Sacred Artwork

St. Joseph in Art History

Throughout the Year of St. Joseph, we’ll be exploring the various ways St. Joseph has been depicted in Christian art and iconography.

Enjoy a new work of art uploaded monthly during 2020

Mosaic Decoration in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, Rome

The decoration of the Early Christian churches, and particularly of the basilicas, was mostly with mosaics. The largest series of early Christian mosaics in Rome are the panels on the triumphal arch and the nave walls of the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. These extensive mosaics were completed between 432-40 AD. The arch is decorated with continuous New Testament scenes relating to the early life of Jesus. Mary, the Mother of God, is shown as queen of Heaven, enthroned and dressed regally. Jesus is portrayed as a youth or young adult, not as an infant or child. On the top register, Saint Joseph can be seen to the right. Joseph is young, bearded and garbed as a Roman of status befitting the consort of a queen. Here he is conversing with the angels announcing Jesus birth and holding not a shepherds staff, but in his left hand a rod symbolizing the authority and responsibility, he has just been given. In the bottom register, Joseph stands on the left side, in Bethlehem, the city of David, the king from whose descendants, traced to Joseph, Jesus was born. On the right is seen Jerusalem, the place of Jesus’ death and resurrection.