Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Precepe

Nook of Naples: Most Neapolitans set up precepe (also known as creche, cribs, or nativity scenes) in their homes during Christmas. The precepe are often very elaborate and the pieces are collected little-by-little over many years. Christmas Alley is well-known as a place to buy these miniature treasures.

But to see breathtaking precepe, The San Martino Charterhouse displays an exquisite number as part of their museum collection. While the exhibition is open all year round, most people come during Christmas.

A precepe is a depiction of the birth of Jesus in three dimensional form. Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first nativity scene in 1223 at Greccio, Italy. His intent was to shift the focus of Christmas back to the worship of Christ from the secular materialism he saw during his time. His nativity scene was a living one with humans and animals. Over the centuries nativity scenes became ever more elaborate, figurines being made of ivory, wax and other materials.

At the San Martino Charterhouse, the precepe exhibition was established in 1879 by architect and playwright Michele Cuciniello. Over time it was enriched with other collections. Notably, a figurine on display at the museum was created by the artist who sculpted the Veiled Christ, Giuseppe Sanmartino (see the picture of the king on a horse above).

Wandering the precepe here, the life-like scenes portray a 'dream factory' where the everyday frenzy of Naples melts into scene after scene of idealistic rural life.

Getting There: Largo San Martino 8. Perched on top of the mountain with breathtaking views, the Charterhouse is right next to Castel Sant'Elmo. (And note: an odious woman is connected to this Charterhouse, so you'll be hearing more about it soon!)

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