Museo Civico, Recanati, Italy/Scala/Art Resource, NY

Mary startles when Gabriel and God the Father appear in her home and interrupt her prayers. In Lorenzo Lotto’s unusual rendition of the Annunciation, dated to 1535, Mary’s cat is equally frightened by the divine apparition. According to Luke, Mary treasures the angel’s message, but does not fully understand it. Only after years of “pondering the message in her heart” does she become a true follower of Jesus.