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On Epiphany Sunday: Last Day to Celebrate 800 Years of the Presepio

7 January 2024 | TMA

Christmas in the Middle Ages. Presepio dates back to the 13th century when Saint Francis of Assisi created the first Presepio on December 24, 1223 in the Umbrian hills. The word presepio comes from the Latin word praesepio in the Gospel of Luke: “Mary laid the baby Jesus ‘in praesepio‘” or “in a manger”. In a cave in Greccio, Italy, St. Francis reproduced the Nativity from Scriptures for Catholics, establishing the first Nativity scene.

The Cave in Greccio  (open access from the city of Greccio).

The tradition continues today throughout Italy and in Italian immigrant communities around the world. The manger is now part of Christmas decorations, but in Italy the Presepio is recreated to include a village and running water that surrounds the famous Biblical scene of Mary, Joseph, Jesus in a manger, the shepherds, angels, and the three Kings with many barn animals. The presepio is arranged on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8 and continues to be displayed until the Epiphany on January 6 when the three Kings visit Jesus in the Manger.

Greccio, Italy (open access from the city of Greccio).

Is there a nativity scene in your community? Share your personal nativity scenes or public mangers... if your in Italy this holiday season, share a traditional presepio!

Resources for Teachers

"St. Francis and the Gift of Greccio" by Murray Bodo, OFM, DEcember 2018, St. Anthony Messenger

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How to cite this blog:

TMA Staff. "On Epiphany Sunday: Last Day to Celebrate 800 Years of the Presepio," Teaching the Middle Ages. January 7, 2024,

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