santamariamaggiore- santamariamaggiore-

Nativity Scene by Arnolfo di Cambio

Pope Nicholas IV entrusted Arnolfo di Cambio, one of the most influential architects and sculptors of the Italian Middle Ages, with the creation of a nativity scene in marble (1291) for the Oratory of the Nativity. Made in Carrara marble, the sculptural group is the first known nativity scene in art history.

Saint Joseph, the ox and the donkey are beside a kneeling Magi and two standing ones. They are sculpted from a single block of marble in the act of approaching Our Lady with Baby Jesus. It was made in the second half of the 1500’s.

Initially placed beside the wooden pieces of the manger, the marble sculpture evokes the profound spirituality of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made a living nativity scene in Greccio in 1223.