Among the 31 artworks scheduled for display in "Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums Collection" on June 2 are seven pieces depicting images from the story of St. Catherine of Alexandria.
The Rev. Malcolm Neyland, the Catholic priest who convinced the Vatican City government to release the frescoes for exhibit in the Hub City, said the images of St. Catherine are among his favorite.
The seven frescoes were discovered in Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura (St. Agnes outside the Wall Church) in Rome and were painted between 1280 and 1300.
The 800- to 900-year-old images that once adorned the walls of Roman churches were painted by artists whose goal was to remind viewers of the stories about and deeds of saints and prophets, Neyland said.
"You have to realize, in the 11th and 12th, even into the 13th century, not too many people could read or write," Neyland said. "So the way things were handed down were either through oral tradition or painting, which is why, I think, so many frescos were painted in early Christendom to tell the stories, to pass them down."
St. Catherine of Alexandria, the story goes, was a virgin who was martyred for her fervent outcry against the persecution of Christians.
History records that Catherine was of noble birth and educated in the sciences.
At only 18 years old, she criticized Roman Emperor Maximinus.
Catherine was condemned to die on the wheel by the Roman Emperor Maximinus. But at her touch, the torture instrument was miraculously destroyed. Her image was found in most early European churches, representing her with a torture wheel.
The emperor was persecuting Christians violently, and Catherine scolded him for his cruelty. She also tried to prove to Max iminus that it was wrong to worship false gods.
Astonished at the girl's audacity, but unable to argue with her reasoned points, Maximinus detained Catherine in his palace and summoned scholars, whom he commanded to use all their skill in reasoning to convince Catherine to refute her belief in one God.
But Catherine, instead, converted several of her philosophical adversaries, and they were put to death by Maximinus.
Furious, the emperor had the girl scourged and then imprisoned.
After the empress visited Catherine in her dungeon, she too converted to Chris tianity and immediately was killed, too.
Soon afterward, Catherine was condemned to die on the wheel. But at her touch, the torture instrument was destroyed miraculously.
The enraged emperor then had her beheaded.
The story holds that angels carried Catherine's body to Mount Sinai, where a church and monastery were built in her honor.
The importance attached to the legend of the young martyr throughout the Middle Ages led to Greek, Latin and Arabic texts containing historical value no one was qualified to question. St. Catherine was invested by Catholic peoples with a halo of miraculous power.
Ranked as one of the 14 most helpful saints in heaven, she was showered with praise by preachers and sung of by poets.
Title: "Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums Collection."
When: June 2-Sept. 15.
Where: Museum of Texas Tech.
Tickets: Free. However, tickets must be reserved in advance. Those reserving tickets must know the date and time of day that they wish to attend.
Information: 742-6800 or (866) 803-6873.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III, copyright 1908, by Robert Appleton Co.; Internet Online Edition, copyright 1999, by Kevin Knight)
Many chapels were placed under her
patronage, and a statue of St. Catherine was found in nearly all European churches, representing her, according to medieval iconography, with a wheel, her instrument of torture.
St. Catherine became the patroness of young maidens and female students.
After the spiked wheel became emblematic of the saint, wheelwrights and mechanics placed themselves under her patronage.
Finally, according to tradition, she not only remained a virgin by governing her passions and conquered her executioners by wearying their patience, but she also triumphed in science by baffling the sophists who argued against Christianity.
Thus, her intercession was implored by theologians, apologists, pulpit orators and philosophers.
Devotion to St. Catherine assumed vast proportions in Europe after the Crusades. And in the beginning of the 15th century, it was rumored that she had appeared to Joan of Arc and, together with St. Margaret, was divinely appointed Joan's adviser.