Christmas cribs in Rome

Rome's nativity cribs over Christmas season.

Rome has numerous Christmas cribs on display at this time of the year, the best-known of which is 100 Presepi in Piazza del Popolo. The 40th edition of this annual international nativity crib exhibition at Sala del Bramante can be visited daily from 09.30-20.00, including Christmas Day, until 10 January.

This year 100 Presepi is part of the official programme of events attached to the Vatican's Holy Jubilee of Mercy which begins on 8 December and runs until 20 November next year.

In addition to contemporary reproductions of traditional 18th-century Neapolitan and Sicilian cribs and 19th-century Roman mangers, the exhibition hosts some 170 nativity scenes from Italy and 33 other countries. The cribs are constructed from both traditional materials such as wood, papier-mâché and terracotta, as well as unconventional materials such as sand, rice, pasta, nuts and bolts.

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. In addition there are crib-building workshops for children. For details see website.

The Vatican's Christmas crib in St Peter's Square will be unveiled officially on 8 December, to mark the opening of the Jubilee year. It will contain 24 life-sized figures donated by the Archdiocese of Trento in northern Italy, in collaboration with a local crib group. The nativity scene presents the Holy Family and the Magi, as well as another group of people dressed in traditional clothes from the Dolomites.

For the last six decades 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.

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 tel. 066796146 or see website.

A more unusual manger scene can be found near St Peter's on Via dei Cavalleggeri 5. The street cleaner’s crib, owned and cared for by Rome’s rubbish collection company, has a floor containing over 1,400 different stones brought by pilgrims from all over the world. For more details including visiting times see website.

The church od S. Caterina dei Funari, near the Jewish Ghetto, is holding an exhibition of hand-crafted cribs until 20 December, from 10.00-13.00 and 16.00-20.00.