Take a little trip with me through the history of the Vatican Nativity Scenes. It is a wild ride. With a strange ending.
The Vatican Nativity in Saint Peter’s Square is relatively new. It was started by Pope John Paul II in 1982.
For 30 years, the same figures were used, but the Vatican paid for a new scene each Christmas.
It was actually Archbishop Viganò who approached Pope Benedict in 2011 with the costs for the yearly crèche.The total costs for building the scene went well into the hundreds of thousands each year. This was around the time of Vatileaks.
An idea was then suggested to have a nativity donated from different regions of Italy, and that began in 2012.
I’m sure they meant well, but it opened the door to new takes on the nativity. Most turned out nicely.
Here are a few shots using the original figures that I took in previous years.
2012 Donated by Basilicata
This was the first year to use new figures. They did a great job with the scene, but the figures were so tiny.
📸 L’Osservatore Romano
📸 L’Osservatore Romano
2013 Donated by Naples
Pope Francis’ first nativity. A bit crowded.
VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Tuesday prepared to celebrate his first Christmas as pontiff with a mass in St Peter’s Basilica as a giant traditional Nativity scene named in his honourwas unveiled on St Peter’s Square.
The Nativity scene made by Naples artisan Antonio Cantone this year is entitled “Francis 1223 — Francis 2013” –– a reference to St Francis of Assisi, who inspired the pope’s choice of name when he was elected.
The saint is commonly credited with being behind the first representation of the Nativity, staged with live actors as is still done in many parts of the world.
Cantone told AFP ahead of the ceremony that he had wanted to build a Nativity to reflect the pope’s humble style, giving more prominence to ordinary people dressed in simple clothes in the traditional scene of the birth of Jesus.
“I have based the scene on the message of Pope Francis,” Cantone said in an interview in his workshop in the bustling centre of Naples earlier this month. (BUT, isn’t Christmas supposed to be to honor Jesus Christ, and celebrate his birth? Why is the pontiff being lifted up, honored and made the center of the focus?)
“The first to arrive when Jesus was born were ordinary people, that is the core of the message I wanted.”
Elaborate Nativity scenes became popular in Naples churches in the 18th century to make religious teachings more widely understandable by including snapshots of daily life that people could relate to.
The custom was then adopted by the aristocracy and spread to ordinary people, becoming a yearly and much-loved tradition for millions of Italians.
The most traditional statuettes are painstakingly handcrafted out of terracotta, given glass eyes and painted — each one a unique work of folk art.
2014 Donated by Verona
A nice set with traditional figures. Not the most exciting backdrop, but it worked especially well at night.
2015 Donated by Trento
Another nice scene and figures. In the tradition of Italian nativities, the figures are wearing clothes from Trento and the building is in the same style as their architecture.
2016 Donated by Malta
This was following the horrible earthquakes in Amatrice and Norcia. So many nativities around the country featured damaged buildings and ruble. The cross on its side was shocking, but we lost many churches in the earthquake and this was a nod to them.
Naturally, coming from Malta, they placed a MALTESE CROSS/NAZI CROSS/ TEMPLAR CROSS in within the display. It is set apart in a very prominent position. Can’t be missed. (seen above)
What I found even more disturbing is the VERY PROMINENT MARK OF MAMMON/MARK OF THE BEAST/MARK OF THE ANTICHRIST, the circle and the cross hairs. They are claiming that it is a cross turned on it’s side. However, the imagery is very clear! (seen below)
2017 Donated by Naples
Supposed to highlight the corporal works of mercy, this nativity caused lots of controversy with a buff naked guy and a dead arm hanging off a stretcher. I took lots of pics and posted about it here.
Critics have no mercy for the naked guy in the Vatican’s Nativity display | The Kansas City Star
The Nativity at the Vatican in Rome is causing a bit of head-scratchingthis year.
There’s a naked man — a beefy, ripped naked man — in the scene, and some people complain that he’s pulling attention away from Baby Jesus.
In fact, the whole scene is a little, uh, out there for some faithful who have been arguing about it on social media since it was unveiled earlier this month.
It looks like a “medieval ER,”tweeted one Vatican watcher.
“Is this Christmas or the Apocalypse,” wondered another.
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Raymond Arroyo@RaymondArroyoThe Vatican’s Nativity scene is a bit on the bizarre sidethis year. It features a crumbling church wall w/dead, bloodied bodies strewn about. I get the 7 corporal works of mercy message…but at Christmas people want to reflect on the Birth of Christ; not a medieval ER.
@patrickmadridWho’s in charge of designing/approving Vatican manger scenes? This year’s naked-guy rendition is just bizarre. Jarring, discordant & chaotic, it’s not even Baby Jesus-centered. Yes, the extra bits are meant to depict works of mercy, but why? They don’t belong in a Nativity scene.
Raymond Arroyo@RaymondArroyoThe Vatican’s Nativity scene is a bit on the bizarre side this year. It features a crumbling church wall w/dead, bloodied bodies strewn about. I get the 7 corporal works of mercy message…but at Christmas people want to reflect on the Birth of Christ; not a medieval ER.
The centerpiece of the Vatican’s Christmas decorations is a towering, 92-foot spruce tree from Poland adorned with ceramic ornaments made by children being treated in Italian hospitals, according to a report in the The Arlington Catholic Herald in Virginia.
The Nativity scene was donated by the Benedictine Abbey of Montevergine in southern Italy. It features 20 terracotta figures, some as tall as 6 feet, posed over an 860-square-foot scene and created in 18th century Neapolitan style, the Herald reports.
The display depicts seven corporal works of mercy. In one vignette, a dead man is being buried, in another a prisoner is visited. The naked man is being clothed.
The representation of Jesus’ birth is inspired by works of mercy and is a reminder “that Jesus told us: ‘Do to others what you would have them do to you,” Pope Francis saidearlier this month in introducing the scene and thanking those who worked on it.
“A naked man steals the show in the Vatican’s new nativity scene rendition,” declared Veritas Vincit International, a self-described “End Times” blog.
“Most people’s eyes would probably be led first and attracted to the ‘unique’ sight of a naked man prominently featured in the official nativity scene of the Vatican – set right at the forefront of the giant Christmas tree,” the blog insists.
Some of the harshest critics have dubbed it “The Frankie Horror Picture Show.”
“Far be it from me to join the Catholic prudes who are being negative about the Vatican nativity scene,” the priest writes on his blog.
“People are grumbling about the naked man who is being clothed as an act of mercy. Some are also creeped out by the dead person being prepared for burial because it looks like a scene from a horror film.”
He doesn’t mind the “nudity and gore,” he writes. “I sort of mind that it is bad art — schmaltzy and poorly executed. The figures are stilted and awkward. It looks like one of those tableaus in a third rate wax museum. You could say, ‘C’mon. This is Catholicism. We’re used to kitsch.’ OK, but the Vatican should do better.”
His real complaint? He argues that a “Nativity scene is not a tableau of the corporal works of mercy. The Vatican Nativity worries me because it is placing good works front and center rather than the incarnation.
“In fact, the good works in the nativity scene swamp the Nativity – over ride the Nativity and make it take second place. The good works are literally front and center. The nativity of Christ the Son of God and Son of Mary is in the background.”
Taking note of the controversy — someone snarked that the naked man looks like his clothes were stolen at the gym — Mark Brumley in The Catholic World Report took the “art for art’s sake” stance.
“I like to think of him as representing the potential for a new ‘muscular Christianity,’” Brumley wrote while asking his fellow Catholics to stop with the name-calling over the controversy.
“It seems to me that certain advocates and critics can help the conversation if they focused less on their opponents and more on the arguments, for and against, this or that aspect of the art in question,” Brumley wrote.
“But perhaps that is too much to expect of certain Catholics in social media these days, even in this time of Advent.”
2018 Donated by Veneto
Sandseemed an odd medium for a nativity, but it worked. Though made of sand, the figures are of traditional style and tastefully done. (The New Christianity built on SAND? Actually, I am more concerned that the Sand medium signifies the AI NEW AGE built on the sand used to make computer components.)
If you notice the real focul point of this sculpture is the SUN SYMBOL in the middle at the back. The angle rising above it is actually pointing to or holding up a little bitty star. You can’t even see it unless you really zoom in on it. This is supposed to be the Star of Bethlehem?? I think the angel is a Fallen Angel possibly representing Lucifer and the SUN in the SOL INVICTUS. Whose birthday is celebrated on December 25.
Can you find the star???
The pictures below were snipped from the beginning of the above video. The film came from the unveiling of the sculpture. WHAT THE HECK is that idol prominently displayed above all the people seated in the room lit with candles?
This year, the Bethlehem nativity scene is modelled on St. Peter’s Square from sand, which was specially delivered from the Adriatic town of Jesolo. An annual sand sculpture festival takes place there.
History of Jeslo
Already existent in the 6th Century C.E., when certain populations were forced to flee the Barbarian Invasions in the north, and to hide on the Isle of Equilio. At that time, the first inhabited location was in the marshy zone, eventually named Cavazzucherina in the 15th Century. It was only in the 1920s, however, that the Grande Bonifica or Great Reclamation allowed for the possibility of seaside tourism for the first time ever. The first beach establishments, along with hotels and restaurants, rose up, and in 1927 the Lido di Treviso came into being at the littoral middle.
Nel 1930 Cavazuccherina became Jesolo– and the Lido di Treviso Lido di Jesolo – in 1930. The city grew intensely in the Post-War period, particularly as a result of the increased tourism activity, and it eventually transformed into one of the most important hubs for tourism on the Adriatic. Source
St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in Rome is decorated with Christmas decorations: a Christmas crib is erected next to the 23-metre-high (23 meters = 75.4593) Christmas tree. From afar it looks like stone (a mockery, because God builds with Stone, so this statue is a masquerade…a fake. Looks like stone but is only shifting sand.) but if you look closely you can see its fragility: 700tons of sand were formed into Christmas flu by four sculptors from the USA, Russia, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.
The crib and the Christmas tree, which is equipped with energy-saving lighting for the first time, will remain in place until the end of the liturgical Christmas season on January 10. Pope Francis visits the ensemble on New Year’s Eve after a thanksgiving service at the end of the year.
2019 Donated by Trento
Another great showing by Trento. Again, they included traditional dress and architecture. They went even further by including some actual locals as well. Again, this is in keeping with Italian tradition and making the nativity relatable.
Almost entirely made from wood, the Nativity scene ticks every box of Pope Francis’ pontificate. The plight of immigrants and refugees is depicted by the statue of a man carrying his belongings as he approaches the manger, which is the picture of poverty and humility, while the pope’s environmental message is underlined by the fact that the creche is entirely plastic-free. (The Pope is making the entire Nativity a Political Stunt)
In a private audience with the masons and artisans from Italy’s northern Trento region who created the creche, Pope Francis said the scene “is a genuine way of communicating the gospel, in a world that sometimes seems to be afraid of remembering what Christmas really is and eliminates Christian symbols, only to retain those drawn from a banal, commercial imagination.”
About 25 life-size characters populate this year’s scene, which depicts everyday life in the 19th century, from cheese-making to cleaning and cooking.
At its center, Mary and Joseph surround the empty manger that will host a likeness of baby Jesus on Christmas Day.
The Nativity scene is set under an almost 85-foot-tall spruce that is decorated and lit with the Vatican’s traditionally spare ornaments. During his meeting with those who donated the tree, Francis expressed his appreciation for the fact that 40 new spruces were planted in its place.
But there is another side to the natural beauty of this year’s Christmas display, as it incorporates fallen trees collected from more than 100,000 acres of land ravaged by a severe storm that hit northern Italy at the end of last year.Bishops attending the ceremony on Thursday said that such events serve as a reminder of the destruction and damage that can occur if humanity does not make a concerted effort to combat climate change. (AND THERE YA GO…Climate Change agenda. IF you are celebrating Christmas as the birth of our Lord, you have no business using the event to promote your political agenda!)
Pope Francis has been a strong advocate for the defense and care of creation, starting with his 2015 encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’.” (No, he hasn’t. He has been promoting devotion to “Mother Earth”. Not teaching husbandry of GOD’s creation.)
The first-ever creche was made by the current pope’s namesake, St. Francis, a friar in the Middle Ages who lived his life in poverty after rejecting his inheritance. On Sunday (Dec. 1), the pope made a point of visiting the town of Greccio, not far from Rome, where St. Francis – inspired by its rocky and Bethlehem-like landscape – chose to create the very first creche.
St. Francis enlisted real people in his Nativity pageant in 1223,but the tradition lived on to become the creches we are used to seeing today. (just more idols used by the Catholic Church. They love to worship statues.)
“On December 25, friars came to Greccio from various parts, together with people from the farmsteads in the area, who brought flowers and torches to light up that holy night,” the pope wrote in “Admirabile Signum,” an apostolic letter released during his visit to the historic town.
“I wish to encourage the beautiful family tradition of preparing the nativity scene in the days before Christmas, but also the custom of setting it up in the workplace, in schools, hospitals, prisons and town squares,” the pope wrote. “It is my hope that this custom will never be lost and that, wherever it has fallen into disuse, it can be rediscovered and revived.” (God’s Word FORBIDS us to make graven images.)
According to the pope, the creche “shows God’s tender love” by placing the mystery of the divine within an ordinary setting. (that is another ritual introduced by the Catholic Church. There is no reason to create political art and place it alongside the image of the birth of Christ)More than that, he added, the lowly setting of Christ’s birth “summons us to follow him along the path of humility, poverty and self-denial that leads from the manger of Bethlehem to the cross.”
Francis knows well that among Christian families, setting up a creche is a treasured tradition and one that he doesn’t wish to be forgotten.
“The Christmas crèche is part of the precious yet demanding process of passing on the faith,” he wrote. “Beginning in childhood, and at every stage of our lives, it teaches us to contemplate Jesus, to experience God’s love for us, to feel and believe that God is with us and that we are with him, his children, brothers and sisters all, thanks to that Child who is the Son of God and the Son of the Virgin Mary. And to realize that in that knowledge we find true happiness.” (If that was truly the motivation, they would need nothing but Jesus, Mary and Joseph… No elaborate staging, fancy sculpting, or political theme.)
2020 Donated by Abruzzo
This ceramic nativity is just a small part of 54 piece set from the 1960s and 1970s. We have a spark plug angel – or is it iron maiden torture device angel, an astronaut, and a very modern set.Behind the astronaut is an evil looking figure, maybe a knight? Seeing a horned figure, who will soon stand over Baby Jesus, at the Vatican no less, brings me no joy.Speaking of Baby Jesus, He has His head covered/blindfolded until Christmas – it looks like a kidnapping. But at least the tree is gorgeous.
Don’t be fooled for one minute. These Vatican Nativity Displays are all part of the Magick Workings of the Freemasons/Illuminati/Magi/Royals/Elite. All of the symbolism is carefully selected and meticulously placed. This theme fits perfectly with the Alien Agenda/Space Magic going on today. They want everyone focused on the SPACE PROGRAM and UFO’s. They want to get people believing that traveling to space in space ships is our salvation. And/or that ALIEN’s are coming back to reclaim us. LIES! LIES! LIES!
miniature Pope Francis honoring the Christ Child. (honoring the Christ Child? Doesn’t look like that to me.).- Among the novelties of this year’s “100 Nativity Scenes at the Vatican” exhibit is the inclusion of a
The small statue of the pontiff is part of a piece that recreates the scene of March 27, 2020, when Pope Francis stood in a rainy and empty St. Peter’s Square to pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to Pope Francis and the Child Jesus in a manger, the model depicts the front of St. Peter’s Basilica and the miraculous crucifixof the Church of San Marcello al Corso.
(Do you see Infant Jesus is on the floor which looks like snakeskin, at the Pope’s feet. The Pope is towering over him, the most lit figure present. In the background is Jesus, still on the cross, crucified again and again, according to the Catholic teaching. Who is the focus here? Who is the power represented here? )
The annual nativity scene display began in 1976.Before 2018, the nativities were exhibited in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo. This is the third year that the display is under the leadership of the Vatican.
But this year, for safety reasons, the nativities were moved from a building near the Vatican to the open air, under a part of Bernini’s famous colonnade, which embraces St. Peter’s Square. Wooden displays hold the nativities and protect them from the elements.
Space limitations mean the exhibit is slightly smaller this year. Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who leads the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, told CNA that there were around 70nativities set up for viewing.
Some of the nativity scenes come from other countries. In addition to traditional Italian manger scenes, there are those that have been handmade with more unusual materials, such as paper, straw, stones, and even type from a typewriter.
Most of the scenes included have been displayed also in previous years, but there are a few new ones for 2020. For example, Vatican firemen put together a nativity scene that sits inside an old fire extinguisher.
Some of the nativities were made by schoolchildren.
The display also includes poinsettia plants and large signs with quotations from Pope Francis about the significance of the nativity.
The new location of the exhibit, under the colonnade, is where some homeless people spend the day. At night, many more sleep around the outside edge of the colonnade in sleeping bags or tents if they have them –– or on top of cardboard to protect them from the cold stone.
“Everyone will be able to stop and admire the beauty of many nativity scenes from different parts of the world and understand how much love and imagination have been put into the creation of the manger scene,” a press release from the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization said.
“If we are experiencing a feeling of sadness or loneliness, let us approach the crib and look at the Baby Jesus who wants to be welcomed. Then we too stretch out our arms, hold him and we will feel less alone,” Fisichella told Vatican News.
The New Evangelization office, which organizes the exhibit each year, said that “Christmas is the light that comes into the world to dispel the darkness of evil.” (CHRISTMAS IS THE LIGHT??? WHAT?? CHRISTMAS ISN’T EVEN CHRISTIAN!! JESUS IS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD! He is the HOPE of the WORLD! He is the ONE who defeats the enemy.)
“These Christmas holidays, it would make no sense to look away as if the dramatic moment that the whole world is experiencing did not exist. Faith requires us to look at reality and give meaning to what happens in personal history and in humanity,” it said. (What? We can’t give meaning to anything. We can only seek out the will of GOD. We can turn to him for guidance, protection and provision. He is AUTHOR and the FINISHER of OUR FAITH!)
The display was opened to visitors Dec. 13 (12/13) and will close after Jan. 10. (1/10)
Photographs of nativity scenes by Hannah Brockhaus/
Even the Pope Seems Iffy on the Vatican’s Astronaut-Themed Nativity. Here’s How the Artwork Became a Lighting Rod
The ceramic crèche was made by art students and teachers in the city of Castelli in 1965, but it’s too avant-garde for some.
This year has brought so many strange art-related developments, from mysterious desertmonoliths to Cookie Monster murals. And if the final square of your “Memes of 2020” bingo card was “time-traveling astronaut visiting Baby Jesus,” you are in luck. Believe it or not, this marvel comes courtesy the Vatican.
In case you missed this latest bit of news, here is everything you need to know.
Wait, what in the world are you talking about?
Two weeks before Christmas, the Vatican brought forth its annual display of its nativity scene. The tradition goes back to Pope St. John Paul II, who kicked it off in 1982.
Catholics wait with bated breath for the unveiling of each year’s sculptural set, usually donated by an Italian town. This year, the Vatican also unveiled its annual Christmas tree, a 91-foot-tall spruce from Slovenia.
“The Vatican wants the Nativity scene and Christmas tree this year to be a sign of hope against COVID-19,” Rome Reports relayed at the end of October. But since its December 11 unveiling, its message of comfort has been somewhat drowned out by a wave of reaction to the display’s unconventional nature.
So, what does this year’s look like?
Well, it’s not the usual.
The figures’ bodies are defined by simple cylinders, topped by spheres for the heads, with no limbs.There’s no traditional setting, no wooden manger, no straw on the ground, just a very minimalist empty space.
“It made me think of bowling pins with Baby Jesus as a ball,” one visitor told Reuters of the design.
Perhaps alluding to a landscape, a glowing light behind the figures makes it seem as though they’re being struck by lightning.
What attracts the most attention, however, is the figure who appears to be an astronaut,in a spacesuit, gripping the moon in his hands. There’s also a sinister-looking figure in a black helmet who many have compared—perhaps on account of the space theme—to Darth Vader from Star Wars.
So, where did this display come from?
The sculptures on view are part of a larger, 52-piece set created by students and teachers of the F.A. Grue Art Institute, in the town of Castelli. Started in 1965, it took a decade to complete.
Known for its ceramics tradition, Castelli lies in Italy’s Abruzzi region. In fact, the five colors known as the “Castelli Palette” predominate in the ceramic nativity.
The St. Peter’s Diocese website helpfully points out art historical precedents for the figures’ strangely proportioned features, including Mesopotamian sculpture. It also mentions precedents as diverse as Renaissance art, the neo-baroque, and the work of self-taught artists.
While the ceramic figures have created a sensation in this year’s Vatican display, this is not the first time they have been seen publicly.The sculptures have even been on tour, going on view in Rome on Christmas in 1970 and later doing several gigs in the Middle East, in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and even Bethlehem, Jesus’s birthplace.
Why in the world is there an astronaut there?
Four years into the Castelli school’s work on the sculpture set, astronauts first walked on the moon, in 1969. In honor of that accomplishment, the sculptors put in their Italian Neil Armstrong.
Many have pointed out that previous Vatican displays have also included seemingly incongruous elements.
For instance, in 2016, a Maltese fishing boat appeared in the display in reference to the plight of refugees(just as America’s wall-building president was about to take office).
2017’s realist display from the town of Montevergine featured figures performing acts of mercy, like feeding the destitute, visiting the incarcerated, and clothing the naked. That display, too, generated controversy, when the depiction of “clothing the naked” was considered to be so sexy as to be potential gay propaganda,with Catholic Family News blasting it as “obscene.”
What do critics have to say about the Space Nativity?
The National Catholic Register complains of a “satanic-looking executioner—but no manger.” (Artist Fausto Cheg, a member of the team that created the sculpture, has said that the executioner figure, in fact, refers to the abolition of the death penalty.) (Ya, whatever!)
Catholic Herald contributing editor Tim Stanley calls it “absolutely terrifying.”
A writer for the Catholic Heraldcalls the nativity “embarrassing,”but opines that perhaps its break with tradition can reach new audiences: “When the Church encounters a new culture of, say, an indigenous tribe, or a society quite foreign to European aesthetics and sensibilities,” he writes, “She will experiment with blending some of their native expressions with the Church’s patrimony as part of the work of evangelization. It is therefore fair that She also do this with modern Western culture.” (So this is their “new EVANGELISM”?)
And who’s to say that’s wrong? Writer Matt Stansberry took to Twitter to quip that the nativity “by far the church’s best effort to bring me back into the fold.” (I AM HERE TO SAY IT IS WRONG! AND I AM NOT ALONE!)
Has Pope Francis weighed in?
Yes and no.
In general, he is pro-anachronism. “It is customary to add many symbolic figures to our nativity scenes,” Pope Francis said in 2019. “Children—but adults too!—often love to add to the nativity scene other figures that have no apparent connection with the Gospel accounts. Yet, each in its own way, these fanciful additions show that in the new world inaugurated by Jesus there is room for whatever is truly human and for all God’s creatures.” (Jesus did not inaugurate this NEW WORLD. And we are not children. It is ridiculous that this New World wants to force children to deal with adult issues they cannot handle, and wants adults to be children.)
On Sunday, however, the Pope pointedly did not recommend seeing the unconventional Nativity during an address. Speaking to visitors from his window overlooking Vatican Square, Francis instead twice exhorted them to visit a nearby exhibition of more than 100 nativity displays, which he said showed “how people try to use art to show how Jesus was born.” (Well the Vatican cannot claim that they were caught off guard or surprised by this display, it has been well known since 1970. So cut the crap!)
No mention was made of poor Italian Neil Armstrong. Given the ongoing mocking of the Castelli ceramics display, the silence from the Pope has been widely interpreted as a deliberate snub. BS!
Has anyone else taken to Twitter to weigh in?