December 2014

It’s also Christmas at the Archaeological Museum of Jerusalem: restorations for a special crèche

“The crib is made ready, hay is brought, the ox and the donkey are led in. Simplicity is honored there, poverty is exalted, humility is commended, and the town of Greccio almost becomes a new Bethlehem”, with these words the biographer of St. Francis, Thomas of Celano, described the first Christmas Nativity Scene created by the Saint in 1223.

It is with this same spirit that the volunteers of the Archaeological Museum of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum wished to represent a very special crèche, using a marble washbasin of the 15th century, on whose front the Nativity scene is depicted. This precious object was at one time in the sacristy of the Church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem and since 1946 has been kept at the Museum of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum. This year, on the occasion of Christmas, and following cleaning and consolidation interventions by the restorer Matthew Chorosiński, the basin has been moved to the Chapel of the Flagellation.

The restoration of this object and its exhibition on this special occasion show how the connection between art, beauty and faith is indissoluble; the wish is to reaffirm and awaken in everyone, in this simple manner, all the beauty of this period of Advent in preparation for the joyous celebration of the birth of Christ, in the very country where this event took place. In the future the basin will become part of the collection of the Terra Sancta Museum, where the great historical and archaeological Franciscan heritage will be presented in a manner to allow everyone to learn not only about the history of the Custody of the Holy Land, but also to relive and retrace the places of Jesus’ life and of the early Christians.

With this very special crèche we take the opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas, and may this be an occasion for each of us to commemorate the great announcement that Jesus, in becoming a child, brought to humanity.

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