Sanctuary of Greccio

Jun 26, 2020 189

THE TOWN OF GRECCIO, NINE miles from Rieti in the region of Sabina, northeast of Rome, is twinned with the city of Bethlehem for a very special reason: In 1223 Saint Francis decided to enact there the first living nativity scene in the history of Christianity. The event is also depicted in the cycle of frescoes on the life of Saint Francis attributed to Giotto in the Basilica of Assisi.

Legend has it that the only character who was not a live actor, the baby Jesus, came to life during the enactment, which was celebrated by Saint Francis on Christmas Day inside a cave. According to a local tale, Saint Francis chose to build one of the valley’s four monasteries on this cliff when a local child threw a firebrand that hit the rock face.

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