A nun’s gift

by Rebecca Bricker on December 28, 2012

Beneath my Italian Christmas tree this year was a treasure I found a few weeks ago at an antique shop in my neighborhood.

I live in an ancient part of Florence known for the monasteries and nunneries that were here centuries ago. My apartment is in what was once a 17th-century convent.

The treasure I found at the antique shop dates back only to the 1950s, I’m told. But its artistry is timeless.

It’s a diorama – more like a shadowbox shrine – made by a nun.

“Nuns had a lot a time to do such things,” the shopkeeper said. He took the box down off a shelf so I could take a closer look. “This is all made of paper.”


The care and precision of the nun’s work is amazing.

He pointed to the names of saints she had clipped from church leaflets or prayer books, perhaps. Next to each name is a tiny piece of something, meant to symbolize cherished relics of the saints’ remains.

“In the 1800s, they used real animal bones in these boxes,” he told me.

“Are these real bones?” I asked, intrigued.

“No, just little stones,” he assured me. (They look like real bones to me.)

What a story, I thought. “I’ll take it.”

“Would you like it wrapped?” he asked.


A gift from me to all the women who resided in this space – where I now enjoy the conveniences of an IKEA kitchen, satellite TV and wi-fi. However, due to the very thick walls, my cell phone service is limited. 😉

To the “sisters” of Via dell’Albero – Buon Natale!



Kathy December 29, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Becky, How beautiful… to be cherished for sure. I think the woman who made it would feel blessed that it has found its way to you, who appreciates it so deeply, on that day in the antique shop. One artist to another, one sister to another… so much love and adoration spoken through her creativity.
Another wonderful message…

Rebecca Bricker December 30, 2012 at 4:23 pm

When I saw this piece, I was taken with the artistry and attention to detail. I wondered how long it had taken her to make it and how it ended up on the shelf of a shop. Had she lived on my street? I’ll never know the answers, but it’s intriguing to think about her story.

Céline Berthelot December 30, 2012 at 9:08 am

Thank you for the comments, the pictures…
I still hope to go to Europe during Christmas time. So, your blog gives me a chance to see things , pictures, of what is happening in your superb city.
Have a Happy and healthy New Year !

Jackie Lamothe December 31, 2012 at 6:08 am

Oh…if this little jewel was ever meant for someone it is you! I hope to see it when I visit.
Happy New Year

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