The Artistic Nativity Scenes in Sicily

The Christmas in Sicily colors and illuminates the cities of art and small villages with decorations, trees and lights. But what makes Christmas in Sicily truly unique is the fact that ancient traditions come back to life on the island: typical Christmas sweets abound on the tables, on Christmas Eve you eat the traditional "scacciata" , in the houses you play with Sicilian cards and the traditional artistic nativity scene is set up.

In Sicily the tradition of setting up a nativity scene during the Christmas holidays it is very old and, over time, great masters in every part of the island have created real works of art. In fact, the representation of the Holy Nativity does not concern only the cribs made inside the houses but throughout Sicily it is possible to find exhibitions of nativity scenes of considerable artistic value .

Sicilian artistic nativity scenes can be fixed or self-propelled and are made with the most varied materials: wood, bone, ivory, mother of pearl, terracotta, coral, wax, bread, silver and gold.
Likewise also the placement and the scenography of the nativity scene has seen the artisans give vent to their artistic flair through the use of particular materials and the creation of subjects, representing for example the Sicilian rural life or particular glimpses of Sicily , such as the ancient ruins or the historic centers of the villages where the nativity scenes are housed.

The Sicilian nativity scene has characteristics that distinguish it from the nativity scenes made in other regions. In a classic Sicilian nativity scene, ancient crafts are always represented Sicilians and there are some characters typical of the Sicilian tradition : "Zu Innaro", or "uncle Gennaro", who warms up in front of the fire, "U scantatu ra stidda", ie the first shepherd who saw the comet, and "u susi pasturi" that is the shepherd who sleeps.

The ancient Sicilian tradition of the artistic representation of the scenes of the Nativity has meant that numerous exhibits arose in different parts of Sicily. Some nativity scenes are on display inside churches or museums and are always visible and can be visited. Others, on the other hand, are exhibited only in Christmas time.

Some Sicilian nativity scenes are very ancient, they have even crossed the centuries, and a Christmas holiday in Sicily can become a unique opportunity to admire these splendid works of art.

Visiting an artistic nativity scene in Sicily also offers the opportunity to discover and visit the cities and villages that host it, to participate in numerous events and to taste Sicilian products typical of Nalale. The exhibitions and displays of Sicilian artistic nativity scenes are often accompanied by other events such as living nativity scenes, Christmas markets and Santa Claus villages for the little ones.

What are the most beautiful artistic nativity scenes in Sicily?

Here are in which Sicilian cities it is possible to visit the most characteristic Sicilian artistic nativity scenes.

A tour to discover the most beautiful Sicilian artistic nativity scenes must absolutely start with the city of Caltagirone, Baroque city UNESCO heritage known as the "city of ceramics" but also as the "city of cribs".
Tradition of the cribs in Caltagirone is so rich and ancient that it deserves an in-depth article.

If you want to discover the magic of Caltagirone cribs click on the following link:

In Scicli the tradition of setting up the nativity scene has very ancient roots: in the Church of San Bartolomeo there is a wooden nativity scene considered one of the oldest in Sicily. The magic of Christmas in Scicli spreads to all streets and houses of the city: the event takes place in the historic center "The Nativity Scenes of Scicli", on the occasion of which artistic nativity scenes set up in the streets of the city, in churches and in private homes open for the occasion to all visitors. On the occasion of the holidays Christmas in Scicli, in the enchanting scenery of the "Cavuzza di San Guglielmo", at the Cava di Santa Maria La Nova, is also organized the living nativity scene.

In Acireale , at the church of Santa Maria della Neve, there is an evocative 18th-century artistic nativity scene . It is set up inside a lava cave and consists of life-size figures with the wax faces made between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. The eighteenth-century nativity scene is the first stage of itinerary of the cribs that every year is organized in Acireale on the occasion of the Christmas holidays. The other stages of this artistic and cultural itinerary are: the Papier-mâché Nativity in the church of San Rocco, the Monumental Neapolitan Nativity Scene and the Exhibition of Art Nativity Scenes, both set up in the monumental complex of the Basilica Collegiate Church of San Sebastiano.

In the city of Palermo, during the Christmas holidays, various exhibitions of artistic nativity scenes are organized, through the most important streets, neighborhoods and monuments of the city. Among the cribs made we remember: the artistic Bread Nativity made in the suggestive Church of San Isidoro dei Fornai in Palermo, characterized by being entirely made with bread; the artistic nativity scene created inside the Gardens of Palazzo Orléans, consisting of about fifty terracotta figures hand by Sicilian artisans, which reproduces a typical village rural Sicilian recreated through buildings in wood and antiqued polystyrene that host representations of ancient crafts.
In Palermo it is also It is possible to visit the ethno-anthropological museum Pitrè, inside which various cribs of the ancient Sicilian tradition, in particular that of Trapani. Among these is also a representation of the massacre of the innocents. At the San Giuseppe Institute, on the other hand, the exhibition "Cribs of the world" is set up on display over 250 representations of the nativity from numerous countries.

Another nativity scene of considerable artistic value is the Self-propelled nativity scene by Giacomo Randazzo a Cinisi , award-winning and recognized at the regional level. The crib offers visitors a nostalgic and enthusiastic glimpse of post-war Sicily and presents a high attention to every detail.

At Castelvetrano at Christmas it is possible to admire, beyond the evocative living nativity scene of Castelvetrano, the famous Mechanical crib of Castelvetrano exhibited within a space of 70 square meters in the Church del Purgatorio, completed by master Vito Guccione with natural raw materials, such as logs, moss, grass, stones and cork, and enriched by a complex system of mechanisms that make it possible to narrate a whole day with the help of a fiber optic lighting system and they allow the movement of characters, humans and animals, an effect made even more realistic by the creation of different sounds and noises and special effects.

The "Cribs on the Madonie" initiative, undertaken by the artisans of the crib of all the Madonie is very fascinating which aims to enhance the remarkable artistic value of the artisanal nativity scenes scattered throughout the various Madonite villages. At this event the municipalities of Blufi, Alimena, Bompietro, Madonnuzza, Petralia Soprana, Petralia Sottana, Locati and Polizzi Generosa participate.
Of particular value are the crib of Petralia Sottana, on permanent display at the Church of the Monte di Pietà, which faithfully reproduces views and monuments of Petralia Sottana, and the Artistic-Mechanical Nativity of Blufi, with more than 70 characters in movement, where suggestive views are represented of the Madonie landscape with characteristic rural settings, and the flora and fauna of the place. In Blufi it will also be possible to admire also "The Christmas Dioramas, from the Annunciation to the Flight into Egypt", an exclusive representation that reproduces, through 7 scenes, the phases of Advent, which recall the verses of the Gospels of Luke and Matthew.

In the city of Modica, the "city of a hundred churches" and "city of chocolate", at Church of Santa Maria di Betlemme a nativity scene made with natural materials, such as wood, cork, and vegetable fibers, is permanently exhibited, which has the particularity to be set in a typical Sicilian quarry and in which the shepherds and figures are dressed in the typical costumes of Sicilian peasants 19th century. On the external wall of the church it is also possible to admire the so-called "Berlon lunette", an adoration of the shepherds dating back to the 15th-16th century.

In Bronte, the city of pistachio, the permanent exhibition of more than 350 nativity scenes takes place artists coming Everywhere in the world. Among all the cribs on display, of particular artistic value are: the crib of Naples, the chocolate crib, the cotton nativity scene, the moving nativity scene, the papier-mâché nativity scene from Puglia and the coral and mother-of-pearl nativity scene.

A Palazzolo Acreide, a Unesco heritage city, at the Casa-Museo Antonino Uccello, in which collected various objects belonging to the Sicilian popular culture, it is possible to admire nativity scenes and figurines of nativity scenes made by hand. Every year, in the medieval quarter, an evocative living nativity scene is also organized.

In the city of Alcamo is the Grande Biblical Nativity which, renewed in some parts, develops on a surface of about 30 square meters and represents 33 scenes from the life of Jesus. Accurate reconstructions of moments of daily life and very particular scenographic effects. All the figures are in terracotta and handcrafted by Sicilian masters. In the crib there are some statuettes of ancient workmanship made with raw clay and hand painted donated by private individuals of the place.

In Trapani, a city known for its great artisan tradition linked to coral processing, local masters have always made nativity scenes by working coral. Inside the interdisciplinary museum Pepoli there are two rooms in which it is possible to admire coral cribs of considerable artistic value.

At Christmas, in the village of Centuripe, the event takes place Centuripe in the crib, a review of artistic nativity scenes set up along the local streets of the town, with participation and commitment of associations, parishes, schools, exhibitors and committees.