Merry Christmas to all our clients and friends! Heaven only knows how many copies of the Christ Child’s manger exist around the world today, as they can be found in every church and millions of Christian homes. But there’s only one manger where the Baby Jesus actually lay, in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago–and it’s right here in Rome.
How did it get here? For several centuries, the manger was venerated by early Christians in the cave of Bethlehem where Jesus was born. In the 4th century, Emperor Constantine had a church constructed directly over that cave, and this church is still in existence today. It is the oldest continuously operating Catholic church in the world.
But while Christians still venerate the cave in Bethlehem, the manger is no longer there, and hasn’t been for centuries. That’s because in the 7th century, Pope Theodore I ordered the wooden boards of the original manger to be brought to Rome. They were placed in the grand basilica where they are still on display today.
The reliquary which houses the boards is much newer, of course; it was designed by Giuseppe Valadier in about 1802, and is made of gold, silver, and crystal. Just a couple of years ago, the reliquary underwent a thorough cleaning and it looks terrific!
As is typical of so many sites here in Rome, there are absolutely no signs in the basilica, pointing out the location of this treasure. You’re just expected to know where it is! Unfortunately, many tourists visit this grand church on their own, and totally miss it–but if you take a tour with us, we’ll make absolutely sure that you not only get to see it … but you can spend as much time as you like in front of it. After all, over two millennia ago, our newborn Infant Savior was born and placed inside this wooden manger, as a first step toward our redemption.
Thank You, Lord, and Happy Birthday!