The 2020 Vatican Nativity Scene. Cameo appearance by the Mandalorian and “Baby Yoda”

Following last year’s hideous display of bad taste and politically correct pandering, this year’s Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square plunges to the nadir of this annus horribilis.

From Vatican News:

The Monumental Nativity Scene is made up of ceramic statues. It is a work created by the pupils and the teachers of the Art Institute “F.A. Grue”, the current state art high school for design, which, in the decade 1965-1975, dedicated its teaching activity to the Christmas theme.

St. Peter’s Square will see only part of the fragile collection, made up of 54 statues, exhibited.

In studio, which does its best…

In situ… which is worse…  Hmmm…. doesn’t look like the shot, above.   But… just what is that?

What the hell is this?  Star Wars?

I know!  That’s the Mandalorian with “Baby Yoda” and one of his Sand People allies!

At this point I would insert a short Christmas hymn from a Tusken Raider.


To my mind this just about sums up the contribution of the Holy See to the world this year.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Gaetano says:

    As soon as I saw that it was designed “in the decade 1965-1975,” I knew it was going to be hideous.

    But it surpassed my already-low expectations for ugliness.

  2. Ms. M-S says:

    Not Star Wars. Culture Wars.

  3. UncleBlobb says:

    It will definitely encourage people to “self-isolate”.

  4. ChrisP says:

    Socially distanced nativity based on toilet roll holders and upside down spark plugs…..

    This is NOT the way.

    The Vatican seems oddly keen to stand in the BucketOfStupid™? and try and lift themselves up.

  5. PostCatholic says:

    It just isn’t a complete nativity scene without the time-honored Iberian custom of including the caganer.

  6. Danteewoo says:

    “And a Lego man shall lead them.”

  7. Sportsfan says:

    “\What the hell is this? Star Wars?
    I know! That’s the Mandalorian with “Baby Yoda” and one of his Sand People allies!/”


    The last Star Wars I saw was the one where Spock died at the end.

  8. Art says:

    It’s from Frank Herbert’s God Emperor of Dune!

  9. Gab says:

    Looks like something from Carl Sagan’s TV series on ”ancient aliens”.

  10. Felipe says:

    I really hope it’s supposed to be a nativity scene and not some strange false idols. Hideous art I can tolerate.

  11. ThePapalCount says:

    This is a bad one. Who is behind these things?
    Really, I mean seriously, will this move people to Faith?

  12. Mariana2 says:

    I had been worried what this year might bring in the way of Vatican Nativity horrors. Well, the Tusken raiders are easily startled, but they will soon be back. QED.

    These seem a bit heavy to be discretely carried down to the Tiber and thrown in.

  13. Absolutely putrid! They look like Egyptian sarcophagi. These days I need a blood pressure cuff on my computer desk. Maybe I will put a bottle of whisky next to that and I don’t even drink! Sheesh!

  14. ChesterFrank says:

    You are right , the first photograph looks nice (ok, you didn’t say that, I did). The second photograph looks stupid. The first looks nice as a tabletop setting or even inside a church, depending on scale. Outside why cant they just go traditional and emphasize the Nativity Story rather than artistic style (and inside-sifi jokes)?

  15. Semper Gumby says:

    “The last Star Wars I saw was the one where Spock died at the end.”

    *chuckle* Good one Sports fan. “Christmas Hymn from a Tusken Raider.” Good one Fr. Z.

    Well, here’s a news item from earlier this week. According to Vatican news, Francis, after a 15-month break from international travel, will travel to Iraq (Baghdad, Ur, Erbil, Mosul, Qaraqosh) next March. (Saddam Hussein denied a papal visit by St. John Paul II). Perhaps this trainwreck of a Nativity Scene was inspired by ancient Mesopotamia.

    The well-known “Ram in a Thicket” (or “Goat in Tree” c. 2500 BC, discovered during the 1928-29 excavation season at Ur in Iraq.)

    Here’s a “Standing Male Worshipper”:

    One more. An animal in the photos above looks something like a pineapple with a face. Not much of a resemblance in the following photo but might as well go there, here is a terracotta plaque of probably “Mushussu” (not from Sumer but from the Neo-Babylonian period c. 800-500 BC) a hybrid animal (but probably not a “dragon”) associated with the god Marduk and meant to ward off evil spirits:

    Sumer is widely regarded as the world’s first civilization (it formed a bit earlier than ancient Egypt, which attracts many occultists for various reasons). Sumer sometimes attracts those with grandiose plans to remake (“reset” if you prefer) humanity. Anyway, just speculating here.

  16. benedetta says:

    Pachamama Pandemic Nativity this year.

  17. Semper Gumby says:

    Mariana2: Good point, those are probably too heavy to be thrown in the Tiber.

    The top photo, central figure that looks like a spark plug in a pile of bricks, vaguely resembles a Ziggurat.

  18. Spinmamma says:

    Horrible. Who knew that Lego figures, a space traveler standing in for a wise man, and a demonic looking warrior figure (and the Starbucks logo angel) arranged as a mockery of a nativity scene could be designated “art”? How does this in any way honor the birth of Jesus? And at the heart of Christendom no less. While I am not a big fan of Taylor Marshall, in this case his observation that it looks like the Vatican is trolling the Faithful with this display is right on target.

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  20. Charles E Flynn says:

    If given no clues, I would have guessed “props for a proposed episode of ‘Star Trek'” turned down by Gene Roddenberry.

  21. Grant M says:

    F.A Grue? Any relation to Felonious Gru? No wonder the art work is despicable.

  22. Grant M says:

    PS: The artwork was definitely constructed by minions.

  23. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The donkey is lovely. Has a real donkey expression.

  24. John the Mad says:

    What fresh nativity scene outrage, I asked myself, would the Vatican inflict upon the faithful this year? Although it was no doubt difficult to surpass last year’s grotesquery I have to admit they managed it.

    Lord forgive them for they are oblivious to what they do (at least I hope they are oblivious for if this is deliberate I pity them when they have to explain this at the last judgement).

    I see no Catholic sensibility in this Nativity scene.

  25. ChicagoHomeschoolmom says:

    I read an article which discussed the Freemasonic symbolism found in this very ugly Vatican display. From these photos it does appear antiChrist to me. Shocking, really.

  26. Blaise says:

    Of all the periods to look back to from 2020 why chose 1965-75 ? Is it a sign of the age and reference point of those choosing?

    Surely somewhere in the Vatican there is a set of straightforward figures that use symbols and forms that resonate with the like warm and distanced; perhaps a scene that could in simplicity strike a chord and trigger the return of some to a life of Faith?

    Or something that could be effective evangelisation?

    Or something of artistic merit?

  27. Grant M says:

    It’s gruesome.

  28. jdt2 says:

    You have to wonder if the people running the Vatican ever find their defiance and irreverence to be wearisome.

  29. pcg says:

    throw them in the Tiber!

  30. OldProfK says:

    May the lord of the world be well pleased with the work of those in his service, and reward it richly as it deserves.

    To the faithful remnant: Numquam dicere mori.

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  32. Macarius says:

    The ghoulish figure in the back resembles the Tibetan deity Mahakala.

  33. jaykay says:

    The blue-coloured…thing… behind the main…thing… bears a resemblance to the chief of the Knights who say “Ni”. Well, since they’re doing 1970s, why not? At least Python was good 70s.!%22

  34. Tooksam says:

    St. Joseph pray for us

  35. ladydi_prays says:

    This is frankly a piling heap of garbage labeled as “Nativity”. There’s nothing beautiful or true with these statues and they don’t convey hope or any grace that real Catholic art is supposed to show us. In my atheist days, I would have defended these grotesque pillars of “art” because they “resemble the old fashioned statues that are just so patriarchal and offensive” ?. We must pray and ask Our Lord to have mercy on all of us but most of all pray for the CONVERSION of the Pope.

  36. Semper Gumby says:

    According to the Vatican these pieces were created between 1965-75. In 1968 a book by Erich von Daniken “Chariots of the Gods? Was God an Astronaut?” became an international bestseller. That book contends that “ancient astronauts” visited Earth and taught mankind to read, write and otherwise be civilized.

    Von Daniken’s book has 16 pages of photos, here is a link to a blog that discusses one of von Daniken’s photos. This is the lid of a tomb (7th century AD) in the Mayan city of Palenque in southern Mexico, von Daniken says it is a space traveler reclining, his hands working a control panel, with flames at the base of the rocket (if I recall, some of the glyphs on the tomb lid refer to stars):

    Now, back to the ancient Near East and Sumer, widely regarded as mankind’s first civilization. Here is an excerpt from Von Daniken’s “Chariots of the Gods? Was God an Astronaut?”:

    “What would happen if here too we dared to take off our blinkers and look at the old things with fresh eyes, the eyes of today? Let us suppose that foreign astronauts visited the territory of the
    Sumerians thousands of years ago. Let us assume that they laid the
    foundations of the civilisation and culture of the Sumerians and then
    returned to their own planet, after giving this stimulus to

    “The conclusions to be drawn from the previous presence on earth of
    unknown visitors from the universe are still purely speculative. We
    can imagine that ‘gods’ appeared who collected the semi-savage
    peoples in the region of Sumer around them and transmitted some of their knowledge to them. The figurines and statues that stare at us
    today from the glass-cases of museums show a racial mixture, with goggle eyes, domed foreheads, narrow lips and mostly long straight

    Von Daniken’s theory and attitude influenced author Graham Hancock, whose popular books today include his 2017 bestseller “Magicians of the Gods: The Forgotten Wisdom of Earth’s Lost Civilisation.” Von Daniken’s attitude also attracts those who view themselves as the “Guardians” of humanity.

    Graham Hancock in his 2017 “Magicians of the Gods” weaved in numerous mentions of “Hermeticism.” Hermeticism is an esoteric practice derived from obscure writings dating to the 2nd century AD. Hermeticism’s motto is “As Above, So Below.” This motto has obvious attraction for those utopians who seek to build a Heaven on Earth.

    One more note. In 1912 Rudolf Steiner wrote a play “Guardians of the Threshold.” Briefly, there are “higher” and “lesser” Guardians that humans interact with in their path to enlightenment. Perhaps Steiner’s concept sheds some light on the recent Vatican project involving Guardians, Stewards and humanity.

    Spinmamma: Interesting point about a wise man possibly represented as a space traveler.

  37. Joe in Canada says:

    “Christmas on Kolob”?

  38. Semper Gumby says:

    jaykay: Good point, that Nativity scene could be improved by shrubbery.

    Joe in Canada: Good one, might as well add Kobol.

    Meanwhile, Amerika magazine did this: “Why is Darth Vader in the Vatican’s Nativity scene?” If you’ve lost Amerika mag…

  39. Spinmamma says:

    Semper Gumby: The Mesopotamian figures you linked to are far more beautiful than those in the display. If they were the inspiration then the display figures were executed by a six year old with issues.

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  41. Semper Gumby says:

    Spinmamma: Fully agree. The 2020 Vatican Nativity Scene seems to have more in common with post-WW II Brutalist architecture than Christian art. Paul Johnson made a good point in his “Art: A New History” when he wrote of the “skill and sensitivity” of the Sumerians.

    Johnson also noted that Sumerian Ziggurats (a “step pyramid” often with a temple on top) were built with a slight convex curve to give the illusion of a straight line, a straight line itself would appear to sag under the weight of the temple on top. This slight convex curve is known as “entasis” and was also used in the Egyptian pyramids and the Greek Parthenon.

    For more on the ancient Near East and Sumerian agriculture, city-building and art see Georges Roux’s “Ancient Iraq.” No ancient astronauts required.

    One more book mention if I could. An interesting read is “Thieves of Baghdad: One Marine’s Passion to Recover the World’s Greatest Stolen Treasures” by Matthew Bogdanos. Bogdanos is the son of Greek immigrants, worked in his family’s Greek restaurant as a boy, and went on to study classics and law, and served as an officer in the Marine Corps Reserves. On 9/11 he was a lawyer in New York City and he describes how he soon found himself in Iraq in 2003 leading a unique team to recover Iraq’s stolen antiquities. An interesting story.

    As mentioned above, Francis is traveling to Iraq next March, time will tell what he says about Just War Theory.

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  43. Semper Gumby says:

    Crux has chimed in:

    “…they have a right to express their dislike of the decidedly untraditional Nativity scene on display in the center of St. Peter’s Square, said a priest who specializes in catechesis through art.

    “But it may be more edifying to try to understand it, said Msgr. Timothy Verdon, director of the office of sacred art for the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy, and director of the Florence cathedral’s museum.”

    *chuckle* “…specializes in catechesis through art.”

    Given his lack of situational awareness this “Msgr.” should not be directing traffic or “sacred art.”

    “Pope Francis goes out of his way to surprise people, to get them to think, to go to a deeper, more mature understanding of their faith, Verdon said.”

    Well, Verdon, Bergoglio also goes out of his way to insult the Faithful, participate in anti-Christian pagan rituals and murderous socialist politics. A “surprise” fetish does not a Christian life make.

    “This is not the sweet, warm nostalgia that Christmas usually generates,” Verdon said. “But even in this intimate area of our religious lives, we have to grow in unexpected ways.”

    Verdon, listen up. Christmas is not about you, it’s about Jesus Christ and the most important event in human history. Kindly sit down and watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Cheers.

    “Angelo Bottone, a native of Abruzzo teaching in Dublin, was one of the few people on Twitter defending the manger…So, when the teenagers from Castelli made it in 1965 and the years following, they included contemporary elements of their own day.”

    Take a closer look Bottone, and keep in mind those students had art “teachers,” pop culture, family members and friends who influenced them.

    “Many of the negative reactions are simply the result of not understanding the Nativity scene, Bottone said.”

    Once again, we ignorant Christians are to be Enlightened by our Ascended Masters at the Vatican and in Dublin.

    “Others thought this was something that Pope Francis commissioned. And obviously, the whole anti-Francis brigade went berserk.”

    Calumny. Bottone did not provide one example of the “anti-Francis brigade” (whatever that is, and how about not anti-Francis but pro-Jesus Christ) going “berserk.” Bottone is reminded that Francis runs the Vatican, he owns this so-called Nativity Scene.

    “But I’m not seeing any effort to go beyond the first reaction and try to express a more charitable judgment.”

    Christians! You will exert yourself more strenuously to please the Great Bottone! Struggle Sessions, Commence!

    …and that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

  44. Semper Gumby says:

    Roger Scruton and Ed Pentin on Beauty:

    “I think we are losing beauty,” he warns in the programme, “and there is a danger that with it, we will lose the meaning of life.”

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