be sure that if you refuse to do what you can in 
this matter, you will be held as the cause of these evils. Alas, 
for Christians ! and alas, for the infidels too ! for it is your policy 
that has prevented and still prevents the holy war ; and had it 
no other result than this, it seems to me we should fear the judg 
ments of God." 3 

Charles might have replied with considerable show of reason 
that the policy she here complains of was nothing else than the 
patriotic endeavour to rid his country of foreign invaders ; and 
Catherine would have answered by reminding him at what a cost. 
The cost of maintaining the contest was in fact the dissolution 

1 Charles V. was surnamed the Wise, and Catherine did not forget the 
circumstance. Vi prego che come Savio, facciate come buono dispensatore. 
(Letter 186.) 

2 i.e., the King of England. 3 Letter 1 86. 


of Christendom, and its poisoned fruits were to be gathered in 
the centuries that followed. In the eyes of the saint the glory 
of a patriot king would have been surpassed by that of a champion 
of the Faith ; and she urged him therefore, even at some sacrifice 
of national interests, to give peace to Europe, that so all the 
children of the Church might unite together to heal her wounds 
and check the onward march of the infidels. " Follow," she 
says, " the way and the doctrine of the Crucified Lamb. You 
will follow the way He trod if you bear injuries with patience, 
and you will follow His doctrine if you are reconciled with your 
neighbour. You will prove your love of God by helping forward 
the holy war. Your brother Messire the Duke of Anjou has 
resolved for the love of God to devote himself to this enter 
prise, and it would be a terrible thing if you were to hinder or 
prevent it." 

Meanwhile the question of the Pope s return to Rome did not 
greatly advance. When Catherine came back from Villeneuve 
she found things much as she had left them. Gregory continued 
to declare that his determination had been taken, and that he was 
indeed about to depart ; but there were no signs of actual pre 
paration. He still hesitated, and desired to obtain through the 
prayers of the Saint some certain and unmistakable sign of the 
will of God j and for this purpose he one day sent her a message 
that she was to pray for him in a particular manner the next 
morning after Communion. She obeyed ; and her prayer, uttered 
in ecstasy, was preserved and written down by Thomas Petra, 
the Pope s Notary, afterwards secretary to Urban VI., and one 
who formed an intimate friendship with the Saint during her stay 
at Avignon. It is printed first in the collection of her prayers, 
and concludes as follows : " O Ineffable Deity ! I am all sin, 
and unworthy to address Thee, but Thou canst make me worthy. 
O Lord, punish my sins, and regard not my miseries. I have 
one body, and to Thee I give it : behold my blood, behold my 
flesh ; destroy it, annihilate it, separate it bone from bone for the 
sake of those for whom I pray. If it be Thy will, cause my bones 
and my very marrow to be ground to pieces for Thy Vicar on 

VOL. i. 2 B 


earth, the bridegroom of Thy Spouse, for whom I pray; that 
Thou wilt deign to hear me, and that he, Thy Vicar, may both 
know Thy will, and love it, and perform it, to the end that we may 
not perish ! Give him a new heart, that he may increase in grace, 
and raise the standard of the holy Cross, and make even the 
infidels to be sharers in the Passion and Blood of the Immaculate 
Lamb, Thy only Son our Lord ! O Ineffable, Eternal Deity ! 
Peccavi Domine, miserere met ! " 

Having ended this prayer she remained for some time in a 
state of abstraction, after which she again began to speak ; the 
prayer she uttered being that which immediately follows the one 
above quoted. Her Pisan disciple, Thomas Buonconti, was 
present at the time, and carefully noted every circumstance ; and 
in the original manuscript he has left a marginal note in his own 
handwriting to this effect : " Having finished these words, she 
remained as before, silent, immovable, rigid and abstracted, with 
her arms crossed on her breast for about an hour. After that 
we sprinkled her face with holy water, and frequently invoked the 
name of Jesus Christ, and in a little while she began again to 
draw breath, and said in a low voice, Praised be God, now and 
for ever ! " x 

When Catherine returned to herself, she addressed two letters 
to Gregory, in both of which she refers to the command which 
he had given her to pray for him. " Holy Father," she says, 
" Brother Raymund brought me your command to pray to God, 
in case you should meet with obstacles. I did so after Com 
munion, and I saw none of the perils and dangers of which your 
councillors speak." Then she declares to him, as from God, that 
the most certain sign he could receive of the Divine will was the 
opposition he was sure to encounter in carrying it out. But aware 
of the immense difficulties that beset him on the part of his own 

1 Buonconti collected other prayers made at Avignon, in the presence of 
twelve persons who heard the Saint in rapture holding converse with God. 
One of these prayers was spoken on the vigil of the Assumption, and he 
describes her state as " abstracted, unconscious, and rigid, so that it would 
have been easier to break her limbs than to bend them." See Gigli, Tom. 
iv., Pref. xv., xvi. 


family, she advised him, if he had not the resolution to carry 
matters with a high hand, to have recourse to stratagem, and 
while seeming to leave his departure indefinitely deferred, to pre 
pare for it in secret without loss of time. In fact, Gregory s natu 
rally affectionate heart was suffering a martyrdom from the appeals 
made him by his nearest relatives and the necessity he was under 
of struggling against his own tenderness. One day having asked 
Catherine what she would really advise him to do in these diffi 
cult circumstances, she turned on him that penetrating look which 
had read the secrets of so many hearts, and replied, " Who knows 
what ought to be done better than your Holiness, who has long 
since made a vow to God to return to Rome ? " Gregory started. 
He had indeed made such a vow long back, but had spoken of 
it to no living soul. He perceived that in very truth Catherine 
was possessed of powers given her by God ; and recognising the 
sign of the Divine will which he had asked for, he at once gave 
orders for the necessary preparations for departure. 1 

Catherine would willingly now have taken her leave of the 
Court ; her mission at Avignon was ended, and she was anxious 
to find herself once more at Siena, where her long absence was 
exciting many complaints. But Gregory felt the support of her 
presence far too necessary for him to consent to part with her, 
and it was agreed that she should leave Avignon on the same 
day, 2 as himself, though, as it would seem, not by the same 

No further particulars have been left us of Catherine s residence 
in the Papal city, which lasted altogether four months, nor have 
her biographers enabled us to follow the track of her footsteps to 
any of the sanctuaries of the neighbourhood. Yet there can be 
no doubt of her having often visited the Dominican church, now 
crumbling to ruins, but then enjoying a certain renown as having 

1 This narrative is given in the deposition of F. Bartholomew Dominic 
(Process, 1325). The fact of Gregory having really taken such a vow is 
corroborated by Baluze (Vita Greg. XI., 949), and by Pius II. in the Bull of 
St. Catherine s canonisation. 

a Process, 1337. 


been recently the scene of the canonisation of St. Thomas. In 
this church, too, Catherine would have found the tomb of a 
distinguished fellow-citizen. Simon Memmi, the Sienese painter, 
had been summoned to Avignon by Benedict XII., to decorate 
some of the halls of the Papal palace ; he died while still employed 
on these works ; and he whose pencil had left in the church of Sta. 
Maria Novella those many scenes from the life of St. Dominic, 
which Catherine, during her residence at Florence, must daily 
have contemplated, found the fitting hospitality of a last resting- 
place among the Holy Father s white-robed children at Avignon. 
We need no assurance that Catherine prayed at that tomb, and 
that the name of the artist of her native city brought back grate 
ful thoughts of home during these weary weeks of exile. At 
last the welcome day of departure arrived. Gregory, profiting by 
the Saint s advice, had caused his galleys to be secretly got ready, 1 
and on the i3th of September 1376 he left the palace, intending 
to journey by land to Marseilles, and thence to embark for Rome. 
Up to the last moment the courtiers had refused to believe in 
the possibility of such a disaster ; and the Pope s aged father had 
the desperate courage to try the effect of one last impassioned 
appeal. Throwing himself across the threshold of the palace 
gate, he there awaited a final interview with his son ; and on his 
approach, raising a cry of bitter anguish, " How ! " he exclaimed, 
" can my son so coldly forsake not only his country but even his 
old father ! Well, then, before he departs, he shall pass over my 
body ! " But at that supreme moment Gregory silenced in his 
own heart the cry of nature ; and it was not Peter de Beaufort- 
Turenne, but the Vicar of Jesus Christ, who, as he passed the 
prostrate figure of the old man, spoke these solemn words as his 
only reply : Super aspidem et basiliscum ambulabis : et conculcabis 
leonem et draconem (Ps. xc. 13). 

If Catherine heard them she must have given thanks to God 
who had put into the heart of His servant a courage the more 
sublime as it was wholly supernatural. We shall not follow the 
journey of the Pontiff and his reluctant attendants any further, 

1 Biondo, lib. ii., cap. x. 


though it has been thought worthy to be made the subject of a 
grand historical poem ; the author of which was no less a person 
age than Pierre Amely d Alete, Bishop of Sinigaglia, and the 
Pope s almoner. 1 But turning our backs on the towers of 
Avignon we will accompany the little group of Italian pilgrims 
who set out the same day, taking the road, not to Marseilles but 
to the port of Toulon. 

1 This very curious production, which is not without its interest both 
historical and geographical, may be found in Ciaconius (Vitse Pont, et Card., 
Tom. ii. p. 578). 





The history of St. Catherine 
of Siena and her companions