The Knights of Columbus Museum’s annual crèche exhibition, Ordinary Materials, Extraordinary Message: Christmas Nativities in Paper, is open to the public now through Feb. 2, 2014.
Designed in cooperation with Italy’s Friends of the Crèche Association, the display includes 39 Nativity Scenes from throughout Europe and the United States, ranging from small and simple depictions of the Holy Family to large, multifaceted visuals.
The Nativity scene or Christmas crèche has been an important part of Western Christianity for more than 600 years. The tradition’s roots are traced to St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) who devised a living crèche in a stable setting, with actual people and animals, as a visual reminder of the humble birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. This led to the annual practice of using figurines to portray the Nativity scene in villages, churches and homes. During the centuries, crèches have developed into both ornate works of art as well as simple folk pieces.
“The message of the crèche is profound,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “Through these Nativity scenes we recall and represent the extraordinary gift that God gave us in his son. This exhibition also demonstrates the depth and breadth of Christian devotion across the world.”
The Knights of Columbus Museum has featured crèches as the centerpiece of its yearly Christmas exhibition to show the popularity of the custom and the vastness of cultural expression for several years. Previous exhibitions included collections from Canada, Africa, Asia, Latin America, Poland, Italy and other locations across the world.
The Knights of Columbus Museum has been ranked by USA Today as one of the “10 great places to explore religion in artistic detail.”