I Maccabees 6.1-13; Psalm 9; Luke 20.27-40
St Catherine was a learned woman of the fourth century. Tradition has it that she was a well-born maiden of Alexandria in Egypt who was martyred during the persecutions of Emperor Maxentius after refusing to worship pagan gods. She was condemned to be executed on a spiked wheel but at her touch the wheel shattered and she was instead beheaded. Though it has proved difficult to verify her historically and it is possible that she was a kind of composite figure drawn from many stories of women condemned for Christian faith, it is clear that from very early days a cult surrounded her. Through the Middle Ages she was among the most venerated of Christian martyrs. At her death it was said that a milk-like substance flowed from her neck rather than blood. Legends claim that her body was taken by angels to Mount Sinai, where a monastery was built in her honour.
St Catherine is venerated as the patron of philosophers and preachers, and she is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, the canonised saints noted for their intercessory powers. She was adopted as patroness of the city of Bath.