First Advent in Florence 2023

The tradition of setting up a nativity scene during the Christmas festivities is attributed to St Francis of Assisi (c. 1182 – 1226).

It is said that in 1223, to recreate the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem, St Francis celebrated Mass in a grotto, placing a portable altar over a manger, some hay, a donkey and an ox.

By celebrating Christmas in this symbolic way, St Francis honoured simplicity, poverty and humility.

The image depicts the scene St Francis establishing the nativity scene at Greccio*. It is a detail of a much more complete panel that tells the stories of the Saint’s life. The Bardi panel** is located in the beautiful Franciscan church in Florence, Santa Croce, which is definitely worth more than a visit.

* Greccio: medieval village in the province of Rieti (Lazio)
** Bardi panel (tempera and gold on panel, 1245-1250, attributed to Coppo di Marcovaldo).