Ambassador of Malta to US presented museum with first Maltese-language Bibles at exhibit pre-opening event
WASHINGTON — In July, the Ministry for National Heritage, Arts and Local Government of the Republic of Malta partnered with Museum of the Bible to host an exhibition contest of handcrafted Nativities from artists of the island nation of Malta and its sister island, Gozo. Now, 10 finalists have been selected to have their Nativity scenes displayed at the museum as part of the “Christmas in Malta” exhibition.
“The high level of quality of the cribs submitted for this competition testifies to the dedication and craftsmanship of the Maltese and Gozitan crib-artists,” a Malta Winds article noted. “An expert jury chose the cribs to be sent to Washington, D.C. These cribs offer very varied themes, with some incorporating the Maltese landscape as part of the crib structure. Some of the crib-artists have even decorated their crib with original statues.”
The apostle Paul is credited with bringing the gospel to Malta (Acts 28) around A.D. 60. For centuries, the people of Malta and Gozo have celebrated Christmas by crafting Nativity cribs for display in homes, outside and in churches. According to Keith Azzopardi, ambassador of Malta to the United States of America, the earliest known Maltese Nativity was built at the Dominican Friars Church in Rabat, Malta, in 1617. The Nativity-building tradition in Malta began to flourish during the 1800s and early 1900s.
“Through this exhibition, we are providing the opportunity for Maltese and Gozitan artists, works, and craftsmanship to be recognized for their intrinsic cultural and religious value around the world,” said José Herrera, minister for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government of Malta. “The exhibition is certain to generate interest in religious tourism and Maltese expression of Roman Catholic worship traditions.”
The 10 finalists will be displayed at the museum from Nov. 16, 2020, through March 2021. Artists will travel to Washington, D.C., for the opening of the exhibition and guests will have the opportunity to interact with them at the museum.
The first-place Nativity will become a permanent part of Museum of the Bible’s collections, and the nine other finalists will continue to be showcased in exhibitions in Malta and globally through 2021.
“We are excited to showcase these beautiful Maltese and Gozitan Nativity scenes at the museum,” said Jeffrey Kloha, Ph.D., chief curatorial officer for Museum of the Bible. “I believe visitors will enjoy seeing how the Christmas story is told through this rich tradition. Again, we give special thanks to His Excellency, Ambassador Azzopardi, for helping to bring these Nativities to Museum of the Bible.”
Additionally, Malta President George Vella gifted Museum of the Bible copies of the first printing of the Bible in Maltese. Ambassador Azzopardi presented the Bibles Thursday, Oct. 29, during an event hosted at Museum of the Bible as a prelude to the Nativity exhibition.
More information on Museum of the Bible is available here.