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Castle on the square: Sand to star in Vatican Nativity scene

VATICAN CITY – Sand castles are coming to the Vatican.

The Vatican said Wednesday its Nativity scene this year will be built from sand and sculpted by an international set of artists.

About 700 tons of sand will be shipped to St. Peter’s Square for the sculpture, which will be the centerpiece of the Vatican’s Christmastime decorations along with a giant tree.

The first phase of construction begins Saturday with the forming of a sand pyramid in the square. Blocks of pressed sand will be made from it. Four sculptors – one each from the United States, Russia, the Netherlands and Czech Republic – were asked to turn the blocks into figures.

The completed scene is scheduled to be unveiled Dec. 7.

The Vatican is known for displaying larger-than-life-sized Nativity scenes that attract thousands of tourists.