A woman with an exceptional charisma, Santa Caterina da Siena has always exercised an irresistible charm on the people who have come across her since she was alive. The energy, the love, the attention to the needs of the poor and sick, the joy and her profound peace attracted men and women to follow her, to walk, the same path that had made her capable of living. with so much intensity.
Born in 1347 by the dyer Jacopo Benincasa and Lapa di Puccio de ‘Piacenti, at the age of seven she had the first vision of Christ. The experience marked her life so deeply that she decided to take a vow of perpetual virginity, choosing to consecrate herself solely to him, against the will of the family. At sixteen he then received the habit of the Dominican Third Order and his existence continued in penance and prayer. At the age of twenty he learned to read, dictated his first letters, began his charitable activity towards the poor, the sick and in prison, often repaid by ingratitude and slander. His figure began to attract the first disciples, derisively called “caterinati”. When the fame of his holiness spread, he was the protagonist of an intense activity of spiritual counsel towards every category of people: nobles and politicians, artists and people of the people, consecrated persons, ecclesiastics, including Pope Gregory XI who in that period resided in Avignon and that Catherine urged energetically and effectively to return to Rome. His appeals then also extended to princes and politicians of the Europe of his time, torn by internal strife, to actively engage in the restoration of peace and in the construction of a society founded on Christian values. On the death of Gregory XI, the successor Urban VI was opposed in the college of cardinals who elected Clement VII as antipope, starting the Western schism. Catherine exerted all her energy to have the authority of Urban VI recognized and was consumed in pain for the divided Church, dying on April 29, 1380 at the age of 33. She was proclaimed a saint in 1461 by the Sienese Pope Pius II, patroness of Italy by Pius XII, doctor of the Universal Church by Paul VI and Patroness of Europe by John Paul II, testifying to a spiritual greatness that has gone beyond the centuries.
The passage of the saint indelibly marked the city of Siena, its streets and buildings, so that today we follow her steps, both in a physical and spiritual sense. Despite being consecrated to God, Catherine fully participated in the social life of her time, so she represents an excellent guide to enter the spirit, splendor, culture and power of 14th-century Siena, at the time one of the most distinguished cities in Italy. ‘Europe.
This path will allow you to discover the places in the city most closely linked to the figure of Catherine, retracing through them her extraordinary human and spiritual life.
Many have written about Siena and its harmonious beauty, in all times, and it is difficult to invent new words to describe its charm, especially if you are not poets. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1995.
José Saramago, a Portuguese writer and Nobel Prize winner, was in love with the city and dedicated words that describe it with brushstrokes of deep emotion and passion.
“And here is Siena, the beloved, the city where my heart is truly pleased”. “The three hills on which it is built make it a city where there are no two equal roads, all contrary to submit to any geometry”. “This wonderful color, the color of the body browned by the sun, but that is also the color of the crust of the corn bread, this wonderful color goes from the stones to the road and to the roofs, softens the sunlight and erases the anxieties and fears from the face”.
“There can be nothing more beautiful than this city”. Piazza del Campo “a square inclined and curved like a shell, which the builders did not want to pave and remained so, as if it were a lap”.
“I look at the old palaces of Siena, ancient houses where I wish I could live one day, with a window of my own, overlooking the clay-colored roofs, the green shutters of the windows, as in the attempt to decipher where this secret comes from that Siena murmurs and that I will continue to hear, although I do not understand it, until the end of life”.