The Tradition of the Christmas Creche

We look to St. Francis of Assisi for the inspiration of adoring the Christmas creche. This gentle man, in search of illuminating the sanctity of Christ's birth, built a model of where the baby Savior first rested his head: the Christmas crib or creche.

Disciples of St. Francis recall a Midnight Mass that the holy man celebrated in 1223 in Greccio, Italy, as being filled with great emotion. During this service, a vision of the newborn Christ child appeared to come to life, smiling and moving in His crib.

That moment remains alive today in the hearts of Christians around the world, and the Nativity has since emerged as the blessed symbol of the Christmas season.

What is a Creche?

The word "creche" comes from the French meaning  "manger" or  "crib", and commonly refers to the scene of Christ's birth.

The Christmas creche, with its traditional depiction of the birth of Jesus with angels, three kings, shepherds, and animals, is more popular than ever.

The first definition of a creche, written in 1619, said that a creche is "to bring to life the events of the birth of Christ so that all who view the scene may personally share the wonder of those who originally saw it." It is a "visual sermon" intended to motivate us to read the scriptural accounts of Christ's birth and meditate on their meaning for our lives.

Without faith and prayer, a creche is simply a beautiful work of art--a decoration. When a creche moves us to prayer, it can deepen the gift of faith from God by helping us reflect on some of Christianity's most fundamental truths. We hope that our creche will affect you in this way.

The Pittsburgh Creche

Located at the U.S Steel Plaza in downtown Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Creche is the world's only authorized replica of the creche that stands in front of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome.

First erected in 1999 through the work of the Christian Leaders Fellowship, the creche appears again through generous gifts from Pittsburgh labor unions, businesses, religious organizations, and other community members.

The creche features larger-than-life-size renderings of the Holy Family, the Magi, an angel, shepherds, animals, and a stable, along with a professional sound and lighting system.

The stable design is taken directly from Vatican blueprints. Pietro Simonelli, sculptor of the original Vatican creche, created the initial figures for the Pittsburgh display and the new figures added in 2000 and 2001.

In 2002, local artists from JE Scenic Technologies, in affiliation with the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, assumed this intricate task. Like Simonelli, they will create figures with lifelike hands, feet, and faces. Each sculpture is made from weatherproofed paper-mache and placed on a wooden frame.

As we seek to find peace in our world, this spectacular outdoor nativity scene is a powerful reminder of the true meaning and purpose of Christmas.

Share the Love

Art assists us in understanding sacred scripture, though it does not replace it. Allow this symbol of God's love for us to spark generosity and peace in your own heart.

Consider giving to those less fortunate, remember the poor, the lonely, and the sick, and find ways to share the love you witness through this creche with your neighbors here and around the world.

The Pittsburgh Creche Project is made possible through the ongoing generosity and contributions of many organizations and individuals.

Your contribution of support for this project would be most welcome and appreciated. Tax-deductible gifts may be made to the Diocese of Pittsburgh on behalf of the Christian Leaders Fellowship.

Please designate "Creche Project" on your check and send to:

Diocese of Pittsburgh
111 Boulevard of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Source: Brochure called "THE PITTSBURGH CRECHE"
                                           Share the Love
                                           U.S. STEEL PLAZA