April 29th is the feast day of Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-80), one of the most popular saints in the Catholic Church. Caterina di Giacomo di Benincasa died in Rome on April 29th, 1380, and was interred in the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.
Three and a half years later, on October 13th, 1383, Raymond of Capua, Catherine's confessor and biographer, knowing how much it would have pleased her fellow citizens if she had been buried in the city of her birth, decided that at least part of her should return home. And so he removed her head and dispatched it to the church of San Domenico in Siena.
The much revered Sacra Testa (Holy Head) is housed in a tabernacle in the Cappella di Santa Caterina. The tabernacle was carved in 1466 by Giovanni di Stefano, while the walls of the chapel were frescoed by Giovanni Antonio Bazzi, better known as Il Sodoma.
St Catherine of Siena was proclaimed a patron saint of Italy in 1939 and of Europe in 1999.
Blogging about Rome:
its art, history and culture.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
small-group walking tours
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