Marriage of Joseph and Mary
The story of "The Espousal of Joseph and Mary" is told in the apocryphal Gospel of the Protoevangelium of James. After the presentation in the temple, Mary lived in the Temple until she was twelve. A decision then had to be made about her future. The high priest prayed for guidance and an angel appeared and told him to assemble the widowers. Each should bring a rod, which was to be laid on the altar. Among those assembled was Joseph, and when the High Priest returned the rods to them, he saw that Joseph's rod had flowered (a variant story states that a dove flew from Joseph's rod and settled on his head). The High Priest told him that he was to wed Mary, but Joseph, who already had sons, insisted he was too old. To marry such a young girl would make him the laughingstock of Israel. The High Priest pointed out that it was God's will that this should take place. Joseph then accepted her.
In the Basilica fresco the central figures are framed by the central arch. The peripheral figures, under half-arches, are holding flowers and a branch, probably fertility symbols. Joseph, holding his flowering staff, is placing a ring on Mary's finger, while the High Priest blesses their union.