So why? Is there any symbolic meaning?
Answering this question of yours depends during what period of time one would refer to... - I have part of the answer for you. . .
During Medieval times, the colour red was used to indicate Saints - this was a 'fashion' of the time. Such depictions were especially used in Venice where representations of Saints often wore red socks (strange but true). The red socks came from as far back as the 16th century when they were worn in the old dress style of Venetian merchants (The Pantalone) which was once considered vile and ridiculous - yet, the colour red became so widely used in Venice that it became en emblematic colour of the region - 'Venetian Red' became a prized colour at one time ...reserved for the wealthy and the 'elite' (the nobility) as well as in depictions of Saints and came to be associated in time with the veneration of Saints. Many spoke of 'Italian red.' Scholars examining old Venetian artefacts have even used this as an 'argument' when studying depictions of groupings containing 'Holy' individuals - to discern between those who could have a claim to Sainthood and those who did not simply by looking at the colours used to paint them - especially, their socks when it came to Venice and have argued that those NOT wearing red socks during specific periods were NOT to be confused with Saints. One nobleman by the name of 'Or de la Fofalia' (Also known as 'Or Fale') who was Doge of Venice [Regent of Venice basically] had the audacity to have himself portrayed in an artefact in the 'Pala Doro' (in a church in Venice)
with a 'nimbus' (or 'halo') along with Saints but the 'clue' that he was NOT a Saint
was arrived at and 'confirmed' by the colour of his socks so experts have argued! They were NOT red! So a 'halo' does not always a Saint make. . .
The colour red seemed to have a 'resurgence' to portray Saints in some particular regions and countries - this occurs in some art work which seemed to have been 'influenced' by Venice in terms of this use of colour.
So, in my opinion, the use of red to depict the Virgin Mary is a testimony to her being 'Holy' or a 'Saintly' figure - it would only make sense knowing this of the colour red... I would tend to think that this Venetian influence 'rubbed off' in many parts of Europe and the Eastern religious traditions. . .
Red, gold, blue and the colour purple are colours of nobility, 'high office' and holiness. White is one of sainthood as well (this is why the undergarment robes of many Catholic Saints is white). One does not have to look far to see the red and purple robes of Cardinals and Bishops. . . Wearing the 'purple' came as far back as the Roman Senate and Jewish times before then too. . . The colour purple is made using a particular type of sea shells.
Red and a very dark blue (almost navy) is also used in Byzantine art... to depict Byzantine royals and Saints. Very old depictions of St Catherine of Alexandria who is thought to have been a Byzantine princess - or - at least a member of the nobility - show her wearing a red 'overlay' robe over a gold under-garment robe with a dark blue cloak (cape) adorned with the bi-cephalic eagle in gold on it [keep this one in mind] and this has been reproduced and repeated by the Greek Orthodox in old depictions of her wearing the 'diadem' of a Byzantine Princess or a more full crown fit for a high-ranking princess rather than the 'small nobility.' This special diadem crown (half crown type of coronet) is seen on an old large Italian statue in a church which has her as Patron Saint in the province of Quebec. Italy by the way, the cradle of Rome does 'know its Saints' - especially Roman and Byzantine ones I should add before I go any further... It is the same shape as the diadem which Queen Sofia of Spain was seen wearing at times (a diadem particular 'shape' of Greek origin which could have had some Roman origins too and worn by high-ranking women of Rome).
Over the years, having six Byzantine Emperors at Nicaea as my great-grand-fathers of many generations ago, I researched the bi-cephalic eagle with anything I could get my hands on. . . The castle of the last Prince of this line to have lived in the south of France (now a museum or cultural centre) has the Imperial bi-cephalic eagle drawn on the large ceiling at the top of a great staircase... and this specific eagle I noted on one depiction of St Catherine which came from a land which was very far away was EXACTLY the same style! It was a perfect match!! I am aware that the Greek Orthodox Church adopted the bi-cephalic eagle as one of its emblems but these images pre-dated this I would think. It is a Byzantine and a Greek symbol which dates far back to an ancient wall in China or a Mongol Khanate where falcons were prized animals (and falconry is still practiced) according to an old history I read on how a Prince first saw it there and brought the idea back home where it started to be used in royal lines which later went into Byzantine and Greek lines... Did this mean St Catherine had some Greek or Byzantine influence of some sort associated with her lineage ...who knows. . .
Before you 'knock' this idea, I am not going to 'mince words' here... I should add that I know St Catherine is said to have been born and died in Alexandria, Egypt and that her parents were thought to be King Costos (Kostos) of Alexandria and Queen Sabinella and she was born circa 282- circa 290
and died circa 305-circa 307
- she died at approx. age 18 or so... [Wikipedia states she died somewhere around 23 but bases this on from another Website which does not support this as a 'fact' and for which the link is outdated. The dates I have found from old historical records written about this Saint from historians who shared their work with two churches which have her as Patron Saint is far more credible than that - the dates in bold green font
are those I have found for her life span from these sources.]. And I do take strong issue
with crackerjack box 'historians' who make statements that someone 'never existed' simply based on the premise that no one can find information to prove their existence. The lack of written record is NOT PROOF that someone never existed!
Good grief! One has to wonder where such historians got their diplomas! One historian stated St Catherine was the mere subject of a 'romantic legend' stemming from the written work of an ancient writer's romantic fables. STOP HERE! Much literature which is 'fabulated' is based on partial FACT of people who did exist!! I could run a long list off the top of my head on this one - let alone a slew of movies the plots of which are based partially in FACT! Just think... had records of King Richard III all been destroyed, Shakespeare's play might have been more of the same to such deplorable 'historians' today... So, for me, such 'historians' coming out with no more than statements which amount to pure 'speculation
' and 'innuendo' while coming out with such garbage as far as I am concerned ...someday will find they have 'humble pie' all over their face should a dig uncover an artefact which proves the contrary! History should be based on FACTS
- it is the RECORDING of the path of humanity - and if one cannot find such concrete evidence
and they cannot come out with more plausible
arguments - and this should be clearly stated
as to HOW and WHY - and NOT presented as 'an absolute truth
' which is highly misleading
! A lot of garbage like that is found on Wikipedia which takes the unverified information of religious tradition Websites as the 'Gospel truth' and regurgitates it and when you do find a FACT and can demonstrate this, their 'administrators' are so pig-headed sometimes they change or remove your corrections simply on a whim ...hence, many of their posts repeat errors over and over without even checking FACTS or recent archaeological digs' discoveries or their reference sources are written by so-caller 'experts' not worth a dime! I take the view: until someone can PROVE they never existed (which is near-impossible to do in many cases), I'd rather tend to side with the type of 'evidence' which is held in the expression and demonstration of a major cultus or heavy folklore and art
in a multitude of countries and religious traditions as sufficient weight
for the moment to think it is a good indication
that a Saint or Holy individual LIKELY existed
and that the transmission of historical heritage was hence strongly 'verbal' (by word of mouth) for centuries while 'in the presence of lack of material' to prove their existence (for now) suffices for me and until such PROOF to the contrary (that they NEVER existed), I sit and wait to see
. . . AGAIN: The lack of written record is NOT PROOF that someone never existed!
and a 'fabulated' romanced story does NOT mean they did not exist either but could be rather the reflection of society in using their name because they loved them so much or wanted to honour them in this manner somehow - or - even wanted to express a 'message' to society via their skilled and oft cunning literary artwork (such as Shakespeare did). If we went by this premise of these so-called 'historians' that a person 'never existed' and is only found in 'romanced' literature (or even the Bible to some for that matter), both King Richard III and King David of Israel would have been relegated to a 'myth' long ago while now archaeological digs are pointing that David definitely did exist - and trust me, many historians before our times stated he never existed
and now their papers are only good for the loo! Of course, while we had written records of Richard III, his body has only been recently found and DNA authenticated his remains to a point where science has now shown that some other Kings may well have been illegitimate! Further than that, medical science has shown that Shakespeare in his play was not quite correct in his descriptive account of what he looked like. So, literature does not always imitate reality but can serve to present 'character' to 'vilify' someone to one's own purpose in a play, etc. To be too 'hasty' to make a conclusion while in the face of lack of evidence is not in accordance to the proper values, ethics and morals a good historian who has any self-respect should apply nor any true respect for their field of history for that matter. . . It stands to reason that to base conclusions on a 'romanced play' as tantamount to 'hard evidence' such as these crackerjack historians have done in arriving at their so-called 'conclusions' that St Catherine never existed and is only a myth lack the 'common sense' that a good shrewd historian should apply! It smacks of blatant stupidity actually!
While we know basically NOTHING about St Catherine's father or mother, I am going to sit 'comfortably' on a 'plausible hunch
' and state this clearly in my statement (and several would agree with me) that she was quite LIKELY a princess to begin... from all the ancient depictions of her, hagyographies - and add to this the accounts of her apparition to St Joan of Arc ...if you believe in St Joan's visionary account which she took to her grave all the way to burning at the stake! [And if you study the documents of St Joan's trial you see how unjust a trial she got and how she stood strong to her conviction, belief and accounts until she was raped in prison a short time before she died and so vilified and harassed for merely wearing a man's garments (the ultimate 'reason' they used to convict and burn her in the end as they had nothing else to truly send her to the gallows as an 'excuse' for 'heresy')!] - and ancient art ...especially, those I described and that St Catherine's family somehow (in my honest opinion) could have had ties with Byzantium as the bi-cephalic eagle was definitely a symbol used by the Byzantine Empire (St Constantine I after all did live during the same period as St Catherine and Byzantine did spread to the North of Africa in the course of time... - hence, Egypt ...where Alexandria is located) as a 'plausible' background for her but remains 'unproven' and IS 'speculative' but these 'leads' cannot and should not be ignored
... and this is no reason to so readily discount her as a 'myth
' - and I state this CLEARLY - however, based on these 'leads' or artistic indications which date hundreds of years which make her 'existence' more plausible than not
in my view... as humanity rarely
has spread such massive 'cultus' of a Saint - so widespread - for a mere 'figment of the imagination' in my opinion and this is 'just cause' to think twice about this Saint as having somehow existed
rather than not. . . Until someone can actually PROVE she never existe
d, I am going to respect all those who revere her... and respect her memory as a 'tangible' intangible of spirituality if you 'get my drift'. . .
So, in conclusion, the use of red and blue used for St Catherine of Alexandria are a two-fold significance: 1) one of nobility and royalty (imperial association) - as BOTH colours are used to indicate this; 2) one of sainthood - twice over via both colours in a sense as well as BOTH colours are used to indicate sainthood. The same idea can be extended to the Virgin Mary - as the use of colours 'developed' in art depictions as they became 'available' as well [new pigments developped, techniques, etc.] colours (#1) express her 'regal' noble aspect as Queen of Heaven and Earth; and, her aspect in 'Holiness' or 'Sainthood' (#2) as well - hence, the use of these colours for her in Iconography in parallel at some point began... It would be highly interesting to see someone doing a history paper - perhaps as history of the development of the use of colour and their symbolism in Iconographic religious art - a thesis on this sort of development in art being done. . . However, as Russia destroyed loads of precious Icons at one time, part of that picture would definitely be missing in such examination... - DESPITE this, the effort would be worthy of trouble in my view to enrich the world. . .
Add to this on St Catherine a crown or coronet diadem AND the bi-cephalic eagle [which is NOT mentioned
in the 'romanced version' about her in this old literature (which crackerjack historians base themselves)] and what have you got... and I would tend to think this is NOT just a Greek 'habit' to have wanted to attempt to depict her as a Greek or Byzantine saint... as it would have been unthinkable
to use a IMPERIAL emblem of such high status
on a Saint even long ago who did not belong to such lines - it would have been unacceptable to portray any 'commoner' with Imperial emblematic
even then had she not belonged to such lines
! Food for thought right there
I would think. . .
I rest my case!