Oratory of the Company of S. Catherine of the Night


This evocative space is located in the heart of the thousand-year-old hospital of Santa Maria della Scala, one of the most ancient hospitals in Europe, called Saint Mary of the Stairs because it stood across from the steps to Siena Cathedral. Founded in the ninth century by the Cathedral Canons as an expression of God’s love for those in need, this charitable institution was first and foremost a hostel for the many pilgrims passing along the Via Francigena, as well as a place of welcome for the poor in search of alms and for abandoned children, the so-called ‘foundlings.’ Over time, to these aims was added the care and treatment of the sick, to the point that the fourteenth-century bylaws bear witness to the permanent presence of a physician, a surgeon, and an apothecary.

Such a place, where faith was expressed in the judgment of one’s neighbor, could not help attracting Catherine, who came here every day, bringing aid and comfort to those in need. This shows how she interpreted Christian charity in an active, concrete way: she embodied the role of volunteer nurse par excellence, full of love and unflagging energy. With her little jar of aromatic essences, her lantern and a walking stick, which can still be seen in the shrine of her house, she would go to the hospital, alleviating the physical and spiritual suffering that afflicted the sick.

In the course of the . . .

  • Entrance vestibule to the Oratory.
  • Oratory of Saint Catherine of the Night, View of the interior.
  • Oratory of Saint Catherine of the Night, View of the interior.