Eliseo Salino, the master potter of Albisola, realized this masterpiece (1969-1970), in which he expressed the best of a Ligurian Cribs that chiefly refers to the Maragliano, but while the latter mainly operated in wood, Salino speaks through the terracotta: pottery and majolica.
In addition to the statues and the ceramic groups, the artist has cared for and realized the whole setting, modeling scagliola, plaster and jute, he obtained a vast cave, in which the narration of the birth of Christ is developed. Here we look not only at a historical narration of the Birth of Jesus, but to a theological vision of the mystery of the Incarnation, from which every temporal space perspective is excluded.
At the center of the path, as the focal point, the light of the hut spreading in all directions, in all floors and on all men. Characteristics are the figures in which, as Salino said, “we can recognize all of us; friars and masons, artisans and professionals, couples and politicians, women and children. “
If the plane of the distance or of the past, created from the third perspective plane (realized with a precious play of mirrors that expand the space) brings us back in time, that is, to the times of Christ, the biblical groups in mid-air, weave a theological narration of fundamental importance.
Let us now seek to understand the language of the biblical groups, who want to tell us the story of salvation from the Fall of the Progenitors to the birth of Jesus, comparing the Old Testament (on the left) and the New Testament (on the right hand side).
It is the beginning of the story of salvation, which will be realized in the mysteries of the life of Christ; is the promise of redemption (the so-called “protoevangelium”), which in Christ, new Adam, will overcome the sin of humanity to the root. In front of it, (right side), the scene of Annunciation and Marriage of Mary invites precisely to contemplate the fulfillment of the saving promise.
King David, the Messianic Prophet
David brings in Jerusalem the ark of the covenant, before which he danced and sang with all the people. The tradition, which attributes the composition of the Psalms, makes it the singer of the Messianic times: from his descendants the Savior will be born. On the right (right side) we have the Visitation: the new ark of the covenant (the womb of the Virgin) and the new David (John the Baptist), a dance with joy in the mother’s womb, in the presence of Virgin Mary and Our Savior.
The prophet Elijah
The prophet is represented in the act of praying to God to make it rain on the earth, burnt for over three years of drought; at the top, on his head, a clouds modeled seen from by tradition as a symbol of the Virgin, the bearer of the rain of grace that is Christ. The prophet, let’s remember, is also considered by Carmel, as a model of contemplative and apostolic life.
The Promised Land
The exultation and the peace of Christmas find a perfect match in the description that the prophet Isaiah leaves us of Messianic times, times of peace and serenity: the break of the harmony of creation, made by sin, finds its healing in the intervention love of God the Father, who sends his Son. Faced with this sculpture, we are invited to note the many contradictions that mark our journey and to guide our gaze to that future fulfillment: when hatred, sin, suffering, and death cannot hinder the gift of divine love.
The Marriage of Mary and Joseph
We find in two groups the same female figure, Mary, before in the representation of her marriage with Joseph and then in the Annunciation. Together, the two groups represent the opposite of initial disobedience: the generous “yes” of Mary and Joseph allows for the realization of the promised salvation to the progenitors
While the wedding scene always in dim light, the Annunciation is placed in particular way. It is in the moment of the announcement of the Angel that “the Word became flesh”, and the heaven has opened in a full communion between God and mankind. In the poor house of Nazareth, the fidelity of God meets with the ready and generous disposition of Mary.
Mary Greets Elizabeth
This scene – as we have said – presents itself as the fulfillment of the image of David: it is in Mary’s womb that the mystery of God’s presence in the midst of his people is truly fulfilled. God’s fidelity to his promise is “the gospel”, good news, a reason for joy and exultation.
The birth of Jesus
The birth of Jesus is the center of the whole crib and the center of human history. The group shown is the last one realized by the artist Salino. Originally, there was another depiction of the Holy Family. Today we can contemplate the Baby Jesus in the arms of Mary. The latter being the Mother of God offers the Baby Jesus to us and men giving us the chance to cuddle him a bit.
The Annunciation of the Angel to the Shepherds
Christ Jesus became like us, in the weakness and fragility of a child. The Angel, who announces to the shepherds the unbelievable event, a source of joy, appears as a slender figure suspended in the void, a creature coming from heaven; his announcement of joy seems to respond the Feast and dance of the numerous angels perched or fluttering around the hut.
Adoration of the Magi
In the adoration of the Magi come from the East we can recognize the universality of the gift of salvation. Christ is born for all and their gesture invites us to stand in front of the Infant Jesus with their own attitudes of amazement, adoration and praise.
The Massacre of the Innocent
In this group, of deep dramatic intensity, we can see figures of women and naked children torn from their breasts and flying through the air. The Christmas joy event becomes tragedy, almost a prelude to the mystery of the Cross, and invites us to stop in prayer, invoking the divine blessing of the tragic sufferings of our humanity, in the ongoing wounds of our day.
The Escape in to Egypt
The depiction of the escape in Egypt is almost in hiding, as if Herod was always alive to get the Christ away. The composition is beautiful, not only in line and in colors, but in intense expression of faces and gestures that give the sense of timid and confident escape.
Jesus among the teachers in the Temple
The scene, which is a single body, is set in a temple synthesized from the paved floor and two columns overlapping the characters. The little Jesus is faced with four doctors who, from left to right, are disposed on a descending scale, almost to represent the progressive humility in front of the boy’s wisdom; wisdom shining in the red of the cloak and in the yellow of the halo, reflected on the onlookers.
The Meeting with John the Baptist
On the left, we still find a group representing the encounter of adolescent Jesus with the forerunner John the Baptist his contemporaries, an episode extraneous to the Gospel narrative. The absence of movement and the reduced plasticity of the planes and surfaces make the very sense of the supernatural sense of this mysterious encounter very clear.
The Baptism of Jesus
John the Baptist, standing on the ground, lifted his eyes to heaven with his left hand on Jesus’ shoulder, just as he was baptizing him with his right hand. The Son of God, with his feet in the waters of the Jordan, bows his head and welcomes with humility the sign of baptism. The predominant colors are the blue of the water, the pink color of which is the pale meats and the yellow of the halo on the head of both.
If we go back to the beginning of the crib and take a look at the whole, we are immersed in the plan of today’s reality, which makes us continually participate in the Christmas mystery in a dimension that accompanies all ages of man. Part of this plan are the figures that come from our daily lives. The polychrome and the humorous setting of scenes, figures and groups is a realistic vision of life, which often appears as a strange caricature. The priests, caught in a humorous good-natured goodwill; the brothers, with their simple expressions of serene wisdom and evangelical simplicity; the soldiers, from whom comes almost a discreet and friendly satire of martial charm, and still the people of the countryside: the “Culin”, the “Gerba”, “Bacchi u friscieu”, “Cattainin”, “u Funsu” the drunk, the lame, mother with baby, squirrels, the roasters, the beggar, students, the housewife… is the man of today who continues to go to the Bethlehem hut.
At the end of the route you can visit the crib hall from all over the world, and the missionary exhibition with material and information about our missions in the Central African Republic.
At the end of the permanent crib, a room has been set up in which more than one hundred of cribs from all over the world are exposed, under the title is “The charm of the crib”.
The initiative, which was inaugurated on December 25, 2002, was realized thanks to the generosity of Don Pino Pellegrino (a well-known collaborator of the “Il Messaggero” (Messenger)) and to the work of Fr. Fausto (architect) and some volunteers who, under P. Giuliano, have created for the Sanctuary a small firmament of works that appear as sparks born of the only mystery of Christmas.
In a luscious dark-enveloped and brightly lit satin, you can admire this extraordinary collection of fantasy, folklore, culture and religiosity that has come from every corner of the world into our sanctuary as a thank-you for the blessings that the baby Jesus gives to whole world. Starting from the left, works from Asia are displayed: in particular from the Philippines, Thailand, Mongolia, Tibet, Burma, China, Russia and Japan; followed by Europe, with distinguished Italian performances and others from Poland, Sweden, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Malta and Norway; North America is represented through Redskins and Eschimos, while Latin America sees the contribution of Peru, Easter Island, Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Mexico, Guatemala; closes the path to Africa with Senegal, Burkina, Kenya, Burundi, Egypt and the neighboring Israel.