There are numerous cribs on show in Rome during the Christmas season
The 38th edition of the annual international nativity crib exhibition 100 Presepi has opened in Piazza del Popolo's Sala del Bramante and runs daily throughout the Christmas season, until 6 January.
In addition to contemporary reproductions of traditional 18th-century Neapolitan and Sicilian cribs and 19th-century Roman ones, the exhibition hosts 183 nativity scenes, from 31 different countries, constructed from materials as various as plexiglas, shells, stones, recycled materials and even sugar cane.
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. Children aged between four and 11 are encouraged to take part in the exhibition's crib-building workshop entitled Il Presepe come gioco, held in collaboration with the Accademia delle Belle Arti di Roma. Reservations required, for details see website.
For the last 60 years Italian members of the global crib-building association Friends of the Crib 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 an eclectic 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. It is open 15 Dec-30 Jan from 08.00-20.00, for more details see website.
Meanwhile the oldest crib in existence, Arnolfo di Cambio’s 1289 marble version, can be visited at the Basilica di S. Maria Maggiore, as can a life-sized construction in St Peter’s Square, and indeed there are cribs in every parish church across the city.