The Life of Catherine was written in the eighth century, and she owes her place in history to this legend.

According to tradition, Catherine was of a royal family and at the age of 18 she protested against the persecution of Christians by the Emperor Maxentius. Maxentius brought in 50 philosophers to convince her of the errors of Christianity. After prolonged debate some of these philosophers were converted to Christ, but all were killed because of their failure to silence Catherine.

Catherine is said to have refused a proposal of marriage from the Emperor himself and as a consequence was thrown into jail. She then converted all her fellow prisoners and jailers. Maxentius was furious, and ordered her to be tied to a spiked wheel (later called a Catherine Wheel). The wheel broke, and Catherine was subsequently beheaded.

Catherine’s legend flourished throughout the Middle Ages, particularly through the period of the Crusades. She became the patron saint of young girls, students and nurses. Her legend spread partly through paintings and other artistic representations of her life.

Extract from Saints on Earth: A biographical companion to Common Worship by John H Darch and Stuart K Burns

Patron Saint of: unmarried women, hatmakers, wheelwrights, mechanics, millers, philosophers, scribes, and preachers.