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Monumental Nativity Scene and Oratory of Sant'Antonio - Calvi dell'Umbria

The interior of this church, ancient seat of the St. Anthony’s Confraternity, hosts the monumental Christmas crib in itsbowl-shaped vault of the apse.  The nativity scene is made of polychrome terracotta and including more than 30 statues, executed between 1541 and 1546 by the brothers Giacomo and Raffaele da Montereale from Abruzzo.

Two niches on the sides of the vault host the statues of St. Anthony Abbot and St. Rocco, patrons of the same confraternity and invoked against the plague. The current location of the Christmas crib is not the original one: , in order to allow for the execution of the back choir of the monastery, in the 1740s it was necessary to shorten this church, and the crib was disassembled and then relocated into the new apse on two levels, similar to its original location.


The Nativity is represented in the lower register: at the centre of the scene are St. Joseph and the Madonna kneeling down and adoring the Child Jesus. On the left there is a bagpipe player whereas on the right two female peasants. Behind the central group there are four angels. There is an evident qualitative disparity among the figures of the Madonna, of St. Joseph and of the young female peasant, attributable to the masters, compared to the other ones, that are instead the work of their pupils. 
The second register contains the Procession of the Magi travelling towards Bethlehem: on the lower of two wide steps are the three Kings on horseback bringing gifts, on the upper step there is a parade of six figures, partly on foot and partly on horseback, one of whom overlooking the inner of the representation. Four musician angels are hanging from the vault onto the scene. There is a peculiar  male figure sitting on the edge of the upper bowl-shaped vault of the apse, with the legs dangling in emptiness. This figure has been interpreted both as a young man removing a thorn from his foot, a Hellenic and classical theme, and as the angry devil in the moment of tearing his foot in rage at the birth of the Saviour.
After the recent restoration works, two frescoes of the 16th century have been brought again to light. The first one represents St. Agatha and St. Biagio, and the second one St. Anthony Abbot and St. Lucia, belonging to the original painted decoration of the Church.


Source: www.calviturismo.it

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