Catherine of Genoa


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widow. Born of the noble Ligurian family of Fieschi, Catherine was married at the age of sixteen to Julian Adorno for family, not personal, reasons. He proved to be spendthrift, inordinately pleasure-loving, bad-tempered, and frequently unfaithful: for the first five years of their marriage he was hardly ever at home. She persisted in a life of devotion: this, together with external misfortunes, effected his conversion. They moved to a small house in 1473, agreed to live in continence, and devoted themselves to the care of the sick in the hospital of Pammatone. From this time onwards Catherine combined an intense life of prayer with extreme practical efficiency in the administration of the hospital where she became matron, and in tireless care for others in need of help. In 1493 she nearly died of the plague; in 1496 her health broke down again; in 1497 her husband, who had become a Franciscan tertiary, died. Thenceforward her spiritual life was even more intense, but she did not join a ‘Third Order’ for the laity. Remaining independent, she wrote her treatise on Purgatory and a Dialogue between the soul and the body. She also underwent various contemplative and visionary experiences. For the last three years of her life she suffered grave illness, which remained undiagnosed even by John-Baptist Boerio, the principal doctor of King Henry VII. Catherine was beatified in 1737 and equipollently canonized by Pope Benedict XIV a few years later. She is patron of Genoa and of Italian hospitals. Feast: 15 September.

AA.SS. Sept. V (1755), 123–95;English tr. of Catherine's Treatise on Purgatory and the Dialogue by H. D. Irvine and C. Balfour (1946). The most notable study of her in English is F. von Hugel, The Mystical Element of Religion as studied in St Catherine of Genoa and her Friends (2 vols., 1908 and 1961;see also Umile Bonzi da Genoua, S. Caterina Fieschi Adorno (1961–2), and the same writer's article s. v. in Dict. Sp., ii (1938), 290–325;L. Sertorius, Katherina von Genua (1939) and L. de Lapérouse, La vie de ste. Catherine de Gênes (1948);Bibl. SS., iii. 983–90.

Subjects: Christianity.

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