Scala/Art Resource, NY

Thecla baptizes herself in a pool filled with devouring beasts in this relief from the main altar of the 12th-century Romanesque cathedral at Tarragona, Spain (where Thecla is the patron saint). Throughout her story, Paul refuses to baptize Thecla because he fears she will be tempted to stray from her virtuous path. In the end, after surviving the lions and bears in the arena in Antioch, she takes matters into her own hands by diving into a nearby pool filled with man-eating seals—or, as interpreted here, serpents. A heavenly lightning bolt kills the animals but leaves Thecla unharmed. Paul finally recognizes Thecla’s authority and gives her an apostolic commission: “Go and teach the Word of God.”