Born as Alessandra Lucrezia Romola de' Ricci in 1522 to a wealthy Florentine banking family. She later changed her name to Catherine when she entered religious life.
Her father, Pier Francesco de' Ricci, was one of an old and respected family of bankers and merchants. Her mother of the Ricasoli family — died when she was a small child, and she was brought up by a devoted stepmother, Fiammetta da Diacceto.
Fiammetta soon took notice of her step-daughter's extraordinary inclination towards holiness — particularly for solitary prayer — and did her utmost to foster and develop it
From the time she was an infant, she demonstrated a great love for prayer. When she was six years old, her father placed her in the convent of Monticelli in Florence, where her aunt, Louisa de Ricci, was a nun.
After a brief return home, when she was fourteen, she entered the convent of the Dominican nuns in Tuscany and joined the nine nuns there who were devoted followers of Savonarola, a friar who reined Florence with terror.
Domincan Convent of San Vincenzo in Tuscany
Alessandra there found the spirit of religious fervour high enough to satisfy even her ideal; and, after some difficulties with her father, she entered the novitiate, was clothed in 1535 (taking the name of Catherine), and professed in 1536. Both during her novitiate and for four or five years after profession, she was subjected to humiliating trials from the community, owing to their misunderstanding of some of the high supernatural favours she received; but her holiness and humility eventually triumphed.
Before long, she was chosen Mistress of Novices, then subprioress, and at twenty-five years of age she became perpetual prioress.
The great "Ecstasy of the Passion" occurred to her for the first time in February, 1542, and was renewed every week afterwards for twelve years, when it ceased in answer to the prayers of Catherine herself and the community. The fame of it was bringing so many people of every rank and calling to Prato that the peace and strict observance of the convent were suffering. Her sanctity was so admired, she drew the attention and friendship of Alexander de Medici, Duke of Florence.
She corresponded with St. Philip Neri and, while still living, she appeared to him in Rome in a miraculous manner.
After a long illness she passed away in 1589. The descendants of her community still inhabit the convent of San Vincenzio (now commonly called Santa Caterina), and there her body still reposes. Her feast is kept on the 13th of February.