Nativity, Circumcision, and Epiphany

walwyn Sun, 06/29/2014 - 19:14
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This third sequence of sculpture on the choir screen, starting at the western end of the south ambulatory, is the work of Jehan Soulas from 1521-1535. Sculpted from the hard limestone from the Tonnerre quarry, this consist of scenes depicting the Nativity, Circumcision, and Epiphany.


The above image depicts the nativity scene as it is traditionally told, with Joseph, the cow, and donkey. These elements derive from the Apocryphal Gospels rather than the traditional Gospel texts which provides little in the way of details. Mary kneels with hands clasped before the child in the crib, whilst three angels stand nearby, and Joseph holding his hat stands behind.1



Traditionally a eight days after birth a Jewish boy is circumcised in a ceremony that gives the child his first name and enters him into the community. The circumcision of Jesus is mentioned only in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:21). The above sculpture by Jehan Soulas is religiously anachronistic as the mother of a child would have been 'unclean' until 40 days after the birth of her child. In the scene above Mary sits to the side and Joseph hold the distressed child whilst a priest performs the circumcision. An acolyte looks on holding an urn of water.



The Epiphany scene like that of the Nativity is derived from the Apocryphal Gospels.