Art, Public Space

The Nativity Scene

Yesterday was World Peace Day, and during Father’s homily he mentioned that the Nativity scene is the perfect example of a symbol peace at Christmas. St. Francis of Assisi is credited with the creation of the first nativity scene in which he brought animals and humans together to celebrate Christ’s birth.

This made me think of the Nativity scenes that are positioned in public spaces during the holiday season. In Hamilton, we are lucky to have a nativity scene positioned outside of city hall. I have one made of cardboard and little figurines. But the one that is probably the most famous is the annual display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) in New York City. The Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Creche, in the Museum’s Medieval Sculpture Hall.

The magnificently lit, 20-foot blue spruce is adorned with 19 cherubs and 59 angels, while at the base an additional 71 figures represent the three elements of Nativity scenes that were traditional to 18th-century Naples: adoring shepherds and their flocks, the procession of the three Magi, and spirited reasons and townspeople. The display is enhanced by nearly 50 charming animals and background pieces that create a dramatic setting for the Nativity; these include the ruins of a Roman temple, several quaint houses and a typical Italian fountain.