" Saint Joachim in Art
St. Joachim: The Iconography
The canonical scriptures say nothing of the birth or parentage of Mary, but countless art works through the ages have taken their cue from legendary material.

From at least the 2nd century, this material proposes that Mary's parents were named Joachim and Anna. They had been childless for 20 years when an angel appeared to them separately and told them to meet in Jerusalem at the Golden Gate, for they were going to have a child "who will be spoken of in all the world." When the child was born they named her Mary.1

Giotto's Arena Chapel frescoes follow the story in detail. Elsewhere, when only one episode is pictured, it is most likely to be either Mary's birth (see the page for Mary's Birth and Early Life) or the meeting at the Golden Gate (see the gallery below).

In these images Joachim is usually represented as a man in later middle age, with a gray or mostly-gray beard that reaches to about the breastbone.

(Thumbnails click for full image and description)

Giotto, 1305-6

Bartolomeo Vivarini, 1474

Nicolas Dipre, 16th century

Benedikt Dreyer, 1515-20

Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University


Statues in the Franciscan Monastery, Zadar, Croatia (See the description page)


  • The Roman Martyrology for March 20 lists St. Joachim as "Father of the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, Confessor." According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (s.v. "Confessor"), confessors are "those men [sic] who have distinguished themselves by heroic virtue which God has approved by miracles."


  • See note 1 below


1 The story is recounted in the 2nd-century Protevangelium of James (1-5), in the third- or fourth-century Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew (1-4), and in the Golden Legend ("The Nativity of Our Blessed Lady," html or pdf).