On this day December 25, 1223

After his return to Italy from a voyage to Egypt and Acre in 1220, St Francis of Assisi introduced three-dimensional nativity scenes.

Some accounts state he used statues or costumed people, but Thomas of Celano, the biographer of Francis tells how he only used a straw-filled manger (feeding trough) set between a real ox and donkey.

According to Thomas, it was beautiful in its simplicity with the manger acting as the altar for the Christmas Mass. Francis’s first biographer, Brother Tommaso da Celano, says that Francis was merely emulating what he had seen elsewhere in previous years when, in 1223, he asked his friend Giovanni Velita, a nobleman from the nearby town of Greccio, to construct a nativity scene, consisting of the straw-filled manger, ox and donkey, in a cave near the town of Greccio, for a Christmas Eve mass at which Francis preached.

In 1562 the Jesuits put up a crib in Prague which is considered the first crib of the modern kind.

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