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St. Catherine’s Church: Homage to a Martyr

St. Catherine's Church- Bethlehem

The Tale of a Warrior Princess  

Though not many people willingly give up a luxurious life to find a spiritual path, Saint Katharine of Alexandria aka Saint Catherine was a young and determined Christian devotee who chose peace over aristocracy. By birth, she was the princess of Egyptian Alexandria and over the years became a scholar. In c. 301, at the age of 14 she enlightened herself with the light Christianity and inspired others to follow the same. Being a revolt, she protested against the brutal pagan emperor, Maxentius. In order to tame Catherine, Maxentius offered her a marriage proposal but Catherine proudly denied him as her virginity only belonged to Jesus. Consequently, she was sentenced by Maxentius in c.305 and at the age of 18, she was martyred for her faith. However, her sacrifice did not go in vain because, after 1100 years of her demise, Saint Joan of Arc canonized Catherine to honor her sacrifice for Christianity. St. Catherine’s Church is also considered as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. Later many Christian girls have been named “Catherine” after this courageous princess.

A Beautiful Chapel for a Precious Virgin

Young Christian virgins hold a special significance in Christianity because of the Virgin Mary. Though the life span of St. Catherine was short, she dedicated all of that to Christianity. She never met meet Jesus when she was alive but her heroic sacrifice brought her close to the love of her life after her death. The Roman Catholic Church of Saint Catherine is adjacent to the northern part of the “Church of the Nativity” which is considered to be the birthplace of Jesus, currently located in Bethlehem, the West Bank of Palestine.

Over the beautiful courtyard of St. Catherine’s Church, there is a statue of Virgin Mary which is guarded by the statue of St. Jerome who lived there for 30 years in the late 4th and early 5th century. The church was built in 1881 on the ruins of a 12th-century Crusader church and a5th-century monastery. A narrow stairway along the right-hand side leads to a series of chapels and caves including the cave of St. Jerome where he translated the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts to create a Latin Vulgate Bible and was eventually buried before the Crusaders took his remains to Rome. 

Neighboring Churches

St. Catherine’s Church is surrounded by some beautiful churches, like- “Chapel of the Holy Innocents”, “Chapel of St. Eusebius” and “St. Joseph’s Chapel”.

Architectural Beauty of the Church

St. Catherine’s Church is not just a building but a piece of art. Architecturally the building has a mysterious and gothic vibe to it. Built in 1347, it underwent several renovations. The main building got an extension in 1881 with the help of the emperor of Austria and Hungary. The church’s stained glass window which was made in 1926 is carved with the nativity scene.

St. Catherine’s church is as inspiring as the history of St. Catherine herself. The church is an emblem unconditional love, devotion and sacrifice. So if you are in Bethlehem then it’s a must visit place for you. And if you are wondering how to manage a great tour including all the Places to Visit in Bethlehem then is the solution for you.

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