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Pope Francis prays at the Chapel of the Nativity, a grotto in Greccio, Italy, where the first Nativity scene was assembled by St Francis of Assisi in 1223 (CNS/Vatican Media)

On the 800th anniversary of St Francis of Assisi setting up the first Nativity scene, the creche in St Peter’s Square in 2023 will come from the Italian Diocese of Rieti, and pay tribute to the scene set up in the diocese in 1223. Source: OSV News.

St Francis’ Nativity scene in a cave in Greccio featured live animals, but the one set to be unveiled in St Peter’s Square on December 9 will not, the Vatican City State governor’s office announced in a press release yesterday.

But the scene will still be simple: Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, some shepherds and figures representing the nobleman Giovanni Velita, his wife Alticama, and three Franciscan friars who, at St Francis’ behest, put a hay-filled manger, an ox and a donkey in a grotto where the local faithful could come to pray and to imagine the poverty and simplicity into which Jesus was born.

At the centre of the scene, the governor’s office said, there will be a copy of the fresco that now decorates that grotto in Greccio. One half shows St Francis kneeling in adoration of the baby Jesus while Franciscan friars celebrate Mass; the other half shows Mary feeding the newborn saviour while St Joseph, the ox and the donkey look on.

The Rieti Diocese is also providing a Nativity scene for the Paul VI Audience Hall, the press release said. It will be made of blown glass and will feature both St Francis and St Clare.


Vatican Nativity scene to honour 800th anniversary of St Francis’ creche (By Cindy Wooden, CNS via OSV News)