Tuesday, November 18, 2014

St. Joseph the Elderly

Elsewhere we have talked about the the strange turn in devotion to St Joseph that planted seeds in the Renaissance and which sprang to life during the 19th century. Statues and devotional art now often depict St. Joseph as an effete, lanky 25 year old man with a pre-maturely receding hairline and a flower (or working tools for Giuseppe Comunista). Tradition attests that he was an older man, widowed, and already with children when he took Our Lady into his abode and became Our Lord's earthly guardian. The above is a mosaic saved from the original St. Peter's Basilica. It resided on the wall of the Marian chapel built in the back of the nave by Pope John VII c.700. The image is consistent with the Eastern traditions, the proto-gospel of James, and the Latin tradition.

St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church, pray for us!


  1. This appears to be an image of St. Joseph undergoing the temptation to doubt Mary's integrity. The bodily posture is identical to the one he is given in eastern icons of the Nativity, wherein he is tempted by the Devil under the guise of an old, ragged man (e.g., http://sainteliaschurch.blogspot.com/2011/12/symbolisms-of-orthodox-icon-of-nativity.html). He is unsure if his wife's offspring is of God or if he has been cuckolded. This doubt is also the source of dramatic tension in the medieval mystery plays, where it is presented humorously.

    One could title this icon "Doubting St. Joseph." It's quite a different tradition from the fabricated beliefs our spiritual writers posit today.

  2. The Transalpine Redemptorists sports an image of the elderly St. Joseph in Christchurch, NZ: http://papastronsay.blogspot.se/2014/09/phase-two-completed.html

    Best regards,