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Ushaw College

County Durham DH7 7DW

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Christmas Ushaw Lecture: Nativity Scenes: A Live Performance, by Professor Stefano Cracolici (Durham University)

The art of capturing in little statuettes the daily activities of common people, of carefully displaying them around a manger and of crowning a crib with a glowing comet is a diffused practice among Catholics throughout the world to honour the birth of Jesus. The improbable gathering of oxen, donkeys, sheep but also horses, elephants and camels completes the exotic and yet so familiar scenery over which a starry night sky looms large. This picturesque tradition condenses well-known artistic motifs such as the adoration of the shepherds and the adoration of the Magi in a miniaturised landscape. The carpenter meets the milkmaid, the baker the fisherman, the beggar the soldier, the seamstress the cobbler, the tinker the tailor and the candlestick maker. Confused with them are Balthasar of Arabia, Melchior of Persia, Gaspar of India and the glamorous prank of their royal retinues. Their frozen postures design a devout choreography, and the most beloved Christmas carols fill their wooden hearts with life and joy.

While tracing the history of the nativity scene as a seasonal display in art, cinema and popular culture, this lecture will also focus on its performative re-enactments as ‘living nativity scenes’ (tableaux vivants), in which real humans and animals interact. Point of departure of the presentation will be two little-known admirable paintings by Franz von Rohden at Ushaw College, in which living contemporary characters are featured. Some of the material presented in this lecture is part of the Rome in the World Project led by Prof Cracolici at Durham University.

This lecture is organised by the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture and the Centre for Catholic Studies (both at Durham University) as part of the Ushaw Lecture Series.

Programme for the evening (all at Ushaw)

  • 5pm Drinks Reception in the Refectory followed by: 5.30pm Lecture in the Exhibition Hall
  • 7pm Ushaw Carol Service in St Cuthbert's Chapel (featuring the Hexham and Newcastle Diocesan Choir and followed by mulled wine and mince pies)
  • 9pm Close

Transport

The following transport options are available to book, all free of charge:

  • Minibus departing at 4.35pm from Elvet Riverside, Durham City, arriving at Ushaw for the 5pm drinks reception
  • Minibus departing from Ushaw main entrance at 7pm, going to Elvet Riverside via North Road
  • Minibus departing from Ushaw main entrance at 9pm, going to Elvet Riverside via North Road

Registration

All events in the programme for the evening are open to the public. Registration is essential and is free of charge; there will be a retiring collection at the end of the carol service.

Please register by clicking on 'REGISTER' above.

Registration deadlines:

  • 9am on Monday 4 December for all transport
  • 9am on Tuesday 12 December for the drinks reception, lecture and carol service

Carol Service-only tickets

If you wish to attend the carol service but not the lecture, please book your carol service tickets directly with Ushaw. There are four carol services in total, taking place on 12-14 December inclusive.

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Ushaw College

County Durham DH7 7DW

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