Presepe, presipio, presepi, Via San Gregorio Armeno, Museo Nazionale di San Martino, Presepe Cuciniello

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Presepe, presipio, presepi, Via San Gregorio Armeno, Museo Nazionale di San Martino, Presepe Cuciniello
A typical Nativity scene displayed in a 'Presepe'
Although Christmas trees are used everywhere in Italy, the more authentic, traditional decoration at Christmas is the 'Presepe' or 'Crib', taken from the latin word meaning 'manger'. The tradition is said to have been started by St Francis of Assisi at Christmas in 1223. Legend has it that he wanted to share what he had witnessed in Bethlehem with the local people who did not have the opportunity to visit the Holy Land themselves. So, in a cave in Greccio, near Rieti in Lazio, he created a living Nativity scene, complete with hay, an ox, an ass, and a real baby in a manger. This charming story captured the imagination of the Italians and the tradition of the 'Presepe' was born.

Presepe, presipio, presepi, Via San Gregorio Armeno, Museo Nazionale di San Martino, Presepe Cuciniello

Today, every Italian family has a 'Presepe' at Christmas. They range from simple models with a few figures, to large, elaborate creations with lighting, water features and animated characters. The models are set up on December 8th, along with all the other Christmas decorations but, traditionally, the baby Jesus is not introduced into the crib until Christmas Eve. The 'Presepe' stays up until the 6th January, 'Epiphany'.

Presepe, presipio, presepi, Via San Gregorio Armeno, Museo Nazionale di San Martino, Presepe Cuciniello

The oldest known example is the 'Oratorium praesepis' by Arnolfo di Cambio, which is displayed in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.

Presepe, presipio, presepi, Via San Gregorio Armeno, Museo Nazionale di San Martino, Presepe Cuciniello
Oratorium praesepis - Rome

Although 'Presepi' are found all over Italy, the most famous ones are to be found in Naples. The 'Via San Gregorio Armeno', in the old part of Naples, is a street entirely devoted to the production of 'Presepi'.

Presepe, presipio, presepi, Via San Gregorio Armeno, Museo Nazionale di San Martino, Presepe Cuciniello
Via San Gregorio Armeno - Photo: Square87

Half a million tourists make their own pilgimage here each Christmas to see highly skilled artisans creating wonderfully complex models. Here you can buy a huge variety of different environments, as well as thousands of different figurines and accessories to create your own, unique version of the Nativity.

The work of Giuseppe Ercolano

Presepe, presipio, presepi, Via San Gregorio Armeno, Museo Nazionale di San Martino, Presepe Cuciniello
Presepe, presipio, presepi, Via San Gregorio Armeno, Museo Nazionale di San Martino, Presepe Cuciniello
Presepe, presipio, presepi, Via San Gregorio Armeno, Museo Nazionale di San Martino, Presepe Cuciniello
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Some beautiful examples of 'Presepi' can be found at the Museo Nazionale di San Martino in Naples.

Presepe, presipio, presepi, Via San Gregorio Armeno, Museo Nazionale di San Martino, Presepe Cuciniello
Presepe Cuciniello - Photo: tango7174

The oldest Neopolitan 'Presepe' was made by two brothers, Pietro and Ciovanni Alemanno around 1480. Probably the most famous 'Presepe' of all is the 'Presepe Cuciniello', built in the 19th century, it features 162 characters, 80 animals, 28 angels and over 450 miniature objects. There is also another famous 'Presepe' that can be seen in the Palace at Caserta.

Presepe, presipio, presepi, Via San Gregorio Armeno, Museo Nazionale di San Martino, Presepe Cuciniello
Presepe at Casserta - Photo: tango7174
Presepe, presipio, presepi, Via San Gregorio Armeno, Museo Nazionale di San Martino, Presepe Cuciniello
Detail of Presepe at Casserta - Photo: Twice25 & Rinina25
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Profile Information
Facts & Figures
Area: 301,225 km²
Population: 60,157,214
Capital: Rome
Currency: Euro (€)
Calling code: +39
Internet TLD: .it
Italian Flag
Italian Coat of Arms
Jack of the Italian Navy
Current time in Italy
Euro exchange rates
Weather in Italy
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