St. Catherine of Genoa (c.1447–1510)
Born about 1447 in Genoa into the noble family of Fieschi. An arranged marriage at the age of 16 to a 13 year old member of a rival family was unhappy. When Catherine was 26 she went through a religious conversion, whilst at the same time her husband went bankrupt. Catherine began going into Genoa’s slums to help the sick poor. By 1477 Catherine’s husband was helping her – he later became affiliated to the Franciscans. In 1479 the couple moved into rooms near the large Pammatone Hospital for the poor and worked there for free. In 1490 she became director of the hospital. When the plague hit Genoa in 1493, killing 80% of those who stayed in the city, Catherine supervised those caring for the dying. After her husband died in 1496 she resigned as director but continued working in the hospital until 1499 when her health began to fail. She died in 1510.
In the last ten years of her life Catherine wrote Trattato del Purgatorio
and the beginnings of Dialogo
, the latter completed after her death from her notes by her closest disciple the young nobleman Ettore Vernazza, whom she had met during the plague. Her spiritual director during these last years (he succeeded her as head of the hospital), wrote her Life
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