We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

The Nativity – Art

“The Sistine Madonna” by Raphael (1512-13)

This is 200 years past Giotto. It was commissioned by Pope Julius II in honor of his late uncle, Pope Sixtus IV, and simply required that the Virgin and the Infant Jesus should be in the company of St. Sixtus and St. Barbara, martyred in the 3rd century. The commissioning occurred in July , 1512 that the Vatican received the news that the northern Italian town of Piacenza had joined the Papal States (There was no Italy, only a collection of states.

The painting depicts a vision appearing to saints in the clouds. In the center of the picture Mary strides towards the earthly realm whilst holding the Christ Child in her arms. Mary stands on the clouds to revel Jesus to the world as its Redeemer. Out of the expanse of the heavens, intimated by the countless heads of angels painted in sky blue, she carries the Christ Child into the world.

Pope Sixtus II, a martyr from the third century, kneels on the left-hand side of the picture, showing her the way. On the right-hand side is the meekly kneeling figure of St. Barbara, who also suffered martyrdom in the third century. St. Barbara is gazing down toward the earth, making sure we are aware the Jesus Christ is being presented to us These two saints were venerated at the high

The two cute cherubs (“Raphael’s Cherubs”) perching on the balustrade at the bottom of the picture were added by Raphael at the very end of the painting process, primarily for compositional reasons. According to some art historians, it’s believed that children would come to watch Raphael as he painted the Madonna. Raphael, being struck by the way they gazed wistfully as he worked, captured to perfection their expressions and placed them on the faces of the most famous cherubs in history.

Piero della Francesca, Nativity  1470–1475

This scene shows a very typical scene – Mary kneeling in adoration before a newly-born Christ who is laid on her cloak.  to protect his new-born skin from the bare earth. It is rustic shed to remember the situation of Jesus birth.

She is accompanied by her husband Joseph who is shown in deep contemplation, with his leg crossed over his knee.  Five angels sing welcoming his birth – two of them play lutes. Beside them a donkey appears to bray, while an Ox peers down solemnly at Christ. There are two shepherds, one of whom points to the divine light falling on the shed’s stone wall through a hole in its roof.

Each person, angel,and animal shows a different attitude of reverence towards the infant Christ. Even the magpie, well-known in Piero’s native Tuscany for its constant chatter, seems changed and looks to be struck silent.

Piero has added other touches from his native region – Bethlehem itself has a distinctly Tuscan feel. The flat land on top of the hill where they stand evokes Tuscany, as does the winding valley to the left. Meanwhile, the skyline on the right, dominated by the basilica, could almost be the outskirts of Piero’s hometown Borgo Sansepolcro.

Frederico Barocci  – Nativity (1597)

The Nativity is a clear example of Barocci’s style and work.

The enchantment and poetry of the painting is brought to life by the light that illuminates the whole stall and calls to mind the words of the Gospel: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (Jn 1:9). In the otherwise darkened room, light plays across both Mary and Jesus. The radiant child illuminates the exquisitely loving face of Mary, the whole composition emphasizing their mutual bond.

The Virgin kneels by the manger, arms outstretched as she gazes at the Child Jesus. Joseph, standing next to the Virgin, lets two shepherds pass through the stable door, pointing to the Virgin and Child.

Mary’s blue mantle covers the Baby

Mary has her arms open in a tender, welcoming gesture that encloses the whole of the scene. Joseph, on the other hand, stands at the doorway in the shade testifying and announcing Jesus’ birth to the shepherds.

The shepherds are standing at the threshold.

Geertgen tot Sint Jans – “Nativity at Night”, 1490

A brilliant light in the foreground comes from Jesus as he lay in the crib, illuminating his mother, Mary. As she bends forward with her hands in prayer looking at him in wonder, we see Joseph standing in the background and gazing at Jesus, also in prayer. Angels look at wonder also as do the animals.

We see a second contrast between dark and light as the angel announces the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. The shepherd’s fire gives us a third and lesser light source in the background tending their flock. Always heavenly light is more pronounced

Like many paintings of the Nativity, the depiction is influenced by the visions of Saint Bridget of Sweden (1303–1373), a very popular mystic. Shortly before her death, she described a vision of the infant Jesus as lying on the ground, and emitting light himself:

“… the virgin knelt down with great veneration in an attitude of prayer, and her back was turned to the manger … And while she was standing thus in prayer, I saw the child in her womb move and suddenly in a moment she gave birth to her son, from whom radiated such an ineffable light and splendor, that the sun was not comparable to it, nor did the candle that St. Joseph had put there, give any light at all, the divine light totally annihilating the material light of the candle … I saw the glorious infant lying on the ground naked and shining. His body was pure from any kind of soil and impurity. Then I heard also the singing of the angels, which was of miraculous sweetness and great beauty.”

Here the sources of light are the infant Jesus himself, in accordance with Bridget’s vision, who is the sole source of illumination for the main scene inside the stable, the shepherds’ fire on the hill behind, and the angel who appears to them

In the upper panel, we see a glimpse of the future, the flight to Egypt.