The gradually evolving form of the event goes under the blanket description of “tradition” and is therefore a difficult animal to pin down but once again for the 37th time, the annual event took place in Barga this evening.
The Presepe Vivente is one of those traditional events which happen in Barga once a year where it would seem that the whole city is taking part, either as a participant or just a viewer.
In fact the Presepe Vivente depends very heavily on the weather as inclement weather sometimes means that the high spot of the Christmas calendar has to be cancelled , as in 2009 and 2010 and so today all eyes were on the weather forecast – clear cold weather was expected.
Finally all the work and preparation that goes into putting on an event of this size and complexity came to a triumphant conclusion with more than 100 people – “figuranti” taking part and many hundreds more enjoying the event to the full.
So, what actually is the Prespe Vivente ? a simple question but quite a complex answer is needed to get anywhere near to explaining as quite often with traditional events some of the original reasons and methods behind why an event is made or performed in that particular form are not clear.
The gradually evolving form of the event goes under the blanket description of “tradition” and is therefore a difficult animal to pin down.
Just by looking at the images in this article, it is possible to see that it is a historical event with Mary and Joseph as central figures moving through a mediaeval city but what is not clear is at what precise date in history the couple are appearing.
Looking at them the date should be somewhere around zero. The Roman centurions would seem to confirm that date but just before Mary and Joseph and their donkey arrived in the city, their first port of call was to a schoolroom with desks and chairs, pupils and a teacher all meticulously wearing clothes dating from probably the 1930′s. Outside of the school two guards stand both dressed as soldiers from the 16th century.
As they then make their way through Barga Vecchia, they stop and rest outside the cellars and cantinas of millers, stonemasons, people making sausages, carpenters, charcoal makers and cobblers all dressed in clothes from the turn of the 1900′s.
Strangely enough it is quite believable, there she is, Mary with her husband Joseph standing patiently at her side as they stop for a few minutes in an authentic looking cantina with women sewing sheets in the dim light behind them. Even the passing of three men in full Centurion costume somehow or other does not shake or disturb the scene.
Eventually they make their way up to the Duomo where miracle of miracles, a baby appears in the arms of Mary followed moments later by the arrival of three Kings arriving bearing gifts and much to the apparent delight of the assembled crowds – leading two large camels.
The Presepe Vivente are once more finished for the year and hopefully next year, weather permitting, will be back even more baffling, beguiling, exciting, and above all – moving.
Images from the annual presepe vivente from past years can be seen here – Le immagini delle passate edizioni del presepe vivente possono essere viste qui; 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2012 | 2011 | 2008 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2000