Norwich Cathedral’s Christmas Nativity carvings

PUBLISHED: 11:51 16 December 2019

The Nativity.  When far from home, Mary gave birth in a stable and the baby Jesus was placed in the animals’ manger (photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)

The Nativity. When far from home, Mary gave birth in a stable and the baby Jesus was placed in the animals’ manger (photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)

Norwich Cathedral © 2019

Look up as you walk through Norwich Cathedral and a heavenly story unfolds, of soaring angels, a miraculous baby, kings, shepherds and farmyard animals

The entire story of the Bible is told in stunning stone sculptures of people, animals, plants and angels, running the length of Norwich Cathedral. High above the ground the intricate bosses mark each intersection of ancient vaulting. Coloured gold, red, green and blue, they glow with drama.

The Christmas story is centred around a charming Nativity scene. The baby, clothed only in a golden halo, lies in an animal trough, watched over by a cow and donkey, and flanked by an awe-struck Mary and Joseph. The surrounding bosses bring us the rest of the beautiful story - the angels, the shepherds and kings, and the wonder, journeys and joy of Christmas.

This visual Bible is told in 255 stone scenes, overlooking the centre of the cathedral, carved almost 500 years ago. Out in the cloisters the carved bosses are even earlier, created in the 14th century and showing scenes from the life of Jesus as well as carvings of domestic life and folk stories. All together Norwich Cathedral has more than 1,000 of these stunning sculptures - more than any other church or cathedral in the world.

This year they were seen around the world, thanks to the hugely successful helter-skelter and I've Seen it Differently initiative. And this month they will be part of an advent calendar, with the cathedral posting a picture a day on social media.

For the cathedral's full Christmas calendar visit cathedral.org

The Magi. Three kings came from afar with their gifts; the whole world would come to know about this baby (photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)The Magi. Three kings came from afar with their gifts; the whole world would come to know about this baby (photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)

Joseph and Angel. At first Joseph did not believe Mary’s story until he too was visited by an angel (photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)Joseph and Angel. At first Joseph did not believe Mary’s story until he too was visited by an angel (photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)

Mary journeying to Elizabeth. Mary’'s cousin Elizabeth was also pregnant, so Mary went to stay with her (photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)Mary journeying to Elizabeth. Mary’'s cousin Elizabeth was also pregnant, so Mary went to stay with her (photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)

Annunciation. God sent the Angel Gabriel to tell Mary that she was to give birth to God'’s son (photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)Annunciation. God sent the Angel Gabriel to tell Mary that she was to give birth to God'’s son (photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)

Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth'’s baby lept in the womb when the cousins met so she knew Mary'’s baby was indeed from God’ (photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth'’s baby lept in the womb when the cousins met so she knew Mary'’s baby was indeed from God’ (photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)

The Shepherds. The first visitors were shepherds; this birth brought hope even to the humblest of people (photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)The Shepherds. The first visitors were shepherds; this birth brought hope even to the humblest of people (photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)

Joseph takes Mary as his wife. Joseph wanted to protect Mary from the gossips and so he married her (photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)Joseph takes Mary as his wife. Joseph wanted to protect Mary from the gossips and so he married her (photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)

You may also want to watch:

The Nativity. When far from home, Mary gave birth in a stable and the baby Jesus was placed in the animals'’ manger (photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)The Nativity. When far from home, Mary gave birth in a stable and the baby Jesus was placed in the animals'’ manger (photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral)

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