Nativity in the Well

The 33rd Nativity in the Well inaugurated a new cycle of stories, that of the “excluded”, in which the Nativity is told by characters who, for various reasons, were unable to see it live.

For the 2022-2023 edition, the exceptional narrator was Artaban, the fourth mage who wanted to bring four very precious pearls to the Child King announced by the star.
He lingered along the way to help others, he ran after Jesus in Egypt and was unable to meet him until the day of his crucifixion, with nothing left to give him.

A Persian legend revisited in the style of the Nativity of the Pozzo della Cava with a surprise ending in a dreamlike scenario with strong contemporary references.
A new challenge for a new stimulating and engaging narrative.


From 23 December 2022 to 8 January 2023

Health to you. My name is Artaban, and I was one of the Magi of ancient Persia.
Three of my colleagues and I had studied the stars and knew that a king, who would change the world, would be born near Yerushalayim in Judea.
So we decided to walk towards Palestine to attend the event, announced by a very bright star.


We had to meet at the Spheres’ Temple to undertake the journey in four, with our gifts: Melchior the gold, symbol of royalty, Balthazar the myrrh, sign of humanity, Gaspard the incense, symbol of divinity, and me, four giant pearls to represent purity.
Four, like the cardinal points, the seasons, the phases of the moon and the Magi.

On my way to the rendezvous, I saw a fire in a village. I stopped to lend a hand, shared my supplies with those poor peasants and ended up giving them one of my pearls, so that they could sell it and rebuild their huts.
When I arrived at the temple, two days late, the other three Magi had already left.


Jesus was born in a stable near Bethlehem, but due to my delay, Melchior, Balthazar and Gaspard did not arrive in time to see the event.
When they arrived, some shepherds told them that the family had left to return home.

Meanwhile, the star had disappeared and the three Wise Men went to the royal palace to ask for information on the residence of the long-awaited new king.
Herod hosted them with all the honors and asked them to study the stars again and to tell him where this prodigious child was, so that he too could pay him homage. But the magi did not return.


Meanwhile, the star had rekindled over Nazareth. Surely there I would find the child king and meet the other Magi again.
Along the way, I saw assassins hang an insolvent debtor and enslave his wife and son.
After a long negotiation with the usurers, I managed to buy back the house and the freedom of those two unfortunate people, but it cost me another pearl.
And I was late again.

Melchior, Balthazar and Gaspard, following the star, which became brighter than ever, reached Nazareth and managed to deliver their gifts to little Jesus: gold, incense and myrrh. Because of my constant delay, the pearls weren’t there.


When I arrived in Nazareth, Jesus’ family had fled to Egypt. In fact, the rumor had spread that Herod, jealous of the new newborn king, had ordered the killing of all children under the age of two.
I stayed in that village for a few days to try to bribe the soldiers, giving another pearl in exchange for the life of as many babies as I could.


Arriving in Egypt, I met a group of women, enslaved and forced into prostitution by their masters. I could have bought their freedom with the last pearl, but I would have had nothing left to give to the new king.
So I offered to work enough to set them free; for this I was enslaved and put to slog in the salt marshes, where I remained for over thirty years.
When they released me, I immediately headed for Judea, to deliver the last pearl to Jesus, of whom stories often reached Egypt: his parables, the water changed into wine, the multitudes fed with five loaves and two fishes, the cripples healed, demons cast out…

I arrived in Yerushalayim on the very day Jesus was condemned.
I ran to meet him as they led him to the temple in chains, I wanted to give him my pearl before it was too late. A soldier caught me and immediately took me to the prisons. I tried to bribe him with that very last pearl, but there was nothing to do; he replied that the next day they would release me.
My cellmate was to be crucified that same day, because he had stolen the jewels of a wealthy Roman to feed his children. I gave him my pearl and proposed that we exchange clothes. He accepted, blessing me. I dirty my face and the guards fell into the trap. The poor fellow was released the next day, while I was crucified in his place.
And so, while his apostles fled and denied him, I was on the cross beside Jesus and was finally able to speak to him:
«Master, I was late again, I have nothing more to give you, but remember me when you come into your Kingdom!»
«Truly I tell you: today you will be with me in Paradise, because every time you have spent your pearls and your efforts to help one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me»

Maybe you too will have lost your way, abandoning the path that seemed the most right and lingering to follow your instincts and help others.
Perhaps you too have felt late with some important milestones in your life, fearing, perhaps, that you will never reach your destination.
I am convinced that, if you did it following your heart, you weren’t wrong.
Look what happened to me: because of my continuous delays I didn’t go down in history like my colleagues Melchior, Balthazar and Gaspard, but, thanks to the spontaneity of my gestures, I was the first to be resurrected in Christ. Nobody knows, but it makes no difference.
I, the last of the Magi, have become the first witness of a new era.
And my heart is filled with joy. That’s what matters.

Your brother Artaban


  • The smartphone: in the last scene there were some references to the contemporary world. More than the crown of barbed wire and the fourteenth bowl on the table of the Last Supper, what was more striking was the presence of a smartphone next to the scourge, to remind us that, if Pilate were our contemporary, the hashtag #eccehomo would be a trendtopic and we would all comment “crucify him”
  • Public and critical success: the 33rd Nativity Scene in the Well, in addition to being the most visited ever, also had a good response from the media, included among the five best nativity scenes in Italy by Tag43 and broadcasted on TgCom24 and Studio Aperto
  • Museums: the crib was created as part of the events of the “Museums Network for the Territory 2022” project, created with the contribution of the Umbria Region
  • From Baldini to Baldini: it was the speleologist Filippo Baldini who placed the Holy Family inside the Pozzo della Cava; he is a member of the CAI Orvieto Speleological Group, as well as son of Francesco Baldini, creator of the first Nativity scene in the Well, now 33 years ago

Conception – setting up – creation of characters – graphics: Marco Sciarra | speleological setup inside the Pozzo della Cava: Filippo Baldini | animatronic characters: Andrea Giomaro | scenography: Marco Sciarra – Francesca Montanari | faces, complexions and makeup: Andrea Giomaro – Samantha Rose-Harker – David Bracci – Sara Catanzaro – Carlo Diamantini – Erica Buzzi – Special Makeup Studio – Creature Studios – Marisa Paisio – Marco Sciarra – Francesca Montanari | Luminous Child Jesus: Andrea Giomaro | Gallery photo: Marco Mandini (& Co.)