The Pittsburgh Crèche is a larger-than-life nativity scene and the world’s only authorized replica of the Vatican’s Christmas crèche on display in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. The crèche opened for public viewing on Friday, Nov. 16, 2012 and will remain on display through Epiphany, Jan 6-7, 2013.
The word “crèche” comes from the French meaning “manger” or “crib” and commonly refers to the scene of Christ’s birth. The Christmas crèche, with its traditional depiction of the birth of Jesus with angels, three kings, shepherds and animals, is more popular than ever. The first definition of a crèche written in 1619 said that a crèche is “to bring to life the events of the birth of Christ so that all who view the scene may personally share the wonder of those who originally saw it.”
The stable, constructed from the plans of Vatican architect Umberto Mezzana, is 64 feet wide, 42 feet high, 36 feet deep, and weighs approximately 66,000 pounds.
Most of the figures are the work of Roman artist and sculptor Pietro Simonelli. The figures are of wood frame construction, with hands, feet and faces modeled from clay; covered with papier-mâché and weatherproofed. The crèche scene contains the figures of the infant Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the three kings, three shepherds, a woman and child and assorted animals. In 2000, unique to Pittsburgh, a life-sized angel made by Simonelli was suspended over the crib, and more animals were added including a full sized camel. Two more angels were added in 2007, bringing the total figures to 20.
In 2001, a woman and child, with the woman holding a basket of fruit, were added. In 2002, local Pittsburgh artists from JE Scenic Technologies created a kneeling shepherd for the crèche. The new figure from JE Scenic Technologies in 2003 was a full sized reclining cow. Two more shepherds were added later.
The Pittsburgh Crèche is sponsored by Pittsburgh’s ecumenical Christian Leaders Fellowship. The goal is to preserve the true meaning of Christmas, and to inspire those who see it to reach out to people in need.
The theme of the project is “Share the Love.”
Below are a series of videos on the construction of the Pittsburgh Crèche. To make online donations to save the Crèche click here. Donations can also be made via the following address:
Pittsburgh Crèche Fund
c/o The Pittsburgh Foundation
Five PPG Place, Suite 250
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
For information on donating to save the Pittsburgh Crèche click here.