The Basilica of San Domenico

The Chapel of the Vaults

The Chapel of the Vaults, also called the Chapel of the Miracles, is the starting point for getting to know the figure of Saint Catherine.

In this space, which is raised higher than the rest of the nave, where the Dominican tertiaries (called 'mantellate' because they wore a cloak, mantello in Italian) would gather to pray, Catherine lived a large part of her extraordinary mystical experience.

It is in this chapel that she, at a very young age, donned the habit of the Third Order of Saint Dominic, becoming a Mantellata after deciding to consecrate her entire existence to God. It was here, too, that the Saint, withdrawn in prayer, was struck by frequent bouts of ecstasy, during which she would lean on the octagonal pillar on the open side of the chapel. Her continuing conversations with Jesus Christ which took place here and were faithfully transcribed by her disciples were the source of the Dialogue on Divine Providence, her most important work of doctrine.

Entering the chapel and turning left, you see the painting of Saint Catherine and a Follower, by Andrea Vanni. This is a fresco that was originally on the adjoining wall, forming a corner with the church; it was detached and moved to its current location in 1667. This painting is exceptionally important because it was made when Catherine was still alive; thus it is rightly considered to be her ‘vera imago,’ a true . . .

  • The Chapel of the Vaults
  • Andrea Vanni, Saint Catherine and a Follower, 14th century.
  • Crescenzio Gambarelli, Saint Catherine Giving her Clothes to Jesus in the Guise of a Pilgrim, 1602.
  • Crescenzio Gambarelli, Jesus Returning the Cross to Catherine, 1602.
  • Crescenzio Gambarelli, Saint Catherine Reciting the Divine Office in the Company of Jesus, 1602.
  • Crescenzio Gambarelli, The Death of Saint Catherine, 1602.
  • Deifebo Burbarini, Saint Catherine Appearing to Saint Rose of Lima, 17th century.
  • Mattia Preti, The Canonization of Saint Catherine, 1672-1673.