According to the first biographer of St. Francis, Brother Thomas of Celano, the poor friar desired to “represent the birth of that Child in Bethlehem in such a way that with our bodily eyes we may see what he suffered for lack of the necessities of a newborn babe and how he lay in manger between the ox and ass.”
Now, actors in the modern town of Greccio reenact this event every year around Christmas.
In its 49th year, the historical reenactment was also staged on Christmas Eve. The other performances this year will be on Dec. 28 and on Jan. 1, 6, 7, and 8.
The place where the first living Nativity took place can still be seen today in the Franciscan hermitage and sanctuary outside the main town. The rock is topped by an altar for celebrating Mass and adorned with frescoes depicting Jesus’ birth.