Religion in Poggioreale: Saint Anna, Holy Mother


Saint Anna, Holy Mother

Saint Anna, Holy Mother, has a very extensive following, especially in Sicily: she is the patron saint of childbirth. Children are commonly told how she passes through the vineyards, colors the bunches of grapes and makes the grapes mature.

Dante contemplates her in heaven and described her ecstasy before the glorious throne of the Madonna:

tanto contenta di veder sua Figlia che non muove occhio per cantare “Osanna” [So content was she to see her Daughter that she didn’t move an eye for singing “Hosanna”.]

Mi rallegru, S. Anna mia, chi siti nanna di Gesii Vera Matri di Maria. Mi rallegru, S. Anna mia
Vicchiaredda furtunanta E, di I’ancilu avvisata, Parturistivu Maria, Mi rallegru s. Anna mia.

I am elated, my St. Anne,
Grandmother of Jesus

Real mother of Mary.
I am elated, my St. Anne.

Fortunate old woman
and, as the Angel foretold,

You gave birth to Mary,
I am elated, my St. Anne.

Translation: Annette Chiappetta Rovello.


Mothers invoke her, calling her the “Beddra Matri S. Anna”; they give her the title of Maria Santissima, who is the greatest Mother of all. It is all good faith of our Poggiorealese mothers, who all bow before the beautiful Maternity of She who was the Mother of the Mother of God.



Background on Saint Anna, Holy Mother

(Source: Wikipedia contributors. (2019, June 6). Saint Anne. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:34, June 9, 2019, from

According to some Christian and Islamic tradition, Saint Anne was the mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus. Mary’s mother is not named in the canonical gospels nor in the Qur’an. In writing, Anne’s name and that of her husband Joachim come only from New Testament apocrypha, of which the Gospel of James (written perhaps around 150) seems to be the earliest that mentions them.

Church tradition

The story bears a similarity to that of the birth of Samuel, whose mother Hannah (“favour, grace”; etymologically the same name as Anne) had also been childless. Although Anne receives little attention in the Latin Church prior to the late 12th century, dedications to Anne in Eastern Christianity occur as early as the 6th century. In the Eastern Orthodox Churches and Eastern Catholic Churches, she is revered as Hannah. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Hannah is ascribed the title Forebear of God, and both the Nativity of Mary and the Presentation of Mary are celebrated as two of the twelve Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church. The Dormition of Hannah is also a minor feast in Eastern Christianity. In Lutheran Protestantism, it is held that Martin Luther chose to enter religious life as an Augustinian friar after crying out to St. Anne while endangered by lightning.


Although the canonical books of the New Testament never mention the mother of the Virgin Mary, traditions about her family, childhood, education, and eventual betrothal to Joseph developed very early in the history of the church. The oldest and most influential source for these is the apocryphal Gospel of James, first written in Koine Greek around the middle of the second century AD. In the West, the Gospel of James fell under a cloud in the fourth and fifth centuries when it was accused of “absurdities” by Jerome and condemned as untrustworthy by Pope Damasus I, Pope Innocent I, and Pope Gelasius I.

Ancient belief, attested to by a sermon of John of Damascus, was that Anne married once. In the Late Middle Ages, legend held that Anne was married three times first to Joachim, then to Clopas and finally to a man named Solomas and that each marriage produced one daughter: Mary, mother of Jesus, Mary of Clopas, and Mary Salome, respectively. The sister of Saint Anne was Sobe, mother of Elizabeth.

Similarly, in the 4th century and then much later in the 15th century, a belief arose that Mary was born of Anne by virgin birth, preserving Anne’s body and soul intact as distinct from the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception that preserved her daughter’s body and soul intact and sinless from the first moment of existence. Adherents included the 16th-century Lutheran mystic Valentin Weigel, who claimed Anne conceived Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit rather than conventional conjugal relations. This belief was condemned as an error by the Catholic Church in 1677. In the fifteenth century, the Catholic cleric Johann Eck related in a sermon that St Anne’s parents were named Stollanus and Emerentia. The Catholic Encyclopedia (1907) regards this genealogy as spurious.


The earliest pictorial sign of her veneration in the West is an 8th-century fresco in the church of Santa Maria Antiqua, Rome.

Virginia Nixon sees an economic incentive in the local promotion of the cult of St. Anne in order to attract pilgrims. The identification of Sepphoris as the birthplace of Mary may reflect competition with a similar site in Jerusalem. A shrine at Douai, in northern France, was one of the early centers of devotion to St. Anne in the West.

Two well-known shrines to St. Anne are that of Ste. Anne d’Auray in Brittany, France; and that of Ste. Anne de Beaupru near the city of Quebec. The number of visitors to the Basilica of Ste. Anne de Beaupru is greatest on St Anne’s Feast Day, 26 July, and the Sunday before Nativity of the Virgin Mary, 8 September. In 1892, Pope Leo XIII sent a relic of St Anne to the church.

In the Maltese language, the Milky Way galaxy is called It-Triq ta’ Sant’Anna, literally “The Way of St. Anne”.


The supposed relics of St. Anne were brought from the Holy Land to Constantinople in 710 and were kept there in the church of St. Sophia as late as 1333.


The Church of Saint Anne in Beit Guvrin National Park was built by the Byzantines and the Crusaders in the 12th century, known in Arabic as Khirbet (lit. “ruin”) Sandahanna, the mound of Maresha being called Tell Sandahanna.

Saint Anne is patroness of unmarried women, housewives, women in labor or who want to be pregnant, grandmothers, educators and teachers. She is also a patroness of horseback riders, cabinet-makers and miners. As the mother of Mary, this devotion to Saint Anne as the patron of miners arises from the medieval comparison between Mary and Christ and the precious metals silver and gold. Anne’s womb was considered the source from which these precious metals were mined. Saint Anne is also said to be a patron saint of sailors and a protector from storms.

She is also the patron saint of: Brittany (France), Chinandega (Nicaragua), the Mi’kmaq people of Canada, Castelbuono (Sicily), Quebec (Canada), Santa Ana (California), Norwich (Connecticut), Detroit (Michigan), Adjuntas (Puerto Rico), Santa Ana and Jucuarun (El Salvador), Berlin (New Hampshire), Santa Ana Pueblo, Seama, and Taos (New Mexico), Chiclana de la Frontera, Marsaskala, Tudela and Fasnia (Spain),Town of Sta Ana Province of Pampanga, Hagonoy, Santa Ana, Taguig City, Saint Anne Shrine, Malicboy, Pagbilao and Quezon (Philippines), Santana (Brazil), Saint Anne (Illinois), Sainte Anne Island, Baie Sainte Anne and Praslin Island (Seychelles), Bukit Mertajam and Port Klang (Malaysia), and South Vietnam. The parish church of Vatican City is Sant’Anna dei Palafrenieri. There is a shrine dedicated to Saint Anne in the Woods in Bristol, United Kingdom.


The subject of Joachim and Anne The Meeting at the Golden Gate was a regular component of artistic cycles of the Life of the Virgin. The couple meet at the Golden Gate of Jerusalem and embrace. They are aware of Anne’s pregnancy, of which they have been separately informed by an archangel. This moment stood for the conception of Mary, and the feast was celebrated on the same day as the Immaculate Conception. Artworks representing the Golden Gate and the events leading up to it were influenced by the narrative in the widely read Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine. The Birth of Mary, the Presentation of Mary and the Marriage of the Virgin were usual components of cycles of the Life of the Virgin in which Anne is normally shown here.

Her emblem is a door. She is often portrayed wearing red and green, representing love and life.

Anne is never shown as present at the Nativity of Christ, but is frequently shown with the infant Christ in various subjects. She is sometimes believed to be depicted in scenes of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple and the Circumcision of Christ, but in the former case, this likely reflects a misidentification through confusion with Anna the Prophetess. There was a tradition that Anne went (separately) to Egypt and rejoined the Holy Family after their Flight to Egypt. Anne is not seen with the adult Christ, so was regarded as having died during the youth of Jesus. Anne is also shown as the matriarch of the Holy Kinship, the extended family of Jesus, a popular subject in late medieval Germany; some versions of these pictorial and sculptural depictions include Emerentia who was reputed in the 15th Century to be Anne’s mother. In modern devotions, Anne and her husband are invoked for protection for the unborn.

Virgin and Child with Saint Anne

The role of the Messiah’s grandparents in salvation history was commonly depicted in early medieval devotional art in a vertical double-Madonna arrangement known as the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne.

[This webpage is excerpted from the book: “The History of Poggioreale, Sicily – From 1640 to 1956.” Originally written in Italian by: Canonico Dottore Francesco Aloisio in 1956. Adapted and translated by: Dr. Jeremiah P. Spence, Ph.D. of Austin, Texas. 5th Edition. International Order of Genealogists Publishing. Ireland. 2019. ISBN: 9781072403371. The book can be purchased online at: ]