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