The Nativity (1887)

The Nativity window depicts the birth of Jesus. This is positioned opposite The Crucifixion window in the cathedral. This positioning highlights the contrast and anguish of the two events.

Wealthy Birmingham resident and congregation member, Emma Chadwick Villers-Wilkes paid for both these windows in memory of her late brother. She specifically requested that there should be no oxen in the Nativity scene, as she considered them to be ‘too brutish’.

Explore the scene

The Nativity
Dark Wood The shepherds and their sheep The cave Choirs of angels Baby Jesus Joseph and the visitors

Dark Wood


The Nativity scene is set in winter with bare, grey trees and a dark sky – all painted in intricate detail. The dark wood depicted in understood to be based on the Burne-Jones painting by the same name – which is housed at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

The shepherds and their sheep


>At the feet of the angels is a flock of sheep, attended by a group of shepherds. Two of the three shepherds shield their eyes from the brightness. A third shepherd holds his staff and gazes intently upwards.

The Nativity window was paid for by wealthy Birmingham resident Emma Chadwick Villers-Wilkes, who specifically requested that there should be no oxen in the Nativity scene, as she considered them to be too brutish.

The cave


The Nativity scene here is depicted in a cave, which would have been a common place to house animals in the hills around Bethlehem.

Choirs of angels


A large group of angels fill the top of the window with their bright red wings. They bring light to the scene as they greet the shepherds who are taking care of their sheep.

Baby Jesus


Baby Jesus is the main focus of the scene towards the bottom of the window – shown delicately sleeping on rock surrounded by a shallow pool of water. He is wrapped in a white cloth, with a white halo, decorated with fleur-de-lys patterns. His mother Mary is dressed in a deep-blue gown with a patterned veil and red halo.

Joseph and the visitors


Joseph and three angels stand to the right of the scene, bowing their heads in reverence. Joseph is depicted as an elderly man leaning on a staff, with a red halo and praying. Three angels stand behind him their hands wide apart in a gesture of adoration. They wear robes of different colours and are shown with wings and red haloes.

See a 3D model of the window

The original cartoon vs the finished window

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0121 262 1840

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