Nativity’s church building was built in the Gothic Style of the fifteenth century Renaissance movement in Europe. Much of the credit for the beauty and symmetry of the building belongs to Mr. Edwin Durang, the architect, who brought to his task an expert and thorough knowledge of his craft.
The three altars of the Church are in the Roman style and completely in harmony with their setting. The white marble trimmed with Mexican onyx gives remarkable richness of beauty to the whole interior of the church. The shafts supporting the baldachino over the altar are made of rich Vermont and yellow Sienna marble. The onyx trimming is especially fine and comes from the old quarries of Mexico. The figures of the angels on the wings of the main altar are of the finest Italian statuary marble and are the work of the celebrated sculptor, Carbora. The side altars are of the same materials as the main altar on which rests the tabernacle. The statues of Our Lady and Saint Joseph which surmount them are the work of the famous Giovanni Salute of Carrara.
Another beautiful adornment to the church is the series of stained glass windows. The carefully blended coloring of the windows gives to the church a dim religious light, while color and light are combined in an artistic portrayal of the joys, sorrows and glories in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
It is these same stained glass windows that grace the covers of our Centennial Jubilee Book. The Life of Mary in Stained Glass The windows were made at the Royal Bavarian Establishment of Munich, Germany, under the personal supervision of Chevalier Fray Mayer, Director of the Institute, who had devoted his whole life and exceptional talents to the advancement and perfection of his art. The window nearest the Gospel side, the left side of the church as you enter, represents the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin.
It is copied after the great fresco of Andrea del Sarto in the Church of the Annunciation in Florence. The second window, adapted from a painting from Murillo, represents the education of the Blessed Virgin. The third window is a reproduction of Titian’s “Presentation”, the original of which is in the possession of the Academy of Venice. The fourth window reproduces the famous painting by Raphael, “Espousals of the Blessed Virgin and Saint Joseph.” The fifth window depicts the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin by the Angel Gabriel. The sixth window pictures the Visitation of the Blessed Mother to her cousin Elizabeth. The seventh window is a traditional Nativity scene of Our Lord’s birth. The eighth window represents Saint Joseph in his sleep being told by the angel to take the child and his Mother and escape into Egypt. On the Epistle side, the right side of the church as you enter, the first window depicts the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt. The second window represents Christ’s first miracle of changing water into wine at the Marriage Feast of Cana. The third window reveals the fulfillment of Simeon’s prophetic words to the Blessed Mother in the Crucifixion of her son. The fourth window is a copy of the famous ”Pieta” of Fra Bartolomeo showing our crucified Lord in the arms of His Mother. The fifth window depicts the traditional belief that Jesus appeared first to His Mother after his Resurrection. The sixth window takes as its subject the death of the Blessed Virgin in the home of the beloved Apostle St. John. The seventh window copies Murillo’s “Assumption” of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. The eighth window fittingly represents the coronation of the Blessed Virgin as Queen of Heaven. The rose window directly above the choir is another striking example of skill and artistry, rich in glowing color. In the heart of the fullblown rose appears the figure of St. Cecilia, the Patroness of Music. In the afternoon on a clear day, the rays of the sun sinking in the West enshrine the beautiful crucifix over the main altar in Kaleidoscopic splendor.
Stations of the Cross
The Stations of the Cross beneath the stained glass windows in the Church are oil paintings set into hollow panels and surrounded by richly ornamented framework. The stations were copied in Rome after the celebrated work in water-colors done by the artist Overbrek.
The Church Paintings The paintings within the sanctuary of the church were done by Filippo Costiaggini. was renowned through all of Europe and his fame had already preceded him when he came to America in 1870. He painted four murals for Nativity Church: “The Sacrifice of Melchisedech” and the “Last Supper” behind the main Altar; “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin” above our Lady’s altar, and the “Death of St. Joseph” above St. Joseph altar. In the rear of the church over the door on the Gospel side is the famed canvas of Costiaggini “The Ascension of Our Lord,” and the “Adoration of the Magi” over the door on the Epistle side. The original mural on the ceiling in the center of the church depicted the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was done by the artist Rambusch of New York in 1932. The scene of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary executed by Otto Bauer in 1956 is a masterful piece of artistry in complete harmony with the splendor of the church.