Designer says it was an honor to present nativity to Pope
by Elise Harris
Nativity Scene for Christmas 2013 designed by Antonio Cantone in Saint Peters Square Credit: Andreas Dueren/CNA
Nativity Scene for Christmas 2013 designed by Antonio Cantone in Saint Peters Square Credit: Andreas Dueren/CNA

.- The man in charge of constructing this year’s nativity scene for the Vatican expressed his delight at giving to Pope Francis the nativity he designed, which, he noted, has a special historical significance.

“We had the honor of being in a private audience with the Pope” and with “Cardinal Sepe on Dec. 23” nativity designer Antonio Cantone told CNA in a Jan. 14 interview, where “we presented our donation; the nativity scene.

“The Pope,” recalled the designer, “was extremely happy to see a nativity scene so special, so beautiful in his square.”

Designed and carved primarily by Cantone and his wife, this year’s nativity was created to depict the traditional style of Naples, an Italian city that has been famous for its nativity scenes since the 17th century.

“The Neapolitan nativity is extremely important in art history because it has had a remarkable success in the whole world” Cantone noted, stating that “In fact, most people understand the Neapolitan nativity as the only nativity, and not that of any other nationality.”

Located at the center of St. Peter’s Square in Rome, this is the first time the Vatican’s nativity scene has been depicted the historic Neapolitan style, which, the designer observed, initially caused problems with the size of the statues.

“Neapolitan figures have a maximum height of 50 centimeters,” however the statues were made to be “two meters tall” so that they can be “visible from great distances,” he explained.

Cantone emphasized that it took him and his wife, along with others who helped in the project, “a year” to do “the figures only.”

When asked if there were any hidden details on the nativity scene, as is sometimes done in some styles, Cantone stated that “No,” there was not, and that “for those who know the Neapolitan nativity scene, no.”

However, the designer drew attention to the right side of the set, where “there is a woman with her hand raised,” explaining that “she is a pagan, a gypsy, and when she looks at the baby, she instantly converts. She converts to Christianity as she adores the baby.”

“This,” he observed, “is a very important character for those who build Neapolitan nativity scenes. It is one of the main, fundamental characters.”

After being constructed behind a closed curtain, the nativity was unveiled in St. Peter’s Square on Dec. 24, 2013, and will remain in there until Feb. 2, which is the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.

Following the dismantling of the nativity, the statues will be taken to the Vatican Museums, where the will be on display for some days.

Tags: Pope, Art, Nativity, Holy Family

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