The Return Of A Renewed Treasure: Abbey Crèche Is Once Again Open For VisitorsBy Shannon HicksBETHLEHEM — The 18th Century Neapolitan Crèche at the Abbey of Regina Laudis has reopened following a three-year conservation and restoration project. While regular visitors — or even anyone who has...Read Full Article
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WOODBURY — Since the original Monastic Art Shop Building has been dismantled as part of a New Horizons renovation project at The Abbey of Regina Laudis, this year’s Christmas sale is being held in a new location: the community’s Jubilee Barn.
The public is invited to visit the monastic community on weekends through December 17. Hours are Saturdays and Sundays, 10 am to noon, and 1:30 to 4 pm. The Abbey is at 249 Flanders Road; signs are posted leading visitors to the Christmas sale building.
The sale this year offers an array of crafts and food made by members of the monastic community, colleagues and friends. There are expanded offerings in lines of candles, soaps, fragrances, knitted items, wooden bowls made from wood from the Abbey land, and wooden pens that hold particular significance.
Food such as cheese, herbs, bread, herbs, jams and jellies will again be available. There are also additions to the line of books offered.
As the Abbey looks forward to the creation of its new chapel, pens made with reclaimed oak from the choir stalls of the beloved foundational chapel — now part of the abbey’s history — have been created.
The pens hold a sacramental meaning as they bring forward the well-worn oak of the former choir transformed into beautiful, one-of-a-kind pens. Each pen was hand turned in the woodshop by Sister Gregory and Mother Alma. The pens are finished with oil and wax and take standard Cross refills.
Also available is a collection of turned bowls made by local artisans Jay Hockenberry and Don Metz.
Using wood from the Abbey’s land, the friends and skilled woodturners have given new and beautiful life to some beloved trees. The bowls are made of various woods, including cherry, red oak, Eastern red cedar, and tulip tree. All were made using food-safe finishes.
Abbey Soaps & Candles
From the Abbey Herb Studio this year the community has developed a number of new soaps, using flowers and herbs from its land. All soaps are rich in shea butter, for extra nourishment and moisturizing properties.
This year’s sale features Rose Petal Soap, infused with fresh rose petals from the property’s rose garden, and with kaolin clay; Honey Buns, crafted in adorable rabbit molds, sure to be a hit with children, made with honey from hives on the property; The Sage Rooster, a noble bird, celebrating the growing chicken coop at the Abbey, infused with sage from herb gardens; Green Tea and Aloe Soap, made with green tea and fresh aloe from the Abbey.
All artwork on the soap labels was done by Abbey artists.
In addition, three perfumes are available: the signature scent, Woodland, as well as New Mown Hay and Benedict Cologne. Lavender Mist is also being sold.
The sale also includes 100 percent solid beeswax candles, made from the beeswax of the Abbey hives with a wide range of colors, from dark mocha to caramel and buttercream.
To the small figure candles, such as the bear, cow, lamb, and pinecone Mother Lioba offered last year, she has added two new molded pillar candles, one featuring a meadow motif and the other has bees highlighted in gold mica that is applied by hand.
Customers last year responded to the hand-dipped sets of Advent tapers, and asked for a more standard American taper with a 1 inch base. So Mother Lioba delivered and made 10-inch tapers of 60 percent beeswax, using the finest wick available from a company called Wick It. The color formulas are similar to last year’s fuchsia and purple, but the purple is more of a violet purple that is even better.
A limited edition of flower candles that feature flowers from the monastic gardens are available while they last. Mother Lioba loves flower application for the beauty as well as the connection between bee, flower, and candle. Her flower candles are 12 inch tapers, between 51 to 60 percent beeswax, and are sold in pairs. It takes literally hours of work to collect, press and apply the flowers, and then over-dip them to preserve the color. Many flowers are gathered and pressed, but few actually make the grade.
Customers also love the line of original silk screen products made by Abbey friend and artist Sydney Palmer C’ de Baca, who describes the tea towels as “deluxe flour sack tea towels made of 100 percent cotton with screen printed designs of my watercolor paintings. They are washer-dryer friendly and come with a deliciously thick, silky smooth hang tag explaining the care and glories of flour sack towels. All artistry, from painting to screen printing, is done in Seattle.”
Ms Palmer C’ de Baca’s collection this year includes new print designs including the Abbey’s Dutch belt cow, ravens (in the spirit of St Benedict), a rooster, and even flamingos.
Her silkscreen designs also grace a coffee mug and a “perpetual calendar” that is not specific to any year, so is perfect for birthdays and anniversaries that need to be remembered every year.
The Abbey is pleased to again be offering Bella Alpacas herbald products and Alpacas socks produced by the Apicella family on their local alpaca farm.
Offerings include Mica Lip Balm, a natural moisturizing lip balm made with coconut oil, mango butter, lecithin and mica sparkles; Wrinkles Be Gone, an anti-aging lotion; Frankincense Tincture for stress relief; herbal remedies including Fire Cider, a natural detox and flu remedy made with organic apple cider vinegar, onions, garlic, ginger, horseradish, cayenne, goji berries, which is also great on salads; and handmade natural alpaca wool socks, made with natural dyes.
New products include Rose Lotion and Jasmine bath bombs.
For the first time the Abbey is offering purses, knitted ducks in winter hats, and Christmas stockings lovingly made by Abbey friend and monastic scholar Maria Salome. A wide range of wood and jewel stone rosaries and rosary bracelets made in the Holy Land have been added to the collection.
Holy Land Christmas ornaments and Nativities made with olive wood from the Holy Land have also returned.
Food offerings including dairy products made from the milk of the Abbey’s heritage breed herd. The St Martin’s Cheddar is aged over four month and surface mold-ripened Bethlehem Cheese with its earthy, nutty flavor will be available.
Fromage Blanc, a creamy pasteurized fresh cheese, is delicious with fruit or lightly sweetened as a dessert.
Thanks to a bountiful grape harvest this year, there will be a good supply of grape jelly. Additional jams and jellies, including blueberry-apple preserve and cherry jam will also be offered.
Bread, featuring buttermilk bread; Rob’s Famous Fudge, Fascia’s Dark Bark and Milk Chocolate Bars, specially made for Abbey; mustard and herbs are also part of the sale.
18th Century Crèche
In addition to the offerings at the Christmas Sale, another point of interest at the Abbey especially during the Advent and Christmas seasons is the 18th Century Neapolitan Crèche.
Completely restored by a team of experts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, who finished their three-year project in 2008, the collection, The Newtown Bee reported in December 2008, “is a remarkable ensemble, containing 68 figures each measuring 14 to 17 inches tall. The figures, whose heads, hands and legs are made of carved wood and terracotta, are set up in a small village made primarily of the bark of cork trees that evokes the local surroundings of the Neapolitan artists of the time.
“Dressed in their original 18th Century costumes, the figures vividly portray the Holy Family, plus children, old and young women bearing gifts, merchants and peddlers, a princess and her whippet, the Three Kings, and peasants and their farm animals. A multitude of cherubs surround the manger, and a trio of angels are suspended above the scene,” Newtown Bee Associate Editor Shannon Hicks wrote a few weeks after the restoration was completed.
The display itself is 16 feet long and 6 feet deep. It is housed in The Bellamy Barn, an 18th Century structure that is itself of regional and historic interest.
The Crèche is open every day from 10 am until 4 pm during Advent through Epiphany.
The Lauren Ford Crèche, comprising larger-than-life figures, housed in an intimate barn setting, is also open until January 7.
The Church Jesu Fili Mariae is open to visitors during the day. The public is welcome to share in the celebration of Mass each morning at 8 am, and Vespers at 5 pm Monday through Saturday, 4:30 on Sundays.