It’s finally the wonderful day of Christmas (the day, I’m sure everyone has all been waiting for)! In celebration of Christmas, I decided to show some beautiful artworks from the Medieval and Renaissance era that represent the story of Christ and Christmas.

To begin with, as many know, Christmas was the day that Christ was born. He was born in Bethlehem. Joseph was required to go back to his birthplace to participate in a census. He walked from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and Mary rode on a donkey. It’s ironic because Bethlehem was where many other biblical events occurred, and where David was born. Christ was born in a stable, and he was placed in a manger (as the Hark the Herald carol says). It is said that Mary had to give birth in a stable because there were no room/area to stay, except there. Also, on the day of Christ’s birth there was a Star of Bethlehem (Christmas Star) that signaled the three Kings, who came to Christ on January 6th.

There are two art pieces that I particularity enjoyed that showed the birth of Christ. One of the is The Portinari Altarpiece by Hugo van der Goes. The other is the Nativity by Giotto.

Hugo van der Goes, The Portinari Altarpiece, 1475

This is the central panel of the altarpiece. On the right, the three kings are kneeling. There are kneeling angels around the baby and Mary. Joseph is even on the left, behind the post, not in the center. Baby Christ is on the ground and he is surrounded by golden rays that signify his holiness. It is said that this image is the vision that Saint Bridget of Sweden received of the birth of Christ.

Giotto, Nativity, 1304-1306

This is the second piece I found, and it’s one of my favorites. It’s a fresco that shows the birth of Christ. The angels have come down from Heaven to see the birth of Christ. These figures appear to look a little rigid, which reminds of icons. However, unlike icons they are three dimensional.

Giotto’s work includes oxen and a donkey. He may have used it to show the Old testament and New testament as being both significant in the Catholicism, and in following God. Also, here Mary is looking at Christ through a sad gaze. This might be a foreshadow to the painful death that Christ will experience.

I realized that not everyone celebrates Christmas, but it’s still a lovely time for all and I hope everyone enjoys the break!

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