National Museum of Women in the Arts
Caterina Vigri
1413 - 1463
Marco Antonio Franceschini, Saint Caterina Vigri Painting, 1723. Oil on canvas. 56 x 51 inches (142 x 129 cm). Courtesy of Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, Bologna, Italy
Place of Birth:
Phonetic Spelling:
kaht-eh-REE-nah VEE-gree
Work Type/Media:
Drawings and prints, Painting
Artistic Role(s):
Fresco Painter, Illuminator, Illustrator, Painter
Artist's Biography:
Caterina Vigri, patron saint of painters in Bologna, was well versed in the art of manuscript illumination, frescoes, and paintings.

Born in Bologna, she spent most of her life in Ferrara in the court of Nicholas III d’Este, Marquis of Ferrara, as the attendant for Margaret d’Este, Nicholas’ daughter. Vigri received a humanist education including latin, music, and manuscript illumination in the court until 1427 when she joined a community of about fifteen laywomen in Ferrara who lived under the rule of the Franciscan Tertiaries. In 1432, largely due to Vigri’s efforts, the group adopted the Rule of St. Clare and was clothed with the habit of the Second Order of St. Francis, an order founded by Clare of Assisi in the thirteenth century. Because of the increasing number of vocations, the convent founded a new house in Bologna in 1456 where Vigri became abbess and remained until her death.

There, she completed a manuscript titled, Le sette armi spirituali (The seven spiritual weapons), which she had begun in Ferrera. The manuscript, which included accounts of the nun’s personal struggles with faith, was printed by the Bolognese nuns in 1475 and was frequently reprinted during the 1500s. Vigri wrote several other treatises, hymns, and letters that have been published but not yet translated including I dodici giardini (The twelve gardens), and il Rosarium and I Sermoni. Although many of her frescoes have since been lost, many of Vigri’s paintings and manuscript illuminations have survived.

The body of St. Catherine is preserved in the church of Corpus Domini adjoining the monastery of the Poor Clares at Bologna. In 1524, Pope Clement VII officially authorized the cult of St. Catherine of Bologna. She was canonized in the early eighteenth century.

Other Occupation(s):
Instructor, Nun, Teacher, Writer, Abbess
Place(s) of Residence:
Where Trained/Schools:
Private lessons
Fellowships, grants and awards:
not applicable
Earliest exhibition:
not applicable
NMWA exhibition(s):
Italian Women Artists from Renaissance to Baroque
Related places
Bologna (died at)