Saint Catherine of Alexandria (early 300s) is a Christian saint who is not well-known these days, but she was during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Raphael painted her; she spoke to Joan of Arc.
Catherine said she was the daughter of King Costas. She was born rich and had a fine Greek education. She lived alone in palace with her servants.
This was in the time of emperor Maximinus, when the Roman Empire was still trying to wipe out the Christian faith. When Maximinus came to Alexandria he forced Christians to offer sacrifices to the gods. The old stories say it was emperor Maxentius, but it was Maximinus who ruled the east in those days. Since the names are so alike they were probably mixed up.
Many Christians offered sacrifice to the gods out of fear of the emperor.
When Catherine saw this she went to the emperor and tried to reason with him, even though she was only 18. Standing at the doors of a temple, she pointed out that as beautiful as the temple was, it was nothing compared to the beauty of the heavens and the earth. We should worship the god who created those things, not the gods inside a temple which will one day turn to dust.
The emperor could have killed her right there, but he took up her challenge. He would prove to her that Christianity was nothing but a pack of lies.
He tried to do it himself, but soon found that he could not match her education and wit. So he gathered together 50 of the most learned men in the empire and brought them to Alexandria to debate her.
They wondered why they were brought from so far away to do such a simple thing. But she wound up persuading them that she was right! She did it with their own books which they took to be true, like those of Plato and Sibyl.
The emperor threw Catherine into a dark cell for 12 days without food. The queen visited her secretly in the middle of the night. Catherine brought her and the guards over to Christ.
After 12 days the emperor brought Catherine before him. He gave her a simple choice: either offer sacrifice to the gods and be made a queen or be put to death. Her king and master was not the emperor nor the devils that he worshipped as gods, but Jesus Christ. She had no doubt what to do.
They were going to kill her on a breaking wheel, which would cut her to pieces. But she prayed to God and it fell apart. So they cut off her head instead.
They say that when she died milk, not blood, flowed from her body. Then angels carried her body to Mount Sinai, where Moses once talked to God. There is an ancient monastery in her name that stands there to this day.
Feast day: November 25th.