History of the Pittsburgh Creche: A Unique Holiday Tradition
The Pittsburgh Creche is a beloved holiday tradition that has captivated the hearts of Pittsburghers for decades. This large-scale nativity scene, located in the plaza of the US Steel Building, is a symbol of the city’s rich cultural heritage and the enduring spirit of Christmas. In this article, we will explore the fascinating history of the Pittsburgh Creche, from its origins to its present-day significance. Join us on a journey through time and discover the magic of this one-of-a-kind holiday display.
The Origins of the Pittsburgh Creche
The story of the Pittsburgh Creche begins in 1999, when it made its first appearance in the city. However, the inspiration for this magnificent display can be traced back to a visit to Rome by Pittsburgh businessman Louis D. Astorino, chairman of the Pittsburgh architectural firm L.D. Astorino Companies. During his trip, Astorino was deeply moved by the beauty of the Vatican’s Christmas Creche in St. Peter’s Square.
Upon his return to Pittsburgh, Astorino envisioned a similar nativity scene in his hometown. With the Vatican’s approval, he commissioned renowned sculptor Pietro Simonelli to create the life-sized figures for the Pittsburgh Creche. The project was a collaborative effort, with members of craft unions, including carpenters and electricians, generously donating their time and expertise to bring the vision to life.
The Evolution of the Pittsburgh Creche
The original Pittsburgh Creche featured ten figures, including the Holy Family, angels, shepherds, and wise men. Over the years, the display has expanded to include 22 life-sized figures, each meticulously crafted with wood, wire, and papier-mâché. The faces, hands, and any exposed skin are carefully sculpted to withstand Pittsburgh’s winter weather.
The clothing for the figures is sewn by the Sisters of the Holy Spirit and the Sisters of the Holy Family in Nazareth, following the Vatican tradition. These dedicated religious orders ensure that every detail is perfect, from the intricate garments to the smallest accessories.
In recent years, the Pittsburgh Creche has undergone further enhancements. New lighting and audio presentations have been added to create a more immersive and captivating experience for visitors. The figures of Mary and Joseph are illuminated, symbolizing their contemplation of their role in the birth of Christ. The audio presentations, recorded by the Carnegie Mellon University technical center, tell stories of faith and imagination, further enriching the overall ambiance of the display.
The Pittsburgh Creche: A Symbol of Unity
The Pittsburgh Creche is more than just a holiday decoration; it is a symbol of unity and community spirit. The Diocese of Pittsburgh owns the exhibit, and it is sponsored by the Christian Leaders Fellowship, a testament to the interfaith collaboration that brings people together during the Christmas season.
The creche serves as a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas, inspiring people to reflect on the birth of Christ and the values of love, compassion, and goodwill. Father Ronald Lengwin, spokesman for the Diocese of Pittsburgh, emphasizes the importance of the creche in reminding people of the significance of the holiday and encouraging them to live their lives accordingly.
Visiting the Pittsburgh Creche
The Pittsburgh Creche is open to the public from November 19 to January 8, allowing visitors to experience the awe-inspiring display throughout the holiday season. Located in the plaza of the US Steel Building, it serves as a focal point of the city’s festive decorations. The creche is free to visit and is accessible 24 hours a day, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to embrace the holiday spirit.
Preserving a Cherished Tradition
The Pittsburgh Creche has become an integral part of the city’s cultural landscape, cherished by residents and visitors alike. Its enduring popularity and significance highlight the importance of preserving and celebrating traditions that bring joy and meaning to our lives.
As the years go by, the Pittsburgh Creche continues to evolve and captivate new generations. The dedication of artists, craftsmen, religious orders, and community members ensures that this beloved holiday tradition will endure for years to come, reminding us of the timeless message of hope, love, and peace.
The Pittsburgh Creche stands as a testament to the power of tradition and the enduring magic of Christmas. From its humble beginnings to its present-day grandeur, this unique display has become an integral part of Pittsburgh’s holiday celebrations. As visitors gather around the life-sized figures, they are transported to the manger in Bethlehem, where the story of the Nativity unfolds. The Pittsburgh Creche serves as a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas and the values that unite us all. Let us embrace this cherished tradition and carry its spirit of love and compassion throughout the year.