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A Neapolitan-American Presepe - Exhibition



A Neapolitan-American Presepe  - Exhibition

The Presepe (Nativity Scene)  is a centuries-old tradition in Italy. In Benevento  the Cloister of Santa Sofia (half of XII century) displays one of the oldest representations of the nativity of Jesus.


presepe chiostro


During the night of Christmas in 1223, in Greccio (close to Rieti), Francis recalled the birth of Jesus, organizing a living representation of that event. According to the hagiographies, during the Mass, a child in flesh and blood appeared in the cradle, and Francis took him in his arms. This is where the tradition of the nativity scene originated.

Neapolitan Presepe is an elaborate Nativity scene recreated with figures which have not only a religious but an artistic value, since they are handmade by the so called “maestri presepiari”.

The Neapolitan crib art has remained unchanged for centuries, becoming part of the most consolidated and followed Christmas traditions of the city. Famous in Naples, in fact, is the well-known Via dei Presepi (via San Gregorio Armeno) which offers a showcase of all the local crafts concerning the nativity scene.


presepe via



The Neapolitan-American Presepe on display at the Italian Cultural Institute has a fascinating story.

Many years ago, during a Christmas break from college, Tom Pawlowski was working at a Mall in Philadelphia to make some money prior to going back to college. This Neapolitan Nativity set was displayed at a Saint Nicholas Christmas store next to the one he was working.

Each day, as Tom passed by the shop’s window, he fell in love more and more with the beauty of the statues.

Upon ending his temporary employment, the Saint Nicholas Christmas store was going out of business and Tom saw an opportunity, as a once in a life time chance, to obtain these splendid pieces and could not resist buying it. Since that time this Nativity set has brought years of enjoyment to friends and family and Princeton community at large.

We hope you too will find the same pleasure and will bring a feeling of celebration of the true meaning of the holiday season.





Date: Da Monday, December 13, 2021 a Friday, January 14, 2022

Time: From 10:00 am To 4:00 pm

Organized by : IIC-NY

Entrance : Free


Istituto Italiano di Cultura - NY