Cesare Nebbia and Workshop
Ahaz and Hezekiah

1587-89
Fresco
Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome, Italy

This is one of the father-and-son pendentives that picture ancestors of Jesus in the basilica's "Sistine Chapel." Ahaz and Hezekiah are kings of Judah listed in the genealogy in Matthew 1:9. Ahaz is especially important in Christian theology because it was to him that Isaiah said, "Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (Isaiah 7:14), a prophecy that Christians believe to refer to the virgin birth of Jesus.

Hezekiah is the one leaning on the sundial, a reference 2 Kings 20:1-11, where God gives him a sign that he will be cured of his illness: the shadow on the sundial will retreat ten degrees rather than advancing as expected.

Hezekiah's acceptance of this sign contrasts with Ahaz's refusal when Isaiah told him to ask God for a sign (Isaiah 7:12). Instead, he imported the religious practices of Assyria into his realm. In the shadows behind his son, he is in chains that symbolize his acceptance of Assyrian suzerainty. While his son studies the sign God has given him, he fixes his gaze on a mini-temple housing a cult statue.

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