According to legend, forty soldiers refused to recant their Christian faith. Upon the order of Emperor Licinus, they were condemned to a painful death by being forced out onto a frozen pond near the city of Sebaste. A heated bathhouse on the shore beckoned to any who were prepared to recant, but only one soldier succumbed to the temptation. The halfnaked soldiers stand densely packed together in the lower half. Some are doubled over in pain, others collapse from exhaustion. The raised heads and pleading hands of some of the martyrs lead the eyes upwards to where Christ sits with a gesture of blessing upon a richly decorated throne with a footstool. He is surrounded by a mandorla and flanked by three deeply prostrating angels on each side, who pay him tribute with covered hands.