• Jeanette Lewis

Not My Nativity




I recall a visit to the local Tate Modern gallery with a group of fellow students, many years ago. Confused by the inscrutable exhibits, we were provoked us to ask our tutor "How do we know which art is "good?" To which our lecturer stated: "We know art to be "great" when it "causes a reaction in the viewer..."

The Vatican nativity scene in St. Peter's square has certainly provoked both reaction and comment. Irrefutable proof that my Lecturer was wrong.


Modern art can be something of a

parasitic mistletoe; feeding off its host, (fine art) and eventually killing it. Similarly, the Vatican nativity piggy-backs on the universally recognised icons of the birth of Christ, yet celebrates the achievements of man. Thereby undermining one of the greatest moments in the history of the world.


It was never intended for display in St. Peter's square during one of the Major feasts of the Catholic calendar. It was created by a group of teachers as a promotional piece for the traditional pottery skills of an Italian village.

The teachers took inspiration from world events at the time. The appearance of the king figure, referred to as "Darth Vader" was inspired by the astronaut landings of the 60's and 70's.

As all Christians know, God was incarnated, not electroplated, (and from that reality flow the sacraments.) The Divine entered space and time, unlike the astronaut who was bound by it, which is why this piece does not make for “good” religious art.


Parody of Vatican Nativity made of Loo rolls
Parody of the Vatican 2020 Nativity

The art of the mundane grows quickly old, and loses its relevance as the culture moves on; while 2020's nativity in St. Peter's square has Vatican approval, the loud outcry of ridicule it has received tells us that man has a soul, not a spark plug - and an inner longing to gaze upon the face of Christ.

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