The first Nativity scene is attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi in 1223. He hired Giovanni Vellita to build a manger scene out of straw in a cave in Greccio, Italy. In the seventeenth century, the baroque master Gian Lorenzo Bernini created an elaborate nativity scene for the Barberini family of Pope Urban VIII. By the beginning of the eighteenth century this tradition became more elaborate and extended beyond the closed quarters of basilicas and private homes to public plazas.
A typical nativity scene is constructed with sculptural pieces made of wood, marble or clay set in a stage-like setting. The scene comprises of three principal figures: the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, and the baby Jesus lying in a manger. The central figures are accompanied by the three wise men, Magi from the Orient and three farm animals: a sheep, ox, and donkey.
In 2011, Mexico City built the largest nativity scene in the world at the cost of two million dollars. It took architects and engineers 70 days to build the display in the parking lot of the Aztec Stadium. The nativity scene exhibit covered an area 215,000 square feet and incorporated 5,000 figures.
In 2012, Sao Paio de Oleiros, Portugal built the world’s largest animated nativity scene covering an area of 2,000 square meter with 7,000 figures which move when they sense a visitor in the vicinity. Jose Silva, the electrician for the exhibit said there are 3,000 LED lamps along with 50 KM of wiring. A 360 Degree view of the World’s Largest Animated Nativity Scene.
On a smaller scale, Oliver Wainwright of UK Guardian highlights the world’s best – and most controversial – nativity designs.
Nothing surmises a nativity scene like a lighting show displayed on the facade of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.