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Observations placeholder

St Catherine of Sienna - Sees demons as she is dying



Type of Spiritual Experience


It may have been the bulimia, it may have been the 'unction', it may have been 'religious' demons.

Normally an unction is for anointing, as such, since she would not normally have ingested it, this is probably the most unlikely cause of the demons.

"To anoint is to pour or smear with perfumed oil, milk, water, melted butter or other substances, a process employed ritually by many religions"



A description of the experience

from Raymond of Capua's Life of St. Catherine of Siena (Lamb's translation)

In this way her body continued to consume itself until the Sunday before the Ascension; but by that time it was reduced to such a state that it seemed like a corpse in a picture, though I speak not of the face, which remained ever angelical and breathed forth devotion, but of the bosom and limbs, in which nothing could be seen but the bones, covered by the thinnest skin, and so feeble was she from the waist downwards that she could not move herself, even a little, from one side to another.

In the night preceding the aforesaid Sunday, about two hours or more before dawn, a great change was produced in her, and we thought that she was approaching the end. The whole family was then called around her, and she, with singular humility and devotion, made signs to those who were standing near that she desired to receive Holy Absolution for her faults and the pains due to them, and so it was done.

After which she became gradually reduced to such a state that we could observe no other movement than her breathing, continuous, sad, and feeble. On account of this it seemed right to give her extreme unction, which our abbot of Sant' Antimo did, while she lay as it were deprived of feeling.

After this unction she began altogether to change, and to make various signs with her head and her arms as if to show that she was suffering from grave assaults of demons, and remained in this calamitous state for an hour and a half, half of which time having been passed in silence, she began to say:

"l have sinned! Oh Lord, have mercy on me!"

And this, as I believe, she repeated more than sixty times, raising each time her right arm, and then letting it fall and strike the bed.  Then, changing her words, she said as many times again, but without moving her arms,

 "Holy God, have mercy on me!"

Finally she employed the remainder of the above-mentioned time with many other formulas of prayer both humble and devout, expressing various acts of virtue, after which her face suddenly changed from gloom to angelic light, and her tearful and clouded eyes became serene and joyous, in such a manner that I could not doubt that, like one saved from a deep sea, she was restored to herself, which circumstance greatly mitigated the grief of her sons and daughters who were standing around in the affliction you can imagine.

The source of the experience

Saint Catherine of Sienna

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps