FONTANA, Domenico
(b. 1543, Melide, d. 1607, Napoli)

Installing the manger of Christ

Biblioteca Apostolica, Vatican

The picture shows folio 53 of Domenico Fontana's book "Della trasportazione dell'obelisco vaticano et delle fabriche di nostro signore papa Sisto V," published in Rome in 1590. The page shows installing of the manger of Christ in the Cappella Sistina, Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome.

In addition to moving the Augustan obelisk, Domenico Fontana also masterminded another major engineering feat to enhance the prestige of the Sistine Chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. The reliquary shrine of the crib of Christ from Bethlehem was extracted from the rock of the crypt of Santa Maria Maggiore, where it had been the site of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages. Encased in a wooden frame, it was moved to Pope Sixtus V's new chapel, where it was lowered into a new subterranean site. Thus Sixtus essentially commandeered one of the major relics of the city for his own use and was later to have the honour of being buried adjacent to its miraculous powers.