Thursday, 25 November 2021

25th November - St. Catherine's Day

 I wrote a bit about St Catherine on the25th November 2019 as she is the reason that lace maker and author Julia Jones wrote the book Cattern Cakes and Lace.
In the introduction to the book the author says she heard about Saint Catherine when reading about lace makers in Tudor times celebrating their Patrons Day with merrymaking. 
St Catherine had become the protector of young unmarried women when stories of her Martyrdom on a wheel of fire were brought back from The Holy Lands by returning Crusaders. As well as lacemakers. unmarried women she is also patron saint of wheelwrights, millers, philosophers and librarians.
 Several months later I found the book of Saints so here's a bit more about today's Saint.
In the year 305 the Emperor Maxentius(or Maximinus II) carried away many women - the wives and daughter of the citizens of Alexandria. One of them was a rich Christian woman named Catherine who was only 18 but well educated and beautiful. Pagan philosophers were called to convince her that her beliefs were foolish. But instead she converted them to Christianity and Maxentius put the pagans to death. Catherine refused to marry him and was beaten and incarcerated. While the Emperor was away one of his wives and an officer named Porphyrius visited Catherine and they too were converted. Maxentius returned and had them killed as well as 200 men of the imperial guard who Porphyrius had converted. Maxentius had them all killed and decided Catherine had to die too.
First a wheel, covered in knives was used but when Catherine was tied to it the wheel broke and killed many people watching. 
Finally she was beheaded in 310 and for years afterwards claims were made that her bones oozed oil that could cure illness.
According to my Calendar of Saints book the painting above is "Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine of Alexandria" by Jacob Jordaens. BUT after the mistake they made on another painting which I didn't check (on a post a few months ago) I thought I'd better check the accuracy - and after a quick search I can't find any mention of this painting by this artist elsewhere. I didn't have time for a deep delve into the internet so have no idea if the description is accurate or not.
There's also a mention of paintings of The Mystical Marriage Saint Catherine of Sienna and maybe the lace maker link is a mix up with Katherine of Aragon who possible introduced Lace making to this country.

So who knows - it's all a long time ago!

Best wishes to everyone celebrating Thanksgiving today
Back Tomorrow



  1. She had a terrible time of it! The Catherine wheel firework is named after her, there was also a large wall painting in Pickering Church of her persecution as well.

  2. What a lovely post. Apparently at one time in France, unmarried women under the age of 25 were known as Catherinettes (a prettier word than spinsters)I think the lace maker bit is a gruesome reference to the knives piercing her. You are right about Catherine of Aragon, though, she was a very accomplished needlewoman and introduced a style of embroidery to England popularly known as "Spanish Work" (until she fell out of favour and it was re-named 'Blackwork') There is a story that she burned the lace she'd made, because she was afraid her industry would put the Nottingham lace makers out of work! The painting IS St Catherine - but on display in the Prado, Madrid, where they attribute it to the other Flemish artist, Van Dyke. I suspect your book was produced before the Internet gave easy access to information, and the author was not able to verify all the facts! If I wasn't on this wretched low sugar diet, I'd make some Cattern Cakes to celebrate.

  3. An interesting post. I have that lovely book. Those poor women. Beheading probably a slightly easier way to die than being tied to a wheel of knives or have it set on fire. I'm pretty sure I did know about the Catherine Wheels connection to fireworks when I was a child, but that didn't stop my enjoyment.

    Fascinated with the link to Catherine of Aragon possibly bringing lace making here, and to Angela's embroidering (sorry!) on this. Never knew that. I've not done blackwork, but it does look lovely. I come from generations of lace makers on my mum's side (Northamptonshire) and have tried a little myself but I have arthritis in my neck and it does it no favours!

  4. She doesn't look terribly enthusiastic about her 'mystical marriage', does she?

    A fascinating story, thank you.

  5. In France they have a saying: A la Sainte Catherine, tout bois prend racine - On St. Catherine's Day, all wood takes root. It isa popular time for agricultural fairs and tree sales.

  6. Interesting post. St. Catherine endured a lot right up to the end. The connection to lace is also interesting. Lace making seems a lost art. I've not seen lace anywhere except many years ago in Belgium where it seemed available in specialty the shops.

  7. St. Catherine of Sienna is my oldest daughter's Confirmation patron saint. I love her! ~Andrea xoxo

  8. Oh goodness...a Catherine wheel quite horrid. x

  9. Interesting as you have revealed how the name of the 'catherine wheel' firework came about - she must have been a lady of great religious faith and bravery.