Expanded nativity museum at LaSalette Shrine opens to public for the holidays
ATTLEBORO — Visitors to LaSalette Shrine during its Festival of Lights, to start Thanksgiving evening, will also get a chance to view its nativity museum in a new light.
The second room of the International Creche Museum is a far cry from its previous layout, where the numerous nativity scenes certainly dazzled the eye, but could also cause guests to become overwhelmed at the sheer volume of pieces in a single space.
But with the efforts of Attleboro-based artist Alicia Crespo, who has also worked in theater design, as well as the Rev. Bernard Baris, all 2,200-plus pieces will now be able to be viewed more comfortably.
And, there will be much more room for guests to move.
Yes, seeing will truly be believing, the Rev. Flavio Gillio, the shrine’s director, said.
“Until you see it, you cannot imagine what the word ‘renovated’ truly means,” he said. “The use of the space is much better, and the nativity figurines are more visible than before.”
The redesign includes three large display cases in the middle of the room, which have a total of 41 shelves within its four sides and three partitions, allowing for better views of the individual scenes.
“It’s easy to appreciate the beauty of the single pieces because it’s less crowded,” Gillio said. “Every craft can really receive the value it is due.”
Gillio described his first view of the renovations as “like being on top of the high mountain, breathing the fresh air, and enjoying the nice panorama.”
The room’s redo began last summer and continued through the end of October. During that time, each nativity figurine — with the exception of the Rev. Manuel Carvalho Pereira’s life-size village scene, which was impossible to move due to its volume and need to preserve Pereira’s artistic vision — was taken from the room while the work was underway.
In addition to the painstaking task of rearranging the figurines just so, the walls were repainted and their perimeter display cases rearranged. New labels more clearly indicate what country the nativity scenes represent.
The task of redoing the layout of the museum had been discussed for years, but it wasn’t until Crespo came to the shrine to repaint the panel of Santa Claus that plans suddenly moved forward.
Gillio said that Crespo offered her services for the museum’s makeover, and, aided by Baris, tirelessly continued her volunteerism.
But the efforts of Baris and Crespo aren’t yet finished. Next year, the first room of the nativity museum will receive its own makeover.
Meanwhile, for this season, Gillio hopes not only will guests appreciate the new layout, but remember the true meaning of Christmas.
“I hope (the visitors) can remember that Christmas is Christ’s day,” Gillio said.