It’s a well-known origin story: how the young and wealthy Francis of Assisi freely abandoned his noble patrimony to serve Christ’s Church as a poor, itinerant preacher.
One of the world’s most beloved saints, the founder of the Franciscan order cared deeply for God’s creation. He also loved Christmas, the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord.
St. Francis’ meditations on the life of Christ led him to create the first-ever Nativity scene in Greccio, Italy, in 1223.
It is believed Francis’ inspiration to do a live representation of the birth of Jesus came from his time in the Holy Land in the years 1219 and 1220.
Seeing the holy sites of Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection made them feel all the more real — and he wanted to recreate that experience.
In November 1223, three years before his death, St. Francis was in Rome to await the pope’s approval of the final rule of his friars.
The friar and deacon was already very familiar with the hilltown of Greccio, about 50 miles north of Rome. He had first arrived there over a decade prior and would frequently return to preach to the people of the surrounding countryside.
Eventually, a hermitage was built for St. Francis a short distance outside the town…St. Francis and the Story of the First Nativity Scene| National Catholic Register