Sunday, September 25, 2016

English Lollards and the Peasant War

One of the earliest movements in the lineage of English Protestantism, the Lollards, arose in the late 14th century inspired by an early English translator of the Bible. It was a full-fledged class revolt, went underground, then resurfaced during the English Reformation.

In the 14th century, Lollard, Lollardi or Loller was a popular slur against those with little formal education, including people who could read and write in English but not in university Latin. The term is believed to have originated with the Anglo-Irish monk Henry Crumpe, and according to the Oxford English Dictionary it most likely derives from Middle Dutch terms meaning “mumbler” or “mutterer.” Such might be the response of a lowly, unschooled person intimidated by a scholar or an authority figure. By the mid-15th century and later, the term had come to mean a heretic, in general.

The movement was initially led by John Wycliffe (1320–84), a prominent theologian dismissed from Oxford University in 1381 for, as he himself described it, “barking against the Church.” Many of the themes that would later emerge in Protestantism are present in his theological views.

Wycliffe emphasized the Bible over the teachings of popes and clerics, adding that there was no scriptural justification for the papacy. He juxtaposed the “invisible church of the elect,” meaning those predestined to be saved, against the “visible” Catholic Church. He rejected purgatory, clerical celibacy, pilgrimages, the selling of indulgences and praying to, or invoking, saints.

He also viewed the monastic orders as “sects” that supported what he regarded as an imperial papacy and called friars neither scriptural nor sincere, but motivated by “temporal gain.” He sought the extinction of monasticism and the dissolution of the monasteries.

Wycliffe gained considerable political support with his political writings and speeches on ecclesiastical matters. He defended the privileges of the state and claims for the supremacy of the monarchy over the priesthood. In 1378, in the papal ambassador’s presence, he delivered an opinion in Westminster Abbey before Parliament, concerning the right of asylum. He argued that criminals who had taken sanctuary in churches could lawfully be dragged out.

What brought him longer-lasting fame, though, was translating the Bible. In the Middle Ages, biblical translation was discouraged; the Latin Vulgate originally translated by St. Jerome was viewed as the standard version. Among fragmentary Old English Bible translations, there’s a lost translation of the Gospel of John by the Venerable Bede made around 735, a number of passages of the Bible that Alfred the Great circulated in the vernacular about a century later, and from around 990 a full and freestanding version of the four gospels known as the Wessex Gospels. Wycliffe's Bible was translated in 1383 from the Vulgate and may have been the first to be read by ordinary English people—of course, as the translator drifted into controversy, the translation was banned.

Although Lollardism was denounced as a heresy, Wycliffe and the Lollards were initially sheltered by John of Gaunt—also known as the first Duke of Lancaster and a member of the House of Plantagenet—and other anticlerical nobility, who may seen clerical reform as a means to acquire new sources of revenue from England’s monasteries. A group of gentry active under the radar during the reign of Richard II (1377–99) was known as “Lollard Knights” because of their agreement with Wycliffe's ideas.

These attitudes changed dramatically after the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381, a major uprising across large parts of England.

The revolt had various causes, including tensions generated by the Black Death in the 1340s and high taxes to pay for the Hundred Years’ War with France. The trigger for the revolt was a scuffle that occurred in Essex on May 20, 1381, when a royal official attempted to collect unpaid poll taxes. A violent confrontation rapidly spread across the southeast of the country, drawing in a broad base of rural society, including local artisans and village officials, who rose up in protest, burned court records and opened local jails. The rebels demanded a reduction in taxes, an end to serfdom and the removal of a number of senior royal officials and judges.

Wycliffe and other Lollards opposed the revolt, but because a prominent leader of the peasants preached Lollardism the royalty and nobility saw the movement as a threat not merely to the Church, but to English society in general. The king mobilized 4,000 soldiers who tracked down and executed most of the rebel leaders; by November, about 1,500 rebels had been killed. Thereafter, the Lollards’ small measure of protection evaporated, a change in status aided also by the 1386 departure of John of Gaunt from England.

Religious and secular authorities strongly opposed Lollardism. A primary opponent was Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, and King Henry IV who, despite being John of Gaunt’s son, got Parliament to pass a law called De heretico comburendo in 1401. The statute declared that “divers false and perverse people of a certain new sect … they make and write books, they do wickedly instruct and inform people . . . and commit subversion of the said catholic faith.” It ordered that “this wicked sect, preachings, doctrines, and opinions, should from henceforth cease and be utterly destroyed.”

The law did not actually name or ban the Lollards in particular, but it barred translating or owning the Bible and authorized death by burning for heretics, a punishment that was meted out to Lollards through the 16th century. Instances of persecution are recorded in the Diocese of London, where 310 Lollards were prosecuted or forced to abjure between 1510 and 1532; in Lincoln, 45 cases against Lollardism were heard between 1506 and 1507, and in 1521 there were 50 abjurations and 5 burnings. In 1511 Kent, 41 Lollards recanted and 5 were burned at the stake.

Lollards were absorbed into Protestantism during the English Reformation. A member of the hierarchy who supported the English Reformation, Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall of London, called Lutheranism the “foster-child” of  Wycliffe’s heresy. Lollards were last persecuted between 1554 and 1559 under the Revival of the Heresy Acts during the reign of Queen Mary I of England.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Forerunners of Reform

Revolt against medieval Western Catholic Christendom did not really erupt when a professor of moral theology posted 95 theses on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany, in November 1517. That legendary event was the bubbling over of a cauldron brewing atop a flame stoked by fires burning for at least 200 years, a mostly just rebellion against a decaying and corrupt ecclesiastical order.

Three movements—only three of a good dozen throughout Europe—exemplify key causes, proposals for change and courses of action of the revolt: the French Petrobrusians, the Central European Hussites and the English Lollards.

The first two were named after the leaders of the respective movements, Peter de Bruis and Jan Hus, both priests condemned as heretics; the name of the latter is derived from a popular medieval English slur describing uneducated folk. Together, they make up a small sample of lesser rebels (Joachim de Fiore and Peter Waldo are two others) who heard the gospel within the grand medieval European cathedral yet reached conclusions vastly at odds with those of the august, seigniorial and often corrupt, but institutionally legitimate, successors of the apostles.

But these and later Protestant figures were hardly the sole voices of reform. Dominic, Francis and many squarely Catholic figures we have reviewed were equally appalled at the clerical hierarchy’s corruption and hypocrisy and also advocated thorough change.

Peter de Bruis

This popular French religious teacher, active between 1117 and the 1120s and condemned as a heretic by the Second Lateran Council, was one of several medieval preachers of reform whose lives are largely undocumented, whose movements died and whose writings are lost. We know of him from criticism by the Benedictine abbot Peter the Venerable, Lateran II and accounts of his followers’ often violent actions.

Peter was an apparently appealing and fiery preacher. He spoke and was silenced by bishops’ orders in a broad swath of southern French provinces, from Gascony on the Atlantic to the Alps. His followers adhered to an austere and sharply redefined view of the Christian faith.

His theology built on very literal interpretation of the gospels. He had disdain for much of the rest of the New Testament writings, whose apostolic origin he doubted. He questioned the Old Testament, rejected the Church Fathers and the authority of the Catholic Church itself. He criticized infant baptism, opposed the building of churches and the veneration of crosses, rejected transubstantiation even before it was official doctrine and rejected the notion that living believers could help the dead through their prayers.

His followers, the Petrobrusians, also opposed clerical celibacy and organ music and singled out crosses for particularly violent iconoclasm. They viewed crosses as objects to be desecrated and destroyed many in bonfires. This latter practice ended Peter’s life. Around 1126, Peter publicly burned crosses in St Gilles near Nîmes. In response, the largely devout and superstitious angry populace threw Peter into the fire, in which he burned to death.

Jan Hus and the Hussite Wars

Jan Hus (1372-1415), a Czech priest, philosopher and Master at Charles University in Prague, is widely understood to be the first Protestant reformer, one without modern followers. His preaching and suppression gave rise to an armed rebellion in the heart of the Holy Roman Empire.

His misfortune was to live a good century before Luther, Calvin and like-minded others, not to mention before the printing press and humanism might have given him a broader hearing. Indeed, the tiny remnants that survived persecution by the Catholic Hapsburgs were ultimately annihilated by the Communist regime of the post-World War II era. Nonetheless, Hus offers a view into a fascinating alternative Reformation as it could have happened. A good part of the story is told in the 1977 film “John Hus.”

Hus was ordained a priest in 1400, became university rector shortly thereafter and was appointed preacher in its Bethlehem chapel, all within an environment bubbling with ferment. On one front there was a spirit of national assertion by the Czechs and their King Wenceslaus (a descendant of the Wenceslaus of the Christmas carol); Bohemia was an Imperial State in the Holy Roman Empire and Wenceslaus a prince-elector of the empire. Intellectually, there emerged a new turn of medieval philosophical realism, which questioned many abstract notions. Theologically, the wind of reform blew from England, from Protestant forerunner John Wycliffe.

In 1406, two students brought a document to Prague bearing the seal of the University of Oxford. It praised Wycliffe, and Hus proudly read it from his pulpit. Then in 1408, Pope Gregory XII warned the archbishop, who was tolerant of Hus’ railings against the moral failings of clergy, bishops and even the papacy, that Rome knew about Wycliffe's heresies and of Wenceslaus’ sympathy for nonconformists. The king and university ordered all of Wycliffe’s writings surrendered. Hus obeyed, declaring that he condemned Wycliffe’s errors.

Absent the Western Schism, which was in progress, that might have been the end of the story. However, in a complex sequence of events involving the three competing papal lines, Wenceslaus’ ambitions to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor and rising Bohemian nationalism led by Hus, the Czech priest landed on the wrong side of the popes and the king, with Bohemian Wycliffism as the banner.

Prague was placed under interdict and Hus was excommunicated by papal claimant Alexander V, one of the “compromise” candidates later declared antipope; this did not sit well with the Bohemians and led Hus to leave Prague for the countryside. To make things worse, Alexander’s successor, John XXIII, decided to finance a “crusade” against the allegedly dissenting King of Naples, actually a supporter of the Roman claimant, historically judged the real pope. He proposed to raise money through the sale of indulgences—one of Wycliffe’s and Hus’ bête noires—in addition to highly unpopular papal taxes.

Hus argued that no pope or bishop could rightly take up the sword in the name of the Church, but should instead pray for his enemies and bless those that curse him, noting that forgiveness of sins comes from true repentance, not payments to clerics. Hus’ followers burnt the papal bulls condemning the preacher. They argued that the Church was a fraudulent mob of “adulterers” and “Simonists” (selling blessings; see Acts 8:9–24). The dispute snowballed when authorities beheaded three peasants in the movement, later considered the first martyrs of the Hussite Church, leading to riots throughout Bohemia.

In 1415, almost a century before Martin Luther’s theses, Hus was tried by an ecclesiastical tribunal, convicted and executed with his hands tied behind his back. His neck was chained to a stake, and wood and straw were piled up to his neck. Before the kindling was set on fire, he was asked to recant. He replied: “God is my witness that the things charged against me I never preached. In the same truth of the Gospel which I have written, taught, and preached, drawing upon the sayings and positions of the holy doctors, I am ready to die today.”

In the aftermath, the Czech population formed a military force that defeated five crusades proclaimed against them by various Roman post-schism popes through 1431. The Hussites not only defended themselves but intervened in the wars of neighboring countries. They were among the first to make extensive use of handheld firearms. In 1434, a moderate faction of Hussites prevailed on the battlefield and agreed to submit to the authority of the king and the Church, which allowed them to practice their somewhat variant rite.

Parallel to the Hussites, also influenced by Wycliffe, were the Lollards, whom we will meet next week.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Rebellion in the Cathedral

The Middle Ages supposedly ended with the fall of Constantinople in 1453, or so my teachers taught me. Despite my adolescent imaginings of such transitions, there were no heralds, trumpeters or entertainers traveling from city to city announcing, “The Dark Ages are over; the Renaissance has begun.” The medieval way of life and thinking petered out, and gradually a new way emerged that involved a rebellion in what I previously called the medieval cathedral of Europe.

Why did the devout Western and medieval European Christians rebel? What made them abandon reverence for the successors of the apostles, stop marveling at the learning of the priests and cease marking their days, months and years with the prayers and rites devised for them by the clergy? Finally, how did they come to view the Catholic Church hierarchy as corrupt liars and deceivers who oppressed them and must be opposed by any means to save the very faith those clerics had taught them?

Even someone who doesn't hold to Karl Marx’s entire edifice of dialectical historical materialism can accept his canny insight that ideas, including religion and faith, are at least influenced by the material conditions of survival. To put it in Marx’s own ponderous 19th century words: “The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”

This was arguably true of Christianity in the West, as Europe—beginning with marked material changes during the high Middle Ages—entered a period of true cultural, economic, social and political renaissance. It began in the heart of Italy, the city-state of Florence.

In the Middle Ages, the communities of Christian believers changed from persecuted secret cells scattered throughout the Mediterranean basin to the primary social institution that held society in Europe together. After the imperial state collapsed in the West power was reluctantly assumed by the only people who could read and write, the clerics.

The Church took on, to use medieval language, “temporal” (or noneternal) concerns. It became the primary source of education, social norms, entertainment and even basic survival for many. It founded academies, schools and universities. It modernized the administration of justice, introducing the notion of proof and witness. It  established norms of behavior through canon law and rigorous moral teaching in the face of chaos and depravity and entertained with religious plays, processions and events. It produced food and goods in its network of monasteries and convents. The Church crowned emperors, mediated between princes, established the beginnings of international law and even blessed certain wars called crusades.

Political Causes

The rebellion can be said to have started with what T.S. Eliot memorably called murder in the cathedral. On December 29, 1170, four knights, acting on what they interpreted to be the order of Henry II, arrived at Canterbury to challenge the archbishop, Thomas Becket, and kill him. They caught up with him in the cathedral, near a door to the monastic cloister, where the monks were chanting vespers. There they stabbed Becket to death.

Becket’s assassination was only one chapter in the conflict between the church hierarchy and monarchs of many lands over the power to name the overseers of the many productive and prestigious enterprises of the Church, not to mention acquire control over their revenue. Thus, the political cause of rebellion was a mixture of envy and indignation that such enormous resources were in the hands of an  institution that had filled the vacuum left by the Roman Empire.

Economic Causes

Just as the Church began to accumulate wealth by taking on responsibility, Europe’s entire economy began to shift.

For centuries, cities had dwindled to villages after barbarian hordes pillaged them and their craftsmen and merchants fled to the countryside. The continent had split up into fiefdoms protected by feudal lords whose knights and armies were fed by starving serfs. These various localities and farms had relied on a thin existence, barely trading with one another locally, as roads went to ruin and became dangerous and commerce became moneyless barter.

Sometime around 1050, the European economy began to turn around, slowly at first, but quickly accelerating. Major cities, such as Paris and London, doubled in population in the century leading up to 1200, then doubled again by 1300. Historian and political philosopher Quentin Skinner points out that Otto of Freising, a German bishop visiting northern Italy during the 12th century, noticed a widespread new form of political and social organization.

Italy’s resurgent city-state republics had left feudalism behind and were run by merchants, such as the prominent and munificent Lorenzo de Medici, in the city at the vanguard of the 14th century renaissance, Florence. Some historians theorize that the 15th century War of the Roses was caused by the emergence of a money economy and a phenomenon still-medieval England had not yet named: inflation.

Later on, we shall see the broader effect of trade on Christianity. For the moment, however, the economic center of gravity moved from the Church to the banking families of Europe, mainly of Italy, who invented the notion of capital—money as not just a token but a commodity in itself—and even persuaded Church officials to lift the long-established penalties on lending at interest.

Social Causes

Along with these political and economic developments, a society emerged that no longer resembled a Gothic cathedral rising upward in prayer, but was instead suddenly aware of its earthly and bodily existence.

A leading cause of this shift is thought to be devastation caused by the Black Death, which ravaged Europe between 1348 and 1350 and hit Italy—Florence in particular—very hard. Some argue that the plague was a result of the slaughter of cats, connected with the persecution of witches, which left the rat population unchecked by its natural predators. If that is true, religious superstition proved its own undoing. Others suggest that the plague had to do with resurgent trade.

As shown in Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron, the resulting familiarity with death caused many to dwell more on their material lives than on spirituality and the afterlife. Conversely, others argue that the Black Death prompted a new wave of piety, manifested in the sponsorship of religious works of art, as a kind of atonement for sins that brought on such evil.

Ideological Causes

Whatever the political, economic and social causes of rebellion against the hierarchical, spiritual and God-human verticality of the Middle Ages, the renaissance brought on the emergence of a new way of learning that overtook scholasticism—the humanities, or humanism. The scholarship of the humanists involved the study of poetry, grammar, history, moral philosophy and rhetoric.

Some of this change involved an effort to recover, interpret and assimilate the language, literature, learning and values of ancient Greece and Rome—in other words, the rebirth of antiquity in Europe. But the truly central idea of humanism was the value and dignity of human being and the human mind as opposed to medieval theology’s castigation of humanity as essentially fallen.

This view inspired figures as diverse as Niccolò Machiavelli and Thomas More. But perhaps Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) is the quintessential renaissance humanist, as the author of the manifesto of the era, the Oration on the Dignity of Man, which in part states:
“God the Father, the Mightiest Architect, had already raised, according to the precepts of His hidden wisdom, this world we see, the cosmic dwelling of divinity, a temple most august. He had already adorned the supercelestial region with Intelligences, infused the heavenly globes with the life of immortal souls and set the fermenting dung-heap of the inferior world teeming with every form of animal life. But when this work was done, the Divine Artificer still longed for some creature which might comprehend the meaning of so vast an achievement, which might be moved with love at its beauty and smitten with awe at its grandeur. When, consequently, all else had been completed (as both Moses and Timaeus testify), in the very last place, He bethought Himself of bringing forth man.”
Once such thoughts had been absorbed, in an environment of political, economic and social change, nothing was ever quite the same.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Courageous, Political and Saintly Woman


Our next Christian figure combines the mysticism of Julian of Norwich and the worldly—albeit chaste—manners of the medieval papal court. Catherine Benincasa was born in the Tuscan city of Siena, Italy, in 1347, just as the plague broke out there. She is the first of the figures mentioned so far known by a family name, which was of relatively new use, rather than associated with a place, although she is also known as Catherine of Siena.

She came from a large wealthy merchant’s family (her childhood home still stands) and was nicknamed by her siblings “Euphresina,” a mythological reference to a joyful person. As a child she was very pious and reportedly had religious visions.

Her first challenge came at the age of 16, when her sister Bonaventura died in childbirth and Catherine’s parents decided that she should court her sister’s widower. Her response is cited by traditional hagiographers as evidence of “saintliness.” The key to a modern understanding of Catherine, in my opinion, is to view her behavior as partly adolescent rebellion and partly the expression of a choice of life other than marriage or nunnery—either or both could be saintly and a calling.

It turns out that Bonaventura had confided to her sister that her husband was “inconsiderate” and that she could only stop his worst behavior by aggressively fasting—keep in mind that in this era plumpness was viewed as a sign of beauty. Catherine had learned from her sister the power of fasting, which she used in response to her parents. In addition, to protest being urged to improve her appearance in order to attract a husband, she cut off her hair. Years later, she counseled her own confessor, Blessed Raymund of Capua, who became one of her chief biographers, that in times of trouble it is best to do what she did as a teenager: “Build a cell inside your mind, from which you can never flee.”

In her imaginary cell she made her father into a representation of Christ, her mother into the Virgin Mary and her brothers into the apostles. Serving them humbly became an opportunity for spiritual growth. Still, Catherine resisted marriage and motherhood or nun’s veil. Instead, she sought to live an active and prayerful life outside convent walls following the model of the Dominicans.

Eventually her parents gave up. In her 16th year she became a Dominican tertiary, a monastic role dating to the Middle Ages that still exists today.

The tertiaries (Latin tertiarii, from tertius, third) or third order religious, are lay or ordained men and women who do not take vows, but participate in the lifestyle and good works of an Anglican, Catholic or Lutheran religious order—third behind the “first order” (usually, male religious priests and friars) and “second order” (associated, often contemplative, female religious) members. Some, like Catherine, wear elements of the order’s habit. Sometimes they belong to a religious institute (a “congregation”) called a “third order regular,” meaning regulated.

In her new status, Catherine initially took up the life of an anchoress, using a little room in her father's house as her “cell.” There she experienced a number of visitations from heaven and conversation with Christ until she had an even more extraordinary experience. During the pre-Lenten carnival feasting on Shrove Tuesday, 1366, while praying in her room she saw a vision of Christ, accompanied by Mary and angels. Mary took Catherine’s hand and held it up to Christ, who placed a ring on it and took her as his spouse. She then felt armed with a faith that could overcome all temptations. The ring was visible only to Catherine. She recorded her visions in a work called The Dialogue of Divine Providence.

Catherine rejoined her family and began helping the ill and the poor, caring for them in hospitals and homes. Her activities in Siena attracted a group of followers, women and men. Just as her siblings had noticed her radiantly happy disposition, these new companions saw that she had extraordinary personal charm and that her practical wisdom equaled her highest spiritual insight.

An educated young woman of some standing in society, Catherine began to participate in the politics of the day. She went to Florence in 1374, where she was interviewed at the Dominican General Chapter and acquired Raymond of Capua as her confessor and spiritual director. She began traveling with followers throughout northern and central Italy, advocating reform of the clergy and repentance and renewal for all through “total love for God.” In Pisa, in 1375, she used her influence to persuade that city and the neighboring community of Lucca not to join an antipapal alliance then gaining momentum.

According to Raymond of Capua’s biography, Catherine received the stigmata (plural of the Greek word stigma, meaning a mark, tattoo) in Pisa. Christians consider the stigmata a bodily phenomenon featuring marks, sores or sensations of pain in places on the body Jesus Christ suffered the crucifixion wounds, such as on the hands, wrists and feet. In his letter to the Galatians (Gal 6:17), Paul chooses this Greek word, typically used for an owner’s brand on the skin of an animal or slave, to refer to signs of his conversion: “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” At Catherine’s request, only she could see them, even though later papal decree declared her the first female saint to bear the stigmata.

When Catherine returned to Siena there was a terrible outbreak of the plague. She and her circle worked bravely to relieve the sufferers.

“Never did she appear more admirable than at this time,” wrote a priest who had known her from girlhood. “She was always with the plague-stricken; she prepared them for death and buried them with her own hands. I myself witnessed the joy with which she nursed them and the wonderful efficacy of her words, which brought about many conversions.”

Among those she saved were her own confessor and several priests who contracted the disease while tending to others.

She also visited condemned prisoners, hoping to persuade them to make their peace with God. On one occasion she walked to the scaffold with a young Perugian knight, sentenced to death for using seditious language against the government of Siena. His last words were “Jesus and Catherine!”

From Avignon, meanwhile, after an unsuccessful appeal to the Florentines, Pope Gregory XI sent Cardinal Robert of Geneva (a future antipope) with an army to put down an uprising. The pope placed Florence under interdict, which meant that its inhabitants were barred from participating in certain rites, a kind of ecclesiastical quarantine. The life and prosperity of the city suffered so much as a result that its rulers asked Catherine to mediate with the pope. She was graciously received, and the pope said, “I desire nothing but peace. I place the affair entirely in your hands, only I recommend to you the honor of the Church.” But the Florentines betrayed her and attempted to woo the rest of Italy away from allegiance to the Holy See. When their ambassadors arrived, they denied any connection to Catherine.

Catherine may have failed at peacemaking, but she managed another achievement. Distressed by the Avignon papacy and its largely French and corrupt Curia, she implored Gregory to return to Rome, both in person and in letters from Siena. What follows is an extract from one of them:
Raise swiftly, father, the banner of the most holy Cross and you will see the wolves become lambs. Peace, peace, peace, that war may not delay that happy time! But if you will wreak vengeance and justice, inflict them on me, poor wretch, and assign me any pain and torment that may please you, even death. I believe that through the foulness of my iniquities many evils have occurred, and many misfortunes and discords. On me then, your poor daughter, take any vengeance that you will. Ah me, father, I die of grief and cannot die! Come, come, and resist no more the will of God that calls you; the hungry sheep await your coming to hold and possess the place of your predecessor and Champion, Apostle Peter. For you, as the Vicar of Christ, should abide in your own place. Come, then, come, and delay no more; and comfort you, and fear not anything that might happen, since God will be with you.

In 1377, the pope did indeed return. Catherine was summoned to Rome a year later by his successor, Urban VI, when the Western Schism broke out. She stayed at the papal court and tried to convince nobles and cardinals of Urban’s legitimacy. Within three years, a mixture of the strain of the court and her continuing ascetic lifestyle resulted in a stroke, from which she died, barely 33.

Pope Pius II, a native of Siena, canonized Catherine in 1461, declaring her a copatroness of Rome. Pope Pius XII named her patron saint of Italy in 1839, along with Saint Francis of Assisi. In 1970, she was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI. In 1999, Pope John Paul II declared her one of Europe's patron saints, along with Edith Stein and Bridget of Sweden. She is also the patroness of the historically Catholic American sorority Theta Phi Alpha. Her feast day is April 29.