Friday, November 25, 2016

Unbroken on the Wheel

Today is the feast of Queen St. Catherine of Alexandria, Great Martyr, the patron saint of philosophers.

St. Catherine of Alexandria, Barbara Longhi
(Barbara Longhi, St. Catherine of Alexandria; this is also usually thought to be a self-portrait)

The earliest written account of her life is from some 600 years after her martrydom, although her veneration seems to have been longstanding by then, so, as is common with oral hagiography, which tends to simplify tales to their basic structure and assimilate them to other tales with similar structures, her story is likely a stylized composite of many virgin martyrs. Caesar Baronius thought that she might be the same as Dorothea of Alexandria, since a late writer claims that her original name was Dorothea, but this is speculation on limited evidence, so we don't really know. But her tale is perfect for a patron saint of philosophy. If you try to break truth on the wheel, truth breaks the wheel.

The torture of the wheel, incidentally, is a quite nasty way to die. You are stretched out over a wagon wheel and beaten to death with hammers. Why a wheel? If you were on a flat surface, the flat surface would support your bones; they break much more easily over gaps.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please understand that this weblog runs on a third-party comment system, not on Blogger's comment system. If you have come by way of a mobile device and can see this message, you may have landed on the Blogger comment page, or the third party commenting system has not yet completely loaded; your comments will only be shown on this page and not on the page most people will see, and it is much more likely that your comment will be missed.