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How did St. Catherine of Alexandria die?

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January 14, 2015 3:02AM

According to legend, St. Catherine of Alexandria was to have been smashed on the wheel, but the wheel broke, and she was beheaded instead. However, we can not even be sure whether Catherine actually existed.

St. Catherine was never mentioned before the ninth century, and some assiduous research has failed to identify Catherine with any historical person. Donald Attwater calls the story of St. Catherine the most preposterous legend of its kind, citing the lack of any positive evidence that she ever existed outside the mind of some Greek writer who first composed what he intended to be simply an edifying romance. Even her name, which comes from the Greek katharos, ('pure'), is suspiciously apt for a virgin martyr, raising the possibility that her legend originated as an allegory. With no reliable information about St. Catherine, we can not say that any of the traditions about how or when she died are true.

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January 13, 2015 3:55PM

Researchers have little doubt that Catherine of Alexandria was a real person. However, much of the information surrounding her life and martyrdom are probably fabrications or, at the very least, exaggerations . It is believed that she was beheaded after other means of execution failed. Her name was removed from the Calendar of Saints in 1969 but returned to its former status when a diary purported to be written by Catherine, was found in the 1980s.