Mamata to unveil special painting exhibition in church

Insight Online News

Kolkata, Dec 24 : West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is expected to unveil a special exhibition on rare paintings of St. Francis of Assisi – the Patron Saint of Environment and the originator of the tradition of cribs – on Christmas eve.

These pictorial displays, conceptualized by Church Art, would be installed in the Cathedral premises in the city to inspire and motivate people to love and protect Mother Earth, said Fr Franklin Menzes, Parish Priest of the Cathedral of the Most Holy Rosary, Burrabazar.

The Cathedral was founded in 1799.

“This year, as Christians heed to the call of green Christmas,tradition recalls a Catholic saint who returned to nature by promoting “presepio vivente” – a living crib. A crib, is a depiction of the birth of Jesus as described in the gospels of Matthew and Luke,” explained Fr Franklin Menzes.

” The origin of the Christmas Crib or Manger or Nativity scene is often first ascribed to Saint Francis of Assisi, who, in 1223 AD, celebrated the `Feast of the Nativity in a new way that led to a new

devotional practice popular even today” said the Father.

“Nativity scenes exhibit figures representing the infant Jesus, his mother Mary, and Joseph. Other characters from the nativity story such as shepherds, the Magi, and angels may be displayed near the manger. Distinctive nativity scenes and traditions have been created around the world and are displayed during the Christmas season in churches, homes, shopping malls, and other venues, and occasionally on public places and in public buildings,” said Fr Dominic Gomes, Vicar General,

Archdiocese of Calcutta.

The Vatican has displayed a scene in St. Peter’s Square near its

Christmas tree since 1982 and the Pope has for many years blessed the

mangers of children assembled in St. Peter’s Square for a special


In 2015, the first-ever crib set depicting Jesus’ birth from India,

designed by Kolkata-based organization Church Art, was added to the

International Nativity Museum of Bethlehem’s collection of 223

nativity representations from over 93 countries.

The International Nativity Museum in Bethlehem, a UNESCO Heritage

site is currently located close to the Church of Bethlehem which is

considered to be the spot where Jesus was born. Local lore passed down

from ancient times holds that the three travellers or Magi who were

guided by a star had passed through this path where the International

Nativity Museum now stands.

” History tells us that St. Francis of Assisi was inspired by his

visit to the Holy Land in 1219 where he had been shown Jesus’s

traditional birthplace. It was in 1223 that the first crèche was

celebrated in the woods of Greccio near Assisi, on Christmas Eve.”

according to Father Dominic Gomes.

It is reported that Francis commissioned a local holy man by the name

Giovanni (John) Velitta, about two weeks before Christmas to enact the

memory of the Infant who was born at Bethlehem and how He was bedded in the manger on hay between a donkey and an ox. The good and faithful Giovanni departed quickly and prepared everything. The crib was ready, hay was brought, the ox and the donkey were led to the spot. Greccio became a new Bethlehem. The crowds gathered and rejoiced in the celebration.

As the villagers and friars crowded around, a priest began the Mass.

Francis sang the Gospel in a sonorous voice and preached to the people

who had bought candles and torches to brighten the night.

St. Francis’ idea of bringing Bethlehem into one’s own town spread

quickly all over the Christian world, and soon after the death of

Francis in 1226 there were Christmas cribs in churches and homes. The

home crib became popular in Catholic Europe after 1600, owing, it is

said, to the efforts of the Capuchins.


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