Anne's Blog

  • creche-in-umbria

The Crèche is Alive (Literally!) in Umbria

Date: December 15, 2010 - categories: , , - 4 Comments

The crib scene originated in Assisi with St. Francis who was the first to create a “living manger scene”. In 1223 (3 years before his death), Francesco decided to celebrate the memory of the birth of Christ at Greccio (south of Assisi, in northern Latium). He had a straw-filled crib prepared, with ox and ass nearby. His frati minori (“little brothers” – to be called “Franciscans” one day) were all invited and the people came in crowds.

giotto-nativity

St. Francis’ “living Nativity” in the Giotto fresco cycle (early 14th.c)

His biographer tells us that Francesco stood before the crib, preaching to the people about the birth of the poor King with tender compassion. A knight, John of Greccio, who was a great friend of the Saint, said that he saw a Child asleep in the crib and that Francesco gently took the Baby in his arms and seemed to wake Him up. This was the first “living manger scene”. Nearly two centuries later, the great Giotto will immortalize the Greccio crib scene in the fresco cycle about the life of St. Francis in the Upper Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi.

In commemoration of St. Francis’ first “living” crèche, in many of the tiny walled medieval villages in the hills and mountains of Umbria, the villagers present presepi viventi (re-enactment of the Nativity) on Christmas Eve, again on Christmas Day, on Dec 26th, and on Jan 6th (when the Kings arrive to present gifts to the Christ Child).

In the bellissimo medieval ambiences lit by torchlight, the people transform their tiny mountain villages into Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth, re-enacting all aspects of village life at that time.

Visitors merge into these presepi viventi, passing the market stalls where vendors shout their wares, flanked by little apprentices. They wander in and out of the inns, the carpenter’s workshop, the baker’s shop, the potter’s workshop, then stop to watch the weaver at the loom and the blacksmiths forging. Parents and children are all eager to arrive at the stall where an ox and an ass look on as Mary and Joseph tenderly care for the Baby Jesus (most recently-born child in the village!). Late at night on December 24th, young shepherds carrying lambs on their shoulders will come to pay homage to the Christ child. The Three Kings, in splendid bejeweled robes, will solemnly kneel before the Crib on January 6th.

re-magi-2

asino

presepe-nativity

erode

re-magi

presepe-cooking

presepe-other-3

presepe-other-2

presepe-other

One year (our three children all in grade school then), we all headed up to the presepe vivente of Armenzano, tiny mountain village close to us (and not far from Assisi). Freezing cold that winter and after visits to all the botteghe (workshops), we stopped at the inn to warm up. Hot mulled wine served by local village women in Biblical dress did the trick. One more stop: we didn’t want to leave the presepe before a trek up crumbling stone steps to Armenzano’s ruined castle tower. What a scene there! Herod’s court. Bearded and commanding Herod was surrounded by voluptous courtesans: two knelt at his feet, caressing his legs as another kept his golden goblet replenished with wine. He startled his courtesans – all of us! – when he leapt out of his throne, threw back his ruby – colored velvet mantle and launched into a furious tirade about his hated rival the new King.

“Look!”, exclaimed our Keegan (ten at the time), “That’s Maestro Guerrino, our gym teacher!”

Maestro Guerrino was a mediocre gym teacher but he was a star King Herod (after all, isn’t every Italian a natural actor?)

Note: The presepe vivente is yet another exemplar of Italian passione: after all, who else but an Italian would use their pre-Christmas days (less shopping time!) getting ready to spend their Christmas Eve and all of Christmas Day, Dec 26th, January 6th (all national holidays) in a living re-creation of the First Christmas?!
For more on Italian passione, click here

san-pellegrino-9

san-pellegrino-8

san-pellegrino-7

san-pellegrino-6

san-pellegrino-5

san-pellegrino-4

san-pellegrino-3

san-pellegrino-2

san-pellegrino-1

To see these Umbrian presepi viventi, see these YouTube videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZnBjW7yqms
http://il.youtube.com/watch?v=WJI4awJD3RA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hegHhw2p8T0 (All the villagers prepare for their presepe)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asVtJQpd4Vo (comment in italiano!)

4 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

 

Privacy Policy

Privacy Italian Legislative Decree n° 196/2003 Under Article 13 of the Italian Legislative Decree no. 196/2003, regulations with regard to the Protection of Personal Data, this is an informative report to all interested parties on the modality of the treatment of personal data, arising from interaction with our website www.annesitaly.com
THE PRINCIPAL FOR DATA TREATMENT During site consultation, personal data referring to identified or identifiable persons can be processed. The principal for data treatment is Anne Robichaud Pian della Pieve Assisi 06081 (PG) Italy. The data will be mainly processed at the mentioned head office by the people responsible for the website or by other people appointed for occasional maintenance operations, provided that their actions conform to of the guarantees enshrined in the Legislative Decree 196/2003.
TYPE OF DATA TREATED
Web navigation The information systems and software procedures required for the functioning of this website, acquire some personal data during their normal service, the transmission of which is implicit in the use of web communication protocols. This information is not collected with the purpose of identifying interested parties, but due to its very nature, the information could lead to user identification through processes and relations with data held by third parties. In this data category there are IP addresses or domain names belonging to computers used by users who connect to the site, addresses with URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) notification of the requested resources, time of the request, used method in submitting the request to the server, dimension of the file obtained in replying, the numeric code mentioning the reply status given by the server (successful reply, error, etc?) and other parameters referred to the operation system and to the user’s information environment. This data is used with the sole purpose of obtaining anonymous statistical information on the use of the site and to check the correct functioning; immediately after processing, the data is erased.
Data voluntarily supplied by the user The voluntary optional and explicit e-mail transmission to the addresses mentioned in this site implies the subsequent acquisition of the sender’s address, necessary to reply to the queries, as well as the other eventual personal data registered in the message.
OPTIONAL PERSONAL DATA SUPPLY Except for the above mentioned navigation data, the user may be asked to supply his own personal data through queries or messages to the email addresses shown in the contact pages. Failure to provide such data may be the cause of the inability to obtain the requested information from the company.
TREATMENT MODALITY The personal data is treated in compliance with the Legislative Decree no. 196/2003 and held only for the time necessary to achieve the aim for which it has been collected. Specific safety measures are taken to prevent any data loss, illicit or incorrect use and unauthorized access.
RIGHTS OF THIRD PARTIES The data subjects are at any time entitled to obtain confirmation as to whether or not data relating to him are held, to know the contents and the origin, to check the correctness, to ask for integration, updating or change (art. 7 Decree Law 196:June 2003). In accordance with the same article, they are entitled to obtain the erasure, conversion into anonymous form or freezing of all data used in breach of the law, to object, on legitimate grounds, to the processing of data relating to him. All requests have to be transmitted to the e-mail address anne@annesitaly.com

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