Vatican News
“100 Cribs at the Vatican” “100 Cribs at the Vatican”  

“100 Cribs at the Vatican” continues until Jan. 13

Pilgrims and tourists have until Jan. 13 to visit an exhibition in the Vatican of Christmas Nativity scenes from all over Italy and from about 25 foreign countries. No tickets – it’s all free!

By Robin Gomes

Christmas is the commemoration of the birth of Jesus who was born in a stable in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.  Besides decorations, lights, Christmas trees, gifts and goodies, this annual event is especially celebrated with Holy Mass and the representation of the birth of Jesus Christ or the Nativity scene as narrated in the Gospel. 

St. Francis

The tradition of recreating the Nativity scene, also called the crib, crèche or manger scene, is attributed to Italy’s popular Saint Francis of Assisi, who is said to have created the first live nativity scene in 1223 in a cave outside Rome using a live donkey and ox to surround a manger.

Through the centuries, the Nativity scene has been represented in a variety of art forms and traditions around the world.

 100 Cribs

“100 Presepi”, the Italian for "100 Cribs", is an international art exhibition of a vast variety of Nativity scenes that has been staged in Rome for 43 years.   Manlio Menaglia who started the show in 1976 in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo area, wanted to salvage a typical Italian tradition which in those years risked being overtaken by the Christmas tree culture that is not of Italian origin.

Manlio wanted to draw the attention of all, especially children and young people, to the Nativity scenes as works of art, no matter how they are made them, provided they respected the values of peace and brotherhood symbolized in the birth of Jesus.  This effort reinforced the family tradition of setting up nativity scenes according to their tastes.

Another aim of the "100 Cribs "is to promote and spread the tradition abroad through the numerous tourists and media outlets who visit the exhibition around Christmas time in Rome. 

International art forms

The exhibition has held on to its initial title, "100 Cribs", because it had 100 Nativity scenes, but it displays about 200 new cribs each year.

The cribs, which are completely rebuilt every year, come from all over Italy and from about 25 foreign countries.  They are works of art of Italian and foreign artists and artisans, collectors, amateurs, elementary and middle school students, representatives of cultural and social associations, state, local bodies and national and foreign museums. 

A vast variety of material is used in creating the Nativity scene include coral, silver, porcelain, glass, bronze, ceramic, clay, wrought iron, wood, papier -mâché, recycled materials, chocolate, bread, corn, bottle caps, buttons, car spark plugs and pencils.


As organizers found it difficult to continue the exhibition because of financial constraints, the “100 Cribs” moved to the Vatican in 2018 after 42 years at Piazza del Popolo.  

The  Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization that is sponsoring the event at the St. Pius X Hall on Via della Conciliazione, has named it "100 Cribs at the Vatican".  It was opened on December 7, 2018, and will continue until January 13. 

Pilgrims and tourists intending to visit the Vatican exhibition can consult its website.              

“100 Cribs at the Vatican”


Photo gallery of "100 Cribs at the Vatican"
05 January 2019, 12:00