Siena, Italy

House of St. Catherine of Siena

St Catherine was an extraordinary woman for her era and certainly one of Siena's most famous past citizens.

Labelled 'the mystic of politics', Saint Catherine fought corruption in the church, and managed to convince the pope, who was seated in Avignon, to restore the papal seat to Rome.

After her early death, the cult of Saint Catherine rapidly spread throughout Europe and she was proclaimed Italy's patron saint in 1939. Thanks to her vast correspondence ( 'epistolorio’) with important men and women across Europe, her status as an intellectual has also lasted down the centuries.

St Catherine was born here in 1347 and it is where she spent her childhood alongside her 23 siblings!

St Catherine's religious devotion became apparent at an early age and she entered a Sienese Dominican order of nuns, devoting her life to caring for the poor and ill of her native town. Although she was a Dominican nun, she was able to spend much of her life living in the house of her birth which had been constructed where the prominent Benincasa family had once lived.

The house is now a museum dedicated to her St Catherine of Siena and the Home-Sanctuary gives visitors a good insight into her life and times.

Changes and adaptations to the Saint's birthplace have been made over the years, but the peaceful and charming complex that today makes up the Home-Sanctuary of St Catherine of Siena consists of what is left of her birthplace, several chapels, and a tranquil cloister with a marble well.

After enjoying the peaceful cloister area visitors can admire the eye-catching ceramic floor in the Oratory of the Kitchen which once made up part of her home.

The walls are decorated with colorful frescoes depicting scenes from Saint Catherine's life while a small cell-like room is where she was said to rest her head on a stone pillow. In the Chapel of the Crucifix is a 12th-century crucifix cross from Pisa. This is the cross from which beams of light miraculously pierced Saint Catherine with the marks of Christ's stigmata.

The head of the Saint, moreover, is kept on the altar in the Chapel of Saint Catherine, inside the Basilica of San Domenico.