Museum Reopens

Dec. 27, 2008

Museum Hours
Sundays from 8:15 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

On the Feast of St. John the Divine, a Latin High Mass (Extraordinary Form) was offered at 8:30 a.m.

After Mass parishioners came forward to the communion rail with their select bottles of wine to ask the special blessing of wine for St. John’s Day.

After the blessing all joined Fr. Phillips in the reopening of our museum which houses a delightful Neapolitan Præsepio.

A Præsepio is the Italian version of the traditional Nativity Scene or Creche, only much larger.

It includes not only the Nativity scene of the Christ Child with the Blessed Virgin, Joseph, shepherds, and animals, but also a multitude of village scenes depicting Italian peasant life with villagers dressed in traditional folk costumes.

Proportions range from miniature to life-sized figures. Materials also vary, but the most cherished pieces are handmade clay and fabric according to centuries old practices.

This 260-year-old Neapolitan Præsepio came to St. John Cantius church in late 1998 from Rome from the last descendant of a family that had owned it for generations.

He himself was a renowned authority in Rome and had helped in the assembly of the largest Præsepio in Rome located in Ss. Cosmas and Damian Church near the Roman Forum.

Originally, this Præsepio was to be donated to the Vatican but the donor chose to rather bequeath it to Ss. John Cantius.

Parishioners of St. John Cantius may remember when 20 figures of our cherished Præsepio were stolen.

They were returned anonymously about a year and a half later on a feast of Our Lady.

The display is a glorious example traditional art of the Præsepio.

The base building and landscape are made of cork.

The figures are handmade in the ancient manner.

The bodies are fashioned from hemp and wire, the heads are molded in terracotta and the hands and feet are carved out of wood.

The figures are all perfectly balanced to stand upright and flexible so they can be positioned in setting of the Præsepio.

They are clothed in the traditional 18th century peasant dress, made of fabric.

The Præspio shows three scenes. The middle section is the Nativity scene with the Holy Family, Three Kings, and other worhipers.

On the left, the bagpipers and the shepherds with their sheep are coming down from the mountains to see the Baby Jesus.

The right section shows a Neapolitan village – outdoor cucina, houses and shops.

This Præsepio was acquired by the AMDG Foundation, a Chicago-based religious foundation dedicated to the preservation of Catholic art, and is on permanent loan to St. John Cantius Church.