Christmas cribs in Rome

Cribs on display across Rome during Christmas season

At this time of the year Rome has numerous Christmas cribs on show, the best-known of which is 100 Presepi in Piazza del Popolo. The 39th edition of this annual international nativity crib exhibition at Sala del Bramante can be visited every day from 09.30-20.00, including Christmas Day, until 6 January.

In addition to contemporary reproductions of traditional 18th-century Neapolitan and Sicilian cribs and 19th-century Roman ones, the exhibition hosts some 180 nativity scenes from around the world, constructed from both traditional and unconventional materials.

Founded in 1975 by journalist Manilo Menaglio, the original aim of 100 Presepi was to preserve the ancient Italian tradition of crib-making. The exhibition also acts as a competition and ends with an award ceremony for the winners in the following four categories: Christmas cribs, fantasy cribs, international exhibits, and foreign schools, institutions and associations. Each year there are crib-building workshops for children, held in collaboration with the Accademia delle Belle Arti di Roma. For details see website.

For the last 60 years Italian members of the global crib-building association Amici del Presepio build a traditional-style crib in the church of S. Maria in Via off Largo Chigi each year, as well as constructing large cribs in Piazza Navona and Piazza S. Pietro.

Near the Roman Forum is the Museo Tipologico Nazionale del Presepio, a private museum dedicated to crib memorabilia accumulated by crib expert Angelo Stefanucci (1905-1990). Located on Via Tor de' Conti, 31/A, under the church of SS. Quirico e Giulitta, the international collection comprises 3,000 figurines made from a wide selection of materials, as well as books, medals and stamps. Visits are free but cater for a maximum of 20 people, and must be arranged by appointment. For full details including visiting times see website.

A more unusual manger scene is the street cleaner’s crib, owned and cared for by AMA, Rome’s refuse company. Located on Via dei Cavalleggeri 5, near St Peter's, the floor of the manger contains over 1,400 different stones brought by pilgrims from all over the world. For more details including the varying visiting times see website.

The oldest crib in existence, Arnolfo di Cambio’s 1289 marble version, is in the Basilica di S. Maria Maggiore, and indeed there are cribs in every parish church across the city.