was an Italian woman, member of a trader family in Yangzhou
Yangzhou is a prefecture-level city in central Jiangsu Province, People's Republic of China. Sitting on the northern bank of the Yangtze River, it borders the provincial capital of Nanjing to the southwest, Huai'an to the north, Yancheng to the northeast, Taizhou to the east, and Zhenjiang across...
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...
, during the 14th century. She is known through a tombstone which was discovered among the ramparts of Yangzhou in 1951 by the People's Liberation Army
The People's Liberation Army is the unified military organization of all land, sea, strategic missile and air forces of the People's Republic of China. The PLA was established on August 1, 1927 — celebrated annually as "PLA Day" — as the military arm of the Communist Party of China...
. The tombstone is inscribed in Lombardic Capitals, and explains that she died in 1342, and was the daughter of Domenico Vilioni. The tombstone also contains depictions of the martyrdom of Saint Catherine of Alexandria
Saint Catherine of Alexandria, also known as Saint Catherine of the Wheel and The Great Martyr Saint Catherine is, according to tradition, a Christian saint and virgin, who was martyred in the early 4th century at the hands of the pagan emperor Maxentius...
The existence of this tombstone in Yangzhou, a few decades after the visit of Marco Polo
Marco Polo was a Venetian merchant traveler from the Venetian Republic whose travels are recorded in Il Milione, a book which did much to introduce Europeans to Central Asia and China. He learned about trading whilst his father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo, travelled through Asia and apparently...
who had some administrative role in the city, suggests that there was a thriving Italian community in the city, probably involved in silk
Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The best-known type of silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity...
The tombstone reads:
- In nomine amen hic jacet
- Katerina filia q<u>ondam Domini
- de Vilionis que obiit in
- anno Domini mileximo CCC
- XXXX II de mense Junii
"In the name of the Lord, amen. Here lies Caterina former daughter of signore Domenico de Vilioni, who died in A.D. 1342, in the month of June."
The Medieval scholar Robert Lopez has corrected the reading of the family name to "Ilioni", and related the father to a certain "Dominico Ilioni", who was inscribed in 1348 in the registers of the city of Genoa
Genoa |Ligurian]] Zena ; Latin and, archaically, English Genua) is a city and an important seaport in northern Italy, the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria....
in relation to a merchant named Jacopo de Oliverio, who is said by that document to have lived in the "Kingdom of Cathay", where he multiplied his capital fivefold.
Another smaller plaque was discovered a few years later, together with a Christian sculpture and a short inscription mentioning the death of the son of the same Dominico, named Antonio, in November 1344.
This Italian community would have been supported by some form of religious structure. In 1322, the Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....
Odoric de Pordenone visited Yangzhou, and said he resided among Franciscans there, and that there were also three Nestorian
The Church of the East in China had a long but not continuous history between the 7th and 14th centuries. The Church of the East, or Nestorian Church, was the first church to spread Christianity to China. Chinese sources describe a mission under the Persian cleric Alopen as arriving at Chang'an in...
churches in the city.