(Naples, Dec. 14) – Three places that intensely and strongly express the spirituality of Christmas: Bethlehem, where, in the night of nights, the history of Christian civilisation was born; Greccio, in Lazio, where St Francis of Assisi invented the first nativity scene in 1223; and Scala, the oldest village on the Amalfi Coast, where St Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori found inspiration, among shepherds, caves and flocks, for the composition of what would become the most famous Christmas song: the “Tu scendi dalle Stelle”.
In 1731, exhausted by fatigue and ill, he was urged by his superiors to take a rest in Amalfi. But the vicar of Scala invited him to rest at the hermitage of Santa Maria dei Monti, frequented by shepherds to whom he devoted himself with love and concern, bringing them the light of the Word of God. The following year he founded the Order of the Redemptorists.
Thanks to this experience, which was decisive in his life, Saint Alphonsus composed “Quanno nascette Ninno”, a tune in 6/8 in the Neapolitan vernacular, which would give rise to the most famous of all Christmas carols.
Town of Scala, which remains the custodian of this tradition, looks forward to Christmas 2021 with an exciting video mapping projecting the story on the facade of the Cathedral of San Lorenzo with the image of St. Alphonsus in silhouette looking up at the starry sky.
The multimedia story, with a play of light and colour, combining technology, art and spirituality, was created entirely in computer graphics by the architect Marco Capasso (who has already worked with Piero Angela on the famous 3D historical reconstructions in Super Quark) and his Studio Creativo. The brand new soundtrack, written and set to music by maestro Antonio Fresa, and performed by a children’s choir, recounts the emotion of the birth of “Tu scendi dalle stelle”.
The three-dimensional nativity scene is set in the very grotto in Scala where Saint Alphonse received the apparition of the Madonna. There is also an artistic representation of the Neapolitan eighteenth century with “The Adoration of the Shepherds”, a famous painting by Luca Giordano from 1688, now in the Louvre Museum in Paris. And then the image of St Francis with the Infant Jesus of Greccio.
On the evening of Sunday, 12 December, at 6 p.m., the first screening was broadcast live on the facebook page of the Municipality of Scala. “Our town, a place of beauty and faith, pays homage to one of its illustrious guests, Saint Alphonsus de’ Liguori, who more than anyone else was able to grasp the simple and genuine soul of Scala and its inhabitants,” said the mayor, Luigi Mansi. “It is exciting to know that it was in our beautiful and lush mountains that the doctor of the Church recognised the natural setting but also the emotional climate of the coming of Jesus. From Assisi, Father Enzo Fortunato, originally from Scala, said: “Just as Francis invented the crib to make the mystery of Christmas known to the simple and the poor, so Saint Alphonsus spread the extraordinary event in dialectal music. Bethlehem Greggio and Scala represent in fact the places of Christmas. In 2023 we will celebrate the 800th anniversary of the invention of the nativity scene.