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Il Presepe Settecentesco _ Nativity Dating back to the Eighteenth Century

January 29, 2015

Driving along the Eastern coast of Sicily, not far from the city of Catania, is the town of Acireale. This towns offers visitors the opportunity to visit a Nativity which dates back to the mid 1700’s. The Nativity, located on a road leading down from Acireale to the towns overlooking  the sea,  is located in a cave, “a rutta”, inside a church, the Chiesa S. Maria della Neve.

View from the church

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Poster at front entrance of Church

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The Nativity has 34 figures, man size figures, that have heads made of wax.  The faces, made of wax, portray the exceptional talent of the local artisans who made them truly look authentic.  There are facial expressions and wrinkles that close up make the pieces look so close to reality.

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The costumes also date back to the middle of the 18th Century and are made of authentic material of the era. There is  gold trimmed damask on the pieces representing the wealthy, but even the costumes of the common folk are elaborate pieces of artwork that have withstood the test of time (the Nativity has undergone two restorations since its making).

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The Nativity was put together to include items of the Sicilian tradition as lemons, tomatoes and the typical water jug.

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Also, there are two characters from the Acireale tradition, “Innaru”, which means January, and was the coldest month, is personified in a man, Innaru,  who is warming up in front of a fire;

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and “U meravigghiatu da stidda”, a character whose facial expression shows his surprise when he witnesses the passing of the comet.

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The animals in the Nativity are real examples that have been embalmed.

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When I visited the Nativity last December, I just stood in front of it for quite some time simply in awe at its beauty and testimonial of wonderful work of art created over the centuries by the local artisans!!!

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