From beach to basilica: ‘Sand Nativity’ brings unique style to Vatican

Nov 30, 2018 637

From the beach town of New Smyrna, Florida, just a stone’s throw away from Daytona Beach, Rich Varano never imagined his unique talent of sculpting sand would take him to the heart of Christianity. Varano is the artistic director of the “Sand Nativity,” a massive 52-foot-wide sculpture made of sand imported from Jesolo, an Italian seaside resort town roughly 40 miles north of Venice. It will be the centerpiece of the Vatican’s annual Nativity scene on display in St. Peter’s Square.

“What does it mean for me to be here? I think, quite understandably, it’s the greatest honor there is” and certainly the biggest client he’s ever had, Varano told Catholic News Service Nov. 21. The American artist and three other sculptors were charged with creating the intricate sculpture, which, along with a 42-foot-tall red spruce tree donated by the Diocese of Concordia-Pordenone in the northern Italian region of Veneto, was to be unveiled at the Vatican’s annual tree lighting ceremony Dec. 7.

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