Frari’s moving Nativity Scene: an attraction both for adults and children to discover Christmas again

27 December 2021

Venice, 21st December 2021 – In Venice, Christmas only comes with the typical Frari’s Nativity Scene. The comet flashing outside, the Christmas melody ringing when people get near the front door and, every year, the surprise of admiring every single movement. In the Basilica dei Frari, there is an “artistic” Nativity Scene becoming a beautiful attraction both for children and adults. It has become a tradition made of love and patience, of care and Christian spirit. All that helps people to get involved in the true meaning of Christmas, in a city currently celebrating its 1600th anniversary of its foundation. Padre Sergio Zanchin is 89 years old and still is the cornerstone of this Nativity representation. He tells us:
“We are Franciscans and St. Francis was the first man preparing the Nativity Scene in Grecio, in 1223. Then, the friars understood that this representation could become a significant mark for those who want to celebrate Christmas and see how and where Jesus was born; the history of our salvation, a mark remaining in our hearts – Padre Sergio continues – so, here in the House of the Conventuals of the Frari, the Nativity Scene is used to be prepared every year. Obviously, we updated and revised it, with moving bigger statues”. The preparation starts in summer, when we control all the statues and we look for the necessary material. The real staging starts in mid-November so as to create the deck and the structure, later, we pass to the background and to the statues with their mechanical devices.
“The nativity Scene not only is a show, but also it has the aim of helping people to reflect on the Christmas mystery, on Jesus born in a cave – Padre Sergio goes on – children have fun when they see the changing background with its movements, however they are not able to grab the mystery. Contrarily, adults can both have fun like children and realise that we are all celebrating an important event, such as Christmas, especially thanks to the movement whereby the Virgin raises the baby Jesus and Joseph keeps the lantern on”.
When the traditional “Tu scendi dalle stelle” (You come down from the stars) is ringing in the chapel, during the day, the Nativity Scene turns into a small village formed by busy people doing their jobs: a woman feeding chickens, another one is collecting water from the well to wash garments in the tub, a lumberjack chopping wood, a potter working with clay, a blacksmith beating on hot iron, a basket maker realising a particular basket, while the fire is worming up the shepherds and the sheep are drinking from the waterfall.
Suddenly, the sun goes down and the night falls, among lightnings, clouds, and storms. The village stops, the citizens rest and stop their activities. Then, the Holy Family becomes the centre of the cave, with the Virgin lulling the Baby in order to show him to everybody and to send out Jesus’s message whereby he was born to save the humanity.
On top, there are two images representing the wooden angels by operating as display of the whole Nativity Scene, realised by the Bellunese carver Andrea Brustolon. They are preserved in the sacristy. 
The Nativity Scene in the Frari will remain open until the 2nd February and can be visited from 9 to 18.30.