December 14, 2010

Mario Andreoli, Il presepe illuminato/The illuminated nativity scene

Every december in the western world one finds preparations  for Christmas time, like illuminating one's house.

This post is about an art environment in the capacity of a very large illuminated nativity scene on a hill near the community of Manarola, a community at the Ligurian coast, Italy. Every year early december the lights will be activated for the first time, which currently attracts thousands of visitors.

 Life and works

This scene has been created by retired railway worker Mario Andreoli (born 1928).

In 1961, at his father's request,  he restored a cross that was located on the hill on top of the family vineyard. He also installed some devices in order to illuminate the cross at night.

When local people informed him there happened to be two more crosses on this spot, he could trace their foundations and he re-erected these crosses too. Ever since the spot locally has become known as the Tre Crocci hill.

After Andreoli got retired, probably in the 1980's, he could buy more land on the hill.

He already liked to make small sculptures with a religious connotation, but once he owned a large part of the hill he also began making larger constructions to decorate the area with what in Italy is called a presepe, a Christmas crib scene.

From recycled materials Andreoli constructed all types of larger than life two-dimensional impersonations of shepherds, angels, dolphins and so on.

In the course of the years the scene gradually has been extended and currently when december approaches, Andreoli will install some 300 figures on that hilly vineyard which covers an area of some 4000 m² .Together they constitute a large Christmas scene, which because it is illuminated, best can be appreciated in the dark.

A local festivity

In recent years, Andreoli's nativity scene has become part and parcel of the cultural heritage and the festivities of the region.

The community of Manarola (on the UNESCO heritage list) is located in the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre. The board of the park supports Andreoli financially and it promoties sustainability by ensuring that the installation operates on solar energy.

At inauguration day, early december, lots of people will come to Manarola, to enjoy fireworks and to witness the moment the around 15.000 lamps will be actuated for the first time.

The illumination will last through January. During the other months of the year, the constructions will be stored.

Andreoli's studio

Andreoli has a studio where he creates the characters and items that decorate the Christmas scene.

this picture and the next one (2016) by Pavel Konečný

And his garden has a display of a number of his smaller creations.

Exposition 2011-2012

Mario Andreoli's creative activity has been featured in an exposition in the gallery Rizomi Art Brut from november 25 2011 until January 15 2012. This art gallery in Turin is he first in Italy which focuses exclusively on art brut/ outsider art. The exposition, entitled Liguria Brut! also presents works of Marcello Cammi, Davide Mansueto Raggio and Vittoria Rullo.

Next picture shows part of the exposition where Mario Andreoli was represented:

picture courtesy of Rizomi Art Brut

During the exposition, on december 3, 2011, a new book about outsider environments in Italy was presented: Gabriele Mina (red), Costruttori di Babele, Sulle trace di architecture fantastische universi irregulari in Italia, Milano (Elèuthera). 

Some documentation
* Article on the Costruttori di Babele website 
* Video by Constantino Bormioli (You Tube, 5'28", uploaded dec 7 2012)


first published dec 2010, last revised dec 2015

Mario Andreoli
Presepe luminoso
Manarola, Liguria, Italy
on show, yearly, dec/jan

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