Extraordinary manger made by Franciscans of the Holy Land

Here is a small landscape of the Naples surroundings from the eighteenth century. Around a large rock dozens of characters are arranged. At the heart of the mountain, in the privacy of a cave, the Son of God is just born. This is just an anachronism that reminds us the universality of the Incarnation mystery.

On Friday November 28th (during the blessing of the traditional Neapolitan manger in the hall of the Curia) Monsignor Francesco Iannone has explained this tradition to all the present. The Italian archaeologist has participated in developing the project with Brother Sergio, Secretary of the Custody of the Holy Land. “The Neapolitan manger is always very rich in characters of all kinds and this is the testimony of the Christians God […]. He loves men without distinction. He loves each of us with a special love. For Him, every man is unique. “

In fact, this nativity welcomes people of all colors and all social groups. We have the fishmonger behind his counter filled with more real products than the natural ones; the mother feeding her child in an elegant terrace from where she gazes the landscape; the colorful musicians that give to the scene an air of festivity; the tambourine manufacturer with wooden rings around his neck; even a man eating spaghetti, voraciously devouring! Not forgetting the essential characters: the Oriental kings with their richly adorned cloaks; the shepherds with their sheep behind them, and finally seven winged angels flying over the Sacred Family gathered for the first time.

Monsignor Francesco Iannone recalls that “the crib is set not to be heard as a conference or read as a book, but to be visited like the shepherds that Christmas night. Come and see”. However, it is difficult not to be dazzled by the infinite variety of colors and clothes, by the pleasure in the detail -from numerous hairs to the tips of the shoes, streetlights, here and there, the moss covering the ground-. “I’ve never seen anything so beautiful,” says softly Sister Mary, a Franciscan from Malta.

It must be emphasized that Christmas is a central theme in the Franciscan sensitivity. In 1223, St. Francis of Assisi was the one who made in Greccio (Italy), the first living manger. “We have put a small crib in San Saviour Church in the past years-explains fr. Sergio- as an initiative of the project that supports ATS pro Terra Sancta, but this time the Custody wants to invite all Christians gather here during Advent. This crib was also made for the poor, for those who do not have resources to build one beautiful like that.”

The handcrafted labor was conducted in 2014 by the Neapolitan family business Scarabattola to the Holy Land Custody. A proof of the ability of these artisans is that were they who made the nativity for the King of Spain. The figurines were produced with straw and iron wire for the body, clay for members and head, and glass for the eyes. The figurine of St. Joseph has received particular attention since it has beard but no mustache. The secretary of the Custody requested to add mustache to avoid comments.

On Friday November 28th, a large audience attended the blessing of the Neapolitan nativity by the Custos of the Holy Land, Pierbattista Pizzaballa. At the end of the event, twenty young singers of the Magnificat music school have sung traditional Christmas songs. An essay for Christmas two days before the beginning of the Advent Season.

Mélinée Le Priol.