Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Monday 27 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Vincent de Paul
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

The 18-year-old girl who defied an emperor


Public Domain

Philip Kosloski - published on 11/25/17

Her keen intellect and sound reasoning left the emperor dumbfounded.

When the Roman emperor Maxentius visited Alexandria in the late 3rd century, he didn’t expect to receive such strong opposition from an 18-year-old girl named Catherine, whose knowledge surpassed even his.

Catherine was the daughter of Constus, the governor of Alexandria, and she had converted to Christianity at age 14. She was educated at an early age and was immersed in Greek philosophy. Her beauty and intellect were beyond compare and many sought her hand in marriage, but none were found worthy.

During a visit to Alexandria, Emperor Maxentius held a grand pagan festival and forced some Christians to participate, threatening to kill them unless they sacrificed to the gods. Catherine heard of the injustice and immediately presented herself before the emperor.

She vehemently opposed Maxentius, but instead of ordering her death, the emperor tried to argue with her. He was captivated by Catherine’s beauty and wanted to win her over. After witnessing her amazing intellect, Maxentius summoned 50 rhetoricians to defeat her in argument.

This did not work at all and Catherine’s philosophical skill was unmatched. She even won over many of the philosophers, converting them to Christianity.

This enraged Maxentius, who couldn’t stand being defeated by an 18-year-old girl. He ordered her death and she was subsequently beheaded.

Ever since her death, Christians from all corners of the world have been devoted to St. Catherine and her feast day was even a holy day of obligation in France until the 16th century. Her heroic story remains an inspiration to many and gives courage to those fighting the many injustices of our own day and time.

Read more:
A fast take on ‘My Badass Book of Saints: Courageous Women Who Showed Me How to Love’ with Maria Morera Johnson

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
J-P Mauro
Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks
The Sinai Peninsula and the Dead Sea Rift
J-P Mauro
Experts now believe Sodom was destroyed by a meteor
Philip Kosloski
Why J.R.R. Tolkien loved to attend daily Mass
Bret Thoman, OFS
Exclusive photos: Meet Padre Pio and the place he lived
Giovanna Binci
He’s autistic, she has Down syndrome, and they’re wonderfully hap...
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady saved Padre Pio from a violent demonic attack
Cerith Gardiner
9 Padre Pio quotes for when you’re feeling scared or uncertain
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.