Some modern scholars consider that the legend of Catherine was probably based on the life and murder of the Greek philosopher Hypatia, with reversed roles of Christians and pagans.
Tempera and gold leaf on panel
During her imprisonment more than 200 people came to see her, including Maxentius' wife, Valeria Maximilla; all converted to Christianity and were subsequently martyred. Twelve days later, when the dungeon was opened, a bright light and fragrant perfume filled it and Catherine came forth even more radiant and beautiful.
The furious emperor condemned Catherine to death on a spiked breaking wheel, but, at her touch, it shattered. Maxentius ordered her to be beheaded. Catherine herself ordered the execution to commence. A milk-like substance rather than blood flowed from her neck. More on Saint Catherine
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