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Neapolitan nativity scene: life in the Baroque Naples
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The nativity scenes and 1700’s Naples.

In some countries people call it Manger or Nativity Scenes but the first crib was created in Italy. It was Francis of Assisi, the initiator of crib between 1200 and 1226. It is said that while he walked through the small town of Rieti in 1223, Christmas arrived when he was at the hermitage of Greccio and all began just there.

He was inspired to play live the birth of Jesus. It is also believed that the first birth with figures was built in Naples and he was made with terracotta figurines.

The Nativity tradition quickly spreads in all Italy and then all over the world and today Christmas traditions are diffuse in hundreds of countries around the world. Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter if we call crib or nativity scene, Naples is its world capital - .

Neapolitan nativity scene: San Gregorio Armeno street Umberto Rotundo. Licensed by CC BY 2.0

Every year from the last Sunday in November, hundreds of buses arrive at the city of Vesuvius and thousands of people fill the streets of San Gregorio Armeno and Spaccanapoli to visit the exhibitions organized by the many workshops in the heart of “Spanish Naples”.


But , why “Neapolitan nativity scene” is so important? -  Perhaps because it is unique. The “Neapolitan crib” is a mixture of devotion and history, religious fervor and local traditions.

Neapolitan nativity scene: cooking spaghetti Andrea Tosatto. Licensed by CC BY 2.0

Neapolitan nativity scene represents the life of the Naples of 1700

Next to the baby Jesus, to the Holy Family and the shepherds, you can admire a representation of the life of the Naples of 1700, during the Bourbon period: ladies and gentlemen of the nobility, representatives of the bourgeoisie of the time, vendors with their banks where you can admire miniatures of cheese, bread, sheep, pigs, ducks, grape.

Neapolitan nativity scene: bourgeoisie in baroque naples Andrea Tosatto. Licensed by CC BY 2.0

 We might have met this people in a market of eighteenth century - : gypsy predicting the future, people playing cards, housewives doing shopping, dogs, cats and chickens.

Neapolitan nativity scene: Sorrento lemons and limoncello Andrea Tosatto. Licensed by CC BY 2.0

The Holy Family, Pompeii and Herculaneum

And the Holy Family? Well, religious figures are at the center of “Praesepium”. The baby Jesus born in the ruins of an ancient temple - , a homage to Pompeii and Herculaneum newly discovered, so that the coming of the Son of God appears as a miracle, something extraordinary because so different from everyday life.

Neapolitan nativity scene: butcher Antonio Fucito. Licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

Neapolitan nativity scene: housewife doing shopping la_rs. Licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

Neapolitan nativity scene: meat, cheese, bread and eggs la_rs. Licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

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