Saturday, November 30, 2013

Birmingham axes Nativity trail, which was once infamously accused of trying to replace Christmas with a non-religious “Winterval”, is to drop a Nativity trail that has been staged in the city’s art gallery for the past eight years.

Billed as illustrating the Christmas story through the eyes of some of the world’s greatest artists, the trail used to run from the end of November until Christmas Eve.

It covered 10 paintings in seven of its galleries, including the largest watercolour in the world, The Star of Bethlehem, painted between 1887 and 1891, by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, a triptych from the early sixteenth century by Adriaen Isenbrandt and The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, painted around 1620 by Orazio Gentileschi.

The trail was supported by Christian leaders in the city, and last year’s formal opening was attended by civil and faith leaders. 

The Archbishop of Birmingham, Bernard Longley, told them the trail and the traditional nativity scene in the square outside the gallery was “a little sign of what it means to believe in Jesus in the market place”.

Archbishop Longley emphasised that the leaders of other faiths in Birmingham all supported and respected the Nativity trail and the Christmas crib, as Christians of various traditions respected the faiths and festivals of others. 

A spokeswoman for the independent trust that last year took control of the art gallery and museums from Birmingham City Council blamed a lack of funding for the decision to halt what had been a very popular event.

The spokeswoman said: “We are not holding the nativity trail at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery this year, as we are currently reviewing all programming across Birmingham Museums sites in light of changing resources.”

No one was available for comment at the Birmingham archdiocese.

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