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Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Conception and Ensoulment

Conception and Ensoulment
Illumination from Jean Mansel, 15th century manuscript
This illumination from a fifteenth-century French manuscript by Jean Mansel showing a couple in bed is also called Making visible embryos: Acquiring a soul.
"The Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Ghost—watch from the upper left corner and send them a childlike form. This recalls the iconography of the Annunciation. 

"The scroll quotes Genesis from the Latin Bible: ‘Let us create man in our image and likeness’ (Faciamus hominem ad imaginem et similitudem nostram). 

"The slippers by the bed refer to God’s commandment to Moses to remove his sandals before the holy ground of the burning bush, and so point to the holiness of the Sacrament of Marriage. 

"The woman’s extended right arm probably signifies Eve’s offering the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, reminding us that we all inherit Original Sin at conception. 

"The burning candle on the mantelpiece indicates the beginning of a new life. 

"Ensoulment and conception are tightly linked here, and so probably took place in the same moment, contrary to Aristotelian and vernacular ideas."

Illumination from Jean Mansel, Vie de Nostre Seigneur Jésus Christ, fifteenth century, fol. 174. 11.1 x 15.8 cm. Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.


  1. I’m curious if a guardian angel is received the moment of conception, also.-Mrs. T

  2. This is at Aleteia:

    And this is at Opus Sanctorum Angelorum, re question 3:

    I'm of the opinion that guardian angels are assigned at conception per answer to question 3.

    1. I believe it is conception, too.

      It is heartwarming to think a woman with child is surrounded by two angels. -Mrs T

  3. The expression on Dad's face just delights me.

  4. Wouldn’t it be nice to know you have conceived a child immediately? What immediate gratification!

  5. Does anyone have a theory as to why Jesus is seated to the left of The Father?

  6. I have no idea except perhaps the picture is flipped. If it were flipped then Jesus would be to the right of the Father.

  7. Except the hand that The Father and Jesus hold up in blessing should be the right hand.

  8. Interesting. I have no idea. The manuscript was made 600 years ago. Maybe things were different then? Did a bit of fast research and this was all I found...

    Will look further when time allows.