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date: 08 April 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Early Christian visual representations of the Virgin Mary include episodes from the apocryphal Protevangelium of James and Pseudo-Matthew and constitute some of the earliest known artistic depictions of any apocryphal texts. These stories’ emergence in early Christian art appears to be associated with the rise of the Virgin’s cult following her official declaration as Mother of God at the Council of Ephesus (431). Certain details from fifth-century mosaics found in Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, although contested by scholars, appear to depict the marriage of Mary and Joseph and a mysterious image that some identify as the Holy Family’s arrival in Egypt. Other early references to apocryphal narratives appear on fourth-century Christian sarcophagi that include the ox and ass in the stable and on fifth- and sixth-century ivories that depict the trial of bitter water, the healing of the midwife Salome, and the mocking of Anna by her maidservant.

Keywords: Anna (mother of Mary), Annunciation, Aphrodisius (Governor of Sotinen), Egypt (flight into), Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist), marriage (of Joseph and Mary), nativity (of Jesus), ox and ass (at Jesus’ nativity), Salome (midwife), trial (of bitter wa

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