Saint Stephen’s Day in Sicily

Today is Saint Stephen’s Day, a national holiday in Italy. Sicilians and Italians spend the day with family and friends visiting presepi di Natale, or nativity scenes, like this one pictured, made by Zio Lillo in Sant’Angelo Muxaro, north of Agrigento. Even more elaborate are ones presented by actors or townspeople dressed as the Holy…

The Day After Christmas in Sicily

Today, Saint Stephen’s Day, is a national holiday in Italy. Sicilians and Italians spend the day with family and friends visiting presepi di Natale, or nativity scenes, like this one pictured from Chiesa di San Bartolomeo in Scicli. Even more elaborate are ones presented by actors or townspeople dressed as the Holy Family, accompanied by…

Merry Christmas | Palermo’s Caravaggio 

Merry Christmas!  This magnificent depiction of the Nativity was commissioned by Palermo’s Oratorio of San Lorenzo in 1609. It illustrates the newborn baby Jesus with Saint Francis (top right) and Saint Lawrence (left) looking over the shoulder of the Virgin Mother. Painted by Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610)) in the chiaroscuro technique, it captures…

Expecting Him …

These 16th century marble statues of the Virgin Mother and Saint Joseph came from the Church of Saint Stephen in Salemi, Trapani province. They are now housed in the town’s outstanding Museum of Sacred Art. The sculpture group of a nativity scene, which is attributed to Sicilian sculptor Antonello Gagini (1478-1536), is missing the Baby…

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and a Zampogna Player

Nativity scenes (presepe or presepio) in Sicily and Southern Italy don’t just illustrate the Holy Family, they also show the folk traditions of the people in the region. For example, at the presepe in Sant’Elia that Experience Sicily’s Filippo Buttitta photographed last week, the life-sized figures include this zampogna, or bagpipe player. Zampogne (plural for…

Away in a Manger

Throughout Sicily, building and viewing presepe, or the nativity scene, is a Christmas tradition. From table top diorama-sized statues, like this one pictured from Chiesa di San Bartolomeo in Scicli, to performances featuring actors and live animals that can be found in towns like Sutera, Gangi, and Termini Imerese, to name just a few, displaying…