The Life of the Virgin Mary

Circa 1325-1370
Stained Glass
Cathedral of St. Peter, Regensburg, Germany
(Third bay of the south wall)

The space between the second and third windows has been cropped out of the photograph. In the first window, the top panel is a simplified picture of the Annunciation (no dove, no Father above, but retaining a speech balloon for the angel's words). The rest of the pictures in the first window are hard to read; the second panel from the top might be the betrothal of Mary and Joseph.

The second window has five scenes from Mary's life before the Annunciation. Reading from top to bottom:

  1. Possibly a scene with Mary in the Temple previous to the Annunciation. The figure in blue reading a book could be Mary. Blue is her color, but in some of these panels she wears other colors. The other figure in the panel might be a companion from among the Temple virgins. If this reading is correct, the panel would be a prelude not to the one below it (Joseph's rod) but to the one on the left (the Annunciation).
  2. The episode of Joseph and the flowering rod (see St. Joseph: The Iconography). With the flowering rod in his hands, Joseeph stands between the other candidates and the high priest. The latter stands at an altar.
  3. The Birth of Mary. The recumbent figure echoes the recumbent Mary in the Birth of Jesus panel in the 3rd window. For other examples of this parallelism, see the page for The Birth of the Virgin
  4. Young Mary walks up the steps to enter service in the Temple. (See this page for the story and its sources.) Anne and Joachim stand behind her. At the top of the steps, where larger images traditionally place the high priest, this artist has pictured an altar with a chalice containing the Eucharist. This choice reflects the ecclesiology by which the Temple foreshadows the Church, a concept underlined by the church-like shape of the Temple in the background.
  5. The marriage of Anne and Joachim, Mary's parents?

The third window presents, somewhat out of order, five episodes following the Annunciation. From top to bottom:

  1. The Visitation (Luke 1:39-56). Mary and Elizabeth embrace before a house.
  2. The Adoration of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12). The star behind them, two kings stand in their crowns while the third, bareheaded, offers his gift to the baby on Mary's lap. No Joseph, no camels.
  3. The Adoration of the Shepherds (Luke 2:8-20)? The man in the foreground, bareheaded like the Mage above, seems to be kneeling to a person in blue (thus Mary?). The two men standing behind wear Jews' caps. But where is the star?
  4. The Birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1-7). The ox and ass (pseudo-Matthew 14) are in the lower left corner. Mary lies stretched out with the baby in her right arm. At her feet, in the lower right corner, is another person, possibly a midwife.
  5. The Presentation in the Temple (Luke 2:22-38). Simeon on the right receives the baby with covered hands, Mary and another woman stand on the left, and in the middle is an altar.

The fourth window presents the episodes that follow the Presentation in the Temple:

  1. The Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15). On the donkey, Mary holds the baby. Joseph walks ahead, a bag or possibly a trussed lamb hanging from his staff.
  2. The Slaughter of the Innocents (Matthew 2:16-18). Holding a rod of authority, Herod on the left gives the order. The soldier in the middle runs his sword through a naked child while other soldiers stand by. No mothers are shown.
  3. The Boy Jesus Among the Doctors (Luke 2:41-47). This is the usual iconography, with Jesus situated in perspective above and beyond the Temple sages, who wear Jews' caps. As usual, a cross is on Jesus' halo.
  4. The conclusion of the Jesus-Doctors incident (Luke 2:48-52): Mary scolds Jesus for worrying her and Joseph.
  5. The Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:31-34). The dove descends to just above Jesus' head while John baptizes him in a stylized river. Conventionally the figure on the right would be an attending angel, but there are no wings. Given the theme of these windows, it might be Mary herself.

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Read more about the Virgin Mary.

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