HANLEY-GUENO NEAPOLITAN PRESEPIO
Housed in The Cathedral Museum is an outstanding collection of Baroque Neapolitan crèche, or presepio, perhaps one of the finest and most extensive in the country. It was written in the Smithsonian, December 1991, that “the cache is the passion and pride of partners Jeffrey Gueno and Frank Hanley (now deceased), whose talents and shared interests in miniatures, antiques, art, design and collecting enabled them to assemble this remarkable display”.
Hanley and Gueno purchased the 18th century figures over a thirty year period. The collectors built sets to display the authentically dressed puppet-type characters fashioned by Neapolitan craftsmen. Enshrined in the place of honor is the Holy Family surrounded by angels singing tidings of great joy to shepherds while the elaborate procession of Magi makes its way through typical street scenes of daily life characteristic of 18th century Naples.
Jesus is born in his human nakedness, free of adornment, as God made man. He is the new covenant placed on the dust of past civilizations.
Mother Mary adoringly gazes on her first-born destined to ransom mankind from its sinfulness.
Joseph, husband of Mary, loves her with filial love and is her protector and her provider. Joseph obediently accepts his parental responsibility to the Emanuel.
Above this nativity, angels from heaven proclaim to the shepherds tidings of great joy, “Rejoice for this night is born to you a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”
The shepherds of the 18th century are often shown playing bagpipes (perhaps to soothe the flock pastured on the hillsides).
Three kings travel from the east guided by His star. The Magi: Melchior, Balthazar, and Caspar give the Babe gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
This scene represents the overcrowded seaport of Naples where ships carried in many races and classes of society to bargain and barter for goods in the marketplace.
The jewelers, silver smiths and bronze smiths show their ware from overflowing trunks near the lion head fountain.
Mongol warriors offer horse gear and weapons of war.
Africans came across the Mediterranean to work and trade.
Farmers grew grains, fruits, and vegetables on the fertile volcanic soil. They kept domestic animals to help with the work and for food.
The wine venders were provided with an abundance of grapes to make sparkling wines to sell by the flask or by the goblet.
Many musicians are shown with brass, reed, and percussion instruments of the day.
Fine ladies, wearing fashionable 18th century clothing and jewelry, are escorted by a man carrying an umbrella as they enter the marketplace.
A Samaritan woman arrives at the nativity scene in her golden carrying chair (howdah).
The gypsy maiden, wearing a coral necklace, offers the fresh catch from the sea.
Dull blades are sharpened by a grinding wheel powered by a man operating a foot treadle.
Children enjoy a ride to town on the back of a donkey.
Women prepare a meal in the kitchen where one sees a side of bacon and a hog’s head hanging alongside aging cheese.
A young man sent down to saw wood and catch water rests from his chores with a nap in the hay.
Bird houses and cages shelter cooing doves.
A mother carries her child wrapped in swaddling as she comes to the market with her husband to purchase needs for the family.
The backdrop built by Gueno and Hanley shows evidence of previous civilizations that inhabited this picturesque harbor near the Isle of Capri.
The poet Virgil wrote of the triumphs and tragedies of the Greek Civilization who left their temple ruins on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.
A fort, roads, aqueducts and triumphal arches were built during the Roman Empire over the Greek cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Christianity added picturesque cathedral spires to this overpopulated seaport nestled between the mountainside and the bay where beauty and ugliness exist side by side.
Pre-arrange tours may be scheduled Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m.-Noon and 1:00-4:00 p.m. by contacting the Cathedral Center.
Senior Citizens $3.00
Children 12 and under $2.00