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Church’s Civil War-era crèche figures get TLC

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A Civil War-era Nativity scene is about to be spruced up as part of a $10 million restoration of a landmark church next to the Gateway Arch.

The life-size, cast-iron crèche figures have been a holiday staple for 147 years at the Basilica of St. Louis King of France, better known as the Old Cathedral, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. With the privately funded restoration, the figures will get proper conservancy care. The statues are showing wear and tear and need some touching up.

Then, baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the three Wise Men, a shepherd, a lamb, an ox and an angelic emissary will join other historic artifacts displayed year-round in the remodeled church museum. Currently, the Nativity scene is stored in a narrow room at the back of the church after the holidays. This year’s public viewing is set to last through Jan. 6, the Feast of Epiphany.

“They don’t make them like this anymore,” the Rev. Richard Quirk, the assistant pastor, said this month as he examined the statues.

“It’s a job to move them; Joseph weighs 100 pounds,” Quirk noted, patting the statue’s cold, metal shoulder.

Quirk said the restoration is part of a larger mission to recognize and publicize the rich history of the church, which was completed in 1834.

The restoration, set to be completed next summer.

includes replacing damaged exterior stonework and stripping away worn-out carpeting to reveal the intricate pattern of English tiles installed in the sanctuary floor in the 1850s.

“Once the restoration is complete, you’ll see a church that would look familiar to the people who attended Mass the night the manger scene was first set up,” Quirk said.

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