St Francis of Assisi and the Nativity

St Francis

St Francis of Assisi assembled the first Nativity scene in Greccio, Italy in 1223.

“I want to do something that will recall the memory of that Child who was born in Bethlehem, to see with bodily eyes the inconveniences of his infancy, how he lay in the manger, and how the ox and ass stood by,” said St Francis about his Nativity scene. Inspired by his pilgrimage, he recreated the possible scene of Christ’s birth back at his home town. On Christmas Eve, he invited priests and townspeople to view the Nativity as he gave the Christmas Mass. He set up his Nativity in a cave with a manger and animals. He did not include actors or a baby.

The current pope invited all other Catholic churches to copy this Nativity and bring the thought of Christ’s birth to all members. As time continued, so did the tradition of the Nativity. It went inside churches and people started acting out the story. Eventually, people set up their own Nativities in their homes. This tradition has lasted almost 800 years.


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