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Bl. Jacobus de Voragine - "Golden Legend" - 25 November Feast of Saint Catherine of Alexandria (307 AD) - part II

"This was a glorious and singular marriage to which was never none like before in earth, wherefore this glorious virgin, Katherine, ought to be honoured, lauded, and praised among all the virgins that ever were in earth. And then our blessed Lord, after this marriage, said unto the blessed Katherine: Now the time is come that I must depart into the place that I came from, wherefore what that ye will desire I am ready to grant to you, and after my departing ye must abide here with old Adrian ten days, till ye be perfectly informed in all my laws and will. And when ye shall be come home ye shall find your mother dead, but dread ye not, for ye were never missed there in all this time, for I have ordained there one in your stead, that all men ween it were yourself, and when ye come home, she that is there in your stead shall void. Now fare well, my dear spouse. And then she cried with a full piteous voice: Ah! my sovereign Lord God and all the joy of my soul, have ye ever mine on me. And with that he blessed her and vanished away from her sight. And then for sorrow of his departing she fell in a swoon so that she lay still a large hour without any life, and then was Adrian a sorry man, and cried upon her so long that at the last she came to herself and revived and lift up her eyes and saw nothing about her save an old cell, and the old man Adrian by her, weeping. For all the royalty was voided, both monastery and palace, and all the comfortable sights that she had seen, and specially he which was cause of all her joy and comfort; and then she sorrowed, l mourned, and wept unto the time that she saw the ring on her finger, and for joy thereof yet she swooned, and after she kissed it a thousand sithes with many a piteous tear, and then Adrian comforted her the best wise he could with many a blessed exhortation. And the blessed virgin Katherine took all his comforts and obeyed him as to her father, and dwelled with him the time that our Lord had assigned her till she was sufficiently taught all that was needful to her. And then she went home to her palace and governed her holily in converting many creatures to the christian faith of Jesu Christ, on whom all her joy was wholly set, and ever he was in her mind, and so dwelled still in her palace, never idle, but ever continued in the service of our Lord, full of charity, where awhile I let her dwell fulfilled of virtues and grace, as the dear and singular spouse of Almighty God.

And the emperor /Maxentius/ went out of the country for certain causes, and the queen was esprised with great love of the virgin, and went by night to the prison with Porphyry, the prince of knights, and when the queen entered, she saw the prison shining by great clearness, and angels anointing the wounds of the holy virgin Katherine. And then Saint Katherine began to preach to the queen the joys of Paradise and converted her to the faith, and said to her that she would receive the crown of martyrdom, and thus spake they together till midnight. And when Porphyry had heard all that she had said, he fell down to her feet and received the faith of Jesu Christ, with two hundred knights. And because the tyrant had commanded that she should be twelve days without meat and drink, Jesu Christ sent to her a white dove which fed her with meat celestial. And after this, Jesu Christ appeared to her with a great multitude of angels and virgins, and said to her: Daughter, know thy maker, for whom thou hast emprised this travailous battle; be thou constant, for I am with thee.

And when the emperor was returned, he commanded her to be brought tofore him, and when he saw her so shining, whom he supposed to have been tormented bv great famine and fasting, and supposed that some had fed her in prison, he was fulfilled with fury and commanded to torment the keepers of the prison, and she said to him: Verily, I took never sith meat of man, but Jesu Christ hath fed me by his angel. I pray thee, said the emperor, set at thine heart this that I admonish thee, and answer not by doubtable words. We will not hold thee as a chamberer, but thou shalt triumph as a queen in my realm, in beauty enhanced. To whom the blessed virgin Katherine said: Understand, I pray thee, and judge truly, whom ought I better to choose of these two, or the king puissant, perdurable, glorious and fair, or one sick, unsteadfast, not noble, and foul? And then the emperor having disdain, and angry by felony, spake: Of these two choose thee one, or do sacrifice and live, or suffer divers torments and perish. And she said: Tarry not to do what torments thou wilt, for I desire to offer to God my blood and my flesh like as he offered for me; he is my God, my father, my friend and mine only spouse.

And then a master warned and advised the king, being wood for anger, that he should make four wheels of iron, environed with sharp razors, cutting so that she might be horribly all detrenched and cut in that torment, so that he might fear the other christian people by ensample of that cruel torment. And then was ordained that two wheels should turn against the other two by great force, so that they should break all that should be between the wheels, and then the blessed virgin prayed our Lord that he would break these engines to the praising of his name, and for to convert the people that were there. And anon as this blessed virgin was set in this torment, the angel of our Lord brake the wheels by so great force that it slew four thousand paynims.

And then he gave sentence against her, and commanded to smite off her head. And when she was brought to the place ordained thereto, she lift up her eyes to heaven praying, and said: O ! Jesu Christ, hope of and help of them that believe in thee! O beauty and glory of virgins! Good king, I beseech and pray thee that whosomever shall remember my passion, be it at his death or in any other necessity, and call me, that he may have by thy mercy the effect of his request and prayer. And then came a voice to her, saying: Come unto me, my fair love and my spouse; lo! behold the gate of heaven is open to thee, and also to them that shall hallow thy passion, I promise the comfort of heaven of that they require. And when she was beheaded there issued out of her body milk instead of blood, and angels took the body and bare it unto the Mount of Sinai, more than twenty journeys from thence, and buried it there honourably, and continually oil runneth out of her bones which healeth all maladies and sicknesses, and she suffered death under Maxentius the tyrant, about the year of our Lord three hundred."


Gaudenzio_Ferrari_-_The_Martyrdom_of_St_Catherine_of_Alexandria_-_Santa_Caterina_d'Alessandria, first half of 16th century, 334x210 cm, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, Italy: