The Nativity depicted in sculpture and stained glass.

I normally write a post related to pilgrimage and Christmas this time of year. This year has  been a very busy one keeping up with  the blog,  facebook page , work and everyday life so I decided instead of researching a new topic to share some of my favourite images of the Nativity as depicted in medieval and modern glass and stone sculpture from Ireland  and the Continent.


This  small ivory panel was  carved around AD 1000-1050 in Germany  and probably  came from the area around Liège or Cologne.  The upper section of the plaque depicts  the Annunciation and the lower the Nativity.  I really like the little details  that the artist has carved in the  Nativity scene such as Mary’s shoes sitting beside her on a stool (1).


11th century Ivory plaque depicting the Nativity in the Victoria & Albert Museum


Another great image of the Nativity is found carved on  a column at the Soria Monastery of San Juan de Duero, Spain  dating to the 12th -13th century. It seem the stable was very compact  (2).


Nativity scene from Soria Monastery San Juan de Duero.

This is a more modern depiction and is  one of my favourite stained glass windows. Created by Harry Clarke in 1918 for the St Barrahane’s Church of Ireland  church at Castletownshend, Co Cork  it depicts the Nativity and Adoration.  My photo does not do justice to the fantastic colours of the glass (3).


Harry Clarke stain glass window depicting the nativity at Castletownshend

Following the birth of Christ the  three Magi follow the star  to Bethlehem, brining with them gifts for the Christ child.

This scene from one of the columns at the Cathedral of St. Lazare,  built between 1120 and 1146,  depicts an angel coming to wake up the three magi so they can follow the star to Bethlehem (4) .  This carving along with many others from St Lazare were carved by  a man called Gislebertus who was one the greatest sculptor of his time.


An angel appearing in a dream to the three magi at St Lazare Cathedral (image found on

The Adoration of the  Magi was also  recorded on a number of  early medieval Irish High Crosses. Below  is an image that depicts the  Adoration of the Magi on the east face of Muiredach’s High Cross at Monasterboise Co Louth, carved in the 9th/10th century.


The Adoration of the Magi on the east face of Muiredach's High Cross (image taken

The Adoration of the Magi on the east face of Muiredach’s High Cross (image taken

The Magi are also depicted coming with  gifts in a carving in the west gable of  the 12th century cathedral church at Ardmore Co Waterford.  The  three Magi are the lower figures  under the  scene  depicting the Judgement of Solomon.


The Adoration of the Magi at Ardmore Co Waterford

Following the epiphany the next big event in the life of Christ was the “Flight into Egypt”.

I love this image of the Flight into Egypt also carved by Gislebertu,   Mary is depicted with a ball in her hand which the Christ child is also touching  maybe its a toy ? Poor Joseph looks like he is about to fall over.  The carving is found in the Cathedral of St Lazare, Autun, France  at the top of a capital in the nave and dates to circa. 1125 (5).



The flight into Egypt from St Lazare Cathedral Autun, France (

I also love this very different  depiction  of the Flight into Egypt found on the Moone High Cross. The cross which was made  around the 9th century, it was carved from granite, a very difficult stone to work. Whoever carved this possessed great skill as a stone mason and his simple design has a unique charm.


Flight into Egypt on the Moone High Cross Co Kildare.


There are many more images I could share but I think these are some of the nicest. So a very Happy Christmas to  everyone and thank you all for your support for  this blog.




3. Many thanks to Finola and Richard of the Roaring Water Journal  for taking me to see this amazing window in November.



2 comments on “The Nativity depicted in sculpture and stained glass.

  1. Kay says:

    Thanks for sharing these nativity scenes. Nollaig Shona to you.

  2. Finola says:

    Lovely images – can’t decide my favourite but the angel waking the magi is a strong contender!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s