January 13, 2015

Francesco Berta, Replicas and miniature village scenes

picture from the website Il Salice

Above picture shows a nativity scene, part of a indoor art environment in Viú, a hamlet of the community of Cantoira, north of Torino (Turin) in Italy (prov. Piemonte).

Life and works

The miniature village was made by Francesco Berta (1924-2001), who was born in Viú and lived there all his life. Known as Cichin, he worked at the cable car of the regional mining company and he also was active as farmer, mainly producing his own food.

In 1962 he began creating a nativity scene. using wood to sculpt the various characters. As workshop he could use a classroom of the no longer used village school. His sister Onorina assisted him by making the dresses. The ensemble became known as Il presepe di Vrú, or as Betlemme delle Valli di Lanze.

In the course of the next twenty years the nativity scene would grow into a miniature village of some forty characters, who all together represent life in former days in the countryside, with the miller, the blacksmith, the laundress, and so on.

Both the dresses and the architecture of the cabins and houses truly reflect the style as usual in the region.

A special feature of the miniature ensemble is that some of the depicted characters can make movements, an effect Berta realized by means of the engine of an old washing machine.

picture from peveradasnc website

Berta also built some structures inspired upon regional architecture. such as a mill, the sanctuary at the Rocciamelone montain and other structures

Best known became his replicas of two famous Italian constructions, i.e. the leaning Tower of Pisa and the Mole Antonelliana, a building 167 m (548 ft) high, located in Torino (Turin)

These replicas, both some four meter (13 ft) high, are faithful copies of the original.

Actual situation

Thanks to the attentive care of Berta's son, both the miniature village and the replicas currently still exist and can be visited,

* Entry on the website Il Salice (in Italian, September 2013)
* Entry on the website Costruttori di Babele 
* Video shot in 1998, published in 2013 (by Roberta Gallina, You Tube, 0'45")

Francesco Berta
Il presepe di Vrú (miniature village/replicas)
Hamlet of Vrú, Cantoira, Piemonte, Italy
can be visited

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