TillbakaNotions of the Heavenly

Catherine of Alexandria

Carving of a saint, representing Catherine of Alexandria, executed in polychrome broadleaf wood. Made in Haaken Gulleson’s workshop during the first quarter of the 16th century.

Catherine of Alexandria is depicted as a rosy-cheeked young girl with raised eyebrows. Her facial expression is one of humility. She is wearing a full-length gown and a golden mantle with a blue lining. A girdle consisting of foliage-work reliefs encircles her waist. In her left hand she holds a yellowish-brown wheel with a red ground. Her long hair is let down, and topped by a now damaged crown with defective bow-like ornamentation which also figures in her dress.

Legend has it that Catherine of Alexandria lived in the 4th century, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Maxentius. She was sentenced to death after refusing to sacrifice to the pagan gods and after publicly debating questions of belief with fifty pagan philosophers who, the legend tells us, were converted to Christianity by her pleading.

Catherine of Alexandria is portrayed with the attributes of wheel, sword, crown and long maiden hair. All of these are present here, except for the sword, which is believed to have been lost and to have previously been held in her right hand. Catherine of Alexandria was one of the most popular Christian saints in medieval times, and depictions of her were also very widespread in the Nordic countries.