The Nativity Window: Detail, the birth of Jesus

Stained glass
Cathedral of St. Peter, Regensburg, Germany

The image folows an older pattern: A recumbent Mary lies below the manger; the child lies in the manger, attended by the ox and ass. But in this case the manger is somehow supported by an architectural structure, perhaps representing a church and by extension the Church.

The figure on the right seems to be holding a white staff with his right hand while pointing to the star with his left. In a Nativity of this century one would expect the male figure to be Joseph, but in Nativity scenes Joseph does not usually point to the star or carry a staff. The man may instead be the prophet Balaam who in Numbers 24:17 says, "A star shall rise out of Jacob and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel." This was taken to be a prophecy of the star that would guide the Magi to the Christ Child (Glossa Ordinaria, I, 1360-62). In the earliest Nativity image he is pictured pointing to a star, and in other images he has a staff (example).

It must be noted, however, that the man's hat is like the "Jew's hats" worn, for example, by the Israelites in this relief on the west façade of the cathedral. Balaam was an Ammonite (Numbers 22:4-5), and the headgear in his images is not normally Jewish. (See his page on Wikimedia Commons, retrieved 2021-12-16.)

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Read more about images of the Nativity.

Photographed at the cathedral by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.