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  • Il Presepe
    Part 2 of 3 - Neapolitan Crèche

    by Anthony Parente

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    The crèche is not something new to the city of Naples. Records dating back to the 11th century make note of a crèche in the Chiesa di Santa Maria. In fact the Neapolitan crèche is an excellent representation of the people and lifestyle in Naples. It is not uncommon to find various characteristics that were not apart of the original Nativity. You may see a fisherman, merchant and/or peasant looking towards the crib. You may also see various scenes that were not present during the birth of Christ. There may be a fountain and/or various buildings that also identify with the city.

    Popularity of the presepi started in the 17th century when it was fashionable to find them in palaces and homes of wealthy citizens. The new found enthusiasm of erecting a presepi during Christmas may be contributed to Saint Gaetano who openly encouraged people to create the presepi as a sign of devotion. It wasn't until the later part of the 19th century that the presepi became apart of family traditions in nearly every home.

    The life size figures in many of the churches and monasteries were made of wood and were beautifully crafted. In addition to wood, hemp wrapped in wire was used to create the body that would be covered in garments. The remaining parts of the body that were unclothed were made with terracotta. However they were made, they were done with exquisite craftsmanship and beauty. Some of the most impressive scenes can be seen inside the Royal Palace of Caserta and the Museo Nazionale di San Martino.

    Next part: Roman & Sicilian Crèches - Part: 1, 2, 3

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