Cesare Nebbia
Marriage of the Virgin

Circa 1350-90
Mosaic
Orvieto Cathedral

Joseph carries the flowering rod described in the Golden Legend's account of how he was selected to be Mary's spouse.

The image as a whole uses details that are simultaneously biblical and contemporary. On the contemporary side, the couple is standing at the door of the Temple, just as medieval couples said their vows at the door of their church. Joseph gives Mary a ring, a Roman rather than Jewish tradition. And the men standing in the foreground wear contemporary clothing, not the apostolic-era garb of the couple and the women around them.

On the biblical side, the bearded priest is clearly Jewish as he wears the "holy crown" of Exodus 29:6. Yet there is a cross at the front of the headband!

The purpose of this mixing of biblical and contemporary may be to inspire contemporary couples to emulate the virtues of Joseph and Mary.

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More of the Marriage of the Virgin

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