Some of Rome's most sacred artworks - the 700-year-old marble figurines from the world's first known nativity scene - are to leave their crypt for the first time this Christmas after a major restoration.I note that it hasn't yet been confirmed whether Pope Benedict will make his predecessor's customary visit to the Basilica on the 8th of December.
They were made by Arnolfo di Cambio, the gothic sculptor and architect, in around 1290. The figure of Mary, however, is much younger, having been added 300 years later. It is not known if there was an original depiction of the Virgin.
For the past 500 years the figures have been kept locked in an oratory inside the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, only opening to the public on Christmas Eve.
A £2 million restoration of the oratory means the statues are to be moved to the basilica's public museum.
One of the first people to see the cleaned statues will be Pope Benedict XVI, who is expected to visit on Thursday, which in Italy is the day of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
Monday, December 05, 2005
Crib at S. Maria Maggiore
From the Telegraph: