March 25th is the feast of the Annunciation, one of the most important dates in the Christian calendar, which celebrates the moment the Archangel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God (Luke 1: 26–38).
The Annunciation is one of the most popular subjects of Christian art; the oldest known image dates back to the 4th century and is to be found in the Catacombs of Priscilla.
The main protagonists in this sacred drama are Mary, the Archangel Gabriel, the Holy Spirit (which takes the form of a dove) and, more often than not, God the Father. On very rare occasions the dove is replaced by a flying, cross-carrying homunculus, as can be seen in a badly-damaged fresco in the portico of the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere (see below).
March 25th, rather than January 1st, once marked the start of the New Year in many countries, including England (until 1752) where the feast of the Annunciation came to be known as Lady Day.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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