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  4. Shrine of St. Catherine

Shrine of St. Catherine, Siena

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Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-80) was a lay-affiliate of the Dominican Order famed for her intellect and mystical visions of Christ. Her house and shrine is in her hometown of Siena, Italy.


Catherine was born in Siena on March 25, 1347. She was the 23rd child out of 25 (her twin, the 24th, died at birth); her parents were Giacomo di Benincasa, a cloth-dyer, and his wife, Lapa.

As a tertiary or lay affiliate, Catherine lived at home rather than in a convent. Far from leading to laxity, this arrangement allowed her to practiced austerities that a prioress would probably not have permitted.

She is especially famous for fasting and practicing physical mortifications in ways that sound unhealthy today - modern scholar Rudolph Bell uses her life as an example in his book Holy Anorexia.

In about 1366 Catherine experienced what she described in her letters as a Mystical Marriage with Jesus, and in 1370 she received a series of visions of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. After these visions she heard a command to abandon her withdrawn life and enter the public life of the world.

Catherine began to write letters to those in authority, begging for peace between the republics and principalities of Italy and for the return of the papacy from Avignon to Rome. She had a detailed correspondence with Pope Gregory XI, asking him to reform the clergy and the administration of the Papal States.

In June of 1376 Catherine went to Avignon herself as ambassador of Florence to make peace with the Papal States, but was unsuccessful. She impressed the Pope so much, however, that he returned his administration to Rome in January of 1377. In the Great Schism of 1378 she supported Pope Urban VI, who summoned her to Rome. She lived there until her death on April 29, 1380).

Pope Pius II canonized Catherine in 1461, and her letters are considered one of the great works of early Tuscan literature. Her feast day is April 29.

What to See

The Shrine of Saint Catherine occupies the site of Catherine's family home, where she was born in 1347 and where she lived her austere early life as a Dominican affiliate. The house has been much adapted; it is now a series of chapels dedicated to the beloved saint. The monumental marble well in the courtyard dates to the 15th or 16th century.

The Basilica San Domenico, just up the hill nearby, contains the incorrupt head of St. Catherine.

Quick Facts on Shrine of St. Catherine

Site Information
Names:Santuario de Santa Caterina; Shrine of St. Catherine; Shrine of St. Catherine, Siena
Categories:Shrines; Churches; Catholic Shrines
Faiths:Christianity; Catholic; Dominican
Dates:14th C
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Siena, Italy
Coordinates:43.319917° N, 11.328256° E  (view on Google Maps)
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of Shrine of St. Catherine

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  1. Personal visit (April 30, 2008).
  2. St. Catherine of Siena - Catholic Encyclopedia
  3. St. Catherine of Siena - Patron Saints Index

More Information

Article Info

Title:Shrine of St. Catherine, Siena
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:
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