Every Christmas day, in the fondo of Palazzo della Corgna, the terzieri of Castello presents inspirational scenes for the season (called a presepe). It is Castello’s gift of the season to the community. Castello is one of three terzieri’s (a section of the town, with deep historical roots). Each terzieri has its own taverna and meeting place, as well as traditions. For Castello, their green and black flags fly at Christmas to herald the opening of their Christmas presepe.
I first saw this presepe in 2007 just after I moved here to Citta della Pieve for the second time. I had been warned viewing this exhibition would be very emotional and moving, so I was braced for tears. This particular year, each of the stations were (human re-enactments of) famous Dutch paintings.
I walked tremulously up to the station of Christ on the cross flanked by two thieves, all three “hanging” on crosses in loin clothes (think gorgeous Italian male bodies in full youth and health—dark lighting, very dramatic and somber). I was bracing for the tears, about to take in this very real crucifix scene, when… the gorgeous young man representing Christ stretched, yawned and scratched his arm, then his nicely draped loin cloth, and said “Andiamo, let’s take a break!”
Well, it was not the effect I had expected, needless to say. So I walked around the exhibit, taking in the somber scenes, and had another go at it, towards the end of my visit, still wanting to fully experience this epic iconic scene of suffering and misery.
Second go, approaching prayerfully, a quiet line of townsfolk before me, I waited my turn. Finally I was before the visage, and then the three suffering and “dying” men started cracking jokes with each other.
Which served to prove to me, that Italy is not the best place to experience suffering! This is a country far more made for experiencing joy.
This year’s presepe opens on Christmas Day, and remains open until January 6th, the day of the arrival of the Magi.