Catherine of Siena (Caterina di Giacomo di Benincasa) is one of the many women of history whose monumental impact has been seriously underrated. She was just a regular girl who managed to stick it to the patriarchy all while being praised by it. The girl was literally canonised by the very institution that normally would have persecuted her for not conforming to their ridiculous notions of gender roles. If that isn’t genius than I can honestly say I don’t know what is.
For all the normal people out there, who don’t know make it their business to know about obscure medieval Italian bosses, here is a list of reasons as to why our girl Cathy was definitely one of them:
1. She managed to survive a pre-mature birth in a Black Death ravaged Siena.
2. She was apparently the chosen one from birth and apparently had her first “vision” when she was around five or six years old.
*Disclaimer: I obviously believe that Catherine was a badass and that she was a definition of a genius however, I am not a very religious person and so not believe in things like “visions” or “prophecies” so if I sound incredible sceptical, it’s because I am. I think that Catherine’s genius lies with her intuitive ability, perseverance and strength of character rather than any connection with the so-called divine spirit above.
3. When she was around seventeen years old, she refused to do as her parent’s wished which was to marry her dead sister’s widower (fair), and instead admitted herself to the Dominican tertiaries as a sort of roaming nun.
4. She remained to live at home while also being part of the Order. This means that she defied gender norms of the day by ignoring her parent’s creepy plans for her, convinced a traditionally all-male order to let her join and asserted her independence while also continuing to benefit from her parents’ dime. She was the original millennial.
5. She was mad into public service and spent most of her time assisting the poor and the sick to the point of the people of Siena apparently referring to her as the mamma. This is probably the most likely reason as to why she is still one of the most adored figures in Italy from that period.
6. In spite of being in a religious Order, which usually meant silent religious contemplation for the women of this period, our main gal Catherine was actually in the thick of some of the most important political manoeuvres of the century such as the Crusade (her moral compass on that one was in the wrong place there I’ll admit), the reform of the church, the Great Schism and the return of the Pope from Avignon to Rome.
7. She also intervened in the politics of Italian towns, especially in Siena, her homestead, and was sent to Florence as the Pope’s ambassador in 1377-78 with the task of improving the poor relations of the city and the Papacy.
8. All through her time in the political arena, Catherine received numerous death threats but remained visible and involved in the world of male driven politics. Essentially think of her as an early Olivia Pope prototype.
9. Her written work is immense and made a massive impact on the Christian world at the time. She wrote her Book of Divine Doctrine (1377-78) while she was in Florence as the Pope’s ambassador, proving that she could multi-task like a boss.
10. The cult of Catherine essentially created a new model of feminine spirituality where religious women could now manoeuvre through the patriarchal religious systems a little easier if they followed her example.
In conclusion, don’t underestimate an incredibly strong-willed and stubborn girl no matter what century she is living/lived in.
That’s all for today folks. X