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The Nativity scene is revealed and the Christmas tree is lit in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Friday (CNS/Lola Gomez)

The Vatican unveiled its annual Nativity scene on Friday, paying special tribute to the origins of the beloved tradition on its 800th anniversary. Source: National Catholic Register.

The scene in St Peter’s Square depicts not only Mary and Joseph standing beside the manger, but also St Francis of Assisi, who organised the first Nativity scene in a cave in the Italian village of Greccio on Christmas Eve in 1223.

Cardinal Fernando Végez Alzaga, the president of the Governate of the Vatican City State, presided over the inauguration ceremony. More than a thousand people gathered in the square for the event, which included moments of catechesis, an explanation of how the scene was put together, and the singing of seasonal hymns.

The Vatican’s Greccio-inspired Nativity scene does not include live animals and people, as St Francis’ original did, but it does feature life-size terracotta figures, crafted by renowned Neapolitan sculptor Antonio Cantone.

At the centre of the scene is the now-empty manger, where a figure of the Newborn Saviour will be placed on Christmas Eve. On one side of manger, a statue of Mary kneels, flanked by a rendition of St Joseph, while on the other side, a statue of St Francis of Assisi stands in a pose of wonder.

The Vatican’s Christmas tree was also lit at Friday’s ceremony. The tree, a 24-metres-tall fir, was donated by the Italian community of Macra, located in the northwest of Italy. 


Vatican Unveils Nativity Scene Honoring St. Francis of Assisi and Devotion’s 800-Year-Old Origin (National Catholic Register)