Her principal symbol is the spiked wheel, which has become known as the Catherine wheel, and her feast day is celebrated on the 25th of November by most Christian churches. However, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates it on the 24th of November. The exact origin of this tradition is not known. In 11th-century Kyivan-Rus, the feast day was celebrated on the 25th of November. Saint Dimitry of Rostov in his Kniga Zhyttia Sviatykh ( Book of the Lives of the Saints), T,1 (1689) places the date of celebration on the 24th of November. A story that Empress did not wish to share her patronal feast with the Leavetaking of the feast of the Presentation of the Theotokos and hence changed the date is not supported by historical evidence. One of the first Roman Catholic churches to be built in Russia, the Catholic Church of St. Catherine, was named after Catherine of Alexandria because she was Catherine the Great’s Patron.
The 1908 Catholic Encyclopedia describes her historical importance.
Ranked with St. Margaret and St. Barbara as one of the fourteen most helpful saints in heaven, she was unceasingly praised by preachers and sung by poets, It is believed that Jacques-Benigne Bossuet dedicated to her one of his most beautiful panegyrics and that Adam of St. Victor wrote a magnificent poem on her honour: Vox Sonora Nostri Chori.
In many places her feast was celebrated with the utmost solemnity, servile work being suppressed and the devotions attended by great numbers of people. In several dioceses of France it was observed as a Holy Day of Obligation up to the beginning of the 17th century, the splendour of its ceremonial eclipsing that of the feasts of some of the Apostles. Numberless chapels were placed under her patronage and her statue was found in nearly all churches, representing her according to medieval iconography with a wheel, her instrument of torture.
Meanwhile, owing to several circumstances in his life, Saint Nicholas of Myra was considered the patron of young bachelors and students, and Saint Catherine became the patroness of young maidens and female students. Looked upon as the holiest and most illustrious of the virgins of Christ after the Blessed Virgin Mary, it was natural that she, of all others, should be worthy to watch over the virgins of the cloister and the young women of the world. The spiked wheel having become emblematic of the saint, wheelwrights and mechanics placed themselves under her patronage. Finally, as according to tradition, she not only remained a virgin by governing her passion and conquered her executioners by wearying their patience, but triumphed in science by closing the mouths of sophists, her intercession was implored by theologians, apologists, pulpit orators, and philosophers. Before studying, writing, or preaching, they besought her to illumine their minds, guide their pens, and impart eloquence to their words. This devotion to St. Catherine which assumed such as vast proportions in Europe after the Crusades, received additional eclat in France in the beginning of the 15th century, when it was rumored that she had spoken to Joan of Arc and, together with St. Margaret, had been divinely appointed Joan’s adviser.
Devotion to Saint Catherine remains strong amongst Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians. With the relative ease of travel in the modern age, pilgrimages to Saint Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai have increased. Pilgrims to her monastery on Mt. Sinai are given a ring, which has been placed on the relics of the saint as an evlogia (blessing) in remembrance of their visit.
The pyrotechnic Catherine-wheel, from which sparks fly off in all directions, took its name from the saint’s wheel of martyrdom.
Catherine is very frequently depicted in art, especially in the late Middle Ages, which is also the time that the account of St. Catherine’s Mystical Marriage makes its first literary appearance. She can usually be easily recognized as she is richly dressed and crowned, as befits her rank as a princess, and often holds or stands next to a segment of her wheel as an attribute. She also often carries either a martyr’s palm or the sword with which she was actually executed. She often has long unbound blonde or reddish hair. (unbound as she is unmarried). The vision of St. Catherine of Alexandria usually shows the Infant Christ, held by the Virgin, placing a ring (one of her attributes) on her finger, following some literary accounts, although in the version in the Golden Legend he appears to be adult, and the marriage takes place among a great crowd of angels and “all the celestial court“ and these may also be shown.
She is very frequently shown attending on the Virgin and Child, and is usually prominent in scenes of the Master of the Virgo inter Virgines, showing a group of virgin saints surrounding the Virgin and Child. Notable later paintings of Catherine include single figures by Raphael (National Gallery) and Caravagio (Madrid), (Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum)
Poblacion # 1, Gerona, Tarlac