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Marriage at Cana

jesus water wine art

the Gospel of *Johndescribes, as the first *miracle performed by Jesus, his transformation of water into wine at a wedding feast in the town of Cana. Jesus, his mother *Mary, and several disciples were among the guests. When there was no more wine to drink, at Mary’s intervention Jesus instructed the servants to fill six large jars with water; the chief steward then tasted it and praised the bridegroom for having reserved the better wine for later. The subject appears in Christian art as early as the fourth century (e.g., on carved sarcophagi illustrating Jesus’ miracles in series) and initially is presented in a simplified form: Jesus stands in front of the water jugs, waving over or pointing at them with a staff (magic wand, derived from classical art). The image is expanded by the fifth and sixth centuries to include additional figures such as the guests at the banquet and Mary; Jesus may now be shown seated (without magic wand) at the banquet table (sometimes in a central position, as common in images such as the *Last Supper) while the servants pour water into the pots. The subject appears frequently throughout medieval art, typologically understood as the transformation of the water of Judaism (Old Testament, Old Law) into the wine of Christianity (Gospels, New Law). Medieval commentators also identified the bride as *Mary Magdalene and the bridegroom as Saint John the *apostle, who immediately left his wife to follow Jesus after witnessing this miracle.
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