ANNE (ANNA), SAINT: Mother of the Virgin Mary. According to apocryphal tradition (Evangelium de nativitate Mariæ and Protevangeliurn Jacobi), she is said to have been born at Bethlehem, the daughter of the priest Matthan. She was married to the pious Joachim of the tribe of Judah, and for twenty years was childless. At her assiduous supplication, an angel foretold that she should conceive and bring forth, and that her seed should be praised in the whole world. Joachim too received comforting promises from the angel. When the daughter was one year old the parents prepared a banquet, and Anna sang a song of praise similar to the Magnificat. When three years of age, Mary, having been dedicated before her birth to the service of God, was brought to Jerusalem by her parents and given to the priests to be educated in the Temple. According to later apocryphal legends, Joachim died soon after Mary's birth, and Anna, "not out of sensual lusts, but at the prompting of the Holy Spirit," married first Cleophas, to whom she bore Mary, the wife of Alphaeus, and after his death Salomas, by whom she became the mother of a third Mary, the wife of Zebedaeus. The legend in this form, which owes its development to the luxuriant Anne cult of the later medieval period, was known to Jean Gerson (d. 1429; cf. his Oratio de nativitate virginis Mariæ, Opera, iii. 59). Conrad Wimpina (in his Oratio de divæ Annæ trinubio, 1518), as well as Johann Eck (in a sermon in vol. iii. of his Homiliæ, Paris, 1579), defended the legend.
Thus the most fantastic excesses of the Anne cult coincide with the Reformation epoch, and were defended by Roman Catholic theologians of the most different schools--not only immaculistic Franciscans, but also Dominicans, Carmelites, and Augustinian hermits. Even Luther, in his youth, when overtaken by a thunderstorm, cried to Anne for help, and vowed, if delivered, to become a monk (Köstlin, Leben Luthers, i. 49, Berlin, 1893). It was a firm belief in the popular mind of the time that Christ's grandmother preserved health, made rich, and protected in death. The pictorial representations of the fifteenth to the seventeenth century dedicated to Anne are almost innumerable as well as the Anne churches. In post-Reformation times popes promoted the Anne cult; thus Gregory XIII. in 1584 ordered that on July 26, the supposed day of Anne's death, a double mass should be said throughout the whole Church; and Benedict XIV. in his De festis Mariæ Virginis (ii. 9), recommends the veneration of St. Anne. In the Greek church St. Anne is also celebrated, partly by festivals (July 25 in commemoration of her death; Dec. 9, as the day of her conception; Sept. 9, as the day of her marriage with Joachim), partly by a rich ascetic-homiletical literature, which reaches back to Gregory of Nyssa, but without following the later medieval legends of Western tradition.