The first recreation of the nativity was created by St Francis of Assisi. In 1223 he got special permission from the Pope to put a manger, an ox and an ass in a cave in the Italian village of Greco.
Over the next 200 years, the tradition spread throughout Europe. The first sculpted and painted scenes appeared in churches in the 16th century. The Vatican has had a display in St Peter’s Square since 1982.