Catherine [of Siena]
Alternate Name:
Catherine Benincasa
Birth Date:
March 25, 1347
Death Date:
April 29, 1380

23rd out of 25 children. Family had strong sociopolitical ties and was affiliated with the prominent political party Monte dei Dodici.

Iacopo di Benincasa, cloth-dyer. Died ca. 1368.
Lapa Piagenti, daughter of poet Nuccio (Puccio) di Piacente

No formal education. 1363-1368 marked a period of spiritual education with the Dominican Mantellate.

Social Status:

Lower middle-class, lay folk. Strong political ties and prosperous arranged marriages boosted the family's reputation in Siena.

Religious Titles:

Sister of the Penance of St. Dominic, one of only three women to have been granted the title "Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church" by Pope Paul VI (Oct. 4, 1970). In 1999, Pope John Paul II made her one of Europe's patron saints.

Religious Roles:

Tended to the sick and poor, wrote letters to the Pope asking for peace between the republics of Italy, the return of papacy from Avignon to Rome, and clerical reformation.


Sisters of Penance of St. Dominic (ca. 1362-1365). Mantellate (ca. 1368-1374)

Ecclesiastical Relationships:

Corresponded frequently with Pope Gregory XI, beginning in 1376. In 1378, she was summoned to Rome by Pope Urban VI. Her first confessor was Dominican friar Tommaso dall Fonte. In 1376, the papacy appointed Raymond of Capua (ca. 1330-1399) as her spiritual advisor. They made many pilgrimages together, seeking to return the papacy to Rome. He later wrote her biography, The Life of Catherine of Siena, sometime in the years between 1385-1395. In 1376, she met with Augustian hermit William Flete, who became an active participant in her political circle and goals.

Date Sanctified:
Oct. 4, 1461
Feast Day:
April 29 (new Roman calendar)
Founder of:
Literary Works:

Over 300 letters survive of her correspondence with the Pope. Her spiritual advisor Raymond of Capua wrote her biography sometime between 1385-1395 (The Life of Catherine of Siena)


Letters with the Pope, head and right thumb in Siena, body buried in Rome (Santa Maria Sopra Minerva), foot in Venice.

Brief Profile:

Had her first mystical experience at the age of 6 in 1353 and subsequently devoted herself to God. In 1362, she evaded marriage by joining the lay order Sisters of Penance of St. Dominic. During this period, she lived alone in her room, praying, studying and fasting. Her second mystical experience occured in 1368 when she was 18, this time as a marriage to Jesus. This spurred her to leave her life as a recluse and enter the public world of politics and church reformation. In 1374, Raymond From 1376 onward, she frequently corresponded with the Pope and gained the respect of many ecclesiastical authorities. She was summoned to Rome on several occasions, seeking to reform the Dominican order and return the papacy to Rome. She died in Rome in ca. 1380, at the age of 33.