Fra Angelico’s ANNUNCIATION QUATERNITY: The Three Temptations of Christ – An Esoteric Commentary


FRA ANGELICO’S ANNUNCIATION QUATERNITY: The Three Temptations of Christ – An Esoteric Commentary

by William John Meegan


I was revisiting CG Jung’s work, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious; though, I do not completely agree with all of his ideas concerning the Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious; nonetheless, his works sparks the imagination.  In reading CG Jung’s works (pc Kindle Edition) it affords me the opportunity to highlight the areas in which I appreciate or disagree and write endless commentary throughout (for personal use – for such meditative writings helps clarify my thoughts).  My disagreement with CG Jung’s work is mainly because he was a pioneer in his chosen profession and more or less lisped his way through his research, which of course was revolutionary in his day.  Jung was not able to fully articulate his ideas, because he could not clearly comprehend how they actually generically permeates the human psyche[1], in those early stages of his research; however, having said that he was and still is light years ahead of modernity. In this paper I will give an example of his pioneer work in relations to what has taken more than a century to understand from his writings.

Discovering Fra Angelico’s Annunciation Quaternity was the outcome of my research into an interesting remark made by CG Jung in his work relating to a patient’s neurosis.  In the course of my online research in quest of medieval artworks that coincided with Jung’s statements on this point I came across Fra Angelico’s Annunciation Prado fresco and in doing so I found that he had frescoed altogether a quaternity of these annunciations frescos none of them were identical and they were obviously, at least to me, a time-lapse series.  It was known in past times that three of these annunciation frescoes was a series but in which order they were frescoed seems to be ambiguous; however, as the reader will see I came to the same conclusions as others for altogether different reason: i.e. obvious to myself.  The Annunciation of Cortona (first in the series) is a fresco altarpiece painted by Fra Angelico and is kept in the Diocesan Museum of Cortona, which is an adjacent building to the Church of Jesus. The Annunciation of San Giovanni Valdarno (second in the series) is a fresco altarpiece painted by Fra Angelico kept in the Museum of the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie in San Giovanni Valdarno. The Annunciation Prado (third in the series) is a fresco altarpiece painted by Fra Angelico, produced for the Convent of San Domenico in Fiesole where he resided as a monk.  This annunciation fresco is now in the museum of Prado in Madrid.  The fourth and last annunciation scene in the overall series is not an altarpiece; rather, it is a wall mural housed in the Monastery of San Marco: Annunciation San Marco.

I have gone through all this above to demonstrate the obvious reasons why what is about to be discussed below was not discovered previously in Fra Angelico’s work.  The first three altarpieces were frescoed in the Convent of San Domenico where as a monk Fra Angelico conceived his plan for the Annunciation Quaternity.  If the first three annunciations scenes (three altarpieces) were put side by side, it would have been a bit too overt for the laity not to have appreciated the answer to their mysteries almost immediately if they had any kind of knowledge of symbolism.  This is why I believe that it could be said that there were commissions for the other two altarpieces from the two other Dominican establishments that house those altarpieces, which are located in two different cities other than Fiesole where Fra Angelico resided as a monk.  The idea of receiving spirituality comes through one’s own efforts, through a one on one relationship with God, not via the auspices of being spoon-fed by a fellowship.

The fourth fresco scene: the Annunciation San Marco is somewhat problematic for a number of reasons; nonetheless, it is part of the series and I am sure the reader will agree with me by the time this paper if completed.  First of all Fra Angelico was finished frescoing the walls of the Convent of San Domenico and his work was now being made for other Dominican churches and monasteries.  I proffer the hypothesis that the Dominican monks of the Convent of San Domenico were transferred to the Convent of San Marco in order to fresco its walls.  This move of the entire Dominican friars from one monastery to another separated, in the minds of art historians, the frescoing of the first three scenes in the annunciation series as altarpieces at the Convent of San Domenico from the wall mural of the annunciation scene lost, in the minds of the art historians, in the milieu of all the other frescoes painted on the walls throughout the Convent of San Marco.  There was literally no reason that the laity and/or art historians would have connected the annunciation scene frescoed at San Marco with the three other annunciation altarpieces.

One of the keys to Fra Angelico’s Annunciation Quaternity is that he was commemorating the Major and Minor Hours of a monk praying throughout the night and day, which is a play off the Earth’s Terminator.  From DARKNESS to LIGHT the Major Hours are Vespers (sunset), Matins (nocturnal) and Lauds (dawn or just prior to sunrise) and the Little Hours (Minor Hours) symbolizes the fourfold cycle of prayers during the day: 1st, 3rd, 6th and 9th hours beginning at 6am to 3pm.  The first three Annunciation frescoes illustrates the prayer cycle conducted during nighttime hours (the beginning of the biblical day); whereas, the fourth fresco painted on a wall in San Marco symbolizes the prayer cycle conducted during the daytime hours.

A second key to Fra Angelico’s Annunciation Quaternity is that the first three frescoes represent the three temptations of Christ and the fourth fresco represents Christ’s victory over Satan in the wilderness.

A third key involve a detail discussion of the basic floor plan of the building: i.e. Solomon’s Temple in the round that Fra Angelico inserts his artistic commentary concerning the monk’s 24-hour prayer cycle and the temptations that a monk endures (in the process of building his personal psychic temple), which are analogous to the three temptations of Christ.

A fourth and very interesting key to this cycle of Fra Angelico annunciation frescoes concerns each of them representing a different gospel of the New Testament in addition to each of the frescoes representing one of the four mystic elements: Earth, Air, Water and Fire; thus, Fra Angelico Annunciation Quaternity collectively symbolically represents: BERESHITH (first word of Genesis), which symbolizes the dawn of creation, which can only come into being in the heart of the novice upon the birth of the Christ Child. 


As I was reading paragraphs 103-110 in CG Jung’s work, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, I became very interested in his passing reference (he gave no footnotes) to there being medieval works depicting evidence that illustrated similarities to that which he had recorded concerning the rambling hallucinations of a patient.  Jung gave this example ‘of his (analytical) methods in the simplest possible way’.  Jung further explained that the incident had previously been published[2].

Jung describes his patient’s fantasy, “he (patient) thought that he was God and Christ in one person”.  This patient was looking out a window one day (in 1906) and invited Jung over to see his vision, which Jung could not of course visualize.  Pointing towards the sun the patient asked Jung if he could see the sun’s penis, which the patient described was the origins of the wind.  Jung had no idea what his patient was seeing; however, he recorded the incident.  Jung literally says he knew nothing of mythology or archeology at the time of this incident; however, some four years later in his mythological studies he came across a work by Albrecht Dieterich[3] concerning a Mithraic ritual.

“Draw breath from the rays, draw in three times as strongly as you can and you will feel yourself raised up and walking towards the height, and you will seem to be in the middle of the aerial region.… The path of the visible gods will appear through the disc of the sun, who is God my father. Likewise the so-called tube, the origin of the ministering wind. For you will see hanging down from the disc of the sun something that looks like a tube. And towards the regions westward it is as though there were an infinite east wind. But if the other wind should prevail towards the regions of the east, you will in like manner see the vision veering in that direction[4].”

Jung goes on to say that there is in medieval art images depicting the Holy Spirit coming down a tube from God towards Mary. He argues (pars 108-109) that the patient was not likely to have known of these rare artworks.

“Now there are, as a matter of fact, medieval paintings that depict the fructification of Mary with a tube or hose-pipe coming down from the throne of God and passing into her body, and we can see the dove or the Christ-child flying down it. The dove represents the fructifying agent, the wind of the Holy Ghost[5].” 

“Now it is quite out of the question that the patient could have had any knowledge whatever of a Greek papyrus published four years later, and it is in the highest degree unlikely that his vision had anything to do with the rare medieval representations of the Conception, even if through some incredibly improbable chance he had ever seen a copy of such a painting . The patient was certified in his early twenties. He had never travelled. And there is no such picture in the public art gallery in Zurich, his native town[6].” 

These passages in Jung’s work got my attention and I wanted to see for myself exactly what CG Jung was talking about.  As I searched the Internet  for medieval art illustrating this tube coming from the throne of God I came across Fra Angelico’s fresco on the Annunciation (Prado), which is said to be the last in a series of three of the Annunciation scenes that he had frescoed.  The first two are the Annunciation of Cortonaand the Annunciation of San Giovanni Valdarno; however, the Annunciation (Prado) is frescoed with lighter colors in contrast to the other two.  This is the only one of the three that has a dove flying down a shaft (tube?) of light.   It is interesting that the Annunciation of Cortona has the Angel Gabriel breathing[7] on the Virgin Mary, which may have been the initial idea of Mary’s conceiving the Christ Child; whereas, the Annunciation of San Giovanni Valdarno has neither the breath from the angel nor the shaft of light from the sun. Both the Annunciation of Cortona and the Annunciation of San Giovanni Valdarno depict the dove hovering above the head of Mary and more to the rear of the room; whereas, in the Annunciation (Prado), strangely enough, a magpie[8] is sitting on a crossbar above and to the front of Mary’s head.  The magpie is said to be a symbol that was used in redemption scenes.  There is the image of a magpie sitting on a leafless tree: seeChrist Is Born as Man’s Redeemer (Episode from the Story of the Redemption of Man).  Here I see the magpie in the Annunciation (Prado) taking the place of the darkness that pervades the other two renditions of the Annunciation.  The magpie represents the fall of man depicted in all three frescoes as Adam and Eve expelled from the Garden of Eden.  Mary being the new Eve; however, I am not so sure about the angel, which is supposed to be Gabriel.  What makes me doubt that this depiction of an angel is Gabriel is the fact that Fra Angelico has the hands of the angel and Mary diametrically in reverse of each other.  Add to this the fact that the Holy Spirit in the form of the dove is in all three frescos and the question can be asked, why have both the image of the dove and that of the angel, which is supposed to be the harbinger of the Holy Spirit, in the same fresco scene?  Of course I see the temple that Mary sits in as the new Garden of Eden, which would by necessity have both serpents in this new Garden of Eden as was in the old one. Symbolically, it can be question as to whether the angel was one serpent and the dove the other serpent?


At least for me these three versions of the Annunciation go hand in hand because they were frescoed as a set; for the reason that, Fra Angelico uses different symbols throughout the series to express the same idea developing spirituality consecutively in an instantaneous mode.  There is so much symbolism compacted into each of the frescos that it would be difficult for anyone to discern that these fresco represent an instantaneous vision: from DARKNESS into LIGHT.  Each of these frescos are said to have been commissioned for three different Dominican establishments (at least that is the religious mythos handed down concerning them).  The Internet provides the initiate with the ability to study these three frescoes side by side.

Each of Fra Angelico’s Annunciation frescos altarpieces depicts a different period of the nighttime hours.  Being that Fra Angelico is a monk he is apparently depicting the nighttime cycle of prayer – the Majors Hours of Prayer: Vespers (sunset: evening hours), Matins (nocturnal hours) and Lauds (dawn: morning hours).  Here it can easily be envisaged how the Earth’s Terminator is being used to schedule the hours of prayer: from sunset to dawn.



The Annunciation of Cortona depicts such darkness as to indicate that period of night right after sunset.  There is neither moonlight nor sunlight.  I want to draw the reader’s attention in particular to the backroom’s window in the other three annunciation frescoes.  In the Annunciation of Cortona there is no light whatsoever coming out of that room; however, the light coming from that room is emitted from the angel and Mary reflecting.  No window can be seen in that backroom.  Look at Adam and Eve in the far background in the upper left-hand corner of the fresco.  Also notice at the feet of the angel there is no cloud indicating that the angel did not come from heaven; however, there is a dust cloud in the back portion of the room on the right side of the Virgin Mary.


The Annunciation of Valdarno depict the nocturnal hours illustrating moonlight piercing the darkness.  In fact the moon; though, it cannot be seen casts it’s light on the backroom’s windowsill and shows a great deal of a bench in that backroom. Notice at the feet of the angel there is a cloud, which encompasses her feet, indicating that she is from that heaven orb.  Both the angel’s and Mary’s clothing’s colors are much lighter than the previous fresco.  It is as if the Angel is transmogrifying from one image to another in proportion to Mary’s countenance changing.  Adam and Eve depicted in the background of the fresco is much closer to the temple.


The Annunciation of Prado depicts the morning hour just before sunrise.  The temple that Mary sits in is fully lit by the effects of the day light, which takes place before the sun rises.  Again the angel’s and Mary’s clothing are much lighter than the previous two fresco scenes.  This fresco symbolizes the split second prior to Mary being impregnated by the Holy Spirit.  The sun’s light had not yet reached Mary’s body.  The fact that the Holy Spirit had not yet reached Mary, to impregnate her, indicates that sunrise had not yet transpired at that split second before it reached her person.  Mary in this fresco had not yet conceived the Christ Child.


The Annunciation San Marco symbolizes the collective cycle of prayers called Little Hours.  These are called ‘Little Hours’ due to their shorter and simpler structure compared to the Nighttime Hours. Traditionally, these times of prayer include Prime (First Hour), at 6 a.m., Terce (Third Hour) at 9 a.m., Sext (Sixth Hour) at noontime, and None (Ninth Hour) at 3 p.m.  This annunciation fresco does depict the conception of the Christ Child.


There is much to observe in this and the other frescoes.  Note that in the Annunciation of Cortona the temple that Mary is portrayed is the new Garden of Eden but is somewhat wide-open to the surrounding area as if anybody and any thought can encroach upon one’s privacy: a key idea to this entire fresco series.


Look at the age of the Virgin Mary in contrast to the other three frescoes.  Here Fra Angelico is illustrating the life of a monk by aging the appearance of the Virgin Mary in this time lapse annunciation series.  This first fresco of the annunciation series is of a very young novice portrayed in the image of the Virgin Mary compared to the other images of the Virgin Mary in the other three frescoes.  Notice the gaiety of the clothing of the angel and Mary in this fresco in comparison to the other frescoes.

Here in this fresco series Fra Angelico is symbolically portraying the entire prayerful life cycle of a monk by paralleling the nighttime prayer cycle to the entire lifespan of a monk in prayer.  Notice the bench that Mary is sitting on.  It has enumerable cyclic patterns designed into it.  It is as if the novice is in search of patterns and the names of God.  Also notice that there is a prayer rug beneath Mary’s feet.  The bench Mary sits on has a pattern of circle that goes six across and twelve down totally seventy-two inferring the 72-names of God.  Also the bench and the rug beneath Mary’s feet take up the portion of the room that seems to be her personal cell (space): see Kamea of Saturn #1.

The angel does not appear in the temple spontaneously; rather, she is wafts into the temple from outside indicating that all is not quite as it seems; however, the angel throughout the series always stays within this particular cell: see Kamea of Saturn #8.


To illustrate that Fra Angelico knew of the Kamea of Saturn I have place another image below with nine fresco scenes in it, which is painted on a wall in San Marco of Florence.  I did not add this jpeg to this paper to discuss the images in it (thought apropos); rather, it is here produced merely to show that Fra Angelico knew of the Kamea of Saturn and its numerical sequence; though, he does reverse the order of the nine digits in it, which is minutely different than that which is depicted in the temple’s architecturally structured into the frescoes of the Annunciation Quaternity (there is a total of eight ways of depicting this same order of numbers 1-9 in sequence from each ordinal direction – obverse and reverse) in the Kamea of Saturn, which produces the Sigil of Saturn).

FrescoSanMarcoThe angel immediately places the novice on the defensive by a critical remark.  The angel’s hands are not in prayer; rather, they are in an accusatory position as if to say to the young novice, portrayed as the Virgin Mary, ‘command that these stones become bread’.

“And after He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, if you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” – Matthew 4:2-3 

The psyche is the wilderness and the tempter is the ego.  The ‘stones’ of course are the letter of the indigenous languages that writes the Word of God in the sacred scriptures.  John Scotus Eriugena, a tenth century homilist, tells us in his homily on the gospel of John: Voice of the Eagle, “Christ’s tomb is Holy Scripture, in which the mysteries of his divinity and humanity are secured by the weight of the letter, just as the tomb is secured by the stone”.  My Interpretation of that statement is if you move the stone of the letter aside you’ll raise Christ from the dead.  The very instant that the Holy Scripture is interpreted correctly (manna from heaven) it vanishes and the novice needs to interpret the Holy Scriptures ad infinitum in order to be in a continuous everlasting one on one relationship with God.

In the backroom no bench is seen; however, a curtain seems to be hanging from a curtain rod dividing that room in two: see Kamea of Saturn #9.  At least this one incident of a curtain shows what the rods are used for; though, they are not used again in that manner in this series of frescoes.

The dove hovering above the head of Mary and to the rear of the room demonstrates that the Holy Spirit is at all times present whether it is known or not: see Kamea of Saturn #5.  The number five represents the Sanctum Sanatorium: Holy of Holies where the Holy Spirit resides.  Take notice that the angel breathing on Mary inferring the ‘Breath of Life’ is also infers disturbing the ‘dust of the earth’: making Adam into his own image before breathing the breath of life into him.  Look at the floor (see cell #5 in the Kamea of Saturn) in the fresco and note the cloud of dust hovering just above the floor.

This magic square: i.e. Kamea of Saturn symbolically represents the schematics in the architectural plans that design every Catholic Church in the world for it represents Solomon’s Temple in the round.  It is the design of this building’s floor plan that shows this novice is not aware of the Holy Spirit’s presents.  This design is in the form of a three by three square called the Kamea of Saturn, which is a magic square.  This paper will be discussing throughout this design pattern relating to the temple that the Virgin Mary is building.

On the left side of the building is three arches; whereas, visually there are two arches in the forefront of the portion of the temple that can be seen in the fresco.  To the right of the Virgin Mary behind her chair a third portion of the temple can be extrapolated.  If the reader enlarges this image looking beyond Mary behind her and to the right it can be seen to represent another unknown part of the room; thus, inferring a building with the pattern of the Kamea of Saturn.  Also to the left of the building it can be seen that the entire building infers and upper floor, which is reminiscence of Pentecostal Sunday in the New Testament’s book of Acts chapter two when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles.  The first three frescoes have the Holy Spirit portrayed in them so the implications of these frescoes symbolizing Pentecostal Sunday is clear.


Here the scene of the annunciation changes entirely.  This annunciation illustrates Matins during the nocturnal hours when the moon is high.  The angel is wafted into the temple, from outside, floating in upon a cloud and her wings are pattern only slightly different than the previous fresco.  Notice that the cloud has encroached upon the premises of the Holy of Holies (Kamea of Saturn #5).


It is as if like the Virgin Mary the dove takes on the persona (attributes) of the angel.   The angel’s and Mary’s clothing are a bit more mature and austere.   Mary’s countenance has aged into a mature woman seemingly in her mid twenties and she is much more somber and sure of herself than the previous fresco. Her prayer rug and bench accruements are replaced with appropriate materials that are more suitable for her age and spiritual growth.  The angel comes at the Virgin Mary in a mirror imaging piety pose not as she did in the last fresco attacking an unsure of herself, novice.

Mary sits in a temple that is of the same design as the previous image; however, the third portion of the temple, which should be to her rear, is not discernible

The back room windowsill is lit with moonlight.  An empty bench is seen in the backroom.  Here I theorize that all eight cells that surround the central Sanctum Sanatorium: Holy of Holies should all be decked with benches but few indeed rise to the occasion of overcoming the Temptations of Christ.  Three of the walls of the four front cells are deck with what would appear to be religious art images.  This last is hypothesized from the knowledge that the monk’s cells in the monastery of San Marco in Florence were frescoed with religious images.  In this annunciation fresco the young Virgin Mary seems to have many images available to her for meditational and contemplative purposes and the second temptation of Christ looms right out at the viewer.  Let me first state that this second temptation would not have developed in the monk’s mind if the first temptation had not been first answered correctly.  There would be no way the novice would be able to advance to the next stage of spirituality.

Then the devil took Him into the holy city; and he had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God throw yourself down. For it is written, He will give His angels charge concerning you, and On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” – Matthew 4:5-6

Adam and Eve appear to be somewhat closer to the temple than the previous image.  The Holy Spirit is of course ever present.  We know it is the temple of God that the Virgin Mary is building in her psyche because between the arches of the temple, that can be seen from the front, is the image of God the Father in all three temptation frescoes.


The mystic circle is about to be closed.  The Holy Spirit flies down the shaft of light that would herald the sunrise in anticipation of Mary consent to bare the Christ Child.  Notice that the entire fresco scene is lit up with the daylight that the dawn brings moments before sunrise even the entire interior of the temple is lit with the exterior light of the dawn.  The operative phrase is ‘exterior light’.  Everything that has been thus far discussed in this paper refers to the forces of nature (Elements: Earth, Air, Water and Fire) that invade our thoughts from outside of the psyche.  The backroom is all lit us and the benches are clearly seen: empty of course.  The window is wide open and the windowsill reflects the sunlight because it reflects the sunlight before the Virgin Mary will receive it.

PradoThis third annunciation scene like the first two wafts the Holy Spirit into the temple via a different mystic element: Fire.  Notice that the cloud on the floor has not quite dissipated, which illustrates that sunrise is merely a moment away.  The first annunciation scene shows Earth (cloud of dust), in the second annunciation the cloud symbolizes the Water element and in this third annunciation scene shows Air the sunlight is conveyed upon; thus, in the span of a twelve hour prayerful period of the night the four mystic elements: Earth, Air, Water and Fire is about to be coalesced in the psyche of the Virgin Mary in her efforts to create the Temple of God.  The novice has grown to the point that she is about to take in the last element of creation.  Fra Angelico Annunciation Quaternity are frescoed to exude these four mystic elements, which are reminiscence of the four gospels of the New Testament by Luke (Bull – Earth), John (Eagle – Water), Matthew (Angel – Air) and Mark (Lion – Fire) respectively.

This Annunciation Prado represents the third temptation of Christ.  Look at the countenance of the Virgin Mary.  She is an old woman tired of the heavy burden of responsibility that the Mother Superior of a convent shoulders.  Of course the third temptation of Christ looms out at the viewer in all its glory.  Look at the regal nature of the Virgin Mary’s clothing and prayer paraphernalia.  Does not this Mother Superior exude the stateliness of holding court?  Again I should say that the monk would have had to have overcome the second temptation before he would be challenged with this one.

“Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory. And he said to Him, All these things will I give you if you fall down and worship me.” – Matthew 4:8-9 

Adam and Eve are further encroaching upon Mary’s temple as if awaiting her to make the same mistake they made.  To augment that idea a magpie sits upon a rod over and in front of Mary.  Is the magpie waiting to pick over her bones so-to-speak if Mary fails this temptation?  The magpie is after all a thief and is in every sense ostracized and excommunicated from the community when he or she is so labeled a magpie, which is a gossiper and an all around thief and someone not to be trusted.  There can be little doubt that the angel wafting into the Virgin Mary’s temple is the same angel that is seen in the background at the top left of this fresco.  It is as if Fra Angelico is saying that the temple of the novice is the Garden of Eden and those thoughts (angels) that the novice allowed in from the outer world are sent by the tempter (Satan: the ego). In this and the other two frescoes Adam and Eve are not in the Garden of Eden; rather, they have been cast out of the garden and are now in the chaos and wilderness of their own minds.


The austerity of this Annunciation San Marco (Saint Mark) fresco epitomizes the austerity of San Marco in Florence where Fra Angelico moved with the rest of the Dominicans monks from the Convent of San Domenico in Fiesole and in every respect epitomizes the austerity of Mark’s Gospel.  It is at this Internet site that it is learned that all the monks’ cells have painted in them a fresco scene by Fra Angelico.

FraAngelico_SanMarcoHere Fra Angelico completes his Annunciation Quaternity masterpiece by closing the mystic circle: i.e. the Virgin Mary has conceived the Christ Child.

In relationship to the other three frescoes representing the three temptations of Christ here in the Annunciation San Marco the Virgin Mary says via her austerity, “get thee behind me, Satan”.

The angel has not wafted into the temple from outside; rather, she is the messenger or manifestation of the Word of God.  No parts of the body, clothing or wings of the angel protrude outside of the temple.  In addition there is a fence ostensibly encircling the entire temple complex keeping out the outer thoughts (riffraff) of the materialistic world.  To augment this idea the backroom window has an iron bars on it, which is a further indication that outside influences are not wanted in this Temple of God.  The angel’s clothing is as austere as the Virgin Mary’s.  Notice that there are no prayer paraphernalia whatsoever: neither bible, rug nor curtain and the bench is more austere than what the other three frescoes depicted. Eight of the cells in this Temple of God that takes its pattern from the Kamea of Saturn, can be envisaged.  The number two (#2), which symbolizes the materialistic world is closed off.  Notice that the image of God the Father no longer adorns the outer façade between the arches.  Here Fra Angelico introduces the concept of the Unknown God that the Virgin Mary is praying to.

Everything in this fresco has sunlight shining on it, which epitomizes the daytime hours, which means that the Minor Hours of prayer are scheduled.  The Virgin Mary cast a vague shadow, which implies that she is still human.  The angel’s wings are of the colors of the rainbow, which is reminiscence of God promise:

“12 And God said, this [is] the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that [is] with you, for perpetual generations: 13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth” (Gen. 9:12-13). 

The rainbow epitomizes the infinite rays (colors: symbolically the deeper thoughts and mysteries of God).  In these two verses of Genesis the four mystic elements: Earth, Air, Water and Fire are inferred working harmoniously.  This would symbolize a full understanding of the gospels in the New Testament.  The Virgin Mary is in the spiritual state of being eternally young.  She is perfect both in body and soul.  The angel’s piety mirror images the Virgin Mary’s inner temple she has psychically build for God to dwell in, with her.

The Temple of God is complete for Christ has cleansed the novice’s temple of all its false gods.  In this Annunciation Quaternity Fra Angelico has the Virgin Mary traveling her own road to Calvary.  When meditating on the four mystic elements in relationship to the symbolism of the four gospels, they represent the four fix signs of Astrology[9]: Taurus (2 – Earth – Luke), Scorpio (8 – Water – John), Aquarius (11 – Air – Matthew) and Leo (5 – Fire – Mark), which forms the Cross of Christ as each monk ritualistically does the sign of the cross in his lifetime vigil to know Christ.

One last thought on this last fresco.  The ego symbolically represents the sun in the outer world.  Fra Angelico demonstrates throughout this fresco series how the ego: i.e. the sun goes from being a pagan god to a spiritual symbol of the risen Christ.  The most difficult part of the entire spiritual quest is for the novice to truly desire to know God, which is nigh unto an impossibility without the aid of God.  It is truly a mystery that the spiritual process takes place, in the heart of a novice, at all.  We all begin as a novice and I for one am awed that God deigned to bestow his love upon me; though, I am a Catholic I’ve never entered a religious order.  God is my only confidant.


The laity, which produces an ocean of unlearned scholars finds it difficult to think of the Virgin Mary (and any revered and/or holy person) as just another novice.  The Virgin Mary symbolizes the novice’s psyche, which never had a spiritual idea come to him or her before.  From a spiritual perspective the novice is truly virginal no matter how much sexual intercourse he or she may have experienced in life.  The word ‘Mary’ is defined as ‘waters’ as is the unconscious mind.  The mere fact that the tempter (Satan: i.e. ego) can come in and impose itself upon the novice’s spiritual meditations shows that something right is happening because the ego’s is simultaneously trying to have psychic spiritual intercourse with the unconscious mind; hence, the bible in Mary’s lap.  The fact that the ego (transmogrified angel) in union with the Virgin Mary rejecting the temptations shows that ego is spiritually growing.

Society has no idea that it thrust upon the convicted criminal the isolation of a monk’s cell: the Garden of Eden.  One man’s heaven is another man’s hell.  If only the prisoner would realize what a gift he or she was given.   How many of the monks actually fail in their attempts, over the years, to give up the materialistic desires of the world?  The failed monks collectively represent the people of Israel that fled the land of Egypt because they saw, as the failed monks did, their duties as slavery; rather, than chores of love in service to God.  Like Adam and Eve the people of Israel (symbolically the failed monks) were cast out into the wilderness of their own thoughts.

I am not here advocating Astrology; though, the novice needs to understand what Astrology Universal Paradigm is all about.  Astrology is taught in the esoteric teachings of the Catholic Church[10], which also teaches the laity esoterically how to create psychically their own Solomon’s Temple in the round.  In addition to these two links to additional information on this subject I would like to augment this paper on Fra Angelico’s Annunciation Quaternity by suggesting that the reader peruse my paper: CLOSING THE CIRCLE OF SPIRITUALITY, which will give the reader more insight as to what transpires in the closing of the Mystic Circle.

In all the great Mystery Schools of the past, including the Catholic Church past and present, the novice has to first have tangible items of his religion such as the bible, rituals, rosary beads, prayer cards, prayer cycles, etc., etc. and the traditions and dogma of their spiritual institutions to start out with in the long and arduous journey up the hill of Calvary.  Along the way these items are all cast aside.  No one else is going to do it, so individually we are left to crucify ourselves.  Fra Angelico had revealed to the Dominican Monks in the monasteries of his order the road to Calvary if they had the eyes to see and ears to hear.

If the reader truly meditates on this commentary it should reveal many of the Catholic Church’s deep mysteries.  This series by Fra Angelico on the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary should reveal to the reader a great deal concerning who Mary and Jesus Christ truly are.  The main trouble that the laity has is the fear of blasphemy and/or sacrilege when it comes to thinking about Mary and the Trinity and the Communion of Saints.  The only sacrilege that truly is offensive to God, when it comes to understanding the truth concerning the teachings of Christ, is not attempting to obtain an understanding of the New Testament.  That is the sin against the Holy Spirit and it is an unforgiveable one until it is rectified. Believe it or not, the novice that attempt to truly understand the New Testament invoke the mercy of God and His spirit will guide that novice from that moment forward.

Remember the truths revealed in this paper have been out there for nigh unto six hundred years, what else is out there?


  • [1] I can make such a statement having independently envisaged a 10 x 10 matrix: Universal Mathematical Matrix: Prima Material (Perennial Matrix) as a commentary on the MONAD, which is derived directly from the psyche as empirical evidence of the Collective Unconscious, which verifies CG Jung’s hypothesis. I am sure if he had known of this matrix in relationship to the psyche he would have said a great deal more about the Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious.  All major religions globally knew of this matrix: I Ching, Tao Te Ching, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Egypt, American Indians, etc., etc…
  • [2] Wandlungen und Symbole der Libido (orig. 1912). [Trans. as Psychology of the Unconscious, 1916. Cf. the revised edition, Symbols of Transformation, pars. 149ff., 223.—EDITORS.]
  • [3] Eine Mithrasliturgie. [As the author (Jung) subsequently learned, the 1910 edition was actually the second, there having been a first edition in 1903. The patient had, however, been committed some years before 1903.—EDITORS.]
  • [4] Jung, C. G. (2014-03-01). Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 9 (Part 1: par 105): Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious: 009 (Kindle Location 1167). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
  • [5] Jung, C. G. (2014-03-01). Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 9 (Part 1: par 108): Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious: 009 (Kindle Location 1167). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
  • [6] Jung, C. G. (2014-03-01). Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 9 (Part 1: par 109): Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious: 009 (Kindle Locations 1189-1193). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.
  • [7] The angel breathing on Mary is reminiscence of Yahweh Elohym breathing into Adam ‘the breath of divine inspiration’ making him a living soul (Gen. 2:7)’.  This was most likely why Fra Angelico frescoed all three annunciation scenes in this manner because the Garden of Eden scene shows Adam and Eve were being expelled from the garden as seen in the background in the left side of each of the three frescoes.  The angel breathing on Mary is also reminiscence of the first and second verses of Genesis.  The first letter of Genesis is BETH, which is inundated and surrounded by the seventeenth letter of the Hebrew coder: i.e. PEI, which is symbolically “MOUTH’, which the breath of God is seen moving over the face of the waters in the second verse of Genesis, which implies it came out of PEI.
  • [8] I am only assuming that this is a magpie based upon other imagery in Christian art.  The magpie was seen as a symbol of a thief, gossiper and all around knave: i.e. a tricky deceitful fellow.
  • [9] This is a difficult idea to convey.  I personally do not believe in prognosticating horoscopes or any such nonsense.  I personally see Astrology as symbolic, linguistic and mathematical tools; yet, when spirituality is achieved Astrology must be cast aside.
  • [10] See my published work: THE SISTINE CHAPEL: A Study in Celestial Cartography, The Secret and the Esoteric Teachings of the Catholic Church,

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Copyright 2014 by William John Meegan


  1. MJ@GT says

    I was looking for an article or a source that mentioned and showed all Fra Angelico’s annunciations. Yours is very usefu. Thank you.

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