These stories in general follow the actual records of history, but in a few cases, where little was known of certain girls, the author has felt at liberty to add incidents illustrating the characters and the times.
St. Catherine The Girl of Siena: 1347-1380
The old Italian city of Siena lies upon three hills, on one of which gleams the great white Cathedral, and on another perches the scarcely less commanding Church of San Domenico. In the fourteenth century underwood and hanging gardens crept up the sides of these hills, with only a narrow winding road to lead from one part of the city to another. The valley lying between the two hills that were crowned with churches was known as the Valle Piatta, and a little way up one slope stood the small stone-built house of a dyer named Giacomo Benincasa. On the opposite hillside lived his married daughter Bonaventura, and Giacomo's wife often sent her two youngest children, Stephen and Catherine, through the valley on errands to their sister's house. Their message to Bonaventura safely delivered the children were free to play in the valley or pick flowers or rest by the roadside as long as they chose.
One summer afternoon Catherine, who was a small girl with dark hair and eyes, felt drowsy with the warm airs of the lowlands and loitered behind her brother as they were returning from Bonaventura's. He went on, humming a tune of the goatherds. She, stopping under a tree for shade, looked down a little path that led to a fountain called the Fontebranda, where most of the people of Siena got their water. Then she looked up across the hillsides of vineyards and hanging gardens to the cliff where the Church of San Domenico shone very white in the brilliant sunlight. She looked, and rubbed her eyes, and looked again. Then her amazement vanished and she simply stood still, rapt in a kind of ecstasy, which would not permit her to doubt what she saw nor turn her eyes away.