Marriage, Annunciation, and Visitation
This second sequence of sculpture on the choir screen, starting at the western end of the south ambulatory, is the work of Jehan Soulas from 1520-1535. Sculpted from the hard limestone from the Tonnerre quarry, they consist of scenes from the Gospel of James, depicting the marriage of the Virgin Mary to Joseph, the annunciation, and the visitation.
In the above image the fourteen year old Mary is being married to Joseph by the high priest. Jewish custom treats marriage as a civil not a religious act and the ceremony was not usually performed within the temple. All that is required is two witnesses, which in this scene stand behind Joseph. The witness in the foreground carries a wooden staff, which signifies a rejected suitor. Soulas has sculpted Joseph with the features of François I of France, who had recently become king.1
In this tableaux the Virgin Mary is interrupted from reading a book which she places on the table, and turns to listen to the archangel Gabriel announce that she is to bear the Son of God.1 Gabriel is given an animated pose of an orator, he holds a staff in his left hand, between the two is a vase with a lily. A similar scene is render in stained glass in the lower ambulatory window nearby.
Mary visits her older cousin Elizabeth who is visibly pregnant with John the Baptist.1 As they greet each other an angel is standing behind them. Mary, wearing a rose embroidered coat has brought along a companion, either Mary Cleophas or Mary Salome, who is carrying a leather bound book.