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Meet the 14th century woman who fed the poor, challenged bishops and kings, and perhaps even saved the papacy. Catherine of Siena's influence was felt throughout the kingdoms of Europe. She enjoyed the confidence of popes, royalty, and most of all, the common people of Italy. A complicated woman, she was able to speak bluntly to a queen: "Instead of a woman, you have become the servant and slave of nothingness, making yourself the subject of lies and of the demon who is their father"; and also encourage the wife of a simple tailor: "Clothe yourself in the royal virtues." Her story is told in this landmark biography, first published a century ago and praised by Evelyn Underhill as the best modern biography of a saint ever written. Long out of print, this new edition has been slightly abridged and generously supplemented with the reflections of other biographers, historians, and artists—who shed fresh light on what we know about an amazing woman. "Sweeney achieves a fine balance between excellent scholarship and sweet accessibility for every average reader." —Walter Wangerin, Jr., author of St. Julian and The Book of God "Caterina Benincasa, whom we now call Saint Catherine of Siena, was born on March 25, 1347—the Feast of the Annunciation, the first day of the new year as it was reckoned in those days in Italy. It had been 120 years since Saint Francis had died at Assisi in the arms of Lady Poverty, his mystical bride, and a quarter of a century since Dante had passed away in exile at Ravenna. These two men are Catherine's elder brothers in the spirit. The seraphic father of Assisi, standard-bearer of the Crucified, as the voice in the high vision on Mount Verna had hailed him, is her predecessor in the mystical life. And Catherine is the literary successor of the poet of the Divine Comedy in the history of religious thought in Italy…." (the beginning of Chapter 1) Edmund G. Gardner's work on Catherine of Siena was groundbreaking in its day, and is still one of the most important biographies ever written of a medieval saint. He was the professor of Italian at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and wrote many books over a long career, on Dante, English mystics, the cities of Florence and Siena, Arthurian legends, and Italian Renaissance painters. Jon M. Sweeney is best known for his editing of Paul Sabatier's classic biography, The Road to Assisi: The Essential Biography of St. Francis, which has sold more than 40,000 copies and was a featured selection of The History Book Club, Crossings, and Book-of-the-Month Club; and for his editing of J. B. Bury's classic biography of Patrick of Ireland, Ireland's Saint: The Essential Biography of St. Patrick, also made a selection of History Book Club and BOMC. He lives in Vermont.
About the Author
Jon M. Sweeney is the author of several books including Strange Heaven: The Virgin Mary as Woman, Mother, Disciple, and Advocate (September 2006); and Born Again and Again: Surprising Benefits of a Fundamentalist Childhoodwhich was named one of the "Best Books of 2005" by Spirituality&Health magazine and with an Award of Merit in the Spirituality category by Christianity Today. He has also written The St. Francis Prayer Book; The Lure of Saints; Praying with Our Handswhich was featured on PBS's "Religion&Ethics Newsweekly" and is the editor of Paul Sabatier's classic biography of St. Francis, The Road to Assisi, which was a selection of the History Book Club, Crossings Book Club, Literary Guild, and Book-of-the-Month Club. Jon was the co-founder and editor-in-chief of SkyLight Paths Publishing, a multifaith trade book publisher in Vermont, until he joined Paraclete Press in Massachusetts as their associate publisher. He writes an occasional column for the website, www.explorefaith.org, and his articles have been published in a variety of magazines including Catholic Digest, The Lutheran, The Merton Seasonal, and Spirituality&Health. He is a frequent guest speaker to groups of all denominational backgrounds on the subjects of understanding the Virgin Mary, Christian fundamentalism, St. Francis of Assisi, and appreciating the Catholic imagination. He was the featured speaker at The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on St. Francis's feast day in 2004. Jon lives in Vermont with his wife and two teenage children. Visit Jon Sweeney's blog at www.jonmsweeney.wordpress.com.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations xiii
1 Catherine's Hidden Life 11
2 From Dante to Saint Catherine 33
3 Catherine Enters into Her Vocation 39
4 Pope UrbanV 49
5 The Beginnings of Her Public Life 55
6 From the Cell to the World 63
7 Her Influence Grows 83
8 Mediating Between Florence and Avignon 91
9 From the Babylon of the West 99
10 The Angel of Peace 109
11 The Beginning of Schism in the Church 127
12 From Siena to Rome 143
13 The Field of Battle 153
14 Catherine's Death 161
15 Her Literary Legacy 183
16 Dissolution of the Fellowship 187