St. Joachim: The Iconography

In Judea the natal day Not his birthday but what is believed to be the day he died and was "born again" into Heaven. of St. Joachim, Confessor, father of the immaculate Mary, Virgin Mother of God. However, his feast is celebrated on August 16. – Roman Martyrology for March 20

The canonical scriptures say nothing of the birth or parentage of Mary, but countless art works through the ages have taken their cue from legendary material.

From at least the 2nd century, this material proposes that Mary's parents were named Joachim and Anna. They had been childless for 20 years when an angel appeared to them separately and told them to meet in Jerusalem at the Golden Gate, for they were going to have a child "who will be spoken of in all the world." When the child was born they named her Mary.1

Giotto's Arena Chapel frescoes follow the story in detail. Elsewhere, when only one episode is pictured, it is most likely to be either Mary's birth (see the page for Mary's Birth and Early Life) or the meeting at the Golden Gate (see the gallery below).

In these images Joachim is usually represented as a man in later middle age, with a gray or mostly-gray beard that reaches to about the breastbone.

Prepared in 2014 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University

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Statues in the Franciscan Monastery, Zadar, Croatia (See the description page)

IMAGES OF JOACHIM & ANNA AT THE GOLDEN GATE

DATES

  • Feast day: Originally March 20 in the West and September 9 in the East. Current Catholic and Anglican calendars celebrate Joachim and Anne with a single feast on July 26 (August 16 in the mid-20th century).

NAMES

  • The Roman Martyrology for March 20 lists St. Joachim as "Father of the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, Confessor." According to the Catholic Encyclopedia (s.v. "Confessor"), confessors are "those men [sic] who have distinguished themselves by heroic virtue which God has approved by miracles."

HAGIOGRAPHY

ALSO SEE

NOTES

1 The story is recounted in the 2nd-century Protevangelium of James (1-5), in the third- or fourth-century Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew (1-4), and in the Golden Legend ("The Nativity of Our Blessed Lady," html or pdf).