The Feast of The Annunciation occurs on March 25th of each year, nine months before Christmas Day. The Annunciation commemorates Mary’s “Fiat” – the acceptance of her role as the Mother of Jesus. The scene is a favorite topic for inspirational stained-glass windows as shown below.

It is a story of faith, trust and courage when a young, unmarried woman finds herself responding “yes” to the Angel Gabriel. Read more about the Annunciation at

The Annunciation scene depicted in the Gospel of Luke (Chapter 1:26-38) contains three characters: Mary, the Archangel Gabriel and the Holy Spirit. The most frequent depictions and symbolism in Western art since the 12th century are as follows:

Mary: Shown on the right side of the scene kneeling with her arms crossed over her chest in acceptance and humility. Her haloed-head is bowed with eyes closed. Most of the time, she is dressed in a medium blue or robin’s-egg-blue garment. She is shown in prayer, or sometimes studying scripture at a book stand.

Angel Gabriel: The Archangel is usually at the left of the scene extending an open hand toward Mary, modernly interpreted as saying “Hail, full of grace”. Although he may also be pointing to the sky or forming his hand in a blessing.

The Holy Spirit: Shown as a dove overhead with rays of light coming forth onto Mary illustrating the “power of the Most High” overshadowing the Blessed Virgin (Luke 1:36).

Other symbols: Since the name Nazareth means “flower”, a bouquet or vase of flowers is shown in the scene. Most times, the flowers are lilies representing purity. Another common image is a scepter or distaff held by Gabriel who may be pictured in military uniform.

The images in the stained-glass windows shown here follow the most common Western art symbolism.

The two windows on the left (Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament and St. Joseph’s Church) are of the “German-style” which are marked by highly artistic depictions in the German-Baroque method with elaborate canopies of white and gold-columned architectural structures or floral features. The scenes were painted on relatively large glass panels (as opposed to the medieval technique of using smaller pieces of colored glass) before being fired, then held in a leaded framework. The German-style windows shown here were installed near the turn of the 20th century and were most likely made in Germany or Austria before being shipped to distribution houses in New York City.

The colorful window at the Immaculate Conception Church is newer (installed in the 1960’s) and made in Dublin, Ireland. This window does not contain the architectural canopies of the German-style and is rectangular rather than the Romanesque, rounded arch shape.

The final window is nearly “modern” having been installed in Holy Cross Church in 1960. The features of Mary and the Archangel are much more angular with black tracery dividing the painted parts of the glass. The windows are of a “faceted glass” design. In this glass-making method places pieces of colored glass are set in between patterned tracery allowing light to flow through the glass to illustrate the design, with less painting than occurs in other pictorial-style windows.

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The Iconography of the Virgin Mary by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University –