St Catherine of Genoa

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Married woman and mystic. Born in Genoa in 1447, Catherine Fieschi entered into an arranged marriage with a wealthy young man named Julian when she was just 16. He turned out to be a foul-tempered womanizer and she endured his bad behaviour for several years, until in 1473, she underwent some kind of conversion experience which changed her life, and that of her husband too. For the next 20 years the couple devoted themselves to caring for the sick in the Pammatone hospital and eventually went to live there. At one point Catherine contracted the plague herself and nearly died. Julian eventually became a Franciscan tertiary, dying 13 years before his wife.

From the time of her conversion, Catherine lead an intensely religious life - receiving Communion each day when the practice was not usual. She spent much time in fasting and prayer as well as being very industrious. She has been described as an example of a religious contemplative who managed to combine 'other-worldliness' with a very practical streak. She wrote a treatise on Purgatory and a dialogue between the body and the soul.

Catherine was very ill for the last three years of her life and died in 1510.

She is the patron of Genoa and of Italian hospitals.

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