The Sinai

12 Remarkable things about Saint Catherine

NT; (c) Stourhead; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
NT; (c) Stourhead; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Who was this woman whose name was given to the Sinai’s highest mountain, the world’s oldest working monastery, and the town chosen to be a centre for the three Abrahamic faiths?

Saint Katrina, as the Sinai Bedouin call her, is remembered for her remarkable faith, persuasive powers, and courage. So how did this teenager become the patron saint for unmarried women, scholars, students, philosophers, and librarians?


Saint Catherine was born to the pagan King Costus and Queen Sabinella of Alexandria in 287 A.D. It is thought that her mother was a secret believer at a time when Christians were being persecuted by the Romans.


Despite being a woman in a patriarchal society, Catherine was renowned for her intelligence and commitment as a scholar. She excelled in an excellent education in the arts, sciences, philosophies, and classical literature.


Though raised a pagan, as a teenager Catherine became a devoted follower of Christ after encountering Jesus and the Virgin Mary. She had such a strong sense of union with God that she described herself as being married to Christ.


Catherine decided to remain a virgin all her life. She told people that she would only marry someone who surpassed her in beauty, intelligence, wealth, and dignity. Later she discovered of the Lord Jesus that ‘’His beauty was more radiant than the shining sun, His wisdom governed the creation, His riches were spread throughout the world.’’ [1]


When Catherine was eighteen years old she learnt that the Roman Emperor Maximinus was persecuting Christians. it is said that she travelled to Rome to rebuke him. The emperor was initially amused and summoned 50 of his best philosophers to convince her to give up her faith. So powerful were her condemnations of pagan religion and idols and compelling her arguments that Jesus was the one and only Mediator, Saviour, and Lord that she convinced these philosophers to accept the wisdom and truth of Christ.  


The Roman Emperor Maximinus had her converts put to death and Catherine whipped and thrown in prison. While in prison instead of denying her faith Catherine is said to have courageously led many more people to Christ. People, including the emperor’s soldiers and his wife, were curious about this wise young woman and visited her in prison. Catherine used her great learning to lead these people to wholeheartedly trust and follow the way of Christ.

Marriage Offer

Emperor Maximinius martyred the new converts but offered a way out for Catherine by proposing marriage to her. When she turned him down, he became furious and ordered her to be broken on the wheel.

The Catherine Wheel

The breaking wheel used to be dropped on a convinced criminal’s lower and upper legs and arms to break them. Their smashed body parts were then threaded through the spokes of the wheel and the wheel lifted up on a pole. However, when Catherine touched the wheel, the breaking wheel broke!

To this day the Catherine wheel firework is named after this episode. Catherine also became the patron saint of wheel makers and mechanics.


Catherine was then beheaded.

In Christian art, Catherine is often depicted holding a sword symbolising her martyrdom and spiritual victory over her oppressors.


The Bible describes all followers of Christ as saints. The terms body of Christ and bride of Christ are also used in the New Testament to describe the most intimate union of love between Christ and all his followers. However, Catherine has been chosen as an example of exceptional courage and faith for others to draw strength from and emulate. She has been honoured as one of the most esteemed saints in Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches. Her feat day is celebrated on 25th November.

Mount Catherine / Jebel Katrina

Local Bedouin call this mountain Jebel Katrina. It is the highest peak in Egypt. It is a 3km walk from Saint Katrina town and can be seen from the top of Jebel Mousa. Some monks say that after her death the body of Saint Catherine was whisked away by angels and taken to the top of Mount Katrina while her spirit was united with the Lord in heaven. Saint Catherine’s’ relics are said to be kept within the walls of the Monastery to this day.

Saint Catherine’s Monastery

The monastery is commonly referred to as Saint Catherine’s Monastery or the Monastery of Saint Catherine, reflecting its dedication to the esteemed saint. It is the oldest continuously operating monastery and library in the world. It is also known as the Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai. At one time it was dedicated to the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ but in the Middle Ages, it was renamed Saint Catherine’s Monastery.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria’s life exemplifies courage, faith, and intellectual vigour. Her enduring legacy as a defender of Christianity and the patron saint of various people, especially young unmarried women, continues to inspire and uplift countless individuals across the globe.



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