Sciorra speaks to students on newly published book

By Christine Blom
December 3, 2004

Courtesy of Dr. Sciorra

“Italians in New York have their own vernacular when it comes to religion and expressing their faith,” Dr. Joseph Sciorra, assistant director for academic and cultural programs at Queens College, said.

On Thursday, Nov. 18, Sciorra dazzled many Italian-Americans of the Cabrini College community by explaining to the audience bits and pieces of what his newly-released book covers in great detail.

“Built with Faith: Religions and Cultural: Landscapes of Italian-Americans in New York City” is Sciorra’s latest masterpiece that he has been working on for so many years he could not even remember.

“I start a book, get some ideas, jot them down, then come back to it a few years later,” Sciorra said.

Sciorra has many projects that are in the midst of being completed within the next couple of years. One project in particular is one that he is collaborating with Cabrini’s own, Dr. Joseph Primiano.

Sciorra, in his two-hour lecture, described the different ways in which Italian-Americans, in the heart of New York City, profess their faith and beliefs through cultural landscapes. Sciorra categorizes the landscapes into four styles: remembrance, devotional, cartographic, and imagined landscapes.

Basement nativities are one of the imagined landscapes that are most popular in the commonly called “Little Italy.” They include the traditional nativity scene including Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and Joseph. Other objects are often included to make the nativity personal to the family to whom it belongs. Things such as family memorabilia and photos are included as well as ornaments. Some nativities can take up the entire basement of the resident’s home.

Customarily, families invite neighbors and friends into their home to see their displays. This is also done when families participate in making “prisepios,” which are outdoor landscapes predominantly dedicated to the Blessed Mother.

Many other Italian-American customs can be read about in Sciorra’s new book “Built with Faith: Religions and Cultural: Landscapes of Italian-Americans in New York City” or can be found on his official website along with some of his infamous “Italian rap” songs at

Posted to the web by Shawn Rice

Christine Blom

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