Saint Thecla was greatly revered by the Early Church as the first female martyr. She is supposed to have been persuaded by the preaching of Saint Paul to break her engagement to be married, whereupon her embittered fiancé reported her Christianity to Roman authorities. Refusing to renounce her new faith, Thecla was first put to the stake, but the flames left her unharmed. Next she was thrown to the wild animals of the arena, but they refused to attack her. After other ordeals, Thecla was released and permitted to retire to a mountain cave near Seleucia, where she lived to a great old age and performed acts of healing.
The Museum’s relief depicts Thecla in the arena, bound and tethered to a lion and a panther. She is protected from danger by the angels who appear at her sides. This roundel was probably set into the wall of a chapel dedicated to the saint, but its original location is unknown.