Needing To Think Things Over: The West Capital Frieze at Chartres (2)

After Joachim and Anne left the Temple*, they turn away from each other. Each carries the burden of grief alone.

West Capital Frieze
Joachim and Anne (Mary’s parents) leaving the temple after having had their offering refused

Joachim went back to his sheep in the fields. His despair is obvious. He seems unaware that an angel has appeared and is standing nearby (with a message that will change his life).

West Capital Frieze
Joachim pondering his difficult situation. An angel can be seen on the right.

I find it difficult but important to remember that when things seem the most hopeless, God is very close to me and my broken heart.

My Prayer

Hope, May I never become so lost in my pain that I am incapable of seeing, feeling, sensing, or knowing that You are close by.

Scriptural Touchstone: 

I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD.” I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Lamentations 3:17-20 (NIV)

West Capital Frieze
The isolation and pain of Joachim and Anne.

Invitation to Pray:

What painful situation are you pondering? In the midst of your isolation, would it be helpful to look to see if God is more present than you might have thought?  What prayers are emerging in your body, mind, heart, and imagination? Pray them now.


Small twelfth-century  sculptures (1145) that line the west wall, just above the doorways at the Chartres Cathedral in France. These two scenes are found in the first rounded capital next to the left central door and are found on the right of the photo below.

West Capital Frieze
West capital frieze to the left of the cathedral’s central doorway


*The story of Mary’s parents, Anne and Joachim were told in the Protevangelium of James (an apocryphal gospel written about 145 CE) and the Homilies of the Greek monk Jacobus Kokkinobaphos (12th century). They are found at Chartres in these sculptures and the Life of Mary Window.

Life of Mary window
Joachim receiving the message of Mary’s conception from an angel

Other posts in this series:

(1) The Pain of Infertility


Jill K H Geoffrion

Serving as a contemplative Christian minister and artist by compassionately and creatively inspiring others to seek a deeper relationship with God and a more meaningful life of service.


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