The Nativity scene traditionally built each Christmas in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome will have a novel twist this year. Rather than placing the birth of Jesus Christ in a stable, the display will show Jesus being born in St. Joseph’s house.
Set designers are foregoing the usual manger scene in favor of the minimal description of St. Matthew, which does not depict the improvised birth scene in a cave as described in other Gospels.
Vatican workmen are constructing a scene centered on a room in St. Joseph’s house where Mary will be shown with the newborn infant Jesus. To the left of the room will be the workshop of St. Joseph, while to the right there will be a busy inn, displaying material values in contrast to spiritual ones.
The Nativity scene has been on display at St. Peter’s since 1982, when Pope John Paul II revived the custom of building a four-meter-high house with life-size figures. Some of the statues representing the Holy Family and the wise men date back to a Nativity scene created for Pope Gregory XVI in 1842. The statues will not be altered for the new setting.
The Vatican gave no reason for the change in the backdrop for the traditional Nativity Scene.