Anna (grace, favour) and Joachim (the Lord will establish), Sts. (first century) In Christian legend, parents of the Virgin Mary. Feasts, 26 July for Anna and 20 March for Joachim. Neither Anna nor Joachim is mentioned in the New Testament.
Their legend is found in various early apocryphal writings that circulated within the early Church. One of the major sources is The Gospel of the Birth of Mary, once ascribed to St. Matthew and translated from Greek into Latin in the fourth century by St. Jerome. Joachim was from Nazareth and Anna from Bethlehem; both were of the royal house of King David. The couple was rich but also childless. One day, when Joachim brought his offering to the temple, it was refused by the high priest, Issachar, because Joachim had no children.
Joachim was afraid to return home, but an angel appeared to him telling him he would be a father. Afterward the angel appeared to Anna, his wife, saying:
“Fear not, neither think that which you see is a spirit. For I am that angel who hath offered up your prayers and alms before God, and now sent to you, that I may inform you, a daughter will be born unto you, who shall be called Mary, and shall be blessed above all women.”
As foretold by the angel, the two met at the Golden Gate. Anna embraced her husband, “hanging about his neck,” according to another apocryphal account, The Protevangelion. She said,
“Now I know that the Lord had greatly blessed me. For behold, I who was a widow am no longer a widow, and I who was barren shall conceive.”
Then they returned home together. Anna gave birth to a girl, who was called Mary, which in Hebrew is Miriam. The Franciscans were not satisfied with the apocryphal accounts of Mary’s birth and added to the legend. They believed that Mary was conceived when Anna and Joachim kissed at the Golden Gate in Jerusalem. This part of the legend is one of the most popular subjects in Christian art.
The whole legend forms part of a series of frescoes done by Giotto. St. Anna is one of the most popular saints in the Roman Catholic church. About 550 the emperor Justinian I built a church in her honor at Constantinople, and her relics were removed there from Palestine in 710.
Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow – Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante