The Education of the Virgin
Church of Santa Corona, Vicenza, Italy
St. Anne holds a book on her lap as young Mary reads from it. This is Anne in old age, as she was more often characterized in this era.
Behind her is a young woman, possibly one of Mary's two half-sisters who were also named Mary. They were born after the death of Mary's father St. Joachim, so the man standing at the low wall is probably not Joachim but St. Joseph. (See my page on the "Holy Kinship.")
The putto to which Anne gazes brings in one hand a lily stalk and in the other a garland of roses and lilies of the valley. The rose is a conventional symbol for Mary, and the lily for virginity or chastity. The lilies of the valley refer to the Song of Solomon 2:1-2: The bride says, "I am the flower of the field and the lily of the valleys." Then the Bridegroom says, "As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters." The Exegetes interpreted the Bride to be alternately the Church and the Virgin Mary.
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Read more about St. Anne and Mary's early life.
Photographed at the church by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.