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Spanish Nativity Exhibit Reflects Professor’s Pride, Passion

Providence, R.I.--The large, continual Spanish Nativity crèche exhibit that is on display throughout Advent in the College’s Center for Catholic and Dominican Studies (CCDS) is a source of cultural and personal pride for its curator, David M. Cabral, PC professor of theatre arts.

Featuring dozens of figurines and other artistic creations built abroad or by Cabral himself, the crèche encompasses many key moments in the Christmas Story. It begins with annunciation of Mary and continues with the journey to Bethlehem, the apparition of the angel to the shepherds, the journey of the three kings, Herod and the slaughter of the innocents, and the flight of the holy family into Egypt.

Cabral began assembling his Spanish crèche seven years ago. His initial purchases came from a private dealer in Mexico. He later researched online for additional pieces and found a manufacturer in Madrid, Spain. This is the first time he has displayed the crèche outside of his home.

“I think the Dominican center and its many side altars allow for the Christmas Story to be told and displayed in a style of progressive stations,” he said.

Drawn to the Nativity story early

Cabral began collecting Nativity pieces from many countries as a young boy, before he even made his First Holy Communion. In more recent years, he decided to collect a set of figures of a very traditional style. Spanish and Portuguese creations appealed to him because they are highly detailed and because he is of Portuguese descent.

“The display of very large crèche scenes in the home and my local parish, Our Lady of the Rosary in Providence, is a tradition among the Portuguese people. It is something I grew up with and an obvious source of tradition and pride,” he said, noting his grandparents and neighbors had Nativity displays in their homes.

The figures in the current Spanish crèche exhibit are especially appealing, he added, because they are “the most detailed, dramatic, and theatrical of all the Nativity figures that I have ever seen.” For example, he noted that the three camels and the three kings on their journey to Bethlehem each have a crown on their heads.

Cabral has supplemented the exhibit with his own skill, building rock formations, trees, tents, bird cages, and more. Such creations enhance the “realistic environment” of the Nativity, he added.

Group tours welcome

The exhibit will be on display weekdays through Monday, December 19. CCDS hours are 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday.

Groups are welcome to view the exhibit but are asked to call the CCDS in advance at 401-865-2870.

A video of the collection that was created last year by one of Cabral’s students, Thomas Cheeley ’11, also can be viewed here


--Robbie Smith MacDonald ’12






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