Holy clan

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Hans Thomann: Holy Kinship , Memmingen around 1515 ( Bode Museum , Berlin)

Holy clan is a term used in iconography to describe the relatives of Jesus Christ . It is not a family tree , but a family picture. Other such forms of representation of the relatives and the family of Jesus Christ are the Holy Family , the holy walk, the house of Nazareth, Anna self-third and Anna self-fourth, and Anna teaches Mary to read .


Tilman Riemenschneider : The St. Anna and her three husbands , around 1500/1510 ( Bode Museum , Berlin)

Some people of the holy clan are mentioned in the New Testament; others, including the parents of Mary , St. Anna and Joachim, in the Proto-Gospel of James , or they were handed down through the tradition of the Church. Among these traditions is the idea of ​​a so-called trinubium ("three-time marriage") of St. Anna : after the death of her first husband, Joachim , she is said to have entered into a second marriage with Cleopas. It is said of Cleopas that he was a brother of St. Joseph . After Cleopas' death, Anna married Salomas a third time. In each of these marriages, she gave birth to a daughter, whom she named Maria. To distinguish it, the second daughter was nicknamed Cleopas and the third was nicknamed Salome. This tradition is also reflected in an old song that is reproduced in the Legenda aurea of Jacobus de Voragine :

“Anna was a blessed woman,
three Marys gave birth to her body.
She had three husbands for marriage:
Joachim, Cleophas, Salome.
Joseph would give to Mary,
who gave birth to Jesus, our spiritual life.
Alphaeus took the other Mary,
who gave birth to Jacob, Joseph, Simon and Judam.
The third Maria was not abandoned,
she gave birth to Johannem and Jacob the Great from Zebedaeo. "

The tradition of the Trinubium was handed down in the 9th century by Haymo , the bishop of Halberstadt, and was also found in the 15th century in Schedel's world chronicle .

Represented family circle

Husbands, daughters and sons-in-law and grandchildren are depicted around Saint Anne in the motif of the holy clan: Joachim, Cleopas, Salomas, Maria, Joseph, Maria Cleopas, Alphaeus, Maria Salome, Zebedaeus , Simon Zelotes , Judas Thaddäus , Jakobus der The younger ones , Joseph and the Zebedee sons James the Elder and John , a total of 17 people.

According to the Gospel of Luke , Mary went to visit her pregnant cousin Elizabeth . Elisabeth was married to Zacharias , both are parents of John the Baptist . There are further representations, for example in Schedel's World Chronicle of 1493, which include the parents of St. Anne and show 26 people in four generations, but in two pictures:

  1. Great-grandparents: Ysachar and Susann (according to the Legenda Aurea) or Stollanus (according to Johannes Eck ) and Emerentia (according to Johannes Eck and Jadocus Badius )
  2. Grandparents: Anna, Joachim, Cleopas, Salomas, Esmeria, Ephraim
  3. Parents: Maria and Joseph; Maria Cleopas and Alphaeus; Maria Salome and Zebedee ; Elisabeth and Zacharias , Eliud and Emerentia
  4. Children: Jesus Christ, Judas Thaddäus , Simon Zelotes , Joseph the Just, Jacobus minor, Johannes Evangelista , Jacobus major, John the Baptist

The cult of Anne and a sense of family in the late Middle Ages

Altarpiece with a carved representation of the holy clan (1508), Langenzenn

The cult of Anne spread in Germany in the middle of the 15th century. Numerous Anne Brotherhoods and Anne Altars were founded. The motif of Anna herself third became very popular. The bourgeoisie had regained strength after the plague epidemics . The cohesion of a family was valued, and the Holy Family was particularly revered.

In addition, a fundamental interest of society in genealogical constructions can be observed in the late Middle Ages . At this time, one's own identity was often expressed by referring to family relationships; Noble houses, but also the bourgeois upper class, tried to research their ancestry.

Fresco of the holy clan in Loxstedt

The holy clan in Loxstedt with the index of those depicted

In the St. Marien Church in Loxstedt in the district of Cuxhaven there is a very well-preserved depiction of the holy clan. When it was founded in 1371, after the so-called “children's plague”, the church was initially a chapel. When this became a parish church in 1451, it was extended to the east by a choir , over which a holy clan was depicted.

In the middle there is a depiction of Anna the third of herself . The three husbands and son-in-law Josef stand around them. To the right, Maria Salome and Zebedee join with their two sons, to the left we see Maria Cleopas with Alphaeus and her four sons. The 17 people are divided into three groups in families; that makes the picture look very harmonious.

The following people can be seen from left to right:

1. Simon Zelotes
2. Judas Thaddäus
3. Maria Cleophas with 4. Joseph, the righteous in her arms
5. Alphaeus the husband and father with 6. Jacobus minor
7. Cleopas
8. Joachim
9. – 11. Annaselbdritt
12. Salomas
13. Joseph
14. Zebedee
15. his wife Maria Salome with 16. Johannes Evangelist in the arm
17. Jacobus major


  • Werner Esser: The Holy Clan. Studies on a late medieval pictorial theme in Germany and the Netherlands . Dissertation, University of Bonn 1986.
  • Ulrich Euent: Loxstedter Marienttrilogie . Volume 1, Kirchenführer, Cardamina-Verlag, Plaidt 2013.
  • Hartmann Schedel: Weltchronik 1493. Commented by Stephan Füssel. Verlag Taschen, Cologne u. a.
  • Jacobus de Voragine : The Legenda Aurea. Translated from Latin by Richard Benz, 13th edition, Gütersloh 1999.

Web links

Commons : Holy Kinship  - collection of images

Individual evidence

  1. Genoveva Nitz: Anna, bibl. Person. 2) Anna, mother of Mary. In: Walter Kasper (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church . 3. Edition. tape 1 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1993, Sp. 599 .
  2. Emerentia Resource | Learn About, Share and Discuss Emerentia At Popflock.com. Retrieved July 16, 2020 .
  3. Ulrich Euent: Anna Selbdritt and Holy Family. An enigmatic picture from the eve of the Reformation . In: Men from Morgenstern , Heimatbund an Elbe and Weser estuary e. V. (Ed.): Niederdeutsches Heimatblatt . No. 815 . Nordsee-Zeitung GmbH, Bremerhaven November 2017, p. 1–2 ( digitized version [PDF; 6.6 MB ; accessed on July 6, 2019]).