Scala / Art Resource, NY

When Mary was six months pregnant, the emperor Augustus ordered a census that required Joseph to travel with his new wife to Bethlehem. According to the Protoevangelium of James, as they neared the end of their journey, the expectant mother (depicted here in a detail from Visitation, an early 16th-century painting by Raphael) began to experience labor pains and stopped to rest outside Bethlehem. The spot where she sat became known as the Kathisma (Greek for “seat” or “chair”) and was a recognized holy site as early as the mid-fifth century.