16.3.11

Bas relief of St Catherine of Alexandria

"Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret had rich crowns on their heads. They spoke well and fairly, and their voices are beautiful--sweet and soft. The name by which they often named me was Jehanne the Maid, Child of God. They told me that my King would be restored to his Kingdom, despite his enemies. They promised to lead me to Paradise." Jehanne La Pucelle — Swabia, circle of Niklaus Weckmann, Saint Catherine. One of the voices which have been attributed to Jehanne la Pucelle has been St Catherine of Alexandria. In recent times she has become less and less well known however during Jehanne's time she was quite well known and venerated. In 2005, the Louvre had acquired two wooden bas-reliefs representing The martyrdom of Saint Barbara and that of Saint Catherine, from southern Swabia and dated 1520. This is Saint Catherine, from the same school and a close date, which entered the museum in 2007, from a private collection. In this case, the relief depicts the saint by herself. The colors are mostly original. In the iconigraphy of this Saint she is often seen with a broken wagon wheel, the instument of her martyrdom.(1) "...During the Middle Ages, when the crusaders brought back news of Catherine's story to the West, popular devotion tended to favor lives of saints that were full of miracles and wonders. St. Catherine caught the fancy of everyday Christians and from the tenth to the eighteenth century, she was venerated as one of the fourteen most powerful saints (the "Fourteen Holy Helpers")..." "...many churches were named after her; her statue, with the broken wheel as identifying symbol, was found in most churches. Some of the greatest artists painted her likeness and the events of her life. Because of her wisdom in disputation, theologians invoked her aid. Churchmen sang and preached her praise. Nuns prayed to her because of her mystical graces. Young women (and spinsters) looked at her as their particular friend. Wheelwrights naturally chose her as their saint because of the episode of the broken wheel. St. Catherine's feast was observed with solemnity and popular festivities throughout Europe. With the arrival of the eighteenth century and of rationalism with its chill gaze, critics began to look askance at all medieval legendary lore. To be sure, criticism of dubious documentation was in order. Perhaps through overreaction to St. Catherine's fabulous biography, she became thenceforth less popular as a saint.... Nevertheless, St. Catherine served for centuries to inspire untold numbers of peasants, tradesmen, craftsmen, theologians, poets and orators..." --Father Robert F. McNamara The sword that La Pucelle had brought to her came from a Chapel, St Catherine of Feirbois, named in honour of St Catherine of Alexandria."...Whilst I was at Tours, or at Chinon, I sent to seek for a sword which was in the Church of Saint Catherine de Fierbois, behind the altar; it was found there at once; the sword was in the ground, and rusty; upon it were five crosses; I knew by my Voice where it was. I had never seen the man who went to seek for it. I wrote to the Priests of the place, that it might please them to let me have this sword, and they sent it to me. It was under the earth, not very deeply buried, behind the altar, so it seemed to me: I do not know exactly if it were before or behind the altar, but I believe I wrote saying that it was at the back. As soon as it was found, the Priests of the Church rubbed it, and the rust fell off at once without effort. It was an armorer of Tours who went to look for it..." Jhesu+Marie, Brantigny (1) Protestants, and especially Ellen Gould White a founder of the 7th Day Adventist Church have often misused the iconigraphy of Saint Catherine as "proof" of Catholic idol worship by claiming that St. Catherine was the Virgin who was the Catholic version of Isis!

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