Foggia, 25 November 2022 – November 25th is an important anniversary for the people of Foggia, it is the day of the traditional Fair of Santa Caterina. It is a special date for citizens, because it indicates the beginning of the Christmas holidays with unique colours, flavors and smells.
It has always been firmly anchored to the traditions of the Daunian capital, to memories, to local history.
Characterized in the collective imagination by typical, characteristic products, it was once certainly distinguished by a good availability of products, difficult to find elsewhere, always accompanied by a breath of curiosity, a pinch of amazement and a pleasant Christmas atmosphere.
Saint Catherine of Alexandria (not from Siena which is celebrated differently in the month of April) according to tradition was a noble, beautiful and cultured young Christian who was martyred in 305 in Alexandria of Egypt, the center of ancient cultures and the capital of tradition Christian wisdom. She is historically revered above all in cultured circles, by intellectuals.
Santa Caterina, that’s who was the saint celebrated by the people of Foggia on November 25th
(From Famiglia Cristiana) Eighteen years old, daughter of nobles, she tried to dissuade the emperor Massimino from pagan worship and was condemned to a horrible torture after having converted numerous court intellectuals with her wisdom and firmness. According to tradition, it was the angels who carried her body to Mount Sinai.CopyAMP code.
According to tradition Catherine, a noble, beautiful and cultured young Christian, was martyred in 305 in Alexandria of Egypt, the center of ancient cultures and capital of the Christian wisdom tradition. The late texts with the story of life and martyrdom are a Greek Passio of the 6th-7th century probably written for edifying purposes by a cleric of Alexandria or a monk of Sinai, and a Conversio perhaps of the 8th century. Her martyrdom dates back to the time of Maxentius, or Maximinus, who severely persecuted the Christians. On the occasion of a great sacrificial celebration to the gods wanted by the emperor, Catherine, refusing to join, would have addressed the sovereign as follows: “Why do you want to lose this crowd with the worship of the gods? Learn to know God, creator of the world and Son of him Jesus Christ who with the cross freed humanity from hell ”.
THE WISE SUMMONED BY THE EMPEROR CONVERTED
The emperor, struck by such firmness and determination, summoned her to convince her of the reasoning of her rhetoricians and philosophers, who however were refuted by the wisdom of the young Christian; the wise men converted and for this they were burned alive. The sovereign tried to seduce her with the offer of illustrious marriages and riches, but she only received refusals; he therefore had her imprisoned; she in prison she was fed by a dove and Christ himself would have visited her. She was also visited by the empress and the head of the court who, impressed by Catherine’s words, converted with 200 soldiers. The emperor then had her subjected to the torture of her pointed wheels: but the intervention of an angel of hers saved her, while her broken wheels struck many of her soldiers. The empress herself, having declared herself a Christian, was subjected to torture and beheaded. Death by decapitation was also decreed for Catherine: while her head was severed, milk flowed from her neck and immediately the angels carried her body to Mount Sinai, where she was buried. From the Conversio we have other news about the royal origins and the “mystical marriage” of Catherine with the Child Jesus, presented to her by the very arms of the Virgin, of which the saint had a vision on the first night after her baptism: fact and circumstances which recall, through the categories symbolic of specific literary genres, messages of authentic Christian values. This episode, thanks to her suggestion, was illustrated many times in the iconography of the saint. Many clichés typical of hagiography are evident in these texts, however the figure of Catherine is perceptible beyond the literary guise and brings us back an image of a woman who correlates with an existing character, whose real historical data has been lost inside the legendary tale.
ANGELS CARRY HIS BODY TO MOUNT SINAI
Catherine’s life is full of symbolic messages: it is said, for example, that the angels transported her body to Mount Sinai where, later, a famous monastery was built, still existing, a destination for pilgrimages, known as a place of great thaumaturgies performed through the milk and oil that flowed from the sepulcher of the saint. Catherine is presented in the hagiographic texts, rich in detail, and in the cultural tradition as the personification of the victory of Christianity over the cults and culture of the pagans. Of great importance is the multiple testimony of Catherine: virgin, martyr, wise and high-ranking woman, aspects and values that characterize very specific moments of the expansion and affirmation of Christianity. The cult of Saint Catherine seems to have been brought to the West by oriental monks and was certainly widespread after the Crusades. The devotion, which had great expansion, confirmed over time by a rich iconography, present in many expressions of popular religiosity, has among the oldest evidences a painting of the eighth century in a chapel of the basilica of San Lorenzo in the Roman countryside, where the martyr is portrayed at the throne of the Madonna. Another coeval testimony is found in the catacombs of San Gennaro in Naples. Liturgically Catherine is celebrated in the Menology of Basil II (976-1025); in the X century there are testimonies in Montecassino; finally, the liturgical books bear strong witness to worship throughout Europe, especially from the 12th century onwards.
The monastery of Saint Catherine on Sinai, built in the 6th century on the site where, according to legend, the martyr’s body was carried by angels.
A VERY VAST CULT ESPECIALLY IN INTELLECTUAL ENVIRONMENTS
In France, the main place of worship was the Benedictine monastery of La-Trinité-au-Mont, where, in the first half of the 11th century, the relics of the saint were brought, much venerated for the healings that took place there. There are many religious buildings dedicated to her in Italy, and the presence of toponyms that remember her is also strong throughout Europe. There were many patronages granted to Catherine: the one on theologians and philosophers was important; therefore she was much venerated in cultured circles, playing an important role in the Christian tradition, in the life of religious Orders, first of all the Benedictines, in the history of universities and studies. The Sorbonne elected her patroness, and in a church named after her the students of the Parisian university venerated her. The mendicant Orders, characterized by a marked attention to science and culture in the various disciplines, chose her as the patroness of studies and cultural centers, spreading her cult throughout Europe. In this particular devotion the Augustinians distinguished themselves, of which there are many works that document their profound devotion. November 25 was considered, in religious houses of study, the solemn day of the Feast of Studies, in which the saint was also celebrated with “academies” (on the model of the more ancient theologica disputatio which was held on this occasion) in which professors and students, in the presence of a qualified audience, gave evidence of their knowledge in the various fields of culture. The story, combined with the personal and cultural characteristics of the saint, was very present in popular culture, making her the protagonist of narratives, sacred representations, popular songs, which spread her knowledge and fame. In many regions of Europe, her feast assumed the characteristic of a celebration for the youth, with its own rites and manifestations; Catherine was the patroness of unmarried girls, sailors and some categories of craftsmen, such as wheel builders and seamstresses, who in some places in Northern Italy are called “caterinette”. The suggestive ideas contained in the hagiographic texts were received and variously illustrated by a vast iconography dedicated to the young woman of Alexandria, always characterized by iconographic attributes: the crown, the book of the wise woman, the wheel and the palm of martyrdom. (From Famiglia Cristiana)