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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Winter: The Underwater Presepe at Laveno Mombello



Here's another nativity scene to see in the area, and it's surely one of the most unusual ones you'll see anywhere in Italy. I'm speaking about the Presepe Sommerso in Laveno Mombello. This nativity scene is fully submerged under the waters of Lago Maggiore, in front of Piazza Caduti del Lavoro in the centre of Laveno.

The tradition was started in 1979 by a group of divers who called themselves “Friends of the Nativity Scene." There were only three statues that year, and a blessing performed before a small audience. Now, the display has grown to a total of 42 statues, assembled two to three meters below the surface of the water on five metal platforms that support a total weight of 18 tons. The statues are carved in white Vicenza stone and represent the classic Nativity figures of Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus and the Magi, as well as many others, such as travelers, a housewife carrying chickens and baskets, and a shepherd carrying a lamb on his shoulders. In the daytime the figures are hardly visible under the water, but after dark they seem to float in the light of the floodlights illuminating them from below.




On Christmas Eve the figure of the Christ Child is carried ceremoniously by a young married couple from the Church of St. Philip and St. James to the lakefront and blessed by the parish priest. Four scuba divers then carry the baby and an illuminated cradle and place them in the underwater manger. The statues were submerged this year on 4 December, and the display will be in place and illuminated until Epiphany on 6 January 2011.


The main website for the Presepe Sommerso has wonderful photos of the entire ceremony and fantastic images taken underwater of the display. If presepe are a part of your holiday season traditions, this is one not to miss in the Stresa area.

Laveno is across the lake from Stresa, on the Lombardy side of Lago Maggiore. It is the city one looks at often from Stresa as one gazes over the lake. It is easily reached using the ferry boats of the Navigazione Laghi. Check the schedules for times.


Presepe Sommerso
www.presepesommerso.it

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