Mary’s Birth (First Bath): The West Capital Frieze at Chartres (4)

Birth is often shown in medieval images as a small person being given their first bath. The newborn Mary was sculpted as a small child being washed by two people on either side of tub. Birth is messy. When I start something new, or get involved in other types of birthing, it is helpful to remember that relying on others to help is not only wise, it’s actually necessary.

Mary's first bath, West Capital Frieze by Jill K H Geoffrion

My Prayer

For those who are willing to help during moments of creativity, I give thanks.

Scriptural Touchstone: 

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born… Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a (NRSV)

Invitation to Pray:

Mary's first bath, West Capital Frieze by Jill K H Geoffrion

What are you in the process of birthing? Whose help do you need? 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. The scene of Mary’s birth/first bath is found on the left side of the second rounded capital next to the left central door. You can see it to the left of the middle 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.

Mary's First Bath
Mary’s Birth/First Bath in the Life of Mary Window

Other posts in this series on the sculptures of the west capital frieze:

(1) The Pain of Infertility
(2) Needing To Think These Over
(3) When Things Change

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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