Pedro Duque Cornejo, Choir Stall Reliefs of the Life of the Virgin Mary

Cáceres Cathedral, Cáceres, Spain

Left to right:

  1. The Presentation of young Mary in the Temple
  2. The Birth of Mary
  3. The Assumption. It is not uncommon for the angels attending the Virgin to hold musical instruments, a crown, or in one case a candle. But this is the only image I have studied in which a putto holds a monstrance. An object used to hold the eucharistic host for exposition to the people during a service of benediction In other respects, the image is typical of this period.
  4. The Angel's promise that Abraham and Sarah will have a son. (Genesis 18). In the panel one of the angel visitors makes his promise with raised hand and Abraham gestures the acceptance mentioned in Romans 4:19. In the background are the Oak of Mambre and the tabernaculum where Sarah prepared a meal for the guests. Sarah herself makes the same gesture of humility that Mary makes in many Annunciation images, although this is not consistent with the Genesis text, where she breaks out laughing at the thought of conceiving at her advanced age.
  5. St. John's vision of the Woman Clothed with the Sun (Revelation 12). John is posed as in traditional images of him writing down his revelation on the island of Patmos. The dragon with bad breath and the host led by Michael that attacks him are both also from Revelation 12. In John's vision there are no wings on the woman, but otherwise she is as described: the encircling sun, the moon beneath her feet, and the crown of stars. Most commentators cited in the Glossa Ordinaria (VI, 1571-72) insist that the woman and her child represent the Church and the faithful, and they dispute the suggestion that she symbolizes Mary and her son. However, by the 17th century the latter interpretation became fixed in images of the Immaculate Conception: Mary crowned with stars, standing on the moon, and enclosed in a mandorla of sunlight. The idea continues today in Catholic teaching (Catechism, 1138), and Revelation 12 is now read in Catholic churches on the feast of the Assumption of Mary.

View this image in full resolution.
Read more about Mary's birth and presentation in the Temple, her assumption into Heaven, and her Immaculate Conception.
Read more about Abraham.

Photographed at the cathedral by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.