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A Short History of the Vatican Nativity

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The Vatican Nativity in Saint Peter’s Square is relatively new. It was started by Pope John Paul II in 1982.

For 30 years, the same figures were used, but the Vatican paid for a new scene each Christmas.

It was actually Archbishop Viganò who approached Pope Benedict in 2011 with the costs for the yearly crèche. The total costs for building the scene went well into the hundreds of thousands each year. This was around the time of Vatileaks.

An idea was then suggested to have a nativity donated from different regions of Italy, and that began in 2012.

I’m sure they meant well, but it opened the door to new takes on the nativity. Most turned out nicely.

We talk about the Vatican crèche and more on the latest podcast.

Here are a few shots using the original figures that I took in previous years.

2012 Donated by Basilicata

This was the first year to use new figures. They did a great job with the scene, but the figures were so tiny.

📸 L’Osservatore Romano

📸 L’Osservatore Romano

📸 L’Osservatore Romano

2013 Donated by Naples

Pope Francis’ first nativity. A bit crowded.

2014 Donated by Verona

A nice set with traditional figures. Not the most exciting backdrop, but it worked especially well at night.

2015 Donated by Trento

Another nice scene and figures. In the tradition of Italian nativities, the figures are wearing clothes from Trento and the building is in the same style as their architecture.

2016 Donated by Malta

This was following the horrible earthquakes in Amatrice and Norcia. So many nativities around the country featured damaged buildings and ruble. The cross on its side was shocking, but we lost many churches in the earthquake and this was a nod to them.

2017 Donated by Naples

Supposed to highlight the corporal works of mercy, this nativity caused lots of controversy with a buff naked guy and a dead arm hanging off a stretcher. I took lots of pics and posted about it here.

2018 Donated by Veneto

Sand seemed an odd medium for a nativity, but it worked. Though made of sand, the figures are of traditional style and tastefully done.

2019 Donated by Trento

Another great showing by Trento. Again, they included traditional dress and architecture. They went even further by including some actual locals as well. Again, this is in keeping with Italian tradition and making the nativity relatable.

2020 Donated by Abruzzo

This ceramic nativity is just a small part of 54 piece set from the 1960s and 1970s. We have a spark plug angel – or is it iron maiden torture device angel, an astronaut, and a very modern set. Behind the astronaut is an evil looking figure, maybe a knight? Seeing a horned figure, who will soon stand over Baby Jesus, at the Vatican no less, brings me no joy. Speaking of Baby Jesus, He has His head covered/blindfolded until Christmas – it looks like a kidnapping. But at least the tree is gorgeous.