We've already talked in a previous post about the history of the nativity portal in Spain, when the Franciscans began to set up these stages during the fifteenth century in monasteries throughout the Iberian Peninsula, although until the eighteenth century was not popularized as a Christmas element in Spanish homes.

However, the ancient Italian peoples already knew the Nativity scene many years before. Specifically, since the XNUMXth century. The manger -crib, in Italian-, as it is known at birth in the transalpine country, sinks its origins in the Church of Santa Maria del Pesebre, which according to documentary sources already existed a primal nativity scene in the year 1025.

Let's see a little more about the Neapolitan crib, art and tradition in the world of belenismo.

 

Origins of the Neapolitan crib

Despite that first documentary reference of 1025, it is not until the thirteenth century when one can speak of the true origin of the Neapolitan crib. In 1223, San Francisco de Asís prepared for the Christmas Eve Mass a set design where he outlined the basic elements of the nativity scene, in a cave of Greccio.

However, it is already from the fifteenth century when the practice is widespread and begins to configure the authentic Neapolitan crib. The Alemanno brothers -Giovanni and Pietro- can be considered the first artisans of the nativity scene, with the creation of 12 wooden figures for the Christmas representation of Naples in 1470. Until the next century there are no figures of baked clay.


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Neapolitan crib detail (Wikipedia)

 

Evolution and characteristics of the Neapolitan nativity scene

The popularization of the manger grew and extended to monasteries, churches and buildings of the Court. In the seventeenth century, with the arrival of the Baroque, these cribs began to configure certain elements that were repeated in every corner of Italy. Thanks to different tricks in its construction, they were created effects and perspectives that forced viewers to move to see the image of the manger in its entirety.

In addition to the Holy Family and other religious elements, the nativity scenes began to include aspects of daily life of the time. In this way, the scenarios were enriched with caves, mountains, rivers ... and with elements of the environment, such as Vesuvius or the Gulf of Naples, which used to appear in the background in the compositions.

As a curiosity, unlike the popular Spanish nativity scene, It does not usually represent a winter landscape, nor does the desert appear or the typical whitewashed houses of the time. Rather, in a time of historical fervor, architectural remains from different periods are often represented -even Egyptian or Roman ruins- and the typical medieval villages of stacked houses and sloping streets.

Already in the 19th century we have one of the most significant samples of the Neapolitan crib, with the Presepe Cuciniello -by its owner, Michele Cuciniello-, made between 1887 and 1889 and which is preserved in the Museo Nazionale di San Martino. More than 800 pieces to the delight of any fan.


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Il Presepe Cuciniello. Original photo: Lulupa (Wikipedia)

 

The Neapolitan crib nowadays

Currently, Naples is still considered a true paradise for lovers of belenismo. Thousands of buses full of curious tourists arrive every year from the end of November to the Italian city looking for the hundreds of mangers that flood the streets San Gregorio Armeno and Spaccanapoli, in craft workshops still in full operation.

Il presepe napoletano It is a pleasant mixture of religiosity and custom, of history and tradition. The representations usually collect traditional elements such as the Birth, the Magi or the Star of the East, along with the recreation of Neapolitan life in the eighteenth century: merchants, gentlemen and courtiers, people playing cards ... No doubt, one of The attractions of Christmas in Naples is to enjoy a performance with great historical richness.

 

And you, have you ever been to Naples? Have you enjoyed the rich and extensive Nativity tradition of the city?

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Fecha: 29 / 06 / 2016|Categories: History of the belenismo|Tags: , , , |

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