Just like we don’t know what Jesus looked like, we don’t know what His mother Mary looked like either.
[See also: 6 of the Oldest Images of Our Lord Jesus Christ]
Not counting the many, many images that people claim were painted by St. Luke, the earliest image we have of Mary is from the 2nd century, and you can’t exactly make out the details of her face (see the first image below).
In any case, it’s still fascinating to see how Christians depicted Mary in the first few centuries of the faith. Pay attention to who she’s almost always depicted with…
1) Madonna and Child in the Catacombs – 2nd century
Located in the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome, Mary appears to be nursing the infant Jesus on her lap. It is dated to around A.D. 150.
2) Madonna and Child With the Magi Bringing Him Gifts – 3rd century
This is a picture of a cast of a sarcophagus that is in the Vatican museums. It shows the scene of the magi adoring the Christ child, who is held by his mother Mary. It is dated to the 3rd century.
3) Protectress of the Roman People – 5th century
The oldest and most important image of Our Lady in Rome, legend has it that it was one of the many icons painted by St. Luke, though historians date its original composition to the 5th century.
4) Madonna and Child Enthroned Among the Angels and Saints – 6th century
This image can be found at St. Catherine’s Monastery near Mt. Sinai and is dated to the 6th century. Around Mary and Jesus are St. Theodor of Amasea, St. George, and two angels. Notice also the hand at the top of the image (God the Father?).
5) A Nativity Icon – 7th century
This is another icon found at the monastery at Mt. Sinai, and it is dated to the 7th century.
6) Agiosoritissa (Mother of God) – 7th century
Originally from Constantinople, this 7th century icon is currently kept at the Santa Maria del Rosario a Monte Mario in Rome.
7) Cover of Copy of the Gospels – 8th-9th century
This is the ivory cover of a copy of the Gospels created in Germany in the late 8th and early 9th century.
8) Madonna and Child Icon – 9th century
This icon is currently kept in the Art Museum of Georgia (the country), and is dated to the 9th century.
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