Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-cf9d5c678-cnwzk Total loading time: 0.35 Render date: 2021-08-04T23:39:16.891Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

A neglected sculpture: the monument to Catherine of Siena at Castel Sant'Angelo

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 June 2011

Gerald Parsons
Department of Religious Studies, Faculty of Arts, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, Great
E-mail address:
Get access


Image of the first page of this article. For PDF version, please use the ‘Save PDF’ preceeding this image.
Copyright © British School at Rome 2008

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1 For a more detailed account of the campaign for Catherine to be officially recognized as a santa nazionale and Patrona d'Italia, and an analysis of the project for the bust in the Pincio Gardens, see Parsons, G., ‘A national saint in a Fascist state: Catherine of Siena, c. 1922–1944’, Journal of Religious History 32 (2008), 7695CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2 For the Aman statue in Saint Peter's and the strongly internationalist context of its origins and inauguration, see the essays in Soldini, S. (ed.), Santa Caterina da Siena: una nuora statua di Eric Aman nella Basilica Vaticana (Perugia, 2000)Google Scholar . For a review of the campaign for Catherine to be officially recognized and proclaimed as a patron saint of Furope, see Parsons, G., ‘From nationalism to internationalism: civil religion and the festival of Saint Catherine of Siena 1940–2003’, Journal of Church and State 46 (2004), 861–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar , esp. pp. 87-S5. G. Bonicelli, ‘Omaggio a Santa Caterina’, in Soldini, Santa Caterina da Siena (above, n. 2), 21–2. Catherine of Siena and Bridget of Sweden were both proclaimed co-patron saints of Europe — together with Saint Teresa Benedetta della Croce (Edith Stein) — on 1 October 1999 at the opening of the Svnod of European Bishops. The three female patron saints of Europe were thus added to the three official male patron saints of Europe, Benedict, Cyril and Methodius.

4 I am very grateful to Dr Carol Richardson for permission to use eight photographs of the monument taken by her.

5 For a reconstruction of the daily route taken by Catherine from the house occupied by her community, close to the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, to Old Saint Peter's, crossing the Tiber by what was then called the ‘ponte S. Pietro’ and is now known as the Ponte Sant'Angelo, see Cavallini, G. and Giunta, D., Luoghi Cateriniani di Roma (Rome, 2000), 5264Google Scholar.

6 See, for example, Vanni, T., Caterina da Siena: ‘luce intellettual piena d'amore’ (Rome, 1975), 278Google Scholar ; Bianchi, L. and Giunta, D., Iconografia di S. Caterina da Siena L L'immagine (Rome, 1988), 137Google Scholar ; Cavallini and Giunta, Luoghi Cateriniani (above, n. 5), 40.

7 For the history of this archconfraterniry and its church in the via Giulia, see Xozzoli, G., ‘L'arciconfraternita di Santa Caterina da Siena in Roma’, Studi Cateriniani 5 (1928), 39Google Scholar ; Xozzoli, G., ‘Carattere nazionale della Confraternita di Santa Caterina da Siena in Roma’, Studi Cateriniani 6 (1930), 63–6Google Scholar ; Borghini, G., ‘S. Caterina da Siena a via Giulia (1766–1776): passaggio obbligato per la cultura figurativa del secondo Settecento romano’, Storia dell'Arte 52 (1984), 205–19Google Scholar; Spezzaferro, L., ‘L'Omogeneitá di una situazione complessa. Vicende della chiesa di Santa Caterina da Siena in via Giulia’, in Santi, B. and Strinati, C.M. (eds), Siena e Roma: Raffaello, Caravaggio e i protagonisti di un legame antico (Siena, 2005), 439–53Google Scholar.

8 The inscription for this panel reads ‘Io Caterina sena e schiava de seni di Gesn Cristo’, an opening formula used so regularly in Catherine's letters that it has been described as her ‘signature’, for which see The letters of Catherine of Siena, vol. 1, translated and introduced by Noffke, S. (Tempe (Arizona), 2000)Google Scholar , xl, n. 52. Scott, K., ‘Io Caterina: ecclesiastical politics and oral culture in the letters of Catherine of Siena’, in Cherewatuk, K. and Wicthaus, U. (eds), Dear Sister: Medieval Women and the Epistolary Genre (Philadelphia, 1994), 87121Google Scholar , similarly described these introductory formulae as ‘the equivalent of signatures confirming the authorship of her letters’ (p. 100).

9 This scene is accompanied by the words ‘La bocca sua non diceva se non Gesu e Caterina’, from Catherine's letter to Raymond of Capua of mid-June 1375, for which see Noffke (trans.), The Letters of Catherine of Siena (above, n.8), 82–90.

10 The third panel bears the words ‘Io son dessa tolli me’, from her letter to Raymond of Capua of mid-June 1378 describing her near martyrdom, for which see Gardner, E., Saint Catherine of Siena: a Study in the Religion, Literature and History of the Fourteeenth Century in Italy (London, 1907), 249–41Google Scholar.

11 The inscription for the fourth panel reads ‘E io vi dico venite sicuramente’, from Catherine's letter to Pope Gregory XI of mid-August 1 376, for which see The Letters of Catherine of Siena, vol. 2, translated and introduced by S. Noffke (Tempe (Arizona), 2001), 212–14.


13 ‘L'AZIONE CATTOLICA ITALIANA / A S. CATERINA / INTREPIDO CAMPIONE DI FEDE / MARTIRE DI AMORE / PER IL DOLCE CRISTO IN TERRA.’ The term ‘dolce Cristo in terra’ was habitually used by Catherine to describe the pope and his office.


15 For Luigi Gedda and the Comitati Civici see the references in n. 24 below, which accompanies a more detailed discussion of this panel and its significance. The emblem of a shield showing a handshake against a generic Italian tow nscape together with the words ‘Comitato Civico’ at the top of the shield functioned as an official symbol, being used, for example, on the official notepaper of the organization, along with the motto ‘pro aris et focis’. The Archivio Arcivescovile, Siena, includes examples of letters from the local Comitato Civico that bear this svmbol and motto, for which see the file of papers ‘Comitati Civici’, inventory number 4248.


17 I am grateful to Dr Diana Norman and Dr Carol Richardson for discussing the identity of the monuments portraved on this panel.


19 Luongo, F.T., The Saintly Politics of Catherine of Siena (Ithaca/London, 2006), 91–6Google Scholar.

20 In addition to pages 90–122 of the book noted in the previous footnote, for further scholarly analyses of the Niccolò di Tuido episode, including its political context, see Galletti, A., ‘Un capo nelle inani mie’: Niccolò di Tokio, perugino’, in Maffei, D. and Nardi, P. (eds), Arri del simposio internazionale Cateriniano-Bernardiniano, Siena, 17–20 aprile 1980 (Siena, 1982), 121–7Google Scholar ; Luongo, F., ‘The evidence of Catherine's experience: Niccolo di Tuldo and the erotics of political engagement’, in Ascheri, M. (ed.), Siena e il suo territorio nel rinascimento (Siena, 2000), 5390Google Scholar.

21 Whatever the historical reality, Catherine's perceived role as an ambassador for peace between Italian cities was one of the principal themes in the promotion of her cult in the twentieth century, for which see Parsons, ‘From nationalism to internationalism’ (above, n. 2), 872, 876–7, 882; Parsons, A national saint' (above, n. 1). More recently, however, Luongo has argued that the historical Catherine was indeed engaged in overtly political activities, in support of the papacy and including the promotion of peace within Italy and between the papacy and the leading cities of Tuscany, for which see Luongo, The Saintly Politics of Catherine of Siena (above, n. 19).

22 For the palio banner of August 1939 and the poster of 1940, see Caciorgna, M. and Pierini, M. (eds, Bruno Marzi (Siena, 1995), 42–3Google Scholar . The poster is also illustrated in ‘Cinquantenario dei patroni d'Italia San Francesco d'Assisi e Caterina da Siena’, Quaderni Cateriniani 54–5 ( 1989), 17. For the supplements to Il Popolo di Siena, see La Patrona d'Italia: Foglio di Informazione 1–5 (March-April 1940).

23 For the origins of the Portico dei Comuni d'Italia and its important role in subsequent celebrations of the Festa Nazionale see Parsons, ‘From nationalism to internationalism’ (above, n. 2), 869, 873.

24 For Luigi Gedda and the Comitati Civici, see Maggi, G., ‘Comitati Civici’, in Traniello, F. and Camparmi, G. (eds), Dizionario storico del movimento cattolico in Italia, 1860–1980, 1.2 (Turin, 1981), 207–9Google Scholar ; Casella, M., 18 aprile 1948: la mobilitazione delle organizzazioni cattoliche (Galatina, 1992), 79156Google Scholar ; Ventresca, R., From Fascism to Democracy: Culture and Politics in the Italian Election of 1948 (Toronto, 2004), 178–95Google Scholar . For the place of the Comitati Civici in the wider context of the role of the Christian Democrat partv within post-war Italian politics, see Bedani, G., ‘The Christian Democrats and national identity’, in Bedani, G. and Haddock, B. (eds), The Politics of Italian National Identity: a Multidisciplinary Approach (Cardiff, 2000), 214–38Google Scholar . The role of the Comitati Civici in mobilizing the Catholic vote for the Christian Democrats both in 1948 and in subsequent elections has been emphasized also in Ginsborg, P., A History of Contemporary Italy 1943–1980 (London, 1990), 117, 169Google Scholar.

25 Such posters are illustrated in Ventresca, From Fascism to Democracy (above, n. 24), between pp. 210 and 211, and in Casella, 18 aprile 1948 (above, n. 24), 461–86. For Gedda's own retrospective account of the 1948 election campaign and the importance of the Comitati Civici, written in old-age and in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1948 elections, see Gedda, L., 18 aprile 1948: memorie inedite dell'artefice della sconfitta del Fronte Popolare (Milan, 1998)Google Scholar. For a critique of Gedda's account, which emphasizes its highly subjective and politically charged nature, see Alberigo, G., ‘Gedda ieri … e anche oggi?’, Cristianesimo nella Storia 21 (2000), 687–94Google Scholar.

26 For a discussion of the Ciompi and their historiographv that challenged the Marxist interpretation. see Brucker, G., ‘The Ciompi revolution’, in Rubinstein, N. (ed.), Fiorentine Studies: Politics and Society in Renaissance Florence (Evanston, 1968), 314–56Google Scholar , especially pp. 314–19, 352–6; and also Rubinstein, N.. Renaissance Florence (London, 1969), 46–8Google Scholar , 66–8, 151–2. For later reinterpretations of the Ciompi that re-emphasize the significance of the participation of lower social classes in the revolt, see Cohn, S., ‘Rivolte popolare e classi sociali in Toscana nel Rinascimento’, Studi Storici 20 (1979), 747–58Google Scholar ; Cohn, S., The labouring Classes in Renaissance Florence (New York, 1980), especially pp. 130–3, 208–10Google Scholar. Similarly, in his recent analysis of Catherine's political activities, Luongo has noted that, although fostered in its earlv stages by elements of the Florentine middle classes, nevertheless, the revolt of the Ciompi was ‘driven by the poor and unenfranchised workers of the wool industry’, The Saintly Politics of Catherine of Siena (above, n. 19), 199.

27 For the way that Gedda's intense anti-communism not only resulted in a desire to moie the Christian Democrats to the right politically, but even led him to defend Fascist racial laws in the late 1930s, and to advocate electoral alliances between the Christian Democrats and neo-Fascist candidates in the post-war period, see, for example, Webster, R., Christian Democracy in Italy 1860–1960 (London, 1960), 160Google Scholar ; L. Osbat, ‘Movimento cattolico e questione giovanile’, in Traniello and Camparmi (eds), Dizionario storico (above, n. 24), 95; Maggi, ‘Comitati Civici’ (above, n. 24), 208; Hebblethwaite, P., John XXIII: Pope of the Council (London, 1984), 254–5Google Scholar ; Margiotta Broglio, F., ‘Dalla Conciliazione al Giubileo 2000’, in Fiorarli, L. and Prosperi, A. (eds), Storia d'Italia, Annali 16. Roma, la cittá del papa (Turin, 2000), 1,180, 1,183Google Scholar.

28 Parsons, ‘A national saint’ (above, n. 1). The most striking — and probablv also the most influential — example of the linkage between Catherine of Siena and Joan of Arc was the lecture given in various Italian cities in 1930 by Martin Gillet, the French Master General of the Dominican Order, for which see Gillet, M., ‘Santa Caterina da Siena e Santa Giovanna d'Arco — le due sante della patria’, Studi Cateriniani 7 (1930), 125Google Scholar.

29 Parsons, ‘From nationalism to internationalism’ (above, n. 2), 872–7.

30 Gedda, L., ‘A Santa Caterina patrona d'Italia’, Tabor 16 (1962), 293–4Google Scholar.

31 See, for example, ‘Il Patto Lateranense solennizzato nella Casa di S. Caterina da Siena’, Studi Cateriniani 6 (1929), 1–3; Fluir Nencini, B., ‘S. Caterina da Siena aralda di pace’, Studi Cateriniani 6 (1929), 419Google Scholar.

32 Binchy, D., Church and State in Fascist Italy (Oxford, 1977), 6Google Scholar ; Koon, T., Believe, Obey, Fight: Political Socialization of Youth in Fascist Italy, 1922–1943 (Chapel Hill, 1985), 122Google Scholar . It should be noted also that, in 1909, Pope Pius X had already officially made Catherine the patron saint of the women's section of Azione Cattolica Italiana, thus proyiding another link between the saint and the organization.

33 See, for example, ‘Il monumento a Santa Caterina’, La Patrona d'Italia 17 (1) (1962), 6; Munzi, U., ‘Inaugurata a Roma il monumento a Santa Caterina da Siena’, La Patrona d'Italia 17 (3) (1962), 7Google Scholar ; Munzi, U., ‘Inaugurato a Roma il monumento a S. Caterina’, La Voce del Popolo (6 May 1962), 4Google Scholar ; Munzi, U., ‘Inaugurato a Roma il monumento a S. Caterina Patrona d'Italia’, Il Campo di Siena (11 May 1962), 3Google Scholar ; Bruni, B., ‘Il monumento a S. Caterina da Siena in Roma’, Memorie Domenicane 79, ns 38 (1962), 138–43Google Scholar.

34 See, for example, Vanni, Caterina da Siena (above, n. 6), 278–87; Bianchi and Giunta, iconografia di S. Caterina (above, n. 6), 137, 147 n. 30; Cavallini and Giunta, Luoghi Cateriniani (above, n. 5), 40.

35 Gorresio, V., La nuova missione (Milan, 1968), 105Google Scholar ; Magister, S., La politica vaticana e l'Italia 1943–1978 (Rome, 1979), 258–60, 268–70Google Scholar ; Hebblethwaite, John XXIII (above, n. 27), 256–363; Ginsborg, A History of Contemporary Italy (above, n. 24), 260–1.

36 It may or may not be coincidental that the Latin of the title of the encyclical, ‘Mater et Magister’, evokes the Italian — ‘mamma e maestra’ — of the affectionate title often used by devotees of her cult to refer to Catherine of Siena. I have not, however, so far been able to establish a deliberate echo of Catherine's popular designation in the encyclical.

Cited by

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

A neglected sculpture: the monument to Catherine of Siena at Castel Sant'Angelo
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

A neglected sculpture: the monument to Catherine of Siena at Castel Sant'Angelo
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

A neglected sculpture: the monument to Catherine of Siena at Castel Sant'Angelo
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *