Acrylic on textured canvas
This was a commissioned painting I have recently finished. My brief was to paint a caped/hooded woman and to have the Chapel of St Catherine in the background.
This unique building sits on a hilltop outside the village of Abbotsbury, Dorset, England. The current building is 14th-century, its history and the reason why it was built is unknown. The church is not a regular place of worship with only a handful of services each year. However people have been coming to the chapel more often in recent years. In a niche inside – candles, feathers, coins, an icon of the saint, and prayers written on scraps of paper, to God, to Jesus, to St Catherine, to nobody in particular, expressions of human need and feeling are left. They get cleared away now and then, but more come.
According to legend, Catherine was a noble Roman woman from the Egyptian city of Alexandria of unusual beauty and intelligence who converted to Christianity. She protested against the worship of idols to the Emperor Maxentius, who called in 50 pagan philosophers to convince her of the error of her ways, but she ended up converting them instead.
Maxentius offered to marry her but on her refusal had her beaten and imprisoned. Her torturers tried to break her on a spiked wheel, but it blew apart. Finally she was beheaded – though milk flowed from her severed neck instead of blood. Her body was carried by angels to Mount Sinai, where the monastery which bears her name still exists. During the Middle Ages she became an enormously popular saint and is often depicted in icons, paintings, statues and manuscripts. In art she often carries a book, a sword, or a martyr’s palm, as well as the wheel which is her symbol, and she’s the patron saint of those who work with wheels, scholars, unmarried women, and many other professions and conditions of people. In 1969, however, the Vatican decided to suppress her cult on the grounds of the historical unreliability of her legend.