It was a privilege to be allowed a little preview of the renovation work in progress on the crib in St Gabriel’s Church in Clontarf. This Dublin church holds a host of treasures.
I have written previously on the stunning mosaic of the Stations of the Cross that line the walls. This mosaic, depending on the day, and the light that catches it at a given moment, can reflect many moods, and transport you back to a different time and space. I only came upon the incredible Stations of the Cross a few years ago, and it was an equally pleasant surprise to discover the crib.
I was passing St Gabriel’s Church in the late evening about three weeks ago and noticed the lights were burning brightly in the church. Thinking I might catch the end of mass, I wandered in. However, the church was empty except for a handful of people busy at work. I met the sacristan Pearse Bell and he explained that the Monday maintenance men were busy at work, preparing the church for the Christmas celebrations, and in particular, the crib.
I first met Pearse when I wrote about the Stations of the Cross and he invited me to take a look at the crib, a work in progress and a labour of love.
The crib renovations are a work-in-progress. Work on the three statues of the Holy Family is complete and they are now transformed to their former glory. The rest of the crib figures will undergo similar transformation over the next few months. It is hoped to have all the figures restored for the 60th Jubilee celebrations to be held in the church during 2016. The stable itself is beautifully constructed in its own niche at the end of the church, and is so realistic it invites you to enter and join the Holy Family and the animals that inhabit the space. Speaking of the animals, the statue of the cow is particularly magnificent, its head tilted, its eyes resting on the Child. You have to resist the urge to reach out your hand to feel its breath warming the Baby Jesus, as told in the original Nativity story.
The statues, according to Matt Doyle, who is in charge of the renovations, were probably hand-carved in Germany and date back to the mid 20th century.
This beautiful crib is well worth a visit over the Christmas period. While there, enjoy the beauty of this church with its stain-glass window of the Angel Gabriel and the magnificent mosaic of the Stations of the Cross.