Mary was a Jewish woman who lived 2000 years ago in Palestine, which was then part of the Roman Empire. She was the daughter of Anne and Joachim. Her miraculous life is recounted in the New Testament of the Bible. An angel visited Mary announcing that she would bear a child through divine intervention (without having intercourse). That child would become the Messiah, or saviour, of mankind. And so it came to pass. Mary and her husband Joseph, a carpenter, travelled to his native Bethlehem for a census that had been ordered by the Roman emperor Augustus. There, Mary gave birth to her son in a stable and named him Jesus. According to the Bible, Mary was present at several key events in Jesus’ life, such as the Presentation in the Temple, the Marriage at Cana and the Crucifixion. Countless stories exist about her own life. Late medieval artists were keen to depict all of them and so met the demands of the growing veneration of the Virgin. Believers often prayed to independent images of the Virgin with the Christ Child on her lap, so-called ‘Madonnas’ (from the Italian mia donna, ‘my lady’).