Duccio's Maesta

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Crowning panels: the death of the Virgin

2: Parting from St. John

   It happed as St. John the Evangelist preached in Ephesus, the heaven suddenly thundered, and a white cloud took him up and brought him before the gate of the blessed Virgin Mary. And he knocked at the door and entered and saluted the Virgin honourably. When the blessed Virgin beheld him, she was full of joy, and could not abstain from weeping. She said to him: ‘John, my son, remember the word of your master, by which he made me mother unto you, and you a son to me. Lo! I am called by your master and my God. I must now pay the debt of my human condition, and commend my body unto your care.
   ‘I have heard say that the Jews have made a council, and said: let us wait unto the time that she that bore Jesus is dead, and then we shall take her body and shall throw it into the fire and burn it. Therefore take this palm, and carry it before the bier when you bear my body to the sepulchre.’
  Then John said,  ‘Oh would that my brethren the apostles were here, that we might make your obsequies as dignified as you deserve.’ And as he said that, all the apostles were swept up with clouds from the places where they preached, and were brought to the door of the blessed Virgin Mary. And when they saw themselves assembled, they marvelled, and said, ‘why has our Lord assembled us here?’  Then S. John went out and told them that our Lady would depart this world. ‘Brethren’ he said, do not weep when she departs, because the people that see it should not be troubled, and say: Look, how they dread death, while they preach resurrection to others.’  (The Golden Legend.)

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