The Nativity Scene in the Well

The 34th Nativity in the Well continued the “excluded” storytelling cycle, in which the Nativity is narrated by characters who, for various reasons, could not witness it live.

For the 2023-2024 edition, the exceptional narrator was Herod Ascalonite, better known as Herod the Great, the fierce ruler behind the slaughter of the innocents.

His story, his self-imposed “mission,” fears about his son Antipater, and suspicions around Jesus, the son of Mary of Nazareth announced by the magi.

An apocryphal tale revisited in the style of the Nativity of the Well of the Quarry, with a surprise ending in a dreamlike setting; a narrative with frequent references to contemporary times and the dramatic chronicle of ongoing conflicts.

December 23, 2023 to January 7, 2024

Hi. My name is Herod and I was born in Ashkelon about 2100 years ago. Even as a child my mission was clear: I was to be the greatest and most glorious king of Israel.
How do you say? Was I not of royal blood? Just a detail, I would soon marry a descendant of the Maccabees and thus gain the right to the throne.

My name means “hero’s song,” and it is perfect for those who are destined to win at any cost. 
What? Why did I go down in history as one of the most ruthless, cruel and unscrupulous rulers ever? You talk a good game, you twenty-first-century people, but in my time, to become important and famous you had to dodge plots, hatch stratagems, annihilate enemies, win wars, build cities, it wasn’t enough to put your mouth to heart on Instagram or take a couple of jumps on TikTok…

Here I am, 2060 years ago, finally king of Judea, known to all as Herod the Great.
Still doubting? Do you wonder why I was being spoken of as a puppet ruler, succubus to the Romans? Come now, don’t be naive: it was only envy of my fame. Then, you know, many enemies, much honor.

I could not be content with having palaces, fortifications and entire cities built; I had to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. I wanted it to be huge, imposing and lavish, so that I could be worthy of my fame.
How are you saying? Because I had put the eagle of Rome on the main entrance of the temple? But do you really have the audacity to criticize those who had nothing less than the house of God made?

And this is my son Antipater, stupid and ungrateful like few others. Imagine that he passed himself off as a messenger of God to snare the young virgins of the temple school. There was even a rumor that he had impregnated one, a certain Mary of Nazareth.
How did I receive the news? Very well: by the time the rumors reached me, the girl had already been kicked out of the temple and I could once again devote myself fully to my mission.

A few months later, however, some astrologers coming from the East told me that a certain Mary was about to give birth to the new king of the Jews, announced by a star. I knew at once that it had to be the son of that wretched Antipater.
Why was I so afraid of that illegitimate grandson of mine? Because Mary was of David’s line, and that child could have taken the throne away from a Maccabee like me at any time. My mission was in danger.

There was no alternative: I had to make that child disappear, wherever he was. That is why I ordered firstborn children under the age of two to be killed throughout Judea.
What? What are you saying? Those “poor innocents”!!!? What do you want them to be a few unknown infants for one who had a wife, three brothers-in-law, a mother-in-law, three children and a few hundred opponents executed in order to carry out his mission!

Obviously, you will know that I was unable to kill that Jesus, just as you will have known from history that it was certainly not my throne that interested him. But that’s how it went.

Like everyone else, I too died, and it happened in excruciating pain and with my body devoured by worms. Before I expired, I had some of those shepherds who had witnessed the birth of Jesus summoned. I wanted to understand what the force was that attracted them to a stinking stable.

What did they tell me? They replied that that heaven had entered a cave that night. And now I’ll show you how I tried to imagine it in my delirium.

I was wrong, the history says so, and I only realized it only after the end.
The force that attracted the shepherds, the wise men, the disciples and then thousands of believers was love.
I, on the other hand, had put my glory before everything, dedicating my every gesture and breath to it.
I had erred, not understanding that no mission is worth fighting for that does not contemplate love.

Come on, blame me, as you are surely used to doing with many other “monsters” in history.
But, before you judge us, please think hard about how you, after more than two thousand years, have treasured our mistakes.
Have you succeeded in bringing peace and love everywhere, or, perhaps, even in the last few months, have there been, perhaps in my neck of the woods, new and much more numerous massacre of innocents?

«By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another»
[Jesus of Nazareth, Gospel of John 13, 35]


  • Social networks: as in the previous year with the smartphone, there were references to the contemporary, both in the narrative that related back to current conflicts and in the setting, with symbols of the main social networks inserted in a transparent column, as a reminder of the transience of “contemporary” notoriety
  • Museums’ Network: the Christmas Crib was set up as part of the events of the project “Networked Museums for the Territory 2023”, implemented with the contribution of the Umbria Region
  • From Baldini to Baldini: for the second year in a row, setting the scene inside the Well of the Quarry, with Herod suspended more than 30 meters from the spring, was speleologist Filippo Baldini, of the CAI Orvieto Speleological Group, as well as the son of Francesco Baldini, creator of the first Nativity Scene in the Well

Concept – setting up – making characters – graphics: Marco Sciarra | Caving setup inside the Pit of the Quarry.: Filippo Baldini | animatronics: 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 | Gallery Photos: Marco Mandini (& Co.)