The “Eternal City” is decorated on Christmas days, with lights, garlands and the ever-present Christmas trees of all shapes and sizes.  In the city, heart of the Catholic Church, the cribs cannot be missed; some are among the most beautiful and amazing in the world. Some nativity scenes in Rome, are actually visible all year round and among the most spectacular there are undoubtedly those present within the Church of Saints Quirico and Giulitta, the Church of Saints Cosma and Damiano, the Church of Santa Maria in Via and of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.  Perhaps not everyone knows that in the Church of Saints Quirico and Giulitta, in the Rione Monti, just behind Via dei Fori Imperiali, you can admire the permanent exhibition of nativity scenes throughout the year; thanks to which it will be possible to discover all the techniques for the art of the nativity scene, its centuries-old history and its very long tradition.

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Not far and still along Via dei Fori Imperiali, inside the Church of Saints Cosma and Damiano, one can admire one of the most beautiful cribs in existence: it is a Neapolitan nativity scene with surprising dimensions, which shows how truly this art is all Italian! It dates back to the eighteenth century, although we know that it was entirely restored in the twentieth century. Today shows off all year round for its beauty and particularity. The classic scene of the nativity is inserted into a crowd intent in daily chores: a chestnut seller, a greengrocer, a peasant collecting grapes, a soldier, a tavern. The wooden and terracotta statuettes, including those of animals, will please the children very much!

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In the Church of Santa Maria in Via, there is another beautiful Neapolitan nativity scene with statues of 1700 by Nicola Maciariello. It is tradition during the Holy Mass of December 24th the inauguration of the Nativity entirely set in the Rome of the 800.

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But the most famous artistic masterpiece can be admired in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, where there seems to be the oldest Nativity in Rome: it is the work that Arnolfo di Cambio in 1291 made at the behest of Pope Nicholas IV. A nativity scene that consists of eight statues, all modeled in stone, where together with Mary, Joseph and the baby are also present the ox, the donkey and the Magi, all in adoration.

Also not to be missed is the famous and historic Exhibition of 100 Nativities, which since 1976 tries to bring to the attention of all the Italian tradition of the art of the nativity scene. It is set up as usual in the halls of Bramante in Piazza del Popolo and here, from 24 November to 8 January 2018, you can find nativities of all shapes and sizes, coming from all over the world. It is called “100 cribs” but you will see that those exposed are much more!

A must is a visit to the crib set up in the Church of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli, next to the Campidoglio. It is an ancient Roman crib where the famous Capitoline Bambinello is particularly venerated, present today in copy because the original was stolen in 1994, characterized by the spectacular Glory work of Father Codogno, made in 1828, and by life-size figures by Luigi Ceccon dated back to 1858.

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Another very famous crib in Rome is that of the “Netturbini”, so are called the Dustmen of Rome. That particular crib is set up inside the Ama (The roman Department of waste management) in Via dei Cavalleggeri 5, a few steps from San Pietro. Born at the behest of a passionate employee and a group of volunteers, he made his appearance in 1972 and from that day he accompanies the feasts in the city every year, so much that he deserved the nickname of “Nativity of the Romans”.

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And of course as a conclusion we cannot fail to mention the most famous crib in the world, the one that every year is set up, always different, in Piazza San Pietro, right at the foot of the giant tree that illuminates the nights of the capital.

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Christmas in Rome also means discovering the thousand nativity scenes that animate the capital during this period. Every church and every important corner of the city set up one: whether it is big or small, antique or super modern, traditional or absolutely innovative, it does not matter, what counts is that it is a small masterpiece of original Italian art.

Tommaso Galli

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