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4 entries from April 2011

The Opposite of Christmas

Mittenwald Nativity dramatic
Though Master Right is a one-time trainee in the Shinto novitiate and I am an avowed atheist, we spend an awful lot of time in Christian churches.  That's where the music is.  German churches support a great deal of serious music, and provide a venue for many concerts and recitals.

While listening to the music, the eye begins to wander about the room.  Especially here in Bavaria, since the buildings are rich and grand.  In the days before an average Joe could find entertainment at his fingertips, he looked to the local church as his main source of fine music, art and drama. And they laid it on thick.

The art and the drama went hand in hand.  Paintings and statuary brought bible stories (and more) to life.  Even the humble Nativity set gets the glam treatment.

Mittenwald Krippe close-up 2 
Mittenwald Krippe close-up 2
These Nativities come from churches and museums in and around Mittenwald, in Oberbayern.  All of Upper Bavaria is famous for woodwork, but a thriving violin industry in the town provides an extra dose of woodcarving skills, which enjoy a seasonal outing.

The newborn Christ gets a makeover in many of these scenes.  He often becomes a toddler, since toddlers are way cuter than those ET-like newborns.  If the Holy Infant did, indeed, emerge as shown in the nativity scene below...well, the Blessed Virgin certainly has my admiration.

Mittenwald Krippe close-up 2
Which brings me to the point of this post.  As we visted churches this Easter weekend, we encountered what can only be described as an Anti-nativity.  A life-sized scene of a most unhealthy-looking Jesus in his tomb.

Creepy Christ 1
If one spends enough years kneeling before crucifixes, one grows desensitised to the sight of murder-in-progress they depict.  Master Right, who does not have years of hanging out in Christian churches to make it seem normal, points out how grotesque it actually is.  But this creeped out both of us. 

Creepy Christ 1
Throughout my Catholic boyhood, I encountered many a cute Christ in a stylised manger.  But never a creepy Christ in a mock-tomb.  Is this simply a south German custom?  A European one?  Did any other new-world Catholics see such a thing in their churches at home?