05 March 2016

The Pittsburgh Creche by Pietro Simonelli

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This is a seasonal piece of public art, on display each year from the Friday prior to Thanksgiving through the Feast of the Epiphany in January. The Pittsburgh Creche is the only one of it’s kind outside the Vatican.

Louis D. Astorino is a local architect and the first American to design a building within the Vatican. WQED’s OnQ Magazine did a documentary about his design of the Chapel of the Holy Spirit, where the cardinals pray prior to selecting a new pope. The chapel is closed to the public, but WQED was permitted to film inside and it is a beautiful structure. On one of Mr Astorino’s trips to Rome, he saw the creche at the Vatican and decided that he wanted to bring one like it to Pittsburgh. He acquired approval from the Vatican and then hired the sculptor, Pietro Simonelli, to duplicate the figures.

Everything was constructed as the original Vatican creche was. Mr Simonelli made the figures; the garments were sewn by communities of religious women; the stable was constructed according to the plans of the Vatican architect Umberto Mezzanna.

Over the years more figures were added. The angel is an original design for Pittsburgh, also created by Mr Simonelli. Other figures were created by JE Scenic Technologies, who create sets for the Civic Light Opera (CLO). There are 20 figures in the creche now.

The Pittsburgh Creche, though started by one man, is supported and maintained by a large, diverse, community including 10 denominations. It’s purpose is to remind us all of the true purpose of the Christmas Season and it’s stated theme is Share the Love.

The photos don't really do it justice. We hope you have a chance to experience it in person.

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