Long Before Avalon, There Was the Martyr Santa Catalina
Some 25 miles off the coast of sunny Southern California is Santa Catalina Island.
It’s another part of the Golden State named after a saint.
And it’s another part of California whose name comes from Spanish General Sebastian Vizcaino’s 1602 to 1603 voyage along the coast to find good moorings for Spanish galleons returning from the Philippines and headed toward final port in Acapulco.
The Spanish Santa Catalina translates to Saint Catherine.
Vizcaino anchored at the island on her feast day, November 25, and gave the island her name – not unlike his decision eight days later, on the eve of Saint Barbara’s feast day, to name that sliver of coast after a Catholic martyr.
Saint Catherine – the one of “wheel” fame – is likely fictitious. If The Church suppresses her cult, as it did in 1969, something must be fairly strongly awry.
But that came well after Joan of Arc professed to saying Catherine appeared to her many times.
Born in Alexandria, Catherine became a Christian in her teens.
Supposedly, she converted members of the Roman emperor’s court to Christianity, including the empress.
This was a great irritant to the emperor.
He sent some 50 philosophers to dispute her Christian tenets. They failed to win the debate. In some versions of her life, the pagan emperor tried to wed her but she refused since he wasn’t of the faith.
The failure of the philosophers to unravel her, the conversion of the empress and the refusal to marry the emperor caused the emperor to lash her to a wheel with sharpened blades in an attempt to break her.
The wheel is said to have borken when she touched it. As often happens when advanced technology fails, more primitive but reliable means were then employed: Her head was sliced off with a sword.
Literary creation or not, she’s still listed as one of the 14 most helpful saints in heaven to cure various maladies.
Santa Barbara, up the coast, is also on that list.
Catherine is the patron saint of students, young girls and craftsmen, potters for example, who use wheels in their work.
Filed under: California History
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