Catherine was born around 290 into a noble family in Alexandria, Egypt. Gifted with exceptional beauty and intelligence, she received a very elaborate education and studied the works of the greatest philosophers of Antiquity. Following a dream, she decides to dedicate her life to Christ.
The Emperor of Rome, Maximian, comes to Alexandria to attend a great pagan festival. The young girl seizes the opportunity to try to get him to convert to Christianity, but this only raises his ﬁnger. To test her, he forces her to engage in a philosophical debate with fifty scholars, but to the emperor's displeasure, she succeeds in converting them. Maximian had them executed and threw Catherine into prison. The emperor then ordered that she be subjected to the torture of spiked wheels. By a divine miracle, the wheels broke on her body and the spikes blinded the executioners.
Maximian then ordered that she be beheaded.
In the 6th century, the emperor Justinian founded the monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai. It was during the Crusades that the legend spread throughout the West.
Catherine of Alexandria, whose historical existence has been questioned by the Catholic Church itself, seems according to some historians to have been created as a Christian counterpoint to the great pagan philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria who, like her, was a virgin and very learned.
This purity attributed to Catherine is inscribed in her Greek name, which means pure.
● Benoît Patar: Dictionnaire des philosophes médiévaux, Les Éditions Fides, 2006, p. 658