Image code: 793

Martyrdom of St Catherine

In 305 A.D. a Roman emperor held large celebrations in his honour in Alexandria. Catherine came to the palace in the middle of the festivities, during which pagan feasts were celebrated with animal sacrifices and it also happened that many Christians, for fear of persecution, agreed to worship the gods. Catherine rejected the sacrifices and asked the emperor to recognise Jesus Christ as the redeemer of humanity, arguing her thesis with philosophical depth. The emperor, who was impressed by both the beauty and culture of the young noblewoman, summoned a group of rhetoricians to convince her to honour the gods. However, due to Catherine's eloquence, not only did they not convert her, but they themselves were promptly converted to Christianity. The emperor ordered the death sentence on all rhetoricians and after Catherine's umpteenth refusal, condemned her to die on a cogwheel as well. However, the instrument of torture and condemnation broke and the saint was beheaded; milk gushed from her body, a symbol of her purity. The painting is located in the right aisle of the Basilica of Saint Catherine of Alexandria in Catania.