In St. Peter's Square an inhuman nativity scene completely consistent with an increasingly dehumanized society

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IN PIAZZA SAN PIETRO AN INHUMAN CRIB THAT IS COMPLETELY COHERENT WITH AN INCREASINGLY INHUMANIZED SOCIETY

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This crib seems to have wanted to prophesy what remains of our society, now devoid of any "human form" frozen in technology, in cold selfishness, in the absence of affection and in the total upheaval of the family which at present is dispersed in the ether.

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Author
Licia Oddo *

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Nativity scene 2020 – square of the Papal Archbasilica of San Pietro

In this period of resilience and restrictions, the question is soon asked. What is expected of such an atypical Christmas whose spirit of Christian tradition seems to have been affected by the torpor of pandemic distancing? One wonders how the Church reacts and what it plans to attract and involve its faithful in the Mystery of the Nativity?

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The answer comes from tradition centuries-old boasted by the majolica of Castelli, small town in Abruzzo, in the province of Teramo, cataloged in the eponymous Museum, located at the Convent of the Friars Minor Observant of the sixteenth century. which has become of current interest for the crib exhibition of the Monumental Greppia, Vatican. The invoice was made in a period of time between 1965 and 1975 by the young students of the F.A.. Crane [1], who dedicated the teaching activity to the Christmas theme, to establish itself on the art scene of the time, for the monumentality of the larger than life-sized ceramic figures.

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All too free and rather bizarre interpretation in the representation of the Christmas icon par excellence, which inspired the creators and executors of ceramists, seems to have upset the Christian symbols of the nativity scene by aggregating them with a mixture of radically different elements and characters, which affected the whole of humanity in that decade, such as the "landing on the moon", so foreign to the traditional Christian representation of Advent, to offer a global vision of the latter which is purely nonconformist.

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Croissants (Skirts of Anavyssos), 550-520 a.C. that. Marble, height 1,94 m. Athens, National archeologic museum.

Although the Castellana ceramic tradition, is perfectly in line with the lively colors of all the major Italian majolica, however, it is not enough by itself, to make it equally alive, the entire "sacred" ceramic installation wanted this year to celebrate Christmas in St. Peter's Square is intelligible and welcoming.

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The sculptural-ceramic group made following a modular ring type, that, superimposed, they form cylindrical busts, it appears admittedly rigid, immobile, cold and expressionless, so that the same will of those who wanted to praise the invoice, comparing it to ancient Greek art, with greater reference to the Templar architecture of the Doric columns made of rocchi, certainly, it cannot be understood positively, when compared to completely inert elements, devoid of human form because they are structural and belong precisely to the field of architecture, therefore unable to convey any emotion that is inherent in human gestures. If in fact it is the human figures who are the protagonists, the term of comparison should in any case refer to the sculptural field and certainly not to the architectural one. But even here the most fitting example concerning the Greek sculptural world is not as commendable in the transmission of the "Good News" of Christmas, full of a sense of human warmth and family values.

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In the technical execution, the period considered could only be the orientalizing-archaic one (from VII to VI a.C) of κοῦρος (Kouros) (2) by Anavyssos, locality of Attica in Greece, whose peculiar characteristics are, the absolute stasis or absence of movement, stiffness, the front position, but that since they are sculptures depicting man, obviously, they differ from the castellan crib ceramics, precisely because the latter are devoid of human form, almost frozen blocks devoid of energy, and if we can talk about something in common, it is relative to the monumental dimensions. From the iconological point of view of the symbolic message, and then, the forcing is even more evident i κοῦροι (kouroi) harbingers of grandeur and totally inexpressive, they were the custodians of a heroic commemorative memory.

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Koùros by Lentini is a work that dates back to the 6th-5th century BC., it is historically placed in the late Archaic period, 530-490 a.C. and is kept in the Paolo Orsi Museum in Syracuse.

At this point we tried to identify positive peculiarities in the very specific symbolic meanings in some of the characters, taking into consideration the angel, whose wings deliberately spread to protect the Holy Family, it seems to have the claim, Today more than ever, to represent the coveted protection invoked by all humanity against the terrible pandemic event. The latter would seem to praise, given the size, at the opening of the arms covered by the majestic and wide cloak of the monumental Virgin of Mercy by Piero della Francesca, to protect his children (citizens), but still fails to convey that warm hope, precisely because of its rigid inexpressiveness. And how to still be able to exempt oneself from the totally sterile vision of a child Jesus, almost mummified, which has nothing to do with the celebration of the Nativity. And so in the modest opinion of the vast majority of professionals and the public, the "castellano" ceramic group, beyond a non-existent harmonious, delicate and gestural aesthetic, precisely in the absence of the bodily form, and dynamism, affectionate gestures such as genuflection, a hug, a caress, a simple handshake, the same colloquial contact between the characters, typical of domestic familiarity, it certainly doesn't convey that familiar warmth, the feeling of universal salvation typical of the crib tradition.

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That said, what in this brief analysis is to be understood and more distinct than any other criticism of the work in and of itself, which in its substance is still a work of art, like it or not, fruit of a culture and society that gave it its birth; rather it is the nature of the message of humility, charity and strength of spirit of those who do not give up, which embody all the values ​​of the Christian family, that should be grasped, to be passed on to the people, sole protagonist and recipient of sacred propaganda, on the occasion of Holy Christmas.

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The bold choice of the Holy See that falls right on this unusual work, to break tradition, seems to support that primitivist line followed by the beginnings of the pontificate of Francis I, which, if we remember well, he chose as the logo for the celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the work depicting the Good Shepherd of the Jesuit Father Marco I. Rupnik, in a totally more than avant-garde way, but that has little to do with the canonical iconographic tradition [see WHO]. If the choice of the work as a manifesto of the jubilee year fell exclusively on the genuineness of the iconological message that replaces the lost sheep with man, loading humanity upon itself, to date in the desire to encourage hope in the transmission of family values, of human warmth, of gladness, there is undoubtedly a certain reluctance to accept the installation of a ceramic nativity scene with a predominantly pagan totemic aspect as a bulwark of Christianity.

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The Koùros di Milo is a marble sculpture datable to 540 a.C. about and kept in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens

It has been known since ancient times that the spread of epidemics has upset the entire corporate structure, undermining the political balance, cheap, also insinuating strong fragility in the religious management of the countries. The preference of Pope Francis placed on the Castelli crib, for many it is incomprehensible and even more paradoxical, especially if you think that the Bishop of Rome chose the name of Francis, to lead the Church, the Saint who was the first to elaborate the crib composition known all over the world, as a catechetical and pedagogical tool to make everyone understand, down to the simplest, the mystery and then dogma of the birth of Jesus man and son of God.

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Once again it is art to be the interpreter of historical identity, but this time more than attracting the usual jubilation it seems to split public opinion all the way to scandalize it. And the message that could be forcibly grasped can be with some difficulty and with a look of benevolence, a warning to the reconstruction of lost values, because observing the work one becomes more and more convinced that beyond what the Church and the Roman Pontiff wanted to transmit to us, even if the installation of the monumental Greppia, it was conceived over forty years ago, in its entirety, Actually, it seems he wanted to prophesy what remains of our society, now devoid of any "human form" frozen in technology, in cold selfishness, in the absence of affection and in the total upheaval of the family which at present is dispersed in the ether.

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Syracuse, 23 December 2020

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* Historian and art critic. Already a critical signpost of the Catalog of modern art (C.A.M.) Editorial Giorgio Mondadori - Cairo

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NOTE

[1] Founded in 1906 by the will of two illustrious castellans, Beniamino Olivieri and Felice Barnabei, then respectively Mayor of the country and first Director General of Fine Arts. Today it is the art school, housed in a modern structure built next to the ancient former convent which has become the seat of the museum.

[2] The κοῦρος is a large sculpture depicting a young naked man(think for example of the famous Riace bronzes) standing position and represents, indifferently, a deity or a hero with a devotional or funeral destination.

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2 thoughts on "In St. Peter's Square an inhuman nativity scene completely consistent with an increasingly dehumanized society

  1. I must congratulate the author of the article on the Castelli nativity scene. Finally I read a serious criticism, documented and reasoned that does not bring up satanic-esoteric symbols and so on. Unfortunately,, this is the aesthetic sign of a degeneration of man's vision of a culture that, as Florensky pointed out, in the desire to exalt humanity, he created an anti-human system.

  2. Here, this was the right message that humanity was waiting for in this painful year. An inhuman nativity scene. Luckily they thought about it, to fill our hearts with further anguish, suffering and despair….
    Luckily someone has had the goodness to explain it to us, a careful examination , an exemplary criticism. Already in the 70s, these potters understood how it would end.

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