Nativity ScenesThe lateral halls and the crypt of the Upper Basilica host a rich collection of nativity scenes coming from the five continents.The permanent exhibition, which enriches the already large cultural patrimony of the Sanctuary, was created thanks to the donation of two citizens of the city of Biella with a specific interest for such form of religious art, Arnaldo Zona and Giuseppe Alvigini.
The extraordinary collection, embodying the synthesis of faith and art, displays approximately 50 nativity scenes from the five continents: the austere wooden compositions made in Germany, the exotic and colourful nativity scenes from Peru, the refined Bohemian glass creations and the vivid, unusual scenes made with banana leaves from Africa.
These works of art are ethnic-influenced representations of the birth of Jesus, the result of the encounter between religious spirituality and local folklore, and a precious testimony of faith crossing the boundaries of space and time.
DioramasThe exhibition continues in the lateral halls of the Upper Basilica, with a series of dioramas realized by the brothers Castells from Barcelona and the Rome-based artist Alberto Finizio. The subject is the life of Jesus.
The dioramas illustrate episodes of the Scriptures and the Gospels through three-dimensional scenes, whose subject is the life of Jesus from the Annunciation to the Passion and Resurrection. The word ‘diorama’ derives from the Greek dià, ‘through’, and hòrama, view, literally signifying a ‘view through the screen’. The episodes, displayed in suggestive glass cases, show a remarkable for the use of perspective.
The origin of dioramas is uncertain. Probably the first examples appeared in the interior of churches with the aim of illustrating the life of Jesus to the congregation, at the time largely illiterate, and as a narrative integration of the painted frescoes on the walls.
The artists and artisans employed for the nativity scenes probably worked on the large dioramas during the most intense season of the liturgical year. Through the use of perspective and shading they succeeded in conveying an intense realism to the scenes.
The characters, portrayed in extremely accurate realistic backgrounds, come to life in the space of the diorama thanks to the creativity and manual skills of the artists, whose work is able to convey the vividness of the scenes to the admiring eye of the contemporary visitor.