Vatican’s Nativity Scene Pays Homage to Greccio

Vatican’s Nativity Scene Pays Homage to Greccio

The Vatican’s nativity scene, inspired by Greccio but distinct in its composition, departs from the live animals and people featured in St. Francis’s original.

Crafted by the renowned Neapolitan sculptor Antonio Cantone, the scene showcases life-sized terracotta figures.

At its heart lies an empty manger, awaiting the placement of a figurine representing the newborn savior on Christmas Eve.

Positioned beside the manger are depictions of Mary and Joseph on one side, with St. Francis of Assisi on the other, captured in a posture of awe.

Adding a historical touch, the scene incorporates statues of Giovanni Velita, the 13th-century mayor of Greccio who played a pivotal role in organizing the inaugural nativity scene, along with his wife, Alticama.

Additionally, three Franciscan friars, tasked by St. Francis to establish the initial nativity scene for contemplation of the Incarnate Lord’s poverty, are also portrayed.

The backdrop of the scene faithfully replicates the fresco adorning the Chapel of the Nativity in Greccio, nestled in the grotto where St. Francis first introduced the nativity tradition.

This fresco captures St. Francis in adoration of the Christ child on one side, while on the other, Mary tends to the newborn savior as Joseph, the ox, and the donkey observe.


The Vatican’s nativity scene not only pays homage to the historical roots of the tradition but also brings to life the cherished figures and moments associated with its inception.

The use of terracotta figures and the replication of the Greccio fresco add layers of authenticity and reverence to this annual display.

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