The Portrayal of Joseph in Nicola Pisano’s Nativity Panels in the Pulpit in the Baptistry of Pisa

Panel from the Baptistry of Pisa: the Annunciation to Mary (Mary in the center with Gabriel to the top right of her), the Nativity (center-right), the Annunciation to the Shepherds (top and bottom right), and the Bathing of the Christ child (bottom-center left) all together.

Nicola Pisano created six marble panels in his pulpit in the Baptistry of Pisa in 1260. Three of the panels represent several different events recorded in the canonic accounts of the nativity and childhood of Jesus found in the first two chapters of the gospels of Matthew and Luke as well as one event referenced in later apocryphal narratives.

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Reflecting on the role and perception of Joseph the Carpenter in Western Society: Some Initial Thoughts

While it is tempting to approach the topic of Joseph the Carpenter as the distinguished scholar Jaroslav Pelikan approached the topics of Jesus Through the Centuries and Mary Through the Centuries, and “present, in roughly chronological order, a series of distinct but related vignettes … both in their continuity and in their development …,” such an approach to this subject would be more problematic than helpful because, unlike Jesus and Mary, Joseph has been, curiously, largely, ignored by both the worlds of academic scholarship and the Christian church. It would also be more problematic since (unlike Pelikan) I do intend to reflect on both who Joseph was understood to be according to the earliest Christians as well as (like Pelikan) who he has “been experienced and understood to be …” in later Christian thought and art. 

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