Advent, Day 3: Womb

LOOK: Pregnant Madonna, 9th century, fresco, crypt of Santa Prassede, Rome

The Madonna del Parto (Our Lady of Parturition) is an iconic depiction of the Virgin Mary as pregnant, usually pointing to or cradling her belly, where God is being made flesh. The ninth-century fresco in the crypt of Santa Prassede in Rome is the earliest known depiction of a visibly pregnant Mary. I believe she is flanked by saints Praxedes (Italian Prassede) and Pudentiana (Italian Pudenziana), sisters and martyrs, since the painting is from a chamber that contains their relics. In the most famous Madonna del Parto image, however—by Piero della Francesca, ca. 1457—Mary is attended by two angels.

LISTEN: “In the Virgin’s Womb” by Kaitlyn Ferry | Performed by Sister Sinjin (Kaitlyn Ferry and Elise Erikson Barrett), on Incarnation (2016, re-released 2019)

In the Virgin’s womb He lay;
God made flesh, the mortal babe.
In her body she has held
That which heav’n cannot contain.

In the Virgin’s womb He lay;
Born to die, His flesh a grave.
In her arms she has held
He whom death could not hold down.


For each day of the first week of Advent I am publishing one art-and-song pairing as an invitation for seasonal reflection.