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Title: Catherine of Siena
Author: Sigrid Undset
Publisher: Ignatius Press
Date Published: October, 2009
Sigrid Undset's Catherine of Siena is critically acclaimed as one of the best biographies of this famous fourteenth-century saint. Known for her historical fiction, which won her the Nobel Prize for literature in 1928, Undset based this factual work on primary sources, her experiences living in Italy, and her profound understanding of the human heart.
One of the greatest novelists of the twentieth century, Undset was no stranger to hagiography. Her meticulous research of medieval times, which bore such fruit in her masterpieces Kristin Lavransdatter and The Master of Hestviken, acquainted her with some of the holy men and women produced by the Age of Faith. Their exemplary lives left a deep impression upon the author, which she credited as one of her reasons for entering the Church in 1924.
Catherine of Siena was a particular favorite of Undset, who also was a Third Order Dominican. An extraordinarily active, intelligent, and courageous woman, Catherine at an early age devoted herself to the love of God. The intensity of her prayer, sacrifice, and service to the poor won her a reputation for holiness and wisdom, and she was called upon to make peace between warring nobles. Believing that peace in Italy could only be achieved if the pope, then living in France, returned to Rome, Catherine boldly traveled to Avignon to meet with Pope Gregory XI.
With sensitivity to the zealous love that permeated the life of Saint Catherine, Undset presents a most moving and memorable portrait of one of the greatest women of all time.