Friday, April 2, 2010

The Gardens of Christ at Sarasota Jungle Gardens

Florida has a history of religious themed attractions that continues to this day with the large Holy Land Experience attraction here in Orlando. One of the lesser know religious displays is part of Sarasota Jungle Gardens, a series of miniatures known as "The Gardens of Christ."

According to the Sarasota Herald Tribune, the eight hand-carved dioramas were dedicated on March 2nd of 1975. The March 3rd article explains that the carvings were created by St. Augustine artist Vincent Maldarelli, but the artist passed away before his work on the "Gardens" could ever be displayed. Representing five years of Maldarelli's life, the series was inspired by a carving the artist created of Leonardo's Last Supper. The figures are carved out of balsa wood with clothing and settings extensively researched by the artist, who went to the Middle East to research the project. Each of the scenes has an accompanying recording that plays continuously describing the subject matter and its bible reference. The dioramas were in storage for six years before the artist's sister arranged for them to be displayed in Sarasota.

Some of Maldarelli's other Florida works are sculpture of Ponce de Leon and Pedro Menendez in St. Augustine. The artist was born in Italy and came to the US at the age of four. His father was a jewelry designer for the Tiffany company in New York.

The Nativity

Child Jesus in the Temple

Raising Jairus' Daughter

The Crucifixion

After the Resurrection


  1. Well, this is really kind of fabulous! There seems to be more of this type of attraction (my favorite type) in your neck of the woods. The way gas prices are going, I may have to wait until Doomsday to see them.

  2. How sad that The Gardens of Christ, in which the artist Vincent Mandarelli had invested so much research and work, is left without any maintenance.
    The beautiful dedication is left unnoticed, even though the words are so meaningful.
    Hoping that someone will find a seed faith to honor the wishes of those who contribute to this masterpiece, and to the amazing dedication.