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165 Nativity Scenes Displayed at Bishop Brossart

Nothing truly captures the spirit of the holiday season than the Nativity, according to Dave Schuh.

In the last 18 years, the Bishop Brossart High School art teacher has acquired 165 depictions of that widely adored first Christmas scene. 

“Many of the Nativities I have collected are unique and creative works of art,” Schuh said. “I started collecting Nativities on a cruise vacation to Mexico and Honduras. There are a handful that are kind of special to me. Some of the more special ones are gifts from former students, sets that my parents gave me a long time ago and a few sets that are very intricately carved.”

Schuh’s collection will be on display 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22 , 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday, Dec. 24, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 29, at Bishop Brossart High School Art Gallery, 4 Grove St., Alexandria. Admission is free. 

Seventy countries are represented in the display, about 1/3 of the countries in the world today, Schuh said. 

Many of the scenes include stories about their artist.

This is the sixth year the sets have been displayed at the school. The school’s gallery, which opened in March 2017, assembles five shows a year, showcasing various works with priority given alumni artists.

Director of the Bishop Brossart’s Art Gallery Mike Enzweiler said the school hosts the Nativity scenes “first because it is such an amazing and diverse collection and secondly as a tribute to Dave Schuh, who has dedicated decades to teaching at Bishop Brossart High School.”

Enzweiler said this exhibit has a special place in his heart.

“I relish the fact that the display has a universal appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds,” he said. His personal favorite piece is from Hong Kong and crafted of painted steel.

“It is so unusual to see Mary the Mother of Jesus depicted in a casual reclining pose,” he said.

St. Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first nativity scene in 1223 in central Italy. His goal was to place the emphasis of Christmas on the worship of Christ rather than on materialism and gift-giving.  

That first Nativity was staged live in a cave near Greccio. Such reenactments became very popular and spread quickly. Within a 100 years every church in Italy was expected to have a nativity scene at Christmas. Statues eventually replaced human and animal participants, and static scenes eventually were made in various sizes from various materials. 

Written by Melissa Reinert, RCN contributor

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