by Andrew Arnett

The Annunciation, with Saint Emidus, was painted by Italian artist Carlo Crivelli in 1486. It hangs in the National Gallery in London. The painting depicts the Virgin Mary at the moment she realizes she will give birth to the savior Jesus. A beam of light coming down from a circular cloud is interpreted by most main stream art critics and historians to be the halo of the Lord projecting down to Mary the message of her immaculate conception, a moment known as the Annunciation. UFO enthusiasts however, have interpreted the disc shaped object to be representative of a UFO.

Let’s take a closer look at this object, shown in the upper left portion of the painting. Here we clearly see a cloud hovering in the sky. Not your typical cloud however. It is, rather, perfectly disc shaped, with some kind of energy beam shooting down from it. The image is reminiscent of something straight out of War of the Worlds or any number of Sci-Fi movies – so much so that it is practically a cliche of a Hollywood flying saucer attack. And yet, it was painted in 1486.

The Annunciation, with Saint Emidius (1486) by Cario Crivelli

UFO skeptics argue that closer scrutiny of the object reveals two rings of angels within the cloud, thus deferring to the orthodox interpretation of the painting. This may in fact be accurate. If one does not have the privilege of viewing the painting in person, one can, with a higher resolution of the image, make out the shapes of angelic heads, wings and halos. It is not completely obvious to the viewer, but what is unmistakable is that the object is in fact a cloud and not, as UFOlogists would contend, a shiny metallic disc, as we would normally associate with a UFO. On the other hand, one needs to take into account the context of the painting. Indeed, symbols of angels, clouds and beams of light may be the artist’s interpretation of a UFO set within the cultural framework of the times he lived.

The lower right hand portion of the painting offers as much intrigue, and mystery, as the upper portion. Here we see the beam of light which, descending from the disc above, penetrating through a solid stone wall and entering into the head of the Virgin Mary. This is in fact the Annunciation spoken of in the Bible.

Some UFOlogists however, give a nuanced interpretation of this Biblical episode. Their belief is that Jesus was not divine in the religious sense but that Jesus was in fact the result of genetic engineering. This gives us an entirely different understanding of the immaculate conception. According to alien enthusiasts, Mary was abducted by aliens and was artificially inseminated with this alien DNA into her womb. They point out that the beam of light that strikes Mary as she is indoors is consistent with many modern day alien abductions. Many reports of alien abductions claim a beam of light shown from outside the buildings at the time of their abductions.

Jacques Vallee at United Nations (1978)

Regarding the phenomenon of UFO-like depictions in religious art, noted UFO research Jacques Vallee stated, “The value of it, scientifically, is that now we can anchor the beginning of the UFO phenomenon into real, documented history.”

“You cannot simply say that,” according to Vallee, “because somebody saw something round in the sky in medieval times, it’s the same phenomenon that people see today. We are not making that statement. We’re simply describing what people saw and the phenomena associated with it as a contribution to the overall study of the history of the phenomenon.”

Vallee’s UFO research began in the 1960s and his books were even recommended reading to cadets at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. In 1978, Vallee was a principal speaker at the United Nations UFO symposium.

“I think the skeptics are right in saying that many of the reports have to do with things that, today, we recognize as comets and meteors and other natural phenomena. And that’s fair. We go through that and eliminate those and we keep the ones that are unidentified,” Vallee said.