The Presepe Vivente at Porchia 2017
The annual presepe vivente held in many Italian towns and villages are a traditional nativity scene which depicts the birt of Jesus as described in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Whilst the term "nativity scene" typically includes two dimensional depictions in film, painting, printmaking, etc in the history of art and culture, as well as in popular use, the term refers to static, three dimensional, artistic, or folk art dioramas, or pantomimes called "living nativity scenes" in which real humans and animals participate.
One of the finest examples of the ‘Presepe Vivente’ can be found in the the little nearby town of Porchia, in southern Le Marche which is usually held around the 30th December and again on 6thJanuary. The nativity scenes exhibit figures representing baby Jesus, his mother Mary, and Joseph. Other characters from the nativity story such as shepherds, the Magi, and many more are displayed in the historical setting in the town. A donkey, sheep, horses and poultry are depicted in the scenes, as well as camel belonging to the Magi.
In Porchia, the entire town community and people from the nearby villages and towns pull together each year, eagerly preparing for the forth coming event. Local children enjoy getting involved and take part in the preparations and the event itself. It is a fantastic opportunity for young and old to learn about the religious traditions and historical crafts which are kept alive in local communities in this way.
Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first nativity scene in 1223 (a "living" one) intending thereby to cultivate the worship of Christ, having been inspired by his recent visit to the Holy Land where he had been shown Jesus's traditional birthplace. The scene's popularity inspired communities throughout Catholic countries to stage similar pantomimes.
For us, visiting the presepe as a family each year is a wonderful way of saying goodbye to a passing year and enjoying a magnificent historical display even on the coldest of winter nights.
Our two little girls can’t wait to be big enough to participate in the costume play too soon and get fully immersed in the local culture.