Saint Joseph's dreams

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The second dream (as shown by the text on the angel's banderole), 13th-century mosaic, Florence Baptistry
The Dream of Saint Joseph, by Philippe de Champaigne.

Saint Joseph's dreams are four dreams described in the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament in which Joseph, the legal father of Jesus, is visited by an angel of the Lord and receives specific instructions and warnings of impending danger. All four dreams come from the period around the Nativity of Jesus and his early life, from betwwen Mary's pregnancy and the return from the Flight to Egypt. They are often distinguished by numbers as "Joseph's first dream" and so on.

The dreams have been fairly frequently depicted in art, though they have never been among the most common subjects from the Life of Jesus in art or the Life of the Virgin. The second dream is most often depicted, and if there is no other indication it can be assumed that is the subject.

Biblical accounts[edit]

The four dreams are as follows:[1]

In art[edit]

The dreams are sometimes shown in art. It is often unclear which dream is intended. If the Virgin Mary is present (but no infant Jesus), especially if visibly pregnant or shown spinning, this suggests the first dream, which tends to be shown in an indoor setting. An outside setting may suggest the second dream, which is probably the most frequently depicted. In the absence of a place in a sequence, inscribed text, a title, or decor showing a setting in Egypt, the 3rd and 4th dreams can generally be ruled out where there is uncertainty.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English literature by David L. Jeffrey 1993 ISBN 0-8028-3634-8 pages 538-540
  2. ^ Schiller, 57, 117, 124


  • James Hall, A History of Ideas and Images in Italian Art, 1983, John Murray, London, ISBN 0-7195-3971-4
  • Schiller, Gertud, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. I, 1971 (English trans from German), Lund Humphries, London, ISBN 0853312702