Giovanni di Paolo
St. Catherine of Siena Receiving the Stigmata

Circa 1461
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975.1.34, Lehman Collection

The painting depicts an episode from Raymond of Capua's Life of St. Catherine of Siena:

Arriving in Pisa with a number of other people, of whom I was one, Catherine was put up by a citizen who had a house near the Santa Cristina chapel.

On the Sunday, at the virgin's request I said Mass in this church, and, to use the official expression, I "communicated" her. When she had received Communion she went as usual into ecstasy, her spirit, thirsting for its Creator – that is to say, the supreme Spirit – absenting itself as far as it could from the senses. We were waiting for her to come back to herself, so as to receive some kind of spiritual encouragement from her, as we often did on these occasions, when to our surprise we saw her little body, which had been lying prostrate, gradually rise up until it was up­right on its knees, her arms and hands stretched themselves out, and light beamed from her face; she remained in this position for a long time, perfectly stiff, with her eyes closed, and then we saw her suddenly fall, as though mortally wounded. A little later, her soul recovered its senses.

Then the virgin sent for me and said quietly, "You must know, Father, that by the mercy of the Lord Jesus I now bear in my body His stigmata." I replied that while I had been watching the movements of her body when she was in ecstasy I had suspected some­thing of the sort; I asked her how the Lord had done all this. She said, "I saw the Lord fixed to the cross coming towards me in a great light, and such was the impulse of my soul to go and meet its Creator that it forced the body to rise up. Then from the scars of His most sacred wounds I saw five rays of blood coming down towards me, to my hands, my feet and my heart. Realizing what was to happen, I exclaimed, 'O Lord God, I beg you–do not let these scars show on the outside of my body!' As I said this, before the rays eached me their colour changed from blood red to the colour of light, and in the form of pure light they arrived at the five points of my body, hands, feet and heart." "So then," I said, no ray reached your right side?" "No," she replied, "it came straight to my left side, over my heart; because that line of light from Jesus's right side struck me directly, not aslant." "Do you feel any pain at these points now?" I asked. She heaved a great sigh, and answered, "I feel such pain at those five points, especially in my heart, that if the Lord does not perform another miracle I do not see how I can possibly go on, and within a few days I shall be dead."

Lamb, 175-6

More of St. Catherine of Siena

Photographed at the Metropolitan by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.