Caterina de Vegri
ID:
 
538
 
Alternate Name:
 
Caterina Vegri, Caterina Vigri, Caterina dei Vigri, Catherine of Bologna
 
Birth Date:
 
1413, September 8
 
Death Date:
 
1463, March 9
 
Country:
 
Italy
 
Region:
 
Emilia-Romagna
 
Town:
 
Ferrara
 
Region:
 
Emilia-Romagna
 
Town:
 
Bologna
 
Family:
 

de'Vigri

 
Father:
 
Giovanni Vigri. Giovanni served as a diplomatic agent to the Marquis of Ferrara, Nicholas III d’Este. Some sources claim he had a vision foretelling of Caterina’s birth.
 
Mother:
 
Benevenuta Mammolini
 
Other Family:
 

Caterina’s elder brother was a religious, and her younger sister joined her after the latter entered the convent of Corpus Domini in Ferrara.

 
Education:
 

Between the ages of 11 and 14 Caterina was educated at the Court of Ferrara as handmaid to the Marquis’s daughter, Margarita d’Este. She studied Latin, literature, and the fine arts, including the art of illumination. After Margarita married Robert Malatesta, she asked Caterina to continue serving her as handmaid, but Caterina wished to enter the convent instead.

 
Social Status:
 

Urban aristocracy.

 
Communities:
 

Corpus Domini in Ferrara and Corpus Domini in Bologna.

 
Religious Titles:
 

Abbess; Saint

 
Religious Roles:
 

A mystic, she also served as mistress of novices and occasionally as baker while at the convent in Ferrara.

 
Orders:
 

Order of St. Augustine, then Franciscan tertiary of the Poor Clares.

 
Ecclesiastical Relationships:
 

After Caterina had entered the convent at Ferrara, in April 1452 Pope Nicholas V permitted the sisters to join the Order of the Poor Clares. However, a conflict between the sisters’ leader, Lucia Mascheroni and an aristocratic member, Verde Pio da Carpi, ensued. Lucia argued that the sisters should be faithful to the wishes of the convent’s founder, Bernardina Sedazzari, and thus continue to live under the Augustinian Rule. Verde wished to follow the Franciscan Rule. Eventually the bishop of Ferrara, Pietro Boiardi, attempted to end the dispute by forcing the sisters to return to their respective homes. However, several days after their departure, Caterina and five others returned. The conflict resolved when the Pope released Lucia of her obligations to follow the wishes of Bernardina and absolved Caterina and the sisters for crimes of apostasy. The sisters officially joined the Franciscan Order.

Later in her life Caterina had a vision of Giovanni Tavelli, another bishop of Ferrara, ascending into Heaven.

 
Date Sanctified:
 
1712, May 22 (by Pope Clement XI)
 
Feast Day:
 
March 9
 
Relics:
 

The sisters at the Corpus Domini of Bologna buried Caterina without embalming the body or placing it in a casket. Several weeks after the burial the body emitted sweet aromas; the sisters exhumed the corpse to find it uncorrupt. To this day her clothed body sits on a chair at her Bologna church. Caterina’s violeta is also enshrined in the church. As she was approaching death, Caterina asked for the violeta; while playing it she began to sing and went into a state of joyous ecstasy.

 
Benefactor of:
  
Patron of:
 
Bologna, artists, the Bologna Academy of Art, liberal arts
 
Founder of:
  
Artifacts:
 

Frescoes which are no longer extant, a painting of Mary and the baby Jesus holding an apple, illuminations in her breviary.

 
Brief Profile:
 

Caterina left the d’Este court at the age of 14 to join the religious community of Corpus Domini in Ferrara. Under the leadership of Lucia Mascheroni, the women followed a very loose form of the Augustinian Rule, but did not officially belong to any religious order. During Caterina’s early years there, however, a member named Verde Pio da Carpi persuaded the women to officially conform to the Franciscan Rule, to which they committed themselves in 1435. Caterina preferred this rule but struggled for the rest of her life with the knowledge that she had willfully disobeyed her matron, Lucia, in becoming a Poor Clare. Nevertheless, the community admired Caterina for her holiness and soon elected her as abbess. She ruled over her community with a reformist attitude, adhering strictly to the literal messages of St. Clare’s Rule. Under her direction the community quickly expanded, and she was assigned the position of abbess in the newly-constructed monastery of Corpus Domini in Bologna.

Caterina wrote many treatises and a book entitled The Seven Spiritual Weapons (See "Literary Works," above) which compares the life of a nun to a life spent battling evil. The book potentially reflects her inner turmoil and possible mental depression over the conflict between Lucia and Verde and her own uncertainty as to whether to remain in the community or become a hermit. The book also recounts her many diabolical and heavenly visions, in which she saw the devil in the guise of the Virgin Mother and Christ Crucified, as well as the actual Christ and Mother Mary. She viewed one of her most significant visions as that of the Last Judgment in which she sat at the right hand of God, although she also describes at great length the vision in which Mother Mary presented her with baby Jesus.

Caterina suffered from poor health and died at the age of 49.

 
Misc Info:
 

Her prayers were credited with having saved Margarita d’Este from an undesired second marriage after Robert Malatesta’s death in 1432, and later, with keeping Bologna safe from Milanese incursions.

 
Manuscript sources:
 

Archivio Beata Caterina (part of the Archivio Arcivescovile di Bologna): cart. 25, 26, 28, 35/C2: Manuscripts include the "Breviario"(autogr.) and "Rosarium". Also cart. 1-56, Ferrara.

In the Archivio Storico de Ferrara, see arch. not. ant. & archivio opera pia.

In the Biblioteca Communale de Ariostea (Ferrara), see the Archivio Pasi, coll. Antonelli, 868,cl.I,354,356/ See also C1: cart. A, B

 
Published primary sources:
 

See "Literary Works," above.
Specchio d'illuminazione

 
Contributor:
 
Natasha Roule; WRL Project
 
Community ID Global:
 
1070
 
Biography ID Global:
 
605