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Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square gets 720-ton sand nativity scene

The traditional nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square won’t be so traditional this year. For the first time, it is made of sand – 720 tons of it.

For the past two weeks, Rich Varano, a professional sand artist, has been guiding three sculptors from the Netherlands, Russia and the Czech Republic, to craft the work, which measures about 5.5 metres high by 16 metres wide (18 feet high by 52 feet wide).

Varano, 60, the artistic director of the massive work, doesn’t mind if you call him “Mr Sandman”. Sand is his life and love. The American from Florida divides his time between the United States and Italy.

“It’s very special to be making one here in a place with so much history, so much culture, so much art and in the shadow of such masters,” he told Reuters on Thursday as his team worked quietly to finish ahead of Friday’s unveiling to the public.

“It is an incredibly humbling experience to be here,” he said.

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