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The Crib at the Shrine of the Madonnetta


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The Sanctuary of the Madonnetta hosts a prestigious permanent nativity scene, which can be visited all year round.

Madonnetta nativity scene is an ‘urban’ nativity scene in which the centre of Genoa, the Bisagno Valley and Jerusalem provide the backdrop for the 17th-18th century statuettes.

The characters, 70-80 cm tall and made in the costumes of the period, are accurate down to the smallest detail.

The crib is a marvel even for those who are not art experts, but from an artistic point of view, the real merit is the statuettes made entirely of wood.

Some of these have been attributed to the well-known Genoese sculptor Anton Maria Maragliano, whose workshop was among the most renowned in the production of crib statues, others to Giovanni Gaggini or Giovanni da Bissone, the probable author of the figures inside the Nativity.

The Crib at the Shrine of the Madonnetta

The crib has been set up in the Sanctuary of the Mad onnetta since 1977, after several years of work to prepare the scenography.

It occupies an area of 100 square metres and is arranged in three large dioramas: Genoa, the Val Bisagno district, and Jerusalem.

(For the uninitiated, a diorama is a small-scale setting that recreates scenes of various types).

To visit the Madonnetta crib, go down into the crypt and turn into the corridor on the right.

▶ If you want more information on the Madonnetta Sanctuary, you can read this article.

In front of you, five stained-glass windows will appear, each depicting a specific scenario.

Genoa’s historical centre

Crib at the Shrine of the Madonnetta

In three of these pictures, you can admire the historical centre of Genoa where the city’s most representative monuments stand out, such as the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, the Lantern, Piazza de Ferrari, Porta Soprana, and the Sottoripa porticoes, to name but a few.

Next to the buildings, one can catch a glimpse of nobles strolling and other characters intent on daily tasks or shopping in the shops of old Genoa.

In the background, the Righi Heights with the Two Brothers and Fort Puin.

Then there are peasants and shepherds moving towards the Nativity hut to adore the Baby Jesus.

Val Bisagno

val bisagno

The fourth painting is set in Val Bisagno, one of the main valleys in the Genoa area, home to the Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno and the Historical Aqueduct.

Here, we find a typical Genoese farm, covered in snow, with a kitchen and stables.

In one house, you can admire a farmer putting on his boots, ready to go to work in the fields. In another, an old woman working with wool.

On the background, the Sant’Agata bridge, the church of San Siro di Struppa, and the houses of Fontanegli.

The Crib at the Shrine of the Madonnetta: Jerusalem

The Crib at the Shrine of the Madonnetta
The Crib at the Shrine of the Madonnetta

The fifth and last painting is set in the cradle of Christianity, Jerusalem.

Here, the Magi, together with soldiers and horses, are on their way to the cave of the Nativity to bring gifts to Jesus (gold, frankincense and myrrh).

We can distinguish one King kneeling in adoration of the Saviour, a second King who is walking towards the hut carrying the gifts, and the third and last King who is arriving, still riding his horse.

The curators of the nativity scene, with this setting, probably intended to unite East and West in a single city, Genoa.

When to visit the Crib

The crib is permanent, so it can be viewed all year round, during the Sanctuary ‘s opening hours, which are from 10 a.m. to 12 noon on public holidays, and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

For the visit, count about half an hour.

To find out how to get there and for all the other information on the Madonnetta Sanctuary, you can read this article.

Continue reading:

1. The Pentema Crib

2. The Crib in the Forest of Viganego

3. Passport to the Genoese Nativity Scenes

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