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Annual Knights of Columbus Museum creche exhibit moves upstairs

November 23, 2017 GMT

Paix, paz, pacem, amani, Frieden, mir. No matter which language you choose, they all mean peace, the hopeful wish for turbulent times and the theme of the annual Knights of Columbus “Creches of the World” exhibit.

Featuring more than 70 nativity scenes in a multitude of designs and materials, the exhibit largely features pieces in the permanent collection of the museum.

In the museum’s lobby is the massive Neapolitan, “Bottega D’Arte Presepiale,” created in 2014, by Cantone & Costabile, which has designed works of art for the Vatican. The 15-foot diorama depicts a 17th century Neapolitan scene with 150 figures of people, animals and angels. It was manufactured for the museum’s show, “Buon Natale: Creches of Italy,” three years ago and is part of its permanent collection, said Peter Sonski, education/outreach and visitors’ services manager. In addition, there are three Shona sculptures from Zimbabwe. The statues depict the holy family in one, and the Madonna and baby Jesus in the others.

The move for the annual exhibit from the usual main floor to the second floor was necessary this year and next year due to the expansive “World War I: Beyond the Front Lines” exhibit dominating the first floor through December 2018. The war exhibit marks the United States’ involvement in the Great War 100 years ago.

Museum curator Bethany J. Sheffer said work on creche planning begins each year almost as soon as the current exhibit ends after the holidays. With thousands of visitors coming through the museum for the creche exhibit alone, she said it is a challenge to make each year different than the last.

“The wonderful pieces we get from other museums help make the new year more interesting,” she said.

Contributions on loan for the presentation come from the Glencairn Museum in Pennsylvania, St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal in Quebec, Canada, Loyola Museum of Art in Illinois and the International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton in Ohio.

The featured creches are laid out by continent and informational posters depict the spread of Christianity around the world. Sheffer said the creche, or nativity scene, is more than art or a decoration; it is a visual depiction of the biblical event of the birth of Jesus more than 2,000 years ago. She said the layout helps people see the direct connection in each part of the world to each other. Perhaps the highlight for many are the creche scenes of the Americas and how artists in the United States use various natural materials to carve the scene depicting the birth of Jesus, the holy family and the three wise men paying homage to the newborn king.

Sheffer said one of her favorites this year is a nativity scene carved into the log of an Aspen tree by Bailey, Colo., artist William Aardsma.

“I like that people can see the art in various forms. We welcome the world at this exhibit, but also enjoy featuring our own country’s artists,” she said.

In addition to the Christmas exhibit, the Knights of Columbus hosts its annual Christmas Tree Festival. The opening celebration is planned for Saturday, Dec. 2, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will feature live music with carolers and a visit by St. Nick. This year Catholic elementary schools from Groton to Stamford and Danbury decorated 24 Christmas trees on display through Jan. 28.

Cindy Simoneau is a Connecticut freelance writer.