Saturday, December 12, 2009
Christmas at St Peter's Basilica
Click here for Christmas Music from the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music Introitus: Puer natus In recent years a Nativity Scene has been set up inside St Peter's Basilica at the Altar of the Presentation of Mary. Ever since the earliest days of Christianity, the Nativity of Jesus Christ has been one of the scenes most frequently depicted in Christian works of art. Sarcophagi dating from Roman times found in the catacombs bear sculpted reliefs of the first Christmas and the Visit of the Three Magi. The Lazio (Rome) region has a tradition of Nativity plays and tableaux, with amateur actors playing the different roles. The custom is said to have been introduced by St. Francis in 1223 in the hamlet of Greccio, near Rieti, and is still followed in many villages in the region, notably Corchiano, near Viterbo, and Sutri, where the scene is enacted in caves and a procession winds its way around the Roman amphitheatre. Each year the Christmas tree in St Peter's Square is donated by a different region. The 2008 tree, a Norway spruce from the municipality of Gutenstein in Lower Austria, was donated along with 40 smaller trees. In 2007, the 23-metre high cone-shaped fir came from Val Badia in Italy's north eastern Alps. The 2006 tree, the largest ever at over 100 feet, came from a mountainside in Italy’s Sila National Park. In 2000, the tree was imported from Poland, the homeland of Pope John Paul.