Italy

St. Catherine of Bologna: Patron Saint of Artists

The other day I received an email with some great news–one of my short stories will be published in the spring 2020 issue of Aji magazine. While all my travels in some way inform my fiction writing, this is the first of my shorts to be published that is directly inspired by a specific visit to a place. That place: Bologna, Italy.

More accurately: my pitstop to see St. Catherine of Bologna at the Chiesa della Santa.

It would be difficult for any writer to behold the incorruptible body of St. Catherine and not be inspired. For starters, she’s the patron saint of artists, among other things. But she’s also just creepy-looking. I mean, come on–she’s a 550+ year old corpse dressed in a pristine wimple and habit who is propped up on a golden throne and stored in a glass box. The little room where she lives is filled with various relics (note: relics=bones).

Let’s just say it raises a lot of questions, even for someone who isn’t a writer.

The church itself is an interesting place. From the outside it just looks like the rest of Bologna–an exterior of reddish-gray brick and an ornate entrance. If it weren’t for a small plaque mounted on a wall, we would have likely walked right by it. Inside, it looks like every European Catholic church: Baroque, lots of sculptures and paintings, soaring ceilings, the classic church architecture. It was built between 1477 and 1480 by Nicolò Marchionne da Firenze and Francesco Fucci da Doccia. It was restored in 1687 by by architect G. Giacomo Monti. Of course, like much of Bologna, the church was damaged by bombings during World War II.

In addition to being the home of St. Catherine (note that there are specific hours during which you can visit her), the Chiesa also houses a museum devoted to nurses and nursing, and it contains the grave of Luigi Galvani (physician and physicist who studied electricity in animal tissues) and Laura Bassi (academic and physicist–the second woman in the world to earn a philosophy doctorate).

And so as the year draws to an end, I was thrilled to get the news that Aji will publish my story, but also excited that visiting St. Catherine turned out to be very lucky indeed. She really is the patron saint of artists!

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