Anne's Blog

Assisi’s Christmas of “Il Poverello”

Date: December 23, 2012 - categories: , , - 3 Comments

Even the holiday decorations in the medieval hilltown of Assisi – citta’ della pace – bear witness to San Francesco:  simplicity is the theme.  Over twenty-five years ago, Pope John Paul II chose Assisi as the perfect site for his peace gathering, inviting here 160 world religious leaders for interfaith dialogue;  “Il Poverello”, San Francesco, born here at the end of the 12th-century, is known worldwide as an emblem of peace, poverty and simplicity.

At Christmastime in Greccio in 1222, Francesco wished to bring alive (literally!) the Christmas story for the local peasants in a simple way, preaching to them in a stall flanked by an ox and an ass, thus creating a presepe vivente (“living creche”).

His biographer tells us that the Christ Child appeared in his arms as he preached.  Tiny mountain villages around Assisi still create presepi viventi  on Dec 24, 25, 26, Jan 1 and 6 (when the Kings arrive, bearing gifts).

And in Assisi in early December, the contest of  presepi artistici  starts.  Over sixty Christmas cribs are set up in shop storefronts, hotel entryways, under medieval arches, in the churches and surrounding fountains.

The local populace (including the local school classes) make cribs in every imaginable artistic medium:  terracotta, maiolica, olive wood, blown glass, stained glass, wrought iron, copper, cork, recycled materials of every type (after all, our Francesco is the patron saint of ecology). The presepi –  enchanting visitors  until Jan 6th – are often in surprising settings and always moving in their simplicity.

The Gothic pointed arches over homes and Assisi’s shops might have a bit of embellishment: droplets of white lights, branches of evergreens, intertwining red ribbons.  Strings of white lights crisscross the main square in front of the 1st BC Roman temple. With handmade  presepi and simplicity of decoration, so la citta’ del Poverello celebrates Natale.

Read about the celebration of the “living Nativity” scene throughout Umbria at Christmastime
Read about Christmas musical splendor in Assisi
Read about another sublime Christmas concert
Read about earthquake restoration in Assisi – and not only
Read about Orvieto Christmas season music: jazz!
Read about Naples Christmas magic!
Read about another Italian Christmastime tradition
Read about an astounding Naples Christmas tradition
Read about an Assisi Christmas tree of solidarity
Click here to read about the Assisi Christmas concert
Read about a memorable Assisi Christmas concert
Read about Assisi rooftop art – and Christmas traditions

Simplicity of decoration:

a-hotels-simple-decorations

a-jewelers-elegant-window

an-assisi-cafe-in-christmas-simplicity

an-assisi-jewelers-simple-but-elegant-christmas-window

an-assisi-street-welcomes-christmas

a-small-sled-outside-a-shop

assisi-grocery-store-christmas-decorations

assisis-main-square-with-christmas-lights

a-wooden-door-a-babbo-natale

cafe-table-christmas-simplicity

christmas-elegance-in-a-boutique

christmas-elegance-in-a-cafe

christmas-glow-of-san-rufino

christmas-motif-in-front-of-a-shop

even-a-little-pizzeria-has-simple-christmas-adornment

greens-and-ribbons-frame-an-artist-studio

medieval-backstreet-magic-at-christmastime

simple-but-elegant-decoration

simple-decorations-of-a-pizzeria

white-snowflakes-surround-the-entrance-to-the-textile-shop1

a-bright-red-cylamen-a-gold-bow-a-christmas-welcome

a-christmas-cafe-display

a-clothing-stores-simple-decorations

a-gothic-arch-greens-and-flowering-boughs

Handmade  presepi:

a-terracotta-nativity-scene

creche-in-terracotta-relief-e1356272250406

crib-scene-competition-takes-over-assisi-each-year-close-to-christmas-e1356272693718

crib-scene-on-ceramic-tile-e1356272237348

crib-scene-wonder-e1356272208730

glazed-terracotta-crib-figures-by-assisi-artist-e1356272184409

maiolica-tile-crib-scene-wonder-in-a-country-basket-e1356272149314

making-the-nusery-school-creche-in-a-fountain-e1356272722887

plastic-plates-and-spoons-in-a-childs-crib-scene-e1356272115384

san-francesco-is-the-only-figure-in-this-nativity-scene-e1356272101908

the-crib-in-a-contemporary-painting-e1356272006945

the-crib-scenes-story-all-symbolisim-is-often-displayed-e1356272064233

whimsical-detail-of-a-glazed-terracotta-nativity-scene-e1356271991726

a-carved-crib-in-relief-e1356272424298

a-childs-crib-scene-made-with-painted-rocks-e1356272490188

a-contemporary-interpretation-of-the-nativity-scene

a-crib-combines-sculpture-and-painting-e1356272371503

a-fine-icon-in-the-crib-scene-competition-e1356272326402

a-fine-wood-crib-scene-e1356272302940

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Agenzia Viaggi Stoppini in Assisi handles all technical support for my guided visits (bus transportation, organization of meals, etc)