Disputation of St. Catherine of Alexandria

Photogallery

Disputation of St. Catherine of Alexandria
Disputation of St. Catherine of Alexandria

Disputation of St. Catherine of Alexandria

Particularly noteworthy is the lavish composition of the Disputation of St. Catherine of Alexandria, dominated by a monumental triumphal arch based on that of Constantine, surmounted by an idol in the form of a bull, alluding to Pope Borgia’s heraldic symbol, along with the inscription “PACIS CULTORI”, praising his role as a bringer of peace and justice.
The noble Christian girl from Alexandria, who refused to comply with the obligation to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods, imposed upon subjects during the great celebrations for the arrival of Maximinus Daia, appointed as governor of Egypt and Syria in 305, was summoned before fifty scholars of the court to be brought to obedience. However, the disputation instead concluded in favour of the young Catherine, who through her eloquence and erudition managed to refute the vanity of polytheism, succeeding in converting all the philosophers to her doctrine. This led to the imposition of a death sentence by the governor, who was however at the same time fascinated by her to the point of wanting her as his wife. Since every further attempt to convert her proved fruitless, and following her repeated rejection of him, he put her to death by the wheel. She remained miraculously unharmed, but was subsequently beheaded.
The famed decorative talents of Pinturicchio are best expressed in this scene that, like a glimpse of life at court, displays a multitude of richly attired characters, in which portraits of illustrious contemporary figures have been recognised, if not always appropriately: Catherine-Lucrezia Borgia; Maximinus Daia-Cesare Borgia; man with a white turban-Djem (brother of the sultan Bajazet II, the Pope’s hostage and a friend of Cesare Borgia); Pinturicchio and Giuliano da Sangallo with the compasses (behind the throne).