The great-grandmother of Jesus, grandmother of the Virgin Mary, was a woman named Ismeria, according to a University of Limerick lecturer/historian who has analyzed Florentine medieval manuscripts.
"I don't think any other woman is mentioned" as Mary's grandmother in the Bible, the Limerick-based Catherine Lawless, told Discovery News. "Mary's patrilineal lineage is the only one given."
"Mary herself is mentioned very little in the Bible," said Lawless, "The huge Marian cult that has evolved over centuries has very few scriptural sources."
George Ferzoco, a research fellow at the University of Bristol, said the Lawless paper analyzing the legend is "brilliant" and "reveals an exciting trove of religious material from late medieval and renaissance Florence, where many manuscripts were written specifically for females."
The legend of St. Ismeria is presented in the current Journal of Medieval History. It gives remarkable insight on the Biblical Virgin Mary's family.
Lawless says she found the St. Ismeria story, which was "ignored by scholars," in two manuscripts: the 14th century "MS Panciatichiano 40" of Florence's National Central Library and the 15th century "MS 1052" of the Riccardiana Library, also in Florence.
"According to the legend, Ismeria is the daughter of Nabon of the people of Judea, and of the tribe of King David," she said . She married "Santo Liseo," who is described as "a patriarch of the people of God" in single mouthful.
The parchments say that after God called her to "Paradise," a rector told the Virgin Mary and Jesus she had died .They went to her bedside accompanied by the 12 Apostles, Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome and Mary Cleophas.
"What is so striking about St. Ismeria," Carolyn Muessig of the University of Bristol's Department of Theology and Religious Studies told Discovery News, "is that she is a model for older matrons.
Let's face it: Older female role models are hard to come by in any culture."
"But the fact that St. Ismeria came to the fore in late medieval Florence," Muessig concluded, "reveals some of the more positive attitudes that medieval culture had towards the place and the importance of women in society."
* Originally published in 2011.