A very happy and holy Christmas to all our clients and friends! On this, the birthday of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Romans are celebrating under bright blue, sunny but chilly skies. The streets today are filled with families, strolling from church to church to admire their nativity scenes, some of which are truly magnificent.
But only one church in Rome has what’s known as the Santo Bambino. This life-sized statue of the child Jesus was carved from a block of olive wood, brought to Rome from the Holy Land in centuries past. Today, the bambino’s little tunic is covered with gold and jewelled ex voto offerings, donated by grateful petitioners in thanksgiving for favors received.
While the theme of this statue is obviously related to the Christmas season, Rome’s Santo Bambino can be visited year round, in one of the city’s most fascinating old churches that today is in the care of the Franciscans. In fact, for generations, sick little Italian children have been writing letters to the bambino throughout the year, asking for help to get better. These letters are carefully deposited in little baskets before the statue; you can see some of them in the first photo above.
Sadly, few tourists visit this historically important church, and even fewer notice the side chapel where the statue is usually kept. Thus they miss this very important facet of Roman piety, known to locals of all generations. Only at Christmas-time is the bambino brought out into the main church, and placed in the manager scene there for all to see. If you tour Rome with us, we make sure you’re aware of treasures like Rome’s Santo Bambino, and get a chance to see them!