You may have heard of the famous Pentema Nativity scene with its life-size mannequins that animate the village streets at Christmas time.
But do you also know how it came about and why?
We went to Pentema and with the volunteers of the G.R.S. Amici di Pentema Association we retraced the history of the Nativity scene from its beginnings to the present day.
If you too are curious to know the story of the Pentema Crib as told by the people who witnessed its birth, read on!
How the Pentema Crib was born: history and curiosities
History of Pentema Crib.
The Pentema Crib was born thanks to the ingenuity of Don Pietro Cazzulo, who is still today the priest in charge of 11 parishes within the Antola Park.
It was almost 10 p.m. on 24 December 1994 and Don Pietro had just parked his car at the end of the village of Pentema to celebrate Christmas Mass.
For those who have never been to Pentema, the village lies on the wooded slope of the Pentemina valley.
Admiring the illuminated village from above, Don Pietro thought it would be an original idea to create a nativity scene that would involve as many people as possible.
The aim was also to bring the village back into vogue.
Pentema, in fact, was going through a period of depopulation.
The village did not have shops, schools, or buses to connect it to other towns.
And its inhabitants were beginning to move towards the cities.
Pentema Crib was born, therefore, with the intention of enhancing the village and keeping it alive .
The first dummies were brought by Don Pietro and were only dressed in pink lace knickers!
The rebirth of Pentema
Nativity scene came to life in 1995 and the entire set-up is still today taken care of by the volunteers of the G.R.S. (Gruppo Ricreativo Sportivo) Amici di Pentema (Friends of Pentema Recreational Sports Group) Association.
One of its members is Mrs Rosa, an inhabitant of Pentema and a pillar of the Association, who, together with Stefano, revealed curiosities and anecdotes to me.
The volunteers, with great skill and enthusiasm, have been recreating – for 28 years now – scenes from the daily life of the inhabitants of the village of Pentema at the end of the 19th century.
The dummies wear the traditional clothing of the time and are intent on daily chores.
A large proportion of them represent real village people.
The setting is that of the late 19th century but, in reality, life in the village was still the same until after the Second World War.
Running water in the houses, for example, only arrived in 1963!
History of Pentema Crib: the Pentema Crib today
Scattered around the village streets and inside the houses are around 40 life-size mannequins.
In order to make them more realistic, the faces of the dummies are modified with clay, using models taken from old photographs of villagers.
The characters of the Nativity, too, represent real people who lived in the village.
The heads were carved in wood by a local artist .
We can say, therefore, that everything is organised down to the last detail!
The volunteers start preparing theset-up in the days following the Castagnata , so roughly towards the end of October.
You can imagine all the work behind this event that the volunteers carry out with dedication and enthusiasm.
While Stefano finishes setting up a scene, Rosa accompanies me from house to house, telling me many interesting facts about the scenes that open up before my eyes.
Like, for example, the schoolroom, with the original desks of the time, where the teacher taught until 1966.
When only one child remained in the village, the school closed and the municipality of Torriglia set up a school bus so that the child could attend school in Torriglia.
Or the grocery shop where, on the wall, one can still read the accounts written in pen by the shopkeeper.
Along the tour route, marked with signs, you can find many scenes of life that are worth stopping to admire.
The history of Pentema Crib: when it opens
If we have intrigued you with our story, you should know that the setting up is almost complete and that the Pentema Crib will officially open its doors to the public on 8 December.
From this date, Pentema will turn into a large open-air museum, but only until 14 January 2024.
After that, the dummies will be stored in the cellars, waiting to be given new life the following year.
And the magic, thanks to the volunteers of theAssociation G.R.S. Amici di Pentema, will be repeated year after year.
Admission to the Crib is free , but if you want to give a concrete help, you can leave anoffering at the end of your visit.
▶ If you want to know the opening dates in detail and all the useful information for planning your visit to the Pentema Crib, you can read this article.
*Many thanks to Rosa and Stefano for the explanations and to Cristina for the excellent coffee!