The Majolica

From 1967 to 1973, the Basilica was enriched with numerous majolica sculptures by the artist Angelo Biancini. They cover the interior walls of the west front and the transepts. You can see the largest panels at the west end covering about 100 square meters. In lovely colors they tell the life of Our Lady and St. Joseph, as well as other biblical or historical episodes.

Angelo Biancini was born in Castelbolognese near Faenza and died at the beginning of 1988. He was a well- known sculptor for his works in stone, bronze and majolica, that in many years of work he has left almost everywhere in Italy and Abroad. He was one of the most Prominent Masters of Ceramics in Faenza, where he taught for many years at the State Institute of Art for Ceramics, profound expert of the wonderful secrets of this art that the world envies us.

Among his most renowned works are the sculptures for the new Basilica of Nazareth in the Holy Land, the canopy for the Canadian martyr church in Rome, works in the museum of contemporary art in the Vatican, the monument to Don Minzoni in Argenta (Ferrara), that of the Resistance to Alfonsine (Ravenna)  and that erected Aquino (Frosinone) on the occasion of the 7th  centenary of the death of the great Saint and Dr. Thomas (1274-1974).

The Countertop Wall

In the countertop of the Shrine, we find the most impressive sculpture, which except for the doorway covers the entire wall, from the ground to the frieze of the cornice: an area of about 100 square meters with several themes are approached.

The low register symbolizes the blue and the waves of the Arenzano sea, from which emerge the black and white fish that make up the water reservoirs. Moving upward, to the left of the door we have two images side by side: on the one hand Paul VI who proclaims St. Teresa of Jesus the Doctor of the Church (27-IX-1970) surrounded by Cardinals and Bishops in St. Peter; on the other, in an imaginary vision, the saints surrounded by his Carmelites dancing to the sound of traditional costanuelas.

On the right side of the door, however we find two other scenes linked to the story of the Infant Jesus in Prague: Princess Polissena who offers the statue to the Carmelite Fathers and the coronation of the Statue of Arenzano by the hand of Card. Merry De Val.

Going further, we find on the left, some typical buildings of Prague and Avila, while on the right, the Shrine and the town of Arenzano. The register closes at the entrance door with a frieze reminiscent of little angels.

In the higher part of the sculpture the figures are larger and deliberately whiter, giving greater strength to the sculptural effect. There are three scenes focused on the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. Starting from the left, we find Mary, Mother of the Church, surrounded by angels, in the middle surrounded by six figures of musical angels; to the right we find again Maria standing on a throne, listening to the Archangel Gabriel and pronouncing his Fiat.

The transit side sea cycle

The Nativity is depicted in the central panel of a triptych, placed on the bottom wall of the transept. A first element immediately goes to the eye: the contrast between the greatness of the event and the poverty of the environment, where it is represented. In fact, the characters remain isolated from each other, on a background that is discolored; on their faces we read the meditation mixed with concern, while around them only isolated animals. The shepherds divided into two groups, they are still far away: the first, on the bottom right, they are ready to bring their gifts, while the others at the top are awakened only now by the sudden singing of a colorful rooster. The two sideboards each have three scenes of work activity; to the left, from below, we see the hunter, the pruning of trees, the carpenter, on the other hand harvesting, shearing sheep, and charity towards the poor.

On the left wall we find St. Joseph with Infant Jesus.

The scene is embedded in a large, sultry cross with small and accurate portraits of various scenes. The figure of Joseph, great Patriarch, dominates the whole work with such solemnity, imposing himself as an authoritative master of Christian life. Through this paternal protection, the Baby Jesus seizing a flower, shows the utmost serenity and security. At the top there is a stylization of Mount Tabor, adorned with representation of the four evangelists with their symbol to write the Word of God.

To the right of the altar, we have the Immaculate Conception, depicted in this case with the Baby Jesus in his arms and the snake under his feet.

Finally, if we exit the transept out in the porch we see over the door still a majolica depicting the multiplication of the loaves.

The transit side sea cycle

In the beginning, is depicted in the central table of a majestic triptych made on the bottom wall of the transept. The center is dominated by the group of three people, constituted by the priest seen from the front, side by side with Maria and Joseph, they look at each other and swap the right. Maria looks peacefully, but reserved and behind her, three young people advance with bridal gifts. Joseph is radiant and raises exulting his flowing branch prodigiously; Behind him is a group of men known, the other claimants who did not have the honor of Joseph. A sea, pierced by ships and doves, is the basis of the depiction, while two angels are on the head of the bride and bridegroom. At the top, the sculpture is completed with bows placed on two registers, almost as symbolizing the Temple of Jerusalem or the heavenly temple. The other tablets of the triptych in the upper part depict two angels on one side, one of them in full figure and the other in half bust; Below, on the left, the Archangel Gabriel and on the right Mary, who tends to hear the word.

Turning to the right wall, we can admire the representation of the Visitation in a single picture. In the lower part we have the simple but suggestive encounter between Elizabeth and Mary, they approach to embrace and kiss very delicately. Over them, two colored circles could refer to day and night. In fact, the Christian liturgical tradition has always united Christmas (25th December) a day that from that day begins to stretch, as opposed to the Nativity of the Baptist (24th June) when the night gradually tends to impose on the day. The top of the sculpture is divided into three vertical rectangles; the central one is dominated by a large stylized arch representing the holy city; on the both sides there are biblical episodes featuring prominent women they have anticipated the greatness of Mary: Rebeka, wife of Isaac, Rachel who meets Jacob, Hymn of Ruth, Judith killing Holofernes, Esther begging King Ahasuerus.

Turning to the right, next to the door of the Sacristy, we find an almost cubist style of Christ the King, surrounded by angels and clouds. Above the opening leading to the central nave we find a representation of St. John of the Cross. Above the door leading to the outside we have the representation of the Wedding at Cana: in the foreground Jesus order to the servant to fill the jars and behind it is Mother Mary who soon noticed the lack of wine. Then, if we go out for a moment in the portico, we see above the door a majolica depicting a banquet scene.

The Nativity »