null / Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome Newsroom, Dec 27, 2022 / 08:50 am (CNA).

On Dec. 26, actors in Greccio, Italy, about 50 miles north of Rome, put on a play telling the story of how St. Francis of Assisi created the first living Nativity scene.

Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

In 1223, St. Francis asked a friend to prepare a cave with live animals and a hay-filled manger to make Jesus’ birth come alive for the people at Christmas Mass.

Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

According to the first biographer of St. Francis, Brother Thomas of Celano, the poor friar desired to “represent the birth of that Child in Bethlehem in such a way that with our bodily eyes we may see what he suffered for lack of the necessities of a newborn babe and how he lay in manger between the ox and ass.”

Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Now, actors in the modern town of Greccio reenact this event every year around Christmas.

In its 49th year, the historical reenactment was also staged on Christmas Eve. The other performances this year will be on Dec. 28 and on Jan. 1, 6, 7, and 8.

Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

The place where the first living Nativity took place can still be seen today in the Franciscan hermitage and sanctuary outside the main town. The rock is topped by an altar for celebrating Mass and adorned with frescoes depicting Jesus’ birth.

The cave where St. Francis of Assisi staged the first living Nativity scene in Greccio, Italy. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

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