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Handmade Nativities, ornaments and more from Sisters of Bethlehem


Photo Courtesy of Monastery of Bethlehem

Zelda Caldwell - published on 11/17/21

The religious sisters create all of their artwork “in solitude, and in prayer, with love.”

The religious sisters of the Monastery of Bethlehem, in Livingston Manor, New York, lead lives of quiet contemplation. In the tradition of the desert monks of the early Church, their days are passed together in silence, solitude, communion and continual prayer.

To support themselves, and continue their beautiful way of life at their monastery, nestled in the Catskills, the sisters create beautiful handmade works of art, which they sell. For Christmas, this year, they are introducing a new line of Nativity sets or Crèches, in addition to the Christmas ornaments and festive hand-painted china they sell at their online store.

Artwork that radiates “the Beauty of the Creator”

Their work, however, is not simply to pay the bills, but a way of sharing their love of God and appreciation of the beauty of Creation. In sharing these photos of their art work with Aleteia, the sisters told us that the work they do is inspired by Holy Scripture:

“In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe, who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word.”

(Hebrews 1:1-3)

One sister explained, “The artwork of the monastery of Bethlehem takes from these scriptural words the finality to make visible something of the glory of God, to be an expression of the imprint of the Divine Being. For it is the means the sisters choose to speak “to us” the Word of God, not by preaching, nor by teaching, but by painting, sculpting, creating beauty, which radiates the Beauty of the Creator.”

All of their work, whether it be statues, icons, Crèches, ornaments or painted porcelain, points to that “imprint.”  

The art work, the sister continued, “represents in a very incarnate way, the truth of the universality of the Plan of Salvation, as they depict heaven and earth, rich and poor, jew and gentile, man and woman, adult and child, race and ethnicity, human and animal gathered around the Incarnate Word of God who was sent into the world “not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3: 17).”

In the words of the sisters “all artwork is done in solitude and in prayer, and with love.”

The sisters hope you enjoy shopping at their online store. Here are some of their items they are featuring this holiday season, which they hope you will find a “source of ideas for gifts in this time of Thanksgiving and gathering and rejoicing with the approach of Christmas and New Year.”

Handmade Crèches

Created by the Sisters of Bethlehem, these Crèches were made in the style of Nativity scenes as they have been traditionally crafted for all over the world for centuries. The figurines are made of dolomite, a mixture of synthetic resin, and stone powder. They are made from molds, then individually carved to add details. Finally, they are hand-painted to create one-of-a-kind treasures. These Crèches were made by the “Atelier Saint Joseph” in the sisters’ monastery in Mougères, France. 

Bethlehem Crèche:  Individual figurines (4-7 in.) are available for purchase to form a complete Nativity set. Purchasers have the choice between a simpler Crèche made up of Mary and the baby Jesus with Joseph, or a larger scene that includes, angels, Magi, Shepherds, animals, a gold star and a stable.

Crèche of Autun:  This stunning Nativity set is hand-painted in a radiant whitewash. Available for purchase is a set of hand-painted figurines (3 1/2-10 1/2 in.): Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus. Also available: an angel, shepherd, Magi, and animals.

Peasant Crèche: Larger (10 1/2 in.) figurines of Mary and Joseph along with the Baby Jesus can be purchased according to the customer’s color preference (Mary’s gown comes in green or brown, Joseph’s in blue or white).

Crèche in Oak Wood: Smaller figurines (2.76 in.) of the Holy Family are carved in oak and hand-painted.

Large Bethlehem Crèche: These figurines are quite large (Joseph is 41 in.) and would be particularly suited for churches or religious centers. The exquisitely carved and hand-painted figures are in stock (the website may say they are out of stock). Those who wish to purchase them should email the sisters directly so they can make arrangements for shipping or pickup.

Christmas ornaments

These popular hand-painted porcelain ornaments come in sets of 5 or 10 to help you decorate your Christmas tree. They also make memorable, festive individual gifts. The ornaments include decorative patterns of bright colors, as well as patterns with the Wise Men from the East and Angels on High with inspired Words of God. The collection will be hand-chosen by the Sisters, thus the ornament selection will be unique.   

Hand-painted Christmas ornaments from the Monastery of Bethlehem

Hand-painted  “Lozenges” china

The beautiful Lozenges pattern is inspired by traditional Eastern patterns and is painted in two colors: blue and red. Depending on the size and the shape of the piece on which it is painted, it gives an impression of a star, of growing circles or of a spiral. In it, geometric shapes and intricate movements harmonize. 

Each piece is hand-painted on fine china and kiln-fired by the Sisters of Bethlehem in Livingston Manor. The original patterns have been created by the Sisters of Bethlehem here and abroad.

“Lozenges” china pattern from the Monastery of Bethlehem

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