It is thought that the most reliable account that we have of this saint comes from the writings of the Church historian Eusebius. He related as follows:
There was a certain woman, a Christian, and the richest and most noble of all the ladies of Alexandria, who when the rest suffered themselves to be deflowered by the tyrant [Maximinus], resisted and vanquished his unbounded and worse than beastly lust. This lady was most illustrious for her high birth and great wealth, and likewise for her singular learning: but she preferred her virtue and her chastity to all worldly advantages. The tyrant, having in vain made several assaults upon her virtue, would not behead her, seeing her ready to die, but stripped her of all her estates and goods and sent her into banishment.
It is said that St. Catherine was born in Alexandria of a patrician family and was converted to Christianity by a vision. She denounced Emperor Maximinus in person for his persecution of Christians. When fifty pagan philosophers were converted by her arguments, he had them burned to death. When she refused his bribe of a royal marriage if she would denounce Christianity, he had her imprisoned. On his return home from a camp inspection, he found that his wife, an officer and two hundred soldiers had been converted. He had them all put to death. He then condemned Catherine to death on a spiked wheel, and when the wheel miraculously broke, he had her beheaded. Her body is said to have been taken to the monastery of Mount Sinai, where it reputedly still is.