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For other uses, see Annunciation (disambiguation).
Annunciation by Paolo de Matteis, 1712. The white lily in the angel's hand is symbolic of Mary's purity[n 1] in Marian art.[1]

The Annunciation (from the Vulgate Latin annuntiatio (or nuntiatio) nativitatis Christi),[2] also referred to as the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Annunciation of Our Lady[3] or the Annunciation of the Lord, is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God, marking his Incarnation.[4] Gabriel told Mary to name her son Yehoshua , meaning "YHWH is salvation".

According to Luke 1:26, the Annunciation occurred "in the sixth month" of Elizabeth's pregnancy with John the Baptist.[5] Many Christians observe this event with the Feast of the Annunciation on 25 March,[4] an approximation of the northern vernal equinox nine full months before Christmas, the ceremonial birthday of Jesus. In England, this came to be known as Lady Day.[6] It marked the new year until 1752.[6] The 2nd-century writer Irenaeus of Lyon regarded the conception of Jesus as 25 March coinciding with the Passion.[7]

The Annunciation has been a key topic in Christian art in general, as well as in Marian art in the Catholic Church, particularly during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Biblical account[edit]

Annunciation by El Greco
Annunciation, work by unknown artist

In the Bible, the Annunciation is narrated in Luke 1:26-38:[8]

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

A separate, briefer annunciation is given to Joseph in Matthew 1:18-21:[8]

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Manuscript 4Q246[edit]

Verses 32 and 35 of Luke 1 read:

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High ... The power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.

Manuscript 4Q246 of the Dead Sea Scrolls reads:

“[X] shall be great upon the earth. O king, all people shall make peace, and all shall serve him. He shall be called the son of the Great God, and by his name shall he be hailed as the Son of God, and they shall call him Son of the Most High.”[9]

The similarity in content is such that "it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Luke is dependent in some way, whether directly or indirectly, on this long lost text from Qumran".[10]

Eastern traditions[edit]

In Greek Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox churches, the Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated on March 25 on the Julian calendar, is one of the twelve "Great Feasts" of the liturgical year, and is among the eight of them that are counted as "feasts of the Lord". In Greek, the Annunciation is known as the "Good Tidings" or "Evangelism" (Euangelismos). The traditional hymn (troparion) for the feast the Annunciation goes back to St Athanasius. It runs:[11]

Today is the beginning of our salvation,
And the revelation of the eternal mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin
As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:[n 2]
"Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!"

As the action initiating the Incarnation of Christ, Annunciation has such an important place in Orthodox Christian theology that the festal Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is always celebrated on the feast, even if it falls on Great and Holy Friday, the day when Christ's Crucifixion is remembered. Indeed, the Divine Liturgy is celebrated on Great and Holy Friday only when the latter coincides with the feast of the Annunciation. If the Annunciation falls on Pascha (Easter Sunday) itself, a coincidence which is called Kyriopascha, then it is celebrated jointly with the Resurrection, which is the focus of Easter. Due to these and similar rules, the rubrics surrounding the celebration of the feast are the most complex of all in Orthodox Christian liturgics.

St Ephraim taught that the date of the conception of Jesus Christ fell on 10 Nisan on the Hebrew Calendar, the day in which the passover lamb was selected according to Exodus 12. Some years 10 Nisan falls on March 25, which is the traditional date for the Feast of the Annunciation and is an official holiday in Lebanon.

Feast day[edit]

The Annunciation - Johann Christian Schröder

The feast of the Annunciation is usually held on March 25.[4] It is moved in the Catholic Church, Anglican and Lutheran liturgical calendars when that date falls during Holy Week or Easter Week or on a Sunday.[12] The Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, and Eastern Catholic Churches do not move the feast, having special combined liturgies for those years when the Annunciation coincides with another feast; in fact in these churches a Divine Liturgy is celebrated on Good Friday when it coincides with the Annunciation.

When the calendar system of Anno Domini was first introduced by Dionysius Exiguus in AD 525, he assigned the beginning of the new year to March 25 since, according to Catholic theology, the era of grace began with the Incarnation of Christ. The first certain mentions of the feast are in a canon of the 656 Council of Toledo, where it is described as celebrated throughout the church.[4] The 692 Council of Constantinople "in Trullo" forbade observance of any festivals during Lent, excepting Sunday and the Feast of the Annunciation. An earlier origin had been claimed for it on the grounds that it appeared in manuscripts of the sermons of Athanasius and Gregory Thaumaturgus but they were subsequently discovered to be spurious.[4]

Along with Easter, March 25 was used as the New Year's Day in many pre-modern Christian countries.[13] The holiday was moved to January 1 in France by Charles IX's 1564 Edict of Roussillon. Lady Day was the English New Year's until 1752.[6] The change in holidays may have been the origin of April Fools' Day. Also in England, the 1240 Synod of Worcester banned all servile work during the Feast of the Annunciation, making it a day of rest.[8]

In the Qur'an[edit]

Main articles: Mary in Islam and Jesus in Islam

The Annunciation is described in the Qur'an, in Sura 003:045 (Al-i-Imran – The Family of Imran) verses 45-51 (Yusuf Ali translation):

45Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah;"

And Sura 019:016 (Maryam – Mary) verses 16-26 also refers to it. Muslim tradition holds that the Annunciation took place during the month of Ramadan.[citation needed]

Churches marking the location of the Annunciation[edit]

Both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Catholic Churches hold that the Annunciation took place at Nazareth, but slightly differ as to the precise location. The Basilica of the Annunciation marks the site preferred by the former, while the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation marks that preferred by the latter.

In Christian art[edit]

Annunciation by Murillo, 1655

The Annunciation has been one of the most frequent subjects of Christian art.[14][15] Depictions of the Annunciation go back to early Christianity, with the Priscilla catacomb including the oldest known fresco of the Annunciation, dating to the 4th century.[16] It has been a favorite artistic subject in both the Christian East and as Roman Catholic Marian art, particularly during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and figures in the repertoire of almost all of the great masters. The figures of the virgin Mary and the angel Gabriel, being emblematic of purity and grace, were favorite subjects of Roman Catholic Marian art, where the scene is also used to represent the perpetual virginity of Mary via the announcement by the angel Gabriel that Mary would conceive a child to be born the Son of God.

Works on the subject have been created by artists such as Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, Duccio, Jan van Eyck, and Murillo among others. The mosaics of Pietro Cavallini in Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome (1291), the frescos of Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua (1303), Domenico Ghirlandaio's fresco at the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence (1486), and Donatello's gilded sculpture at the church of Santa Croce, Florence (1435) are famous examples.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Purity is a wider concept than virginity, which is comprised within it, but which relates to a physical aspect only of purity.
  2. ^ In Eastern Orthodoxy, Mary is referred to as Theotokos (Greek: Θεοτόκος, from Θεο, theo-, "God", and τοκος, tokos, "bearer").


  1. ^ Ross, Leslie. Medieval art: a topical dictionary, p.16, 1996 ISBN 0-313-29329-5
  2. ^ Luke 1:26-39
  3. ^ "Lessons for Holy Days » The Prayer Book Society of Canada". 2014-03-23. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  4. ^ a b c d e EB (1878).
  5. ^ Patella, Michael (2005), The Gospel according to Luke, p. 14, ISBN 0-8146-2862-1 .
  6. ^ a b c EB (1911b).
  7. ^ Michael Alan Anderson, Symbols of Saints (ProQuest 2008 ISBN 978-0-549-56551-2), pp. 42–46
  8. ^ a b c EB (1911a).
  9. ^ Dead Sea scrolls manuscript Q4Q246, translated in "An Unpublished Dead Sea Scroll Text Parallels Luke’s Infancy Narrative", Biblical Archaeology Review, April/May 1990
  10. ^ The meaning of the Dead Sea scrolls: Their significance for understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity, James C. VanderKam, Peter W. Flint, p. 335, Continuum, 2005, ISBN 0-567-08468-X
  11. ^ Speaking the Truth in Love: Theological and Spiritual Exhortations by John Chryssavgis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomu 2010 ISBN 978-0-8232-3337-3 page 85
  12. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Holweck, Frederick George (1907). "Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary". Catholic Encyclopedia 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 
  13. ^ Groves, Marsha (2005), Manners and Customs of the Middle Ages, p. 27 .
  14. ^ The Oxford Companion to Christian Art and Architecture by Peter Murray and Linda Murray 1996 ISBN 0-19-866165-7 page 23
  15. ^ Images of the Mother of God: by Maria Vassilaki 2005 ISBN 0-7546-3603-8 pages 158–159
  16. ^ The Annunciation To Mary by Eugene LaVerdiere 2007 ISBN 1-56854-557-6 page 29

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Gabriel announces John's birth to Zechariah
New Testament
Succeeded by
Mary visits Elizabeth