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The Nativity window panel in Duomo

Exhibited at the altar of Saint Giovanni Bono in the Cathedral’s transept

18 December Dec 2020 1115 18 December 2020

Starting from 15 December, to mark the Christmas period, until 6 January, it will be possible to admire “up close”, compared to its usual location, a window panel that depicts the Nativity of the Lord at the altar of Saint Giovanni Bono.
The panel comes from the Duomo’s original 15th-century stained-glass window dedicated to the New Testament. This is how the Cathedral chooses to represent the Nativity Scene each year.
An accurate and precise description of the work of art can be found in the issue of Il Duomo Notizie, downloadable here (Italian only) and available for free in the Cathedral in the next few days. Below we offer an excerpt.

The panel depicting the Nativity comes from the fifth window of the Cathedral’s southern nave, which houses the window containing the Stories from the New Testament. However, this is not its original location. In fact, here we find some of the panels, collected and recomposed, made during the Renaissance for the large apsidal window and dedicated to the New Testament. These were taken down in the 19th century by Giovanni Bertini who was responsible for the reconstruction of the window itself from 1838.

The panel, dating back to the 1580s, makes up part of a group based on the cartoon by Vincenzo Foppa. In a narrow space that barely allows for a glimpse of the landscape, the Virgin, wrapped in her voluminous cloak, is kneeling with clasped hands. Baby Jesus is represented in the foreground lying on the ground on blue cloth, caught in the natural and spontaneous gesture of bringing his small fist to his mouth. Behind the Virgin, Saint Joseph is stood leaning on a long staff. The background is almost entirely occupied by the stable, set against a blue sky. The simple building was created paying attention to volume and perspective, as you can appreciate in the ceiling that closes in behind the arch and in the structure of the sloping roof. The heads of a donkey and an ox emerge from the arch and lean outwards to reach the manger full of hay.

Despite some 19th-century inserts, the stained-glass window is still in good condition. This splendid and delicate panel, which fully reveals the vivid and dynamic cultural climate of the Duomo’s workshops at the end of the 15th century, helps us to contemplate and celebrate the Mystery of the Incarnation.

“Let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5): the Christmas of Jesus is not an event confined to the past. In the light of the Son of God, who comes to dwell among us and “pitches his tent amongst our tents”, takes on new meaning also for our current Christian community. The heart of God bows over man. “The Word became flesh: the glory that renders one a participant in the life of God is not an answer, but a presence; it is not a solution to our problems, but proximity; it is not a grandiose event, but the sharing of fragility”, monsignor Mario Delpini.