An Italian Christmas at the Vatican

2012-12-05 Vatican Radio

(VIS) The traditional nativity scene mounted every Christmas in St. Peter's Square will this year be offered to the Holy Father by the Italian region of Basilicata.

The nativity scene, which includes one hundred terracotta figures, is the work of Francesco Artese, one of the most famous exponents of the southern school of traditional nativity sculpture. The most striking characteristic of Artese's work is his recreation of landscapes of the Stones of Matera and his reproduction of scenes of rural life. Indeed, the nativity of St. Peter's Square is reminiscent of locations in the Holy Land.

According to an informative note published today, "The Lucanian landscape has been enriched by the work of religious people who have chosen to live there, transforming these places into a human settlement rich in holiness, building 154 rupestrian churches, monasteries and sanctuaries which, from the high Middle Ages until the nineteenth century, have shaped the identity of a vast area which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

"The scenery of the nativity, therefore, while inspired by a traditional iconographic genre, is rendered unique by elements reproducing locations and architecture typical of the Lucanian landscape. The rupestrian churches of San Nicola dei Greci and Convicinio di Sant'Antonio are recognisable, and above, the bell tower of San Pietro Barisano stands tall amid the myriad rooftops. The human environment is that of ancient Lucanian rural civilisation ... and the statuettes, made entirely of terracotta, are dressed in clothing made of starched cloth and based on the typical Lucanian peasant costumes of the past. Artese has chosen to dress the Holy Family with costumes in the classic tradition".

"As in previous years, the installation of the nativity scene is entrusted to the Technical Services of the Governorate of Vatican City State".