Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Today is the feast of Queen St. Catherine of Alexandria, Great Martyr and Virgin, patron saint of philosophers, orators, teachers, jurists, theologians, librarians, scribes, schoolgirls, milliners, lacemakers, potters, wheelwrights, and virgins. Patronage always conveys a history of signs. She's the patron of so many intellectual professions because according to legend she argued with philosophers and rhetoricians, and refuted them all. As a result she became closely associated with university life in the Middle Ages. She's the patron of potters, because she was tortured on a wheel and has the wheel as one of her iconic symbols; wheelwrights make wheels and potters use wheels, so potters and wheelwrights share symbolism with her. And she is the patron of milliners and lacemakers because of an old custom in which unmarried women on St. Catherine's Day would have their own celebration, complete with finery, so those groups became closely associated with her festivities.