Title of Work
West Facade, Capital Frieze- Life of the Virgin
Title of Image
Scenes 7 - 10
c. 1145
West Façade, Left Frieze, Life of Mary and Infancy of Christ, Left Side of Central Portal
This image shows several scenes. From the right:
7: Joachim, Anne and Mary
The child Mary stands between Joachim and Anne (all have halos). Anne looks at Mary and holds her arm. This scene is generally identified as "Joachim and Anne take Mary to the Temple." This scene is rare in other illustrated versions of the childhood of Mary. There is some dispute about the male figure to the left of Mary. Houvet says it is Joachim, since it has a halo. Heimann also identifies it as Joachim, but says she was tempted to identify it as the High Priest at the Temple. (Heimann p. 78) (The Priest in the first scene - the offering of Joachim and Anne is rejected - also has a halo. - JV)
Heimann notes that the figures of Anne and Mary in this scene are close to an illustration in the both the Vatican copy and the Paris copy of the Homilies of the Greek monk Jacobus Kokkinobaphos, which was believed to have been made in Constantinople (Heimann, pp. 77-8). Spitzer points out that the inclusion of this scene is part of the tendency in the frieze to expand on the Virgin's early life and thus to emphasize her importance. She also suggests that it reflects the theme of the importance of the family and balances the first scenes, which emphasize the grief caused by childlessness. (Spitzer, p. 139).
Note the unidentifiable creature at the right of the figures.
8: Mary Mounting the Three Steps to the Temple
(Protevangelium of James 7:2-3)
Houvet divides this into two scenes “Mary ascends the steps, while her father, while her father stands by and her mother is sitting” and “the parents go home” (Houvet p. 28). Heimann describes this scene as Mary entering the Temple. Spitzer suggests it is the Miracle of the Steps (Heimann, p. 78; Spitzer, p. 140). In the Protevangelium of James, the priest “placed [Mary] on the third step of the altar, and the Lord God put Grace upon her and she danced with her feet and the whole house of Israel loved her.”
Mary (haloed) stands on a short staircase with three steps. In front of her are four figures - three seated and one standing. All are headless. They are generally identified as priests in the Temple, but could be the “whole house of Israel” mentioned in the Protevangelium of James.
Note the traces of red paint in the background.
9: Mary Presented to Joseph
(Protevangelium of James 8:2 - 9:3)
According to the Protevangelium of James, when Mary was twelve years old, the High Priest summoned the widowers of Judea. All were given rods, which were then taken back and placed on the altar. The High Priest prayed over them and returned them to the assembled widowers. A dove flew from Joseph’s rod, signifying that he would be Mary's husband. Other versions of this story showed Joseph’s rod sprouting flowers and leaves.
A headless figure at right (a priest? Joachim?) has his hand on Mary's arm. Mary stands at center. At right is the figure of Joseph, identifiable because he holds a rod with a top that could be either a bird or a flower. Neither Mary nor Joseph has a halo.
10: Marriage of Mary and Joseph
Mary (veiled) holds the hand of Joseph (right). Behind Mary is a bearded man with his hand on her arm (a priest? Joachim?). Neither Mary nor Joseph has a halo.
At right are figures from:
6: Two Figures Converse.
At left are figures from:
11: Joseph takes Mary home
Type of Work
Subtype of Work
Capital Frieze
Cathédrale de Chartres--Pictorial works.;Church decoration and ornament--France--Chartres--Pictorial works.;Church architecture--France--Chartres--Pictorial works.;Christian art and symbolism--France--Chartres--Medieval, 500-1500--Pictorial works.
Philip Maye
MEDART Website

Chartres: Cathedral of Notre-Dame

Scenes 7 - 10