The History of the Nativity

Our little parish is blessed with a storied patron saint, who, in his life-long service of Jesus Christ has helped inspire so many good deeds and missions around the world.

But did you know that St. Francis of Assisi is also the individual who started the very first Nativity Scene? St. Francis is credited with recreating the first nativity scene in 1223 in Greccio, Italy.

Francis discovered the hillside town at the foothills of Apennines, about two hours north of Rome, on his way home to Assisi. He fell in love with the village since it reminded him of the holy city of Bethlehem.

According to Smithsonian’s account of the history as recorded in The Life of St. Francis of Assisi, the biography of St. Francis written by St. Bonaventure, Francis received permission from Pope Honorious III to set up a manger with hay and two live animals – an ox and a donkey – inside a cave that is now known as the Chapel of the Crib.

The Vatican captured the history of the first Nativity in a video that tells of how Francis had the idea of reliving the mystery of the birth of Christ and had a “dream to relive with his own eyes what newborn Jesus had suffered for humanity.”


On Christmas Eve 1223 the dream came true. To this day local residents of Greccio relive the Nativity Scene with locals reenacting the roles of Mary, Jesus, shepherds and angels. The Chapel of the Crib has two frescos that portray the historical event that helped launch one of the most iconic, enduring Christmas images around the world.