Wednesday, 23 December 2015

The Story of Mary by the Masters of Aachen 1485

First set of 4 panes or Mary's story

Second set of 4 panes or Mary's story

I found a series of beautiful paintings particularly relevant to this Christmas period during a visit to the Treasury at the Minster in Aachen. It was a depiction of the life of the Virgin Mary, but represented using images and clothing familiar to the late 15th Century, including fascinating little details.

It doesn't matter whether you believe or not, the images tell aspects of the Christmas story from a mother's perspective and are rendered with loving detail. They give an insight to the magical ideal world as seen through 15th century eyes.

The pictures are named simply 'Marienleben – sog. Meister des Aachener Marienlebens, Köln, um 1485# (Life of the Virgin Mary – by the so called Master of the Aachen Life of the Virgin Mary, Cologne, about 1485).

Elements of the story are told in eight panels which appeared to be displayed slightly out of sequence.

The story is given below in the correct time sequence, Enjoy:

Joachim and St Anne (Mary's parents) meet at the golden gates to Jerusalem. This is after Joachim having done penance in the desert because they could not have children. Angels then appear to them both promising a child – the future Mary.
The birth of Mary

Mary visits the temple (her parents are the main figures on the lower left of the picture)

The Annunciation – the announcement to Mary by the angel Gabriel that she would concieve and become the mother of Jesus. There is both the dove over Mary and the spirit of the future christ child flying from the angel to Mary.

The Visitation or visit with both the pregnant Mary and the pregnant Elizabeth. I presume their rspective husbands are the men in the background.

Jesus as a baby in the temple. There is a figure on the right wearing spectacles or pince-nez.

Jesus appears to his mother Mary before his ascension. This was a belief that grew in the middle ages. I love the little elephant in the background!


Mary ascends into heaven (the Assumption), watched by the 12 Apostles – presumably Matthias had replaced Judas by this time.

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