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A controversial crèche in Paris features Bin Laden—but no Mary or Joseph

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 12/31/16

Well, this is different: an interpretation of the Nativity which shows disembodied hands reaching out to cradle the infant Jesus, who is aglow with light and rests on hundreds of photographs of familiar figures ranging from Anne Frank to St. Bernadette and Osama Bin Laden.

Details: [roughly translated by Google]:

This year, the nursery of the Madeleine church, in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, leaves no one indifferent.Like every Christmas for seven years, the parish commissioned a a contemporary artist to imagine the crib. Carte blanche was left to the sculptor  Samuel Yal . His installation, entitled “Advent”, depicts the infant Jesus in a fetal position in a nest [of photographs of historical figures including] Gandhi, Fidel Castro, Stalin, Anne Frank, Bin Laden … All the traditional figures of the crib (Joseph, Mary, the Magi) are absent from this installation which has upset some parishioners. The work has been criticized. Franco’s photo was crossed out with a red line. In a long Facebook message posted Wednesday, December 28, the artist returned to the genesis of his project and the influence of the attacks of November 13 on his work: “I would not be honest if I did not also address the impact …at the very moment when I was thinking about this project, the approach of Christmas, just over a year ago, the Parisian events of November […] How to express today this Mystery of Christmas without ignoring the jolts of history that seem to cruelly catch up with us? ” The priest of the church of the Madeleine “assumes” this crib, according to France 3 . “I have already received abusive emails, but also glowing emails,” he said before specifying that this installation is above all “a meditation on the mystery of the incarnation”.


But the whole thing is sort of mess.  The “mystery of the incarnation” is mysterious enough without making it unrecognizable and just plain odd.

People love to fuss with the Nativity. Can’t they just leave well enough alone?


You can view a video (in French) which offers some additional views of the installation below.

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