Nativity, Adoration and Presentation carved in Oak

Here highlight a small carved piece at Christ Church that depicts The Nativity, The Adoration of the Magi and The Presentation in the Temple found in the Rectors’ Gallery.

The plaque is 15th century European and is carved in oak, the wood of choice in the Middle Ages because of its durability, uniform wood grain and because it swells and shrinks less than other woods in humidity and therefore does not crack. It is less than two feet high and in excellent condition. The Three-Tiered Plaque presents the The Nativity on top, The Adoration of the Magi in the middle and The Presentation in the Temple on the bottom.

The Nativity shows the Holy Family in a shelter with two animals and three figures which appear to be angels watching over them.

The Adoration of the Magi, shown in the middle scene, occurred twelve days after the birth of Christ and is celebrated on January 6th with the Feast of the Epiphany in the Episcopal church. Mary holding the baby Jesus sits with Joseph standing behind them as they receive the Magi, one of whom has removed his hat and kneels in reverence. As the other two Magi await their turns, the one standing in the center appears to be handing his gift to the third Magi as he prepares to kneel before Mary and Jesus.

The third panel depicts the Presentation at the Temple, which occurred to fulfill the Law of Moses that a mother must be purified 40 days after the birth of a son (Leviticus 12). Simeon, to whom the Holy Spirit had revealed “that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah” (Luke 2:26), holds the infant Jesus as Mary kneels and Joseph stands behind her. The third figure on the right appears to be a woman, probably Anna, the only prophetess in the New Testament, who as an eighty-four year old widow “never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day” (Luke 2:37). The figures in the top right and left corners of scenes two and three may be angels. Clothing is typical of garments worn by 15th century European commoners. The sculptor and the donor of The Three-Tiered Plaque are unknown. The piece, enclosed in plexiglass for protection, hangs in The Rectors Gallery.

Emily Ragsdale