The Manger Scene – A Hidden Treasure of Italy

December 1, 2022

Joanne Natale Spigonardo

The Manger Scene or Il Presepio dates back to the 13th century and was started by St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of Italy. Saint Francis built a creche in a cave and celebrated Mass on Christmas in the town of Greccio, Italy. There is a beautiful sanctuary in Greccio that commemorates the Nativity that was constructed in 1223 by St. Francis. Greccio is a small hill town in Lazio and is still frequented today by historians and artists. It always amazes me how time seems to stand still in Italy, and in particular in Greccio during Christmas.

It took hundreds of years before Naples became the center for sculptures of the Manger Scene. In the early 1800’s sculptors were commissioned to carve life size and life like replicas of the Nativity. This was shortly followed by theater performances by live actors each Christmas Eve. All the neighborhoods and provinces in Naples still follow this beautiful tradition. In fact, starting December 8, which is the feast of the Immaculate Conception, there are festivals and live theatre surrounding the birth of Jesus and depicting the Manger Scene. It is a gift that St. Francis gave to us, it brings us closer to the meaning of Christmas.

Via San Gregorio Armenio in Naples

Via San Gregorio Armenio in Naples is frozen in time and is where countless artisans display their beautiful versions of Jesus, Mary, and Josepth. The extent of the statues on sale is mesmerizing and so is the ornate and intricate detail of each piece. It is Christmas everyday on this street, and tourists flock to this location for beautiful Christmas gifts in all seasons. This is the cornerstone of the holiday festivities in Naples. The city is ablaze with lights from early December through January. Naples also celebrates the wonderful feast of Santa Lucia, who is known to bring light and vision throughout the world. This celebration takes place on December 13.

It is clear to see that Naples is a city of great faith and this brings a joy to all who visit. The people of Naples are bright and full of life and they share this gift with all they meet. As the saying goes, lontano da Napoli non si po sta – which means you can never be far from Naples. I cherish the wonderful traditions of Christmas in Naples and hold dear the beauty of the Manger Scene. Wishing all of you the deep and true happiness that Christmas brings.

Buon Natale!

About the Author:

Joanne has many years of experience in travel to Italy, Italian art, literature, film, history, wine, and cuisine. She is a lover of nature and beauty.  She is an advocate for Italian immigrant women, and the author of White Widow, which is available on Amazon.  For more information about Joanne please visit her LinkedIn page:

Published by spigonaj

Joanne Spigonardo Business Development Consultant Specializing in Sustainability, Higher Education, Career Management, and Public Relations In her former roles, Joanne served as Senior Associate Director at the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) at Wharton. Joanne was also part of the Communications Office. She held positions as business manager of the Wharton Seminars for Business Journalists and for the Wharton Alumni Magazine. Joanne also served as the media relations coordinator. When with Alitalia Airlines, Joanne worked as a sales representative. Joanne graduated from The University of Pennsylvania with a BA and later graduated from the Wharton Aresty Institute of Executive Education. She has a strong background in development, management, marketing, and Italian language and culture. As a Wharton Mentor, she coached new employees on professional development, and is active in Penn’s Grievance panels. Joanne was on the board of governors for the University Club. Joanne is chair of the Delaware County Penn Alumni Interview Program and oversees alumni volunteers. As an alum of Penn and Wharton, and also a parent of two Penn graduates, she is a strong advocate in promoting Penn. At Wharton IGEL, Joanne had been in partnership with GreenBiz, Sustainable Brands, the Ethical Corporation, Pira Packaging International, Public Relations Society of America, the Green Sports Alliance, World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia, the Italian Consulate, the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the Sonoma County Winegrowers Association, and the Nature Conservancy, as well as, many other NGO and government offices. She has brokered hundreds of corporate relationships for Wharton. Joanne is the author of her book, White Widow, published on Kindle and Amazon. The book is a fictional novel about 19th-20th Century Italian immigrants.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: